Swirly bokeh lenses are back! New Helios glass has arrived

Zenitar 75mm f/1.4 lens Helios Edition
(Image credit: Zenitar)

The "swirly bokeh" effect is a highly coveted one among fans of vintage lenses, with classic glass from Helios being among the best examples of this unique character. And now we have a brand new Helios lens, that brings soft, watercolor-like rendering and swirling bokeh back to the modern market. 

The Zenitar 75mm f/1.4 Helios Edition lens has just been released for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, such as the Sony A7 IV (opens in new tab). With its short telephoto length, fast aperture and characterful charm, could it be a contender for one of the best lenses for portraits (opens in new tab)?

The perfect portrait lens doesn’t have a set focal length. While typically an 85mm lens such as the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM (opens in new tab) is deemed ideal, everything from 50mm to the classic 135mm length is commonly used for portraiture. So this Zenitar 75mm sits nicely between what is already on offer in terms of prime lenses.

Do you shoot people? These are the best cameras for portraits (opens in new tab)

A multilayer lens coasting reduces lens flare and significantly eliminates halos and light spots, which helps to ensure accurate image contrast. The lens is made up of 4 groups with 6 elements, has a minimum aperture of f/16, and a diameter of 62mm. At 600g it’s pretty lightweight for an f/1.4 lens, and with body dimensions of 70.5mm x 93mm it’s compact too. 

For easy handling both the zoom and focus ring have grooves, and aperture is marked in steps from f/1.4 to f/16 (though we can only see up to f/5.6 in the photo). Interestingly it looks as if the serial number may be imprinted onto the front of the lens, rather than onto the lens barrel as commonly found, but with just one photo of the lens released so far it's hard to tell. 

This old school Russian manufacturer makes lenses to suit a range of needs and budgets, such as a 16mm f/2.8 or a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a couple of years ago it even resurrected its camera manufacturing with the Zenit-M (opens in new tab).

The Zenitar 75mm f/1.4 Helios Edition lens (opens in new tab) is available to buy directly from Zenitar for a launch price of $799.71 (approximately £662.94 / AU$1,190.73). 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.