Helios 44-2 (Helios 44-2) 58/2 m42

Helios 44-2 is an improvement of Helios 44 “white” with M39 connecting thread. Standard lens for Zenit camera of different years. As a rule, since the 60s, the year of issue on Soviet lenses was included in the serial number of the lens, and was imprinted in the first two digits. The heroes of the review are Helios-44-2 with M42x1 thread for Zenit-E.

Soviet photo lens Helios 44-2 58/2

This model was produced for a long time without any significant changes in design. Depending on the year of manufacture and the manufacturer, the frame of the Helios-44-2 58mm f / 2.0 lens (this is the full factory name of the model) may be painted black, may have no color, or may be partially painted. There are copies produced by MMZ, painted in the style of “monocyclic zebra”.

Minsk Helios 44-2, monocyclic zebra
Minsk Helios 44-2, monocyclic zebra

Helios 44-2 is a lens with a ribbed focusing ring, 8-blade diaphragm and a presetting ring.

Scheme of the Soviet lens Helios 44-2

Similar to the Zeiss Biotar 58mm f / 2 scheme, the ancestor of all Helios is the Biotar Krasnogorskiy.

Lenses “Helios” on [PRO] PHOTO

Technical characteristics of Helios 44-2

Focal length:  58 mm (58.60 mm)
 Aspect ratio:  1: 2
 Field of view:  40 ° 28 ′
 Frame size:  24 × 36 mm

Number of lenses / groups:  6/4
 Front vertex focal length:  −34.25 mm
 Rear vertex focal length:  38.05 mm
 Distance from first to last surface:  39.80 mm
 Clear diameter of first surface:  ∅29.5 mm Clear
 diameter last surface:  ∅24.7 mm

Resolution (0/10/20 mm) 3) : 46/33/26 lines / mm
 Resolution according to technical specifications (center / edge): 38/20 lines / mm
 Light transmittance: 0.82
 Geometric vignetting:  58%
 Chromaticity formula : 10-0-1.5

Enlightenment type:  single-layer, chemical

Close focus limit: 0.5 m
 Aperture scale range : 1: 2–1: 16
 Aperture blades: 8

Flange distance: 45.5 mm
 Connections: 
lens to camera: M42 × 1
 for screw-in tips: M49 × 0.75
 for slip- on tips: ∅54 mm

Dimensions: 
Length of lens without caps: 47 mm
 Largest frame diameter: 60 mm
 Weight: 0.23 kg

Year of development: presumably: 1951

Helios 44-2. Feedback on work

Focusing

The lens focuses within 0.5 – 14 meters, the values ​​on the focusing ring are approximate. There is a scale for calculating the hyperfocal distance of the lens, as well as calculating the depth of field.

Helios’ focusing ring is grippy, thanks to the nut edges. Manual focusing is provided by rotating the focusing ring around the lens unit axis. Exit of the front edge of the lens barrel at the maximum focusing distance is about 1.1 cm. The lens unit does not rotate when focusing, as is the case with some DDR lenses.

The rotation of the ring is often tight, as over time the factory grease loses its properties. A properly serviced lens, as a rule, has no comments on the rotation of the rings.

When focusing visually without using Live View or a special screen, because of the shallow depth of field, focusing on cameras with a small viewfinder is difficult and can lead to focusing errors. Infinity in Helios-44-2 comes a little earlier than it is engraved on the lens, namely from 10-12 meters. Helios-44-2 met with a flight over infinity, but these are most likely flaws in either assembly or service.

Aperture Helios 44-2

Iris, 8-blade, manual diaphragm. Petals of insufficient blackening, therefore, actively participate in reducing the quality of the picture when shooting in difficult conditions. The relative aperture of Helios 44-2 is adjustable in the range from 1: 2 at open and up to 1:16 at a fully closed diaphragm. The bokeh nuts show up at f / 4.

Preset ring

Helios 44-2 58/2 does not have a diaphragm push drive. The stock and jumping mechanism, as on the Helios-44M and later, is absent. The preset ring is located just in front of the diaphragm control ring and looks more like a body part than an auxiliary control.

Users are often unaware of the existence of this ring. Presetting the aperture is necessary, as the aperture values ​​printed on the body are inverted due to the peculiarities of metering and focusing of the past.

 

Aperture control without an additional locking ring seems strange – a value of 1:16, in fact, corresponds to 1: 2. Everything falls into place when you start using the pre-diaphragm setting.

The aperture preset mechanism is not suitable for use on modern cameras. Modern digital cameras estimate the level of exposure in the frame at an open aperture of the lens (old film ones too). The final calculation of the exposure should take place at the moment the aperture closes, just before the shutter opens. When using Helios 44-2 at an aperture other than open, you will have to enter exposure compensation. Shoot in RAW and Aperture Priority mode. Especially if you are working with Helios for the first time.

Focus and iris operation

Focusing (focusing) is performed by rotating the ring with the marked distance scale. The distance scale index is the central red line of the depth of field scale. The design of the diaphragm presetting unit allows you to change the position of the diaphragm limiter, which is done by turning the ring on which the diaphragm scale is applied. The index of the pre-set stop is a point marked on the fixed part of the frame.

The actual diaphragm is performed by rotating the diaphragm ring. The lens is screwed into the camera as far as it will go and tightened slightly. Before starting work, the diaphragm is set to the maximum hole by rotating the ring until it stops by aligning the two points. Turning the ring, put the stop in accordance with the selected working diaphragm by aligning the index with the required number on the diaphragm scale.

At the same time, you should feel a slight click, confirming that the preset ring is fixed. After focusing by turning the ring for the curly knurling at the maximum aperture of the lens aperture, without interrupting the observation of the subject, turn the aperture ring until it stops, and then press the camera shutter button. If the distance to the subject is known in advance, find it on the distance scale and turn the ring to set this value against the red index. The distance to the subject is measured along the optical axis of the lens from the plane of the matrix or film, usually indicated on the camera.

When photographing objects at different distances from the camera, it is recommended to use the depth of field scale. It consists of pairs of divisions symmetrically located on either side of the index. Each pair corresponds to a certain value of the set aperture. Against these divisions, you can read two values ​​on the distance scale, within which all objects will appear sharply in the picture. These two distances are referred to as the near and far limits of the depth of field.

Depth of field control

Due to the smooth rotation of the focusing ring and the absence of a clamping aperture value, the Helios-44-2 is better than other Helios for video recording with sound and soft focus shifting with control of the depth of field “on the fly”.

Due to the shallow depth of field, focusing on cameras with a small viewfinder can have trouble hitting the target. You have to use LiveView mode much more often than with autofocus lenses.

As an alternative to LiveView, you can use the distance scale and depth of field of the lens itself, or adapter rings with a focus confirmation chip (more expensive).

Aberrations, bokeh Helios 44-2

On an open aperture, there is a noticeable “twisting” in the out-of-focus area, as well as color aberrations in contrasting transitions. Twisting is highly regarded by some users as it gives a photo an extra artistic touch. The bokeh of Helios 44-2 is blurred enough to separate the subject from the background. However, the blur is not complete, and in the bokeh of Helios 44-2, you can see the texture of background objects. It is worth considering this when choosing a compositional component of a future photograph.

Color aberrations appear as purple or blue lines at the edges of the transitions. Easily removed in photo editors when developing RAW. Coma and distortion are well corrected in “Helios-44-2”.

Vignetting

Lens mounted on full-frame cameras produce severe vignetting at the corners up to f / 5.6. On cropped cameras this effect is hardly noticeable.

Sharpness, contrast, color

Sharpness in the center is appropriate, at the level of modern lenses, at an open aperture it drops sharply towards the edges. The contrast of the lens is at a normal level, however, it sags when exposed to light. Shooting without a lens hood (which cannot be found) in backlight and sidelight becomes a real hell. Despite the fact that the front lens is recessed into the frame. It’s about weak enlightenment. For Helios 44-2, it is simple, has a bluish tint.

The aperture blades, which are usually smeared with a large amount of oil, contribute to additional exposure. The lens is capable of creating reflections from the surfaces of the elements of the optical circuit when light is incident at a certain angle.

The lens sharpens from the center to the edges as you aperture, and at f / 5.6 almost completely covers the frame. At open aperture, the lens swirls the background. Sharpness when open is sufficient only in the center of the frame. The rest of the field draws distortion, decreasing at f / 4 and disappearing at f / 5.6.

Nevertheless, for the most part, the frames from the lens “at the exit” are only pleasing to the eye.

Find out the weak points of your Helios in order to avoid knowingly failing compositions.

Housing and build quality of Helios 44-2

Helios 44-2 is a great multitude. Of the 20 copies that I came across – only two were in good condition. Nevertheless, even on lenses in good condition, one could notice the play of the aperture rings and its presets. Overall, the build quality is decent. However, when compared with contemporaries from Germany in similar cases, the produced copies of the USSR seem clumsy and heavy.

Advantages of Helios 44-2

  • Any serviceable Helios, even now, is able to compete in the lower segment for quality, with modern plastic autofocus competitors.
  • The lack of autofocus should not be embarrassing, because, for example, in portrait photography, it can be omitted.
  • The depth of field calculator and distance scale are missing in the vast majority of modern lenses. Helios-44-2 can be set according to the marks on the lens itself and shoot without looking through the viewfinder.
  • The availability and low cost of Helios-44-2 gives a tangible advantage when choosing a lens for a novice amateur photographer. Lenses Helios-44-2 have been produced since the 50s of the twentieth century, they were used as staffs for Zenit-E cameras.
  • Indestructible construction. The lens is not afraid of frost, temperature and humidity changes, falls. The metal case will not crack in case of an accidental impact, and the absence of electronics will not let you down at the right time. The lens is easy to disassemble and maintain. The higher the difficulty, the lower the reliability.
  • The ability to use with almost any digital cameras , through the appropriate adapter. About adapters below.
  • High artistry. Even in the absence of special processing skills, you can get a warm tube photo. Branded bokeh twist, good color rendition, pleasing to the eye transition from the sharpness zone to the bokeh zone – the brand’s German roots are reflected.
  • An excellent choice for a novice portraitist. 58mm in full frame, and almost 93mm in 1.6 crop.

Use on modern cameras

To work on digital cameras, you need an adapter from the M42x1 threaded connection to your camera. Helios-44-2 is easiest to install on Canon EOS with EF (-s) mount, because of the insignificant difference in focal lengths. Adapters without focus confirmation chips on Canon cost mere pennies.

By ordering adapters using the links below, you help the project cover the costs of site maintenance and development. List of adapters, systems and mounts (direct links for ordering):

When ordering, it should be borne in mind that cheap adapters of poor quality with a lens on the Nikon F mount significantly spoil the picture. Adapters without a lens reduce the maximum focusing range (due to the difference in focal lengths). Adapters with chips come across of poor quality, exposure metering and confirmation of focus on some models of cameras may suffer from this.

Alternatives to Helios 44-2

The main likely use of Helios 44-2 is in bust portraits. On cropped cameras like Canon EOS 1100D, EOS 60D, EOS 650D, EOS 1300D, EOS 300D, EOS 600D, etc. with an EF-s mount and a crop factor of 1.6 will have an equivalent focal length of 58×1.6 = 92.3mm. For video shooting, as already mentioned in the article, the lens is better suited than other Helios due to the smoothness and noiselessness of the rotation of the focusing rings and aperture.

The lenses below are a legacy of yesteryear that is still in use today.

Helios series “M”

Helios of older modifications have improved optical characteristics, slightly more resistant to back light. Lenses with multilayer coating slightly exceed the cost of Helios-44-2 and are quite common.

Industar-61 L \ Z 50mm f / 2.8 m42

Sharp, clear. Virtually no aberration, razor sharp from open aperture. Due to the shape of the aperture blades in the bokeh, stars are obtained from the glare. Cheap and common lens.

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f / 2.8 T m42

Rare, true German quality from the 60s-80s. With a perfectly circular 13-blade diaphragm, sleek design.

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f / 1.8 m42

It is a good choice for leisurely shooting portraits with shallow depth of field, as well as artistic background blur.

Summary

Despite the sufficient prevalence of the lens associated with its production at several factories, and mass production, the lens does not show any very negative qualities.

Of course, in comparison with modern ones, the lens does not boast of any improved image quality or usability. However, this is offset by its reliability, unpretentiousness and price. Helios-44-2 are widespread in the secondary market and are quite inexpensive, so they can be perfect for beginner amateur photographers.

Examples of photos on Helios 44-2

Helios 44-2 and Canon 6D

Helios 44-2 and Canon 60D

Examples of videos on Helios 44-2

Canon 1300D with the converter of the USSR “K-1 2x”

 

Helios 44-2 sample video from Canon 60D

Helios 44-2 sample video (Canon 6D)

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