Here is a short test video I’ve shot with my favorite 135mm prime, the Helios 135mm f/2.8.
The video above was shot on my little Sony NEX 5N with a simple neck brace for support, so the footage is not the most stable (sorry).
Nevertheless, I think it’s easy to agree that this lens produces very cinematic results. Due to it’s longer focal length and fast aperture of f/2.8 achieving the shallow depth of field is incredibly easy and combined with sharp optics, objects pop out very nicely. The only optical downside I would like to mention is presence of chromatic aberration in certain lighting conditions with the aperture wide open.
The lens itself is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s a proper, solid, metal lens (no plastic parts here). The focusing ring is as smooth as they get and combined with a long focusing through of around 260 degrees it’s a focusing dream. The M42 mount and manual aperture adjustment allows this lens to be used with just about any camera. It looks great too with the beautiful multicoated optics.
While this lens is branded as Helios, it’s not actually a Russian lens. It’s made in Japan, which is not a bad thing, but those of you expecting the dreamy character found in Helios 44-2 and other Russian lenses will not find the same magic here. Again, this doesn’t mean this is a bad lens, in fact it’s more suitable for many projects because it matches modern lenses much better and its character is more suitable for general shooting.
One aspect of construction, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, is rotating front element, which also extends slightly when focusing. This prevents Vari-NDs from being used with this lens. Not a problem for me, but Vari-NDs users might get a little frustrated.
EDIT: I’ve made a silly mistake my holding the focusing ring and rotating the lens, which made me think the front element rotates, but in fact it doesn’t (thanks for pointing that out JB). Even if it did, apparently that wouldn’t affect the use of Vari-ND. I don’t use them, but as far as I know they are based on 2 polarizing filters, so in theory rotation of the front element would affect the image, but I guess I missing something here.
So with non-rotating front element and ability to use Fader/Vari-NDs, they is literally nothing to complain about.
This lens costs just around $40/£25 and for that money you get a solid, fast, sharp telephoto prime that produces absolutely beautiful images, which is simply amazing.
I definitely recommend this lens to anyone looking for a telephoto prime between 100-200mm.
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