Helios 44M & 44-2 58mm f2 lens

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  • I just got myself one of this. Still haven’t have the chance to try it out again… I bought it mainly for the swirly bokeh, really looking forward for that. I’ve tried to take some photos at home and I find it a bit hard to get the right focus and distance… perhaps need to go through a few more practice. By the way, it will be much appreciated if you can also include the production years and maybe a bit of history to make all the vintage lenses more interesting 😀

    just a humble opinion. love your work!

    • Hey Daniel,

      congrats on your buy. It is easier if you start focusing with the aperture closed and only open it once you are ready to shoot (or get an adapter with a AF confirm chip). And obviously you should try to do it with good lighting conditions (ie outside).

      I will be working on updating the content (production years and history) as soon as I have time!

      Thanks for your feedback!

  • Brett Rogers

    “It was manufactured with M42 mount, Pentax K mount and even Leica M39 thread mount.”

    Was it? I have not previously heard of a version made for Leica screwmount cameras.

    There was however a version made in M39 for early Zenit SLRs, using an M39 instead of M42 mount. Eg the Zenit 3-M 35mm SLR. I actually have a black M39 Helios that I acquired with my own 3-M.

    Because of the difference in lens register of M39 rangefinder lenses and Zenit M39 SLR lenses they are not really interchangeable and should not be confused with each other. As I recall, there may even be a slight difference in the thread pitch of each type.

    • Personally I never came across a M39 version but the official Zenit page states that a few were made in M39 mount: http://www.zenitcamera.com/archive/lenses/helios-44.html

      But you are totally right it is not a Leica M39 but a M39 for SLR mount. Thanks for pointing that out, I will rectify it!

      • Brett Rogers

        Well, the 39 millimetre thread version of the Helios 44 exists: I have one! It is definitively *not* M42. 😉

        • Zos Xavius

          I really don’t know why people are so surprised by this. M39 is the ancestor to M42 which eventually became K-mount.

          • antony_northcutt

            is the 3-M the only body the Helios 44 will work with ? I made the mistake of thinking it would fit a Leica now I need to buy another body for it to focus more than what’s about a millimetre in front of me !

          • tsinik55

            While the thread diameter in Leicas and Helios-44 is the same, their flange focal distance (FFD) is different. The FFD of old Helios-44 is the same as in all M42 bodies – 45.5 mm.
            In order to use your lens on Leica, you’ll need a M39 ring adapter 16,7mm thick – to compensate FFD length (like on picture). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5e1f514f540add58bd4fb203e36f036b9d9673fe3e8a0ddf80688c92499f2b5f.jpg

          • opin53

            That’s the only one I know of. While the mounting thread is 39mm, the same as Leica, it’s designed film-lens flange distance is different,as the 3M is an SLR so needs space for the mirror.

          • tbutler67

            Drat. 🙁 I specifically looked for the M39 version because I was expecting it to have the standard LTM rangefinder flange distance; I’m experimenting with adapted lenses on M4/3, and since size is one of the biggest reasons I love M4/3, I wanted to use the smaller M39 adapter.

            Well, it won’t focus over the whole range on a standard M39 adapter, but hopefully will be somewhat useful otherwise.

          • TerryB

            If it helps, you can get an M39 to M42 stepping ring. Then with this attached to an M39 mount slr lens it converts it to M42 and then you can use a conventional M42 to M4/3 adapter and you should then get focus to infinity with the Zenit M39 Helios. However, this work-around won’t work at all with a normal LTM 39 adapter to M4/3 as the adapter doesn’t provide the necessary lens extension to enable the Helios to focus at infinity.

          • tbutler67

            Thanks for the thought; I appreciate it!

            Unfortunately, I already have a Helios-44 in M42 mount; but I don’t like the extra bulk of the M42 adapter on a M4/3 camera. So I was hoping this was a model of the lens that had been rejiggered to work at the standard M39 flange distance, so I could use the smaller adapter. And of course, I saw this post a day after I’d ordered mine. ^^;;

            I guess I’ll have to play with it when it arrives, and see if the distance it will focus over on a standard M39 adapter is useful enough to be worth keeping it.

          • TerryB

            Sadly, attaching the M39 Helios to a standard Leica LTM39 adapter won’t work at all; it won’t focus on anything as the adapter flange distance is far too short. As tsinik55 points out, you are going to need an extension tube/adapter to provide the necessary additional flange distance of 16.7mm.

            The only combo that works, of a sort, is to mount a Leica LTM lens to an M39 Zenit body, and then you will only be able to use it in a pseudo-macro mode. I must give it a try.

            As there would be sample variations in manufacture, it might pay to get a cheap stepping ring to test which of the two lenses you have is the best before you make up your mind to sell one.

            I’ve since discovered that my M39 Helios 44 is made by MEM Belomo who I understand were the last manufacturer of this lens. Also, disappointingly, it would also appear that the bog standard Helios 44, is also the worst performer photographically, especially its edge performance. I was hoping that being a late unit it would be fine. I will find out when the stepping ring arrives and then I can try it out. Still, even it isn’t the sharpest performer, I am expecting some interesting imaging from it.

          • TerryB

            It will also work with the Zenit C, and which is what I use my Helios 44 with. The serial number of my Zebra lens, 9013348, indicates a late production unit of 1990. This does surprise me. My Zenit-C is of 1958 vintage and is surprisingly well made. It has a non-return mirror which is pulled down into place by a little cord (true!) when the film is wound on.

  • Pixel

    I’m interested in Helios 44M-2, 4 or 6, but can I use them on a 5D III with M42 adapter? I will not spoil the mirror.. Wich one is to prefer for swirl bokeh?

  • Alex A.

    I have the 44M-2 mounted on a Canon 5D Mark II with an M42 Adapter. the 44M-2 is the one with the most beautiful bokeh. Infinity focussing locks/blocks the mirror… other than that it’s just perfect…

  • Zos Xavius

    I have the M6 in M42 mount and I must say that it is really sharp wide open and its probably true that they are sharper than the earlier 1,2 and 4 versions. After version 2 they changed the formula of this lens so that it produces less swirl in the bokeh. It can still be provoked in my copy, but does take some effort to easily see. That said, even version 6 has some really out of the world rendering in OOF areas. Speaking of cult classics that are total sleepers, if the admin is reading this, you need to review the rexatar 135/2.8. I recently finally started using one that someone had given me a couple of years ago and found it to be razor sharp widen open. Its only real downside, like the helios is flare and back lit subjects.

    • tsinik55

      The M-number on Helios (not counting early 44-2) is not its version, its a quality number (again, plain Helios 44M is somewhat an exception here). The 44M-7 were best, while 44M-2 and 44M-3 were the worst.
      The lens formula didn’t changed at all, its just the quality (or the lack of it).

      • Zos Xavius

        oh I know its the quality number. I like my M6 🙂

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  • Richard Pena

    I have an early Helios 44 (silver) and it is M39 screw mount. I use an M39-to-M42 adapter for use with my Pentax DSLR using a Pentax M42-to-K adapter. The Helios 44 has a 13 blade aperture design while the newer 44-2 has an 8-blade aperture design.

    • tsinik55

      You’re lucky to have that 🙂 I have one M39 Helios-44 too – but it has 8-blade aperture and black finish with silver stripes (zebra).
      The pure silver version is hard to find even here, in Russia.

  • Andrea Bertuzzi

    Got a 44-2 from the KMZ plant, class of ’74 (well, two actually, but one is permanently on my dad’s old Zenit and he won’t let me use it!) and while it’s not the fanciest lens around I love its OOF, the smooth long focus and the stepless preset aperture (not that I ever use the preset ring, but still)… and mind you if you need sharp it can be respectable once stopped down. Only quirk is the diaphragm scale ring set backwards (it reads 16 at WO down to 2 at fully stopped down), the Soviets really had a funny notion of quality control.

    • Funny. the preset ring on mine is backwards too. I thought it was just that someone in the past had put it back together the wrong way !!

  • The Helios 44 is really an excellent lens. One of my faves. The earlier versions were more prone to flare and veiling contrast than the later models. There’s also a simple hack that will amplify the swirly bokeh on this lens even on a micro 43 digital body. I have outlined my review with photos here: http://sjp.id.au/photography/helios-44-lens-review/

  • Cindy J Worthley

    I am hoping to buy one of these lens on Etsy,has any one ever purchased one from there?

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  • Somu Padma

    Recently Saw an ” MC Helios – 81H F2 50mm” Lens in Original Nikon Mount on ebay India selling for approx 35$.Got it and tried on my Nikon D5200 in maual mode and the result is Rajor sharp pictures with Good color & contrast competing with best of similar Nikon lens.Many using Helios lens with an adaptor on Nikon but getting a Nikon mount Helios lens is superb.In 80s i made 10s of reels of images with Helios 55mm lens on Zenit SLR which gave many stunning images to me.Now in this digital age again making images with an Helios is a sort of Nostalgic with reviving manual skills.By the time am writing this still one more Nikon mount lens is on sale at same ebay.Here is uploading one image which was taken aperture wide open at f2, 1/30, ISO 800 at distance approx 20 feet and lighting is a mere 15W CFL only yet the image came stunningly Bright & sharp and even the bottom sticker text on the wood can be read well.This is an unedited image except for cropping and resizing to load here.The lens may be available cheap but it can give stunning quality images in the able hands which can do manual well.It is a true challenge to do manual,if everything is done by camera where is the challenge. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c44d9edeb6231aa4e4dc3e5af7768cd6efa496d9dcff2221651ebf18cddf1a02.jpg

  • Iosif Simon

    Some shots taken with this lens:

  • Sebastian Basse Forssman

    Hi! I’m glad to have found this site. Now guys, i have something here!
    Just bought my first Helios 44-2. Recived it a couple a days ago. It accures that this lens actually is a total BLACK Helios 44 m39 with 8 aperture blades. And now to the best, the lens is stamped with “2/.58” (the dot between 2 and 58). What does it mean? I’ve search the net and found nothing about the dot. Full name: KMZ Helios-44 2/.58 M39 mount

    Would be nice to have some answers to this! 🙂 Thanks

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