5 Frames with a Helios 44-2 with the front element reversed

A couple of years ago I happened to see an image on Twitter that completely stopped me in my tracks. It was a very fortunate sighting as I’m not a big fan of twitter, I am however a big fan of serendipity.

I asked the person who posted this image how it was achieved, and I had a reply immediately. I was told about reversing the front element of a Helios 44-2, and pointing the lens in the right direction. 

This was the first image I thought was what I wanted. It basically kick started my obsession with the Helios. Onto FeaBay I did go, and shortly I was awaiting a M42 to Fuji adapter and a Helios 44-2 lens. Then it was time to flip the front element.  Yikes!!

Despite my fears, it was simple. It took far longer worrying about it than it took to do it. Now what to capture. I do love flowers and plants so the subject (s) were in the garden waiting for me, convenient as mobility isn’t my strongest asset. 

 I cannot fully explain what it is I find so magical about this lens. The swirl in the background, the lack of sharp focus, even the flare that is sometimes captured, all appeal and hold my attention, making flowers a very obliging subject. I do still love to get sharp landscape images, non of that enthusiasm has diminished in any way, I just so appreciate the carefree abandon of this type of shooting.

I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’m hoping to convince people it’s a fun and addictive pastime that runs alongside photography. Strangely enough, it is because of this lens and the other vintage lenses I bought that I became interested in analogue,  it was cheaper to buy the lens with the camera attached. I wasn’t about to throw the camera away so there we go. 

All images were with the Helios attached to my Fuji X-T 20. I really do hope that something that you’ve seen may make you think that you could make use of this lens. If you want to have a go yourself, there are a few videos on YouTube on how to reverse the element, but I can vouch for this video by John Gravett. It’s simple and concise. Don’t for one minute think that it is a difficult task, I spent longer looking for a screw driver than I spent reversing the element.

Soon it will be with a MIR1 front element reversed. They’re different again, but I’m yet to get a few images I’m pleased with.

Thank you very much for reading this far folks.




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18 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Helios 44-2 with the front element reversed”

    1. Dean Lawrence

      Thank you very much Stala. I was concerned that the images would not be to the liking of very many people on here as what I’ve seen is quite superb.

  1. Peter Roberts

    Such dreamy and impressionistic images, Dean. Especially the cobweb and the rosebud.
    Sometimes you need venture no further than your own garden for inspiration
    And yes, it’s the swirl that does it for me too.
    Thanks so much for posting.

    1. Thank you very much Peter for your kind words. Over the last few years I’ve struggled to walk, the garden has therefore become my world. For me this lens and a few other vintage lenses make the garden an endless photoshoot.

      Thank you again.


    2. Dean Lawrence

      Thank you very much for your kind words Peter. Our garden is our place of sanctuary, we never seem to sit down there, but it’s a place we all love to be.
      At the moment I’m trying to get some decent images in mono, but this comes with a low success rate.

  2. I do agree the dreamy quality of the images is very attractive and this type of approach to photography (pinhole, ‘poor’ vintage lenses, faulty and plastic lenses etc) produces a far more interesting and beautiful result than the modern trend of digital and lens ‘perfection’. Thanks for sharing the technique.

    1. Dean Lawrence

      Many thanks for your kind words Geoff. My favourite artists are people like Monet, so I suppose it’s of no surprise that the lack of focus is a draw to me. There have been so many interesting lenses made over the years that it seems wrong to ignore all of them. 😄

    1. Dean Lawrence

      That really is very kind of you Ibraar, thank you very much. I confess to being a big fan of these kinds of images. My digital camera and lenses give me images far more sharp than I see in general life. Some of these vintage lenses are some times a bit soft, but for me that’s perfect.

      The Helios is a superb lens on my Fuji, but with the element reversed all the imperfections are multiplied and the results, for me are wonderful. I’d strongly urge others to give it a go.

      Thank you again.

    1. Dean Lawrence

      Hi John, it is something that I have to try. I think maybe better on full frame, like a Zenit. I’ll have to give it a go.

  3. And the effect varies with aperture, as well. Surprisingly, the reversal of the front element means that you can mount the lens on a DSLR and still achieve infinity focus, though it’s far harder to see what’s going on than with a mirrorless body.

    My introduction to carefree, instinctive focus and image-making came with a Lensbaby Muse ten years ago, but the Helios introduces an element (so to speak) of D-i-Y that appeals a lot.

    1. My history with the type of lens that was more in the impression field also came with a lb. This was a shift from that, but something I found easier to use. My little Fuji generally has to be cleaned of dust as I’m always swapping lenses, normally M42. What were once classed as faults are now embraced. I was lucky I got my 44-2, for £5.99. A bargain.

  4. That really was a bargain! A few years back you could get the lens with a working camera body for under £20 in half the charity shops in Britain, but the lovely results that they give with that front element reversed seems to have driven the price up.

    1. The prices of these lenses really have skyrocketed. I did buy a Zenit with a Helios 44 attached, I’ve not reversed that lens as it does have a wonderful character. I’m trying to get 5 images I like with a MIR 1 that has the front element reversed, that is unusual. I have to add that the lens was really only fit for the bin before I played with it. A good MIR 1 is a thing of beauty capable of magic 😄.

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