Eric L. Woods

This Old Lens: Helios 44-2 58mm f/2

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Preface

Film or digital, no matter the camera, if the lens is no good none of those other things will matter. There will be no spoilers as I will like all of these lenses.

Helios 44-2

Asking Price

It would appear that roughly a bazillion of these have been made because there are plentiful supplies from $50-$90. There is a wide range of years available. I have an older copy and have not had any issues. I have heard that quality control may be an issue so all lenses may not be equal. Have heard some have received bum copies so I would recommend purchasing from a reputable source and testing thoroughly when you first receive it.

Value

If you get your hands on a good copy this lens is a fantastic value. Since it is a common M42 mount I believe this can be used with any M42 mount and perhaps Pentax K mount with an M42 to K ring adapter. I say may and perhaps because I went native on this one.

Why I Bought It

For some reason I have a soft spot for Russian cameras. They are capable, inexpensive “can mangle their innards by looking at them too hard (or more specifically adjusting the shutter speed before winding on)” devices. I once mangled a Kiev 4 day 1 of receiving it while fiddling with it. My fault. Was worth it for the lens. I did not bat an eye then went back and ordered another with a different lens and kept it moving. I ran through quite a few Russian cameras including a Zorki 4 and have since settled on two Zenits (Zenit E and Zenit KM) and two FEDs (FED 2 and FED 5c).

Zenit
FED

The “newer” variant of each was new/old stock never used in original packaging and cost peanuts. Both of these newer ones are awful and I have shot only 1 test roll through each. And I love them. Photography and good sense are often not on the same Venn diagram or sheet of paper in my universe. But I digress. I scored the Zenit E for some cheap film vintage fun and I recommend doing the same. A good spend of about $15 in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Image Quality

If you stay within a reasonable realm of expectations considering this lens’ vintage there are good image results to be had. What this lens lacks in Zeiss like perfection it makes up for in character by way of swirly bokeh under the right conditions and better than it has any being general performance. Of the few Russian lenses I have tried this lens and the Jupiter 9 stand at the top with the Industar 10 just behind largely owing to its collapsible build. While we are at it props to the Jupiter 12 which withstood a tongue in cheek comparison between it and and Leica Summilux 35mm f/2 (borrowed from a very kind and talented Manu Jarvis) I wrote for KEH Spotlight with its dignity intact. Back to back legend vs. bootleg gallery at this link. Back to the task at hand.

  • Flare
    • Surprisingly well controlled. Based on other Russian lenses I expected this thing to be a flare fest. Perhaps people are just presenting their best but even after a quick Flickr group perusal I only found one shot that had flare and it was not that dissimilar from what you would expect from many film lens. And even then I found it pleasing. Here is the most I could muster shooting directly into the sun below. Not unexpected.
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Fuji La
  • Sharpness
    • This is perhaps the biggest single surprise of this lens. This lens is sharp. That is not what I shot it for so I never really looked at it in film. Any missed focus was a product of an intermittent initial lazy mirror with the Zenit and possibly user error. The sharpness became abundantly clear once I used it with the TECHART adapter and I realized with a rock solid focusing system (i.e. not me evidently) this lens produces consistently sharp results. Caused me to re-review my film results and it was more of the same.
  • Colors
    • No disappointments here. I really like the colors that this lens produces.
  • Bokeh
    • Here is the party piece. This is the main reason for purchasing this lens. Simply amazing swirly bokeh under the right conditions. The best results for me have been with some manner of backlit foliage in the background. And it delivers perfectly fine bokeh all other times. There is a group shot I will post below that was taken withe a Fuji crop camera and a speed booster that has a background that looks amazing to me. It more than delivered.

Samples With Film

Zenit E w/ Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 w/ Zenit E and Helios 44-2
Kodak Gold 200

With Digital (Pentax K1/Sony FF MF & TECHART/Fuji-Speedbooster)

AF Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Is that a Helios 44-2? – Pentax K-1
Fuji La
Fujifilm X-T1 w/ Zhong yi speedbooster
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount
Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount
SE Camera, Carrboro – Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount
Me in Silhouette – Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount
Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Duke Gardens – Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Duke Gardens – Pentax K-1
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Duke Gardens – Pentax K-1
Photo of Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 Screw Mount
Dennis – SE Camera, Carrboro – Pentak K-1
Helios 44-2
Sony A7II – MF
AF Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Sony A7III – TECHART
AF Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Sony A7III – TECHART
Random
Sony A7III – TECHART
Random
SE Camera, Carrboro – Sony A7III – TECHART
Random
Karen – SE Camera, Carrboro – Sony A7III – TECHART
Random
Sony A7III – TECHART
Random
Sony A7III – TECHART
Helios 44-2
Anthony – Sony A7III – TECHART
Helios 44-2
James – Sony A7III – TECHART
Helios 44-2
Anthony – Sony A7III – TECHART
Helios 44-2
Sony A7III – TECHART

Conclusion

Still there? Buy this lens. It is around $50 while capable of loopy bokeh as well as genuinely solid images otherwise. I hear tell you can stop this lens down on digital. Would not know since I never tried. And all digital images were shot wide open. If you nab a good copy I do not believe you will regret it.

-ELW

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