Sometimes people do not believe that you can shoot a nice commercial with old lenses. It is true that they can’t compete with modern lenses in terms of a “perfect’ picture, however, they have other advantages. Vintage lenses like Helios 44-2 have something special that can’t be matched by modern lenses – Character!
Working with vintage lenses requires to have an actual understanding of how they work if you want to get the best quality image for your commercial. Helios 44-2 can grant you nice sharpness and wonderful bokeh. Speaking about sharpness it is important to mention that edge performance is quite low. This lens makes them rather soft and a little bit out of focus. It is not always a bad thing and you can even find a nice way to use that, but you will not receive high quality at the corners. If you would try to focus on the edges, then the center gets out of it. With a higher f-number, you can get a better depth of field that can compensate and make edges sharper. In such a case, you will have to deal with another issue, which is diffraction. It can influence the overall resolution of the image.
Ghosting and flaring effects are also common features that can add tenderness and romance to the scene you are shooting. You can easily create the classic flare rings from sun rays that are especially beautiful at sunrises and sunsets, while new types of lenses cannot produce them so well. Another technique, which you may use for your commercial, is Lens Whacking. It means that you place the lens in front of your camera, so Helios 44-2 can be disconnected. With a more distance between the camera and a lens, you let in more light rays that help to create additional light leaks with flares. This technique maybe not very suitable for all locations and year seasons. If the winter sky is covered with dense clouds, you will not receive enough sun rays. While shooting a during night time, you need a good source of light.
The most prominent feature of Helios 44-2 is the bokeh. Many cinematographers admit how special it is. Nevertheless, you will not achieve this swirling effect on every your composition. In order to get it right, you need to combine distance and focus. Only then, the background, which is out of focus, may become swirly.
Originally you receive Helios 44-2 with 8 aperture blades. However, sometimes you can find models with 13 blades. You can modify it with the help of the IronGlass lens rehousing company to get up to 16 blades. With a larger number of aperture blades, the bokeh becomes more round and you achieve better background quality at any f-stop while shooting a commercial.
With all these strong and weak sides, it is still possible to achieve a high-quality image. The key to success is the right distance between the lens and the object. Therefore, do not give up and try to experiment with Helios 44-2.