Helios 44M 58/2 m42

Helios 44M is an improvement of the Helios 44-2 model with M42 connecting thread. Helios 44M (Helios 44m) are standard lenses for Zenit cameras of later production years.

Review of the Soviet lens
Helios 44M 2/58 (Helios 44M 58/2)

An instance of Helios 44m from the review – with serial number 8165822, produced at the Krasnogorsk plant named after S.A. Zverev in 1981. It has, unlike the previous model, an inscription on the case in Latin letters, like Helios 44M. Apparently, to simplify production (first of all, in order not to launch a separate series of engraving for export).

The body of the Helios 44M is very similar to the Pentacon 50mm f1.8, only it looks more “clumsy”, and the used one is also sloppy. But in spite of the unsatisfactory cosmetic condition, the lenses retain their basic qualities – shooting with Helios can be a pleasure, as long as the glasses are without critical damage. The lens barrel is made of aluminum and the mechanism contains steel elements.

Scheme Helios 44M

It is similar to the scheme of Zeiss Biotar 58mm f / 2, because the ancestor of all Helios is Biotar Krasnogorskiy. The BTK itself was recalculated from Biotar.

Lenses “Helios” on [PRO] PHOTO


Helios-44M lens specifications

Focal length Helios 44M:  58 mm (58.60 mm)
 Relative aperture:  1: 2
 Angle 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 Helios 44M:  single-layer, chemical

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

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

lens length without caps: 47 mm
 Largest frame diameter: 60 mm
 Weight: 0.27 kg

Helios 44M 58/2 in operation


Focusing Helios 44M is carried out within 0.5 – approximately 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. The front edge of the lens barrel comes out at the maximum focusing distance – about 1.1 cm.

Starting with Helios-44M, the lineup acquired a different position of the focusing ring. The focus ring has been swapped with the aperture ring due to the introduction of a push mechanism. Aperture control has moved closer to the camera mount.

The Helios-44M focusing ring is grippy, ribbed; focusing is done by rotating the focusing ring around the lens unit axis. Native grease in the Helios 44M focusing mechanism thickens over time to such an extent that the lens has to be disassembled and serviced.

In the cold, there were problems with the rotation of the rings – due to the old lubrication of the diaphragm ring and the focusing of the lens, it was impossible to turn. Replacing the grease with a new one eliminated the problems and returned a smooth ride to the controls.


The first model of the Helios-44 series, which has a pressure diaphragm and a switch for its operation. There are eight diaphragm petals. The lenses produced after Helios-44M have only 6 blades.

Insufficient blackening of the petals in Helios 44M leads to additional parasitic illumination of the optics by the reflected light.

The diaphragm on the body is installed with a ring with a detent value. Switching occurs with significant effort, there are intermediate values ​​(half-stops). The relative aperture is adjustable from 1: 2 when open and up to 1:16 when the diaphragm is fully closed. Due to the fact that the aperture of the Helios-44M has eight blades and does not form an even circle, the nuts in the bokeh are visible already at f / 4.

Modern digital cameras estimate the level of exposure in the frame at an open aperture of the lens (in fact, old film ones too). When using any manual lenses at aperture other than open, you will have to enter exposure compensation. In the case of this Helios, I had to correct it by 1 \ 3-2 \ 3 stops in minus.

There is no preset mechanism for use on modern cameras. For the metering to work correctly, you must have a camera with a diaphragm pusher.

In the resulting picture, in the out-of-focus area, there is a corporate background twisting. Due to the shallow depth of field, LiveView has to be used much more often than with autofocus lenses.

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

Depth of field control

Helios-44M will not be suitable for video recording with sound without removing the aperture ring value; soft focus shifting, control of depth of field “on the fly”. Since the “ratchet” makes loud clicks, and its hard switching will in any case affect the quality of shooting. The relative aperture of Helios-44M, as mentioned above, is adjustable from 1: 2 when the aperture is open and up to 1:16 when the diaphragm is fully closed. DOF is very small at a wide aperture. It is so small that it is almost impossible to get into focus even on cropped cameras without using additional funds.

Use LiveView to get good quality photos from Helios-44M

Helios-44M lens aberration and bokeh

On the open aperture of the Helios 44M, there is a noticeable “twisting” in the out of focus area, as well as color aberrations in contrasting transitions. Twisting the background is highly regarded by some users as it gives the photo an extra artistic touch. Helios 44M turns the background noticeably stronger than Helios 44-2. Coma and distortion are well corrected in “Helios-44M” The background twist is most pronounced when the distance to the subject is 2 meters, and to the background – 10. Moreover, it is advisable to choose tree branches as the background.

Sharpness, contrast, color

The quality of the optics of Helios 44M is the same as that of Helios 44-2. A lens with a single-layer coating of a bluish lens. Center sharpness is appropriate, on par with modern lenses … but falls towards the edges. Strongly visible on full frame cameras.

The contrast of the lens is at a normal level, when shooting in backlight it sags. Very much. In general, shooting without a hood in strong back and side light is contraindicated in view of the “weak optics” – one hundred percent loss of detail throughout the entire field of the frame is ensured.

Aperture blades, which are often smeared with a large amount of oil and do not have sufficient blackening, contribute to the decline in image quality when working in difficult lighting conditions. The lens is capable of exhibiting glare from the surfaces of the optical elements 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. Sharpness when open is sufficient only in the center of the frame. The rest of the field draws distortion (that same twisting), decreasing at f / 4 and disappearing at f / 5.6.

For the most part, the frames from Helios 44M are only pleasing to the eye.

Considering the weaknesses of your Helios, you can avoid the compositions that are obviously disastrous as a result.


The Helios 44M, mounted on full-frame cameras, produces vignetting in the corners up to f / 5.6. On cropped cameras this effect is hardly noticeable.

Housing and build quality of Helios 44M

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 ponderous. Despite the external unpretentiousness, the Helios 44M has only one “proprietary” gripe – it is necessary to change the lubrication of the lens mechanisms.

Advantages of Helios-44M

  • Any serviceable Helios 44M is able to compete with modern plastic competitors in terms of price and picture quality.
  • The lack of autofocus should not be embarrassing, because, for example, in portrait photography, you can not use it.
  • The depth of field calculator and distance scale are missing in modern lenses. Helios-44M can be set according to the marks on the lens itself and shoot without looking through the viewfinder.
  • Indestructible construction. Helios 44M is not afraid of frost, temperature and humidity changes, falls. The metal case will not crack in case of an accidental impact, the absence of electronics will not let you down at the right time. The higher the difficulty, the lower the reliability.
  • The ability to use with almost any digital cameras , through the appropriate adapter. About adapters below.
  • Artistry. In the absence of special skills in processing, a warm lamp photo can be obtained through the lens. Branded bokeh twist, good color rendering, pleasing to the eye transition from the sharpness zone to the bokeh zone – a good arsenal for creativity.
  • An excellent choice for a novice portraitist. 58mm in full frame, and almost 93mm in 1.6 crop. Sufficient sharpness and popular focal length.

Use on modern cameras

To work on digital cameras with Helios 44M, you will need an adapter from M42x1 to your system. Helios-44M on Canon EOS with EF (-s) mount is easier to install, due to the insignificant difference in focal lengths. Adapters without focus confirmation chips for Canon are low cost. Helios 44M on Canon with APS-C sensor and 1.6 crop factor will have an EGF = 92mm lens.

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 poor quality, metering and focus confirmation on some models of cameras may suffer from this.


Alternatives to Helios 44M

The main likely use of the Helios 44M is bust portraits. For video shooting with a change in depth of field “on the fly”, as already mentioned in the article, without removing the aperture ring retainer is not quite suitable.

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

Helios series “Mkh-X”

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


In general, Helios 44M lenses are quite common (like standard lenses for Zenit cameras), and it will not be difficult to find a more or less suitable copy for photography. In the secondary market, they are quite inexpensive, so they can be perfect for novice amateur photographers.

The lens unleashes its artistic potential on full-frame cameras. On cropped ones, the background twist will not be very noticeable, since the central and most sharp part of the optics works.

Examples of video Helios-44M

Helios 44M and Canon 60D


Sample video. Helios-44M and Canon 6D

Sample photos on Helios 44M

Canon 6D

Helios 44M and Canon 60D

Helios 44M and Canon 7D

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