Is This A Must Have $50 Cinematic Prime Lens?

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

The Russians. Everyone is talking about the Russians. But not all of it is bad. Witness one filmmaker who says he wouldn’t go anywhere without his $50 cinematic lens that is not only Russian made, but has Zeiss in its DNA. And you can get one too.

Most photographers are aware of the Helios line of Russian lenses. They very affordable, pretty fast and can be found on eBay just about any day of the week. But what is less known is that in the waning days of World War II, Soviets took over a Zeiss lens factory in their territory, and took all Zeiss lens technology back to the Soviet Union, where the iconic Zeiss Biotar Lens was manufactured under the Helios brand.

“I freakin’ love this lens,” says Armando Ferreira, “anything I shoot with this lens just looks cinematic.”

The cool thing is, that the Zeiss design of the lenses didn’t change, only the name did. So users can buy a used Helios lens for a song, and essentially get Zeiss lens, and the Helios 44m-4 is one of the most popular. With a speed rating of f2, the 44m-4 is extremely popular because it creates a unique “swirly bokeh” in the background.

Because they are vintage SLR lenses and work with a micro four thirds mount, the Helios lens became very popular with Pentax and MFT camera users. But you can get a full frame to MFT lens adapter, like the Fotodiox M42 Type 2 Screw Mount Lens to Canon EF or the same for Nikon for around $10.

Consequently, for well under $100, you can get a cinematic look for your DSLR or Mirrorless filmmaking that has some dreamy bokeh.  But Ferreira advises that if you try and pick one up on eBay, it’s important to pay close attention to the lens description, because some of the lower priced ones have mold inside. So it’s important to make sure the lens is advertised as clean and clear. Moreover, Ferreira also says you can pick them up on Amazon as well, as the eCommerce portal has resellers that offer used camera equipment for a similar deal.

The takeaway here is that there is a ton of vintage lenses that are fantastic options for filmmakers on a budget, and they’re just waiting to be re-discovered. Are they old? Sure. Used? OK. And yes, they don’t have automatic features that can be controlled by your camera. But most filmmaking is a manual art anyway, or should be, so why not put them to good use and spare your wallet some grief?

I know I’m going to get one. That bokeh is gorgeous.

About James DeRuvo 290 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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