I am real Helios 44-2 58mm F2 “fanboy”; I recommend it to everyone who asks me for a vintage lens advice, but thanks to the video made by fellow vintage lens fan, Victor Bart, there is a “new” kid on the block that we should be taking the notice of. The lens in question is the Pentax Asahi Super-Takumar 55mm F2 which costs about the same as Helios and has similar un-amusing specs. F2 wide open is not impressive at all for a 50mm lens, but as proved by Helios, specs don’t always matter and sometimes slower lenses actually are just as good if not better than faster alternatives.
While Helios is bursting with character including dreamy flares & swirly bokeh, Takumar is a little bit more conservative, but still has a very pleasant look. It’s certainly more suitable for every day shooting where Helios might a bit too much.
It’s also important to note that both lenses perform quite nicely wide open, so even though they are slower than most other 50s, you don’t need to step them down to get usable images.
Is there a winner in this comparison? For me Helios will always be a special lens, but Takumar is just as worthy and is even more suitable for projects when you want a cleaner but still pleasant, organic look.
Thank you to Victor for sharing his review, check out his youtube channel for more useful videos!
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I concur with the findings. Different lenses for different looks. I used to own two sets of lenses side by side: (Takumar 28/3.5 — 35/3.5 — 55/2.0) and (Mir 1 37/2.8 — Helios 58/2.0 — Jupiter 9 85/2.0). Sold off the Takumar set after I acquired Leica R equivalents. I have kept the Soviet lenses for their unique look, ideal for personal projects and short films. But if you want a more mainstream look without the Leica pricing, the Super Takumars are excellent value for money, and very, very well-built, too.
I have both the Helios 58mm/F2 and the Super Takumar 50mm/F1.4. However, the Super Tak had a brownish tinge effect. This is not especially due to the irradiation of coatings, cement or glue. It’s the glass itself…specifically the glass element in which the Thorium Oxide is homogeneously present. [Thorium was introduced because it has low dispersion and highly refractive qualities, allowing for less curved glass/more compact lens designs.] Within the element, the ionizing radiation causes defects in the chemical bonds with the glass. These defects introduce new wavelength absorptions (i.e. darkening of glass). The defects will RECOVER over time if the ionizing source is removed. However, since the ThO2 is homogeneously present in the structure, an equilibrium will be reached. The higher the concentration of the ThO2, the darker that eventual equilibrium. High intensity light accelerates the RECOVERY of these defects. However, the lens will gradually trend (darken over years) back toward equilibrium in between “RECOVERY” treatments. I placed my Super Takumar 50/1.4 (7 element version) front down(without filter) on a small mirror, with a cheap IKEA LED desk lamp (the $15 dollar bendable model with base clip). After 2 days under this intense light, the yellowing was gone. Good news, LED does not emit much heat toward the lens…and it’s cheap and fast. I found this approach within multiple sites on the web. Was unsure of the lack of UV from the LED would be a problem…it wasn’t. My M4/3 white balance did not require this treatment…I was more concerned with the slowing down of a fast spec’d lens(by up to 1 full stop) due to the yellowing. Problem solved.