Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

1991 Cyclop H3T-1 85mm f1.5

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The Lens details of a series of images taken by Steve Cushing on mirrorless camera.

Fitting is a 42mm mount with a 45.46mm Flange distance - this lens will fit and achieve focus to infinity mirrorless cameras and on most DSLRs.


Soviet lenses have a strange background in comparison with their German and Japanese counterparts. Some optical designs, such as the Helios 44 are direct copies of the Biotar and Flektogon series made my Carl Zeiss. The Jupiter 11-A has the Sonnar design. However, what makes them stand apart is that even if they are copies they still have a unique image rendering.

The names of the Soviet lenses often featured cosmic themes rather than optical design names such as Jupiter, Vega, Helios, Tair. In the Soviet era, everything that is connected with space was a trend. And they called the cosmic names of not only for their lenses, but other items such the tape player "Vega" motorbikes "Jupiter," and so many more products. Soviet lenses can be divided in two ways. Sometimes the name states the optical design (Helios, Industar, etc), The second way to clarify them is the brand of the manufacturer (Arsat, Zenitar, BelOMO).

The first way implies that the name of the lens attached specific optical design. This logic is likely to have been borrowed from the German company Carl Zeiss. Historically, after the WWII the Soviet Union brought the reparations of the optical factories from Germany, with raw materials and blanks, and also received the right to use certain optical designs, it is mostly the firm Zeiss.

But as the companies developed, Soviet designers took Zeiss lenses, produced them with Soviet types of glass and put them into production. So developed legendary Soviet lenses. Some optical designs were also invented by Soviet designers. For example Tair, Telear, Kaleinar etc.

This Lens

This crazy lens was used by Russian SPIES including the Russian army and even the KGB.

The Cyclop 1 H3T-1 is a night-vision not a camera lens but it has a 1.5/85mm Helios lens structure which is a very interesting piece of kit. The lens of the Cyclop 1 H3T-1 night-vision is detachable so can be mounted on a camera as it has a M42 mount.

Maybe as close to a "shoot" as you can get?

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The interesting thing about this lens is that it is based on the Helios 1.5 85, which in turn is based on the Carl Zeiss Biotar 1.5 75. So it gives a very swirling bokeh and a shallow depth of field. The pre war Biotars sell for many thousands of pounds and I purchased this lens from Russia for 25 euros.

The Cyclops do not have diaphragms, so always are at full aperture. There is a standard photographic version of the Cyclop f1.5 named the Helios 40-2, which does have a diaphragm but costs quite a bit more.

One warning about the Helios 40-2 is that it comes in a new version, with Nikon and Canon mounts. This modern version seems to be optically better, but it does lack some of the very characteristic sharp-edged bokeh.

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Lens In Use

  • With no aperture this lens takes some getting used to.
  • Exposure is controlled by ISO and shutter speed.
  • This lens was made by the Soviet military and it is really heavy. No plastic here, only metal. Even the lens cap is made out of metal.
  • It is one of those lenses that has its own tripod attachment – yes that is how heavy it is.
  • It does not have a built in sun shade.
  • No lens coating.
  • The lens is metal and looks strange on a camera, but it works and is actually very sharp.
  • Very heavy (450g) metal and glass lens, but very solid and resistant to damage even if dropped.

Remember this lens was designed for Infra Red night-vision. It has a very narrow focus plane which creates the unusual images. Due to the shallow depth of field and the general softness of the lens it is difficult to get correct focus. It’s a bit of a hit & miss situation.


The Cyclop lens has its own look and glow. Added to this is the idea of using a Russian spy lens on the camera and wondering about its previous use. I love the “Swirl” Bokeh that the Cyclop and Helios 40 are well known for although it is something others may not like. The bokeh is the main reason people buy this lens, and rightly so. It is one of the most distinct bokeh around. It is twirling and creates a superb, characteristic backdrop. With this lens the subject is the bokeh.

Alongside the unique bokeh the best thing about this lens is the fun factor. The lens has no aperture control, no distance scale, no coating, no lens hood and this forces you to take pictures differently. Suddenly there will be much more factors to take into account than when you shoot with a normal lens. This is a challenge that some people might not like but I love it.

I would recommend this lens to anyone who is into creative, artistic photography. Do you enjoy lens hacks? Do you love perfect imperfections? Then give this a go – you will have fun.

For general information on lens design and lens elements go to the homepage HERE


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