Canon 5d Mk 2 Meets a Helios 85mm f2

Having just got my hands on a new (well new to me) 5D Mk2, my first thought was – how does my favourite MF lens perform on the full frame body? It’s a bit of a star on a crop frame 60D (review with lens specs here) so I’ve high hopes. Here’s a first test batch of lightly processed shots all shot at 100 ISO with a ‘Neutral’ colour profile :-

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

The smooth bokeh looks slightly better than the 60D – looks like a good start.

Focussing is pretty easy at f2 just using the default focussing screen – just make sure your viewfinder dioptre adjustment is correct (it’s the small wheel to the top right of the viewfinder when the camera is viewed from the rear).

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

This heavy lump of a lens overwhelms smaller cameras like an Oly EPL5. On the heavy 5D it’s much more evenly balanced.

The same mount adaptor as the previous test has been used – a cheap M42 to Canon EF from Ebay which cost £10. As it’s so cheap (and so am I apparently) the lens doesn’t align properly (see above). Not that it matters…

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

On a bright day the 1/8000th second shutter speed still isn’t quite short enough at f2 and 100 ISO) so carrying an ND filter might be a good idea.

The 5D’s metering is more confused by this lens than the 60D – exposures were all over the place using centre weighted and evaluative modes. If you’re going to try this make sure you shoot in RAW as there’s going to be quite a lot of post processing involved. All the images will need a substantial contrast boost and a manual ‘levels’ adjustment as a simple ‘auto levels’ isn’t enough.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

This is an elaborate scarecrow standing in for a portrait model on a sunny day. The hair should be blue, it’s not white balance problem!

The major difference between using this lens on a full frame sensor vs a crop APS-C sensor is that it now has a proper 85mm focal length, not a 135mm equivalent. Where you can easily fill the frame with a subject on the 60D, on the 5D you need to get closer, and for the first time the minimum 80cm focus distance becomes a restriction.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

Close focus results are rather nice too.

So time for a proper mini test and back to the mill : –

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

Here’s the frame – with a wonky horizon but never mind…

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

At f2 – the edge of the frame and not that good, but nothing much was expected here. This is a soft portrait lens after all.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

Centre at f2 – a slight max aperture ‘sheen’ but not too bad.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f8 and much better – as they should be at this aperture. There a hint of chromatic aberration but not much. Things start to tidy up around f4 but f8 is best.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f8, centre of the frame and it’s tidied up nicely.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f16 edge – still good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

centre at f16 – very good indeed!

So – pretty much an identical performance as on the 60D which is a surprise, especially at the edge of the frame which the cropped frame 60D doesn’t ‘see’. The odd orange tint seen on the 60D wasn’t present in any of these shots.

It’s very useable for general photography past f5.6. At f2 – f4 it excels as a specialist lens for producing ‘portrait mode’/narrow depth of field/soft bokeh images – just what it was designed for 50+ years ago! What’s encouraging is that it still does a cracking job on full frame digital which means I’d better do a few tests on my old Zuiko collection…..

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.


9 thoughts on “Canon 5d Mk 2 Meets a Helios 85mm f2

  1. Great review, thanks. I may be tempted to look into these helios lenses, as I am a cheapskate 🙂

  2. I have the Canon 85mm 1.8, the first prime lens I bought for my 5D2 – it wd be interesting to compare the bokahs? I shall do a similar flower shot!

  3. Pingback: Bokehdelicous | photo journeys

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