5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Sigma SD14 / Helios-44-2 – by Bernd Runde

June 12, 2018

I’m into analog photography, I really am! So why do I write something about an outdated digital camera and a Russian lens? The reason is, with all its drawbacks, this camera-lens combination comes close to the analog experience I like, with the images but also with the fun of using it. I don’t want to go on here about the ‘magic’ of the sensor. You’ll find a lot of it in the web. Most of the magic is related to belief. However – I like to give underdogs a chance and most of the time I do like the colour rendering!

Of course, one of the main features the Helios lens offers is the swirl bokeh. That however is pretty much eaten up by the crop factor of the sensor. But here is a glimpse of what the lens can do for you on a full frame digital or film camera.

In order to get the swirly bokeh you need to go wide open; this puts a bit of back pressure to the sharpness (but it is alright – I think).

Going down the f-stop scale brings back the sharpness though.

Well, you can’t write something about a Sigma Digital Camera without give at least one example of your own interpretation of ‘Foveon-Magic’. 

To sum it up: to me this minimal digital set-up is my ideal companion to walk around and capture e.g. family life – all for a reasonable price (150€ Camera + 20€ Lens + 10 € Lens Adapter). It will not replace the vast GAS-related fleet of analog cameras!


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  • Reply
    June 12, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Something that has intrigued me – does the Sigma SD14 also have an ‘in focus’ indicator light within the viewfinder when using a non-Sigma manual lens? My Canon 5D does not, but all the DX-sensor Nikons I own, do.

  • Reply
    cliff barnes
    June 12, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Eric, there is a little dot in the viewfinder sigma calls ‘FOCUS INDICATOR’. And it gets on and of during focusing with the non-sigma lens but to be honest, I never looked at that thing shooting pictures. So I would say ‘I guess yes’ 🙂

    • Reply
      June 12, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks Cliff. I have a Helios 58mm f2 lens, and on the Canon 5D MKi I took some test shots looking out of my garden a few years ago. From f5.6 the definition was astonishing, albeit a colour shift/cast was also in evidence.

    • Reply
      cliff barnes
      June 16, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      Eric, I double checked: it is a clear ‘yes’ 🙂

  • Reply
    June 16, 2018 at 10:52 am

    The lens is quite magical. It is not for everyday but it has some interesting characteristics. See more here: http://bonevphotography.com/Articles/zenit/

  • Reply
    June 16, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    I’m a believer in the foveon look. I use an SD15 and it’s like having a slide film sensor — with all the good and bad that comes with that.

  • Reply
    Matt Byrne
    August 5, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Even though my main EOS is now a 5Dii, I still have my 20D for M42 lenses. The 8mp might seems minuscule now, but with enough light the old 20 always rendered nicely. The Helios 44M-4 is my favourite, but I’ve enjoyed the Pentacon 50 whilst the CJZ 50 has quite a unique look to it whilst not being overly pleasant.

  • Reply
    Bernd Runde
    January 22, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Supplement of the Author:

    once you start walking down the foveon road you’ll come across the buzzword: Merrill eventually. So am I. After one year enjoying this set up an idea grew in my head: Why been satisfied with good pictures if you could get Super-Super-Pictures with the Merrill sensor? consequently in I desperately wanted a Sigma SD1. I even sold beloved items of my GAS collection in order to find some money. And finally I fond my SD1 for a good price.

    And what should I say?

    It is a total disaster!

    Using non-sigma lenses with the SD1 is almost impossible. There is a color shift in the pictures to magenta’ish in the middle. The pictures are not good for anything. Unfortunately I missed doing a good investigation in forehand as all information on that issue is there since 2013. Oh Boy, what a disappointment.

    Is anyone fancy a Sigma SD1 Merrill…?

  • Reply
    Lawrie Conole
    February 1, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Hi Bernd. Sorry to hear about your misadventure with the SD1. Having just come back from a walkaround with my Helios 44-2 mounted on a Sigma SD Quattro, I say “don’t give up yet”. The SDQ is just magical with old MF lenses on board. I am so enamoured of the combination, I use it all the time, various shortcomings notwithstanding. I only use M42 mount classic lenses – plus Pentacon 6 adapted to M42 – so I just have one simple M42–>Sigma SA adapter. It just works. 🙂

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