Favourite Lens of 2016
My favourite lens at the moment is my Helios 44.
This lens has a legendary status among photographers for its ‘bokeh’, the out of focus area behind your subject. Due to a manufacturing defect under certain circumstances the background will warp slightly and give a swirling effect. This lens also likes to flare, and given the types of coatings you will get different types of flare.
My Helios 44 has 13 aperture blades, and unusually has 4 elements coated rather than the normal 2, giving it a deep blue/purple colour in direct light. The serial number is very low, starting #00 meaning it was likely an early/pre-production model gifted to a senior figure within the communist party during the reign of the USSR.
The most unusual part of this lens is the glass elements themselves, as they have visible bubbles within. This doesn’t cause any issues with use and has no effect on the photos, but it does tell us something about where the glass came from.
At the end of the second world war the USSR captured many of the factories and workers from East Germany, and the glass they captured was of a much higher quality with much of it being made by Carl Zeiss workers.
The bubbles in the glass heavily point to it being captured glass that was used in this particular lenses construction. Add the multiple coatings and the 13 aperture blades and you have a special lens oozing in history, it’s quite amazing it is still here today.
I purchased this lens, recently serviced, from a Helios specialist who is confident I will likely never see another in the wild, and to this date he is not wrong.