Cyclop 1 H3T-1 1.5 / 85mm Helios
The Cyclop 1 H3T-1 nightvision with the 1.5/85mm Helios lens is a very interesting piece of kit. The lens of the Cyclop 1 H3T-1 nightvision is detachable. The nightvision lens generally has a M42 mount so it can be adapted for most cameras. 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 we are can expect a swirling bokeh and a shallow depth of field, as this video by Lucas Pfaff will testify:
I came across this lens because I am very keen to finally obtain the original Carl Zeiss Biotar 1.5 75mm but I am not that keen on paying the hefty 1000$+ price tag it comes with. Therefore I did a bit of research and stumbled across the Cyclop. For a rather modest price you obtain the same lens formula as the Biotar 75 and Helios 1.5 85.
I nearly forgot about the H3T-1 nightvision when one day, out of pure luck, I found a Cyclop in my favorite pawn shop in Berlin. I paid 40 euros for it 🙂 and did not mind that the lens had a tiny bit of fungus. I have put a standard 9V battery in the nightvision and was pleasantly surprised that everything was still working. What you obtain is the standard nightvision look when you look through it. Everything is green but after your eyes adapt you can make out a lot of details.
Let’s focus on the bokeh first. This is the main reason people buy this lens, and rightly so. What you get here is one of the most distinct bokeh around. It is twirling and creates a superb, characteristic backdrop. For bokeh lovers this will be the closest thing to heaven. Personally I prefer a bokeh to be a bit more subtle. Too much head-spinning goodness can distract from your main subject. Then again, with this lens maybe your subject is the bokeh?
Besides the unique bokeh the best thing about this lens is the fun factor. The lens has so limited features (no aperture control, no distance scale, no coating, no lens hood etc) that it will force 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 loved it. You end up cherishing the pictures you took even more.
The Cyclop 1 H3T-1 nightvision will also receive a point for its price, although it went up significantly lately. Still, for a lens in this “speed category” and with such distinct features it is a bargain. And look at it this way: you get a nightvision and a lens in one package – no modern lens will offer this!
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.
- Flare prone
- Chromatic aberration
- No aperture control
First things first: would I take this lens to shoot where I am expected to deliver results? Short answer: NO.
So does the Cyclop 1 H3T-1 have any flaws? Yes – quiet a few to be honest:
This lens was never meant to be used for photography / videography, instead it was used for a nightvision device. We should keep this in mind when are going through the flaws, otherwise it would be unfair.
Due to its’ initial purpose the Cyclop 1 H3T-1 lens does not have the classic photographic lens features: no aperture control, no distance scale on the focusing ring, no lens coating, no lens hood. So in actual use you are constantly shooting at f1.5, you are constantly turning that focusing ring trying to get a sharp image and you are always cursing light coming from the sides. It is a challenge! Another thing you will constantly be doing is checking your LCD screen after every image you take (and I hate that;) ) – due to the shallow depth of field and the general softness of the lens it is difficult to get the focus spot on. It’s a bit of a hit & miss situation.
The lens also flares, a lot. I am not talking about the little “sunset in the cornfield flare”, or the “pretty circular space odyssey flare”: I am talking about the “this image is one giant flare & good luck making out anything else”. Some will love it others will not.
Obviously 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.
So final verdict: BIG fun factor! Not that reliable in terms of the results. I sold mine (with a profit) and I am still praying for a bargain Carl Zeiss Biotar 1.5 75 to be falling from the sky.
Cyclop 1 H3T-1 1.5/85 Versions
This lens was used with the soviet Cyclop 1 H3T-1 nightvision scope. As such its aim was to offer as much light intake as possible. Hence there is no diaphragm. The aperture is constantly at f1.5 All versions of this lens are made out of metal and have a black finish.
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 150 cm
- Made in the Soviet Union
- Aperture: 1.5
- Weight: 450gr (Lens only)
- Aperture blades: None
- Mounts: M42
There is also a f1.2 version of this lens. Unfortunately, it will not fit most cameras as there is a protruding rear element that will hit your sensor / mirror.