Lens series Helios 44 (Helios 44) 58/2

The founder of the series is BTK (BioTar Krasnogorskiy), renamed Helios 44. Zeiss Biotar 58mm f / 2 planar converted to Soviet glass.

About the Helios-44 lens series

The Helios 44 series of lenses was produced without any significant changes in the optical design for almost half a century, and had different indexes. At various times, production was launched at KMZ, Belomo, and the Jupiter Plant in Valdai. Early models had unpainted cases, so they are fairly easy to recognize. The lens production year, as a rule, from the 60s was included in the lens serial number and was imprinted in the first two digits.

Helios-44 is a standard lens for small format SLR cameras. Fast six-lens anastigmat. Coated optics or multilayer coating. It features an exact match of the visual and photographic planes of the image. Created on the basis of the Biotar 2/58 lens (Carl Zeiss Jena), originally called “BTK” – “BioTar Krasnogorsky”. The most popular KMZ lens, one of the most popular lenses in the world. It was produced in many varieties and variants at several enterprises. In the late 1980s, the production of threaded MC Helios-44M-4 was transferred from Krasnogorsk to the Valdai plant “Jupiter” (a specialized enterprise within the PA “Krasnogorsk plant”), where later the lenses began to be divided according to resolution with the assignment of different indices in ascending order (MC Helios-44M-5, MC Helios-44M-6 and MC Helios-44M-7). Versions of “Helios-44” were also produced in Belarus at MMZ (BelOMO).

Diagram of Soviet lenses Helios 44

The layout is similar to Carl Zeiss Biotar 2 / 58mm. In fact, the history of the Helios-44 58/2 (Helios-44 58/2) series of lenses began with its recalculation.

Soviet lenses with the name “Helios” are made according to the Planar scheme of Dr. Rudolph (Paul Rudolph, 1896, Germany). Rudolph himself did not fully assess the possibilities of his scheme. They were discovered by the English optician G. Lee (Horace W. Lee), who in 1920 developed the Opic lens of the Taylor-Hobson firm – Taylor & Hobson, which had an increased aperture ratio – 1: 2.5 (instead of 1: 3.3 for “Planar”) at an angle of view of 50 degrees. Later, lenses of such a scheme were produced under various names by very many companies. “Helios-44”, developed by Professor D.S. Volosov, is the most popular Soviet lens. Since 1958, he was put as a regular one on the “Start” cameras, then on the “Zenith” cameras. (I.O.Baklanov, 1998)

Why does Helios-44 have a 58mm focal length?

To be used in SLR cameras, the lens must have a large rear focal length (roughly speaking, this is the minimum distance from the rear lens to the photographic material): then it is possible to place a mirror.

But this makes it difficult to develop normal and short-throw lenses, since often the maximum quality with the chosen scheme can be achieved only with a very small back focal length. Therefore, in order not to reduce too much the quality, the focal length of the “Helios-44” had to be increased to 58 mm instead of the standard 52 mm (the field of view is reduced from 45 to 40 degrees).

But even with such a rather small angle of view, the resolving power of “Helios-44” is clearly insufficient, such are the possibilities of this scheme (if one uses ordinary optical glasses). (I.O.Baklanov, 1998)

Technical characteristics of
lenses Helios-44

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 TU (center / edge):
Helios-44 - 35/14 lines / mm
Helios-44-2 - 38/20 lines / mm
Helios-44-7 - 36/17 lines / mm
Helios-44M-4 - 38/19 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-4 - 41/20 lines / mm
MC Helios-44K-4 - 42/21 lp / mm
MC Helios-44M-5 - 41/20 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-6 - 45/25 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-7 - 50/30 lines / mm
Light transmission coefficient:
Helios-44 - 0.81
Helios-44-2 - 0.82
Helios-44-7 - 0.80
Helios-44M-4 - 0.80
MC Helios-44M-4 - 0.85
MC Helios-44K-4 - 0.85
MC Helios-44M-5 - 0.85
MC Helios-44M-6 - 0.90
MC Helios-44M-7 - 0.90
Geometric vignetting:  58%
 Chromaticity formula:
Helios-44 (Start) - 10-0-1.5
Helios-44 - 10-0-1.5
Helios-44-2 - 10-0-1.5
Helios-44-7 - 10-0-1.5
Helios-44M-4 - 10-0-1.5
MC Helios-44X-x - 11-0-0

Enlightenment type:  single-layer, chemical; multilayer (MC)

Near Focus Limit:
Helios-44 (Start) - 0.7 m
other options - 0.5 m
Aperture scale limits:  1: 2–1: 22, 1: 2–1: 16
 Number of aperture blades:  13 (Start);
8 (Start, options without a diaphragm drive, Helios-44M);
6 - in the latest modifications (Helios-44X-4, -5, -6, -7)

Working segment:
bayonet Start - 42 mm
Helios-44 - 45.2 mm
Helios-44C-4 - 44 mm
Other options - 45.5 mm
lens to camera:
Helios-44 (Start) - bayonet
Helios 44 - M39 × 1
Helios-44-2 - M42 × 1
Helios-44-7 - M42 × 1 4)
Helios-44M, Helios-44M-x - M42 × 1
Helios-44K-4 - bayonet, frame K
Helios-44C-4 - bayonet type C
for screw-in bits:
Helios-44 (Start) - SpM40.5 × 0.5
Helios-44 - M49 × 0.5
Helios-44-2 - M49 × 0.75
Helios-44-7 - M49 × 0.5
Helios-44X-x - M52 × 0.75
for slip-on attachments:
Helios-44 (Start) - ∅51 mm
Helios-44 - ∅51 mm
Helios-44X-x - ∅54 mm

lens length without caps:
Helios-44 (Start) - 58 mm
Helios-44 - 60 mm
Helios-44-2 - 47 mm
Helios-44-7 - 59 mm
Helios-44X-x - 42 mm
largest frame diameter:
Helios-44 (Start) - 60 mm
Helios-44 - 60 mm
Helios-44-2 - 60 mm
Helios-44-7 - 62 mm
Helios-44X-x - 64 mm
Helios-44 (Start) - 0.23 kg
Helios-44 - 0.23 kg
Helios-44-2 - 0.23 kg
Helios-44-7 - 0.35 kg
Helios-44M - 0.3 kg (270 g)
Helios-44M-4 - 0.3 kg
MC Helios-44M-4 - 0.3 kg
MC Helios-44K-4 - 0.3 kg (258 g)
MC Helios-44M-5 - 0.27 kg
MC Helios-44M-6 - 0.27 kg
MC Helios-44M-7 - 0.27 kg

Year of development: presumably: 1951

Completion of ROC:
Helios-44-M - 1972
Helios-44M-4 - 1981
Production: large-scale
Years of production: from 1958 (Start)

Soviet lenses “Helios-44” on [PRO] PHOTO

Lens models Helios-44


Helios-44 “White” M39

He is Helios 44 white. 8 or 13 diaphragm blades, M39x1 threaded mount, unpainted outside the body, 45.2 mm flange distance. It is believed that these lenses are of better quality, as they were made of German glass. Single layer coating, manual iris control with preset ring. MDF 0.5 meters. Regular for the f / a Zenit-3, Crystal, Zenit-3M, replaceable for the f / a Zenit and Zenit-S.

Helios-44 “Start”

Produced only for f / a “Start” with fastening under it. Single-layer coating, manual aperture control, 13 aperture blades. The specific mechanism of the diaphragm drive device with a leading blade, MDF 0.7 meters.

Helios 44-2

The most common variant of the entire series. The frame is similar to Helios-44, there are unpainted, painted, partially painted cases (“Minsk” monocyclic zebra). Manual iris control with preset ring, single layer coating. 8 aperture blades. MDF 0.5 meters, working distance 45.5 mm. M42x1 seating thread.

Helios-44-3 and MS Helios-44-3M

It differed from Helios-44-2 in a modified frame design. Manual iris control with preset ring, single layer coating. 6 aperture blades. MDF 0.5 m (MC Helios-44-3M has MDF 1.2 m), working distance 45.5 mm. M42x1 seating thread. Development and release of BelOMO. MC Helios-44-3M has a green multi-layer coating.


Only for f / a Zenit-7. Special diaphragm drive system. MDF 0.5 meters.


For f \ a Zenit-D. Could be used on Zenit-7. Pressure diaphragm, bayonet, single-layer coating.

Helios-44M-4, Helios-44M-5, MC Helios-44M-7

Without a diaphragm drive switch. They differed from Helios-44-2 in a modified frame design. Manual control of the diaphragm, automatic control by means of a push mechanism, single-layer and multi-layer coating. 6 aperture blades. MDF 0.5 meters. Objectives of mass production of the Jupiter plant. Helios-44M-4 was subsequently recounted by P.A. Lapin for the use of multilayer coating, which improved the light transmission and color rendering of the lens.

Helios 44M, MS Helios-44M-4, MS Helios-44M-7, MS Helios-44M-6

With a diaphragm drive switch. 6 aperture blades. MDF 0.5 meters. Lenses Helios-44M-5, Helios-44M-6 and Helios-44M-7 – mass production of the Jupiter plant, were divided into subtypes according to the actually measured value of the resolution.

Resolution (0/10/20 mm) 3) : 46/33/26 lines / mm
 Resolution according to TU (center / edge):
 Helios-44 - 35/14 lines / mm
Helios-44-2 - 38/20 lines / mm
Helios-44-7 - 36/17 lines / mm
Helios-44M-4 - 38/19 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-4 - 41/20 lines / mm
MC Helios-44K-4 - 42/21 lp / mm
MC Helios-44M-5 - 41/20 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-6 - 45/25 lines / mm
MC Helios-44M-7 - 50/30 lines / mm


Standard for f / a Zenit-212K (Pentax bayonet), with a switch for aperture mode “auto-manual” control. Calculated by P.A. Lapin. 6 aperture blades. MDF 0.5 meters, multi-layer coating.

The lens production lasted from 1951 to 1994, at different periods of time it was deployed at the Krasnogorsk plant named after S.A. Zverev, at the Minsk Mechanical Plant named after S.I. Vavilov, No. 941, Minsk, Belarus, at the Valdai plant “Jupiter”.

Series “Helios-44” in operation


Helios-44 and Helios-44-2 are similar in rims to the Zeiss Biotar of early releases, and starting with Helios 44M – to the German Pentacon 50mm f1.8. In both cases, they look more “clumsy”, and used, also sloppy. However, it is worth noting that externally worn specimens, in the absence of damage to the lenses, retain their basic qualities. The frame of the lenses in the series is always made of aluminum, while the mechanism contains steel elements.

Helios 44-2, front lens view


Common lenses focus 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, the risks of the depth of field calculator. The Helios focus rings are grippy thanks to their ribs. The factory grease in the focusing mechanism often requires replacement. Due to the lubrication in the cold, some specimens have problems with the rotation of the rings.


The aperture of the series of lenses has from six to eight blades. Six and eight edges in bokeh appear already at f / 4.

Modern digital cameras estimate the level of exposure in the frame at an open aperture of the lens (old film is the same). When using these manual lenses at aperture other than open, it is necessary to enter exposure compensation. In the resulting picture, in the out-of-focus area, there is a proprietary “Biotarovskoe” twisting of the background.

Due to the shallow depth of field, with visual focusing through the viewfinder, it is quite possible not to hit the target on cameras with a small viewfinder. Better to use LiveView or adapter rings with focus confirmation chip.

Diaphragm control mechanisms

On Helios-44 and 44-2, aperture control is implemented by two rings, one of which is a presetting mechanism. Focusing was carried out at an open aperture, and immediately before the shutter was released, it was closed to the required value. The first model of the “Helios”, which has a jumping (push) diaphragm and a mode switch for its operation – Helios-44M.

The diaphragm on the body of modifications, starting from Helios 44M, is controlled by a ring with a ratchet-lock of values, switching between values ​​takes place with significant effort. Focusing is done at an open aperture, the push mechanism is mechanically actuated before the shutter is released.

Sharpness, contrast, color

On an open aperture, Helios 44 series draws purple halos at the boundaries of contrasting transitions (easily corrected in photo editors when post-processing photos). 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.

Helios 44 sample photo, portrait at aperture 5.6 processing

Many examples show a dramatic drop in contrast and detail from the center to the edges. The lens does not like a bright background; when shooting in backlight, details in the image are lost throughout the entire field of the frame.

The color rendition is good, and modifications with multi-coating have a certain resistance to aberrations of various types. Coma and distortion are well corrected in “Helios”.


The lens, when mounted on full-frame cameras, produces severe vignetting in the corners up to f / 5.6. On cropped cameras, this effect will hardly be noticeable.

Advantages of lenses “Helios-44”

  • Any serviceable Helios 44 series, even now, is able to compete with modern plastic autofocus competitors of the lower price segment, both in price and in picture quality.
  • The lack of autofocus should not confuse you, because, for example, in portrait photography, you can not use it.
  • The availability and low cost of the Helios 44 series of lenses gives a tangible advantage when choosing a lens for novice amateur photographers.
  • Indestructible construction. The lens is not afraid of frost, temperature and humidity changes, falls. The metal body will not crack in case of an accidental impact, the mechanics will not fail at the right time.
  • The ability to use with almost any digital cameras , through the appropriate adapter. For example, on Canon EF / EF-s the lens can be mounted using the M42-EF adapter without incurring significant waste of money and loss of image quality.
  • High artistry. Even in the absence of special processing skills, you can get a warm tube photo. Branded bokeh twist, good color rendering, contrast and sharpness – all this for little money.
  • An excellent choice for a novice portraitist. 58mm on a full frame, and almost 93 on a 1.6 crop is a fairly popular focal length in modern times.

Using Helios-44 on modern cameras

To work on digital cameras, you will need an adapter from the M42x1. The easiest way is to install Helios 44 (Helios 44) on Canon EOS with EF-s mount, especially considering that adapters without chips on Canon are cheap.

By ordering things from 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, exposure metering and focus confirmation on some Canon EOS models may suffer from this.


In general, the lenses of this series are quite common, and it will not be difficult to find a more or less suitable copy of the Helios 44 for use. Helios of various versions are very common in the secondary market and are quite inexpensive, so they can be perfect for beginner amateur photographers.

Best of all, the lens reveals its artistic potential on full-frame cameras. On cropped ones, the background twisting will not be very noticeable, since the central and most sharp part of the lens is working. Helios 44 white in an unpainted body is less common than other lenses in the series, since most of them are already considered antiques.

Examples of videos from Soviet lenses “Helios-44”

Helios 44 on crop, converter “K-1 2x”

In this video, the lens was used in tandem with the K-1 2x converter. Video for acquaintance with the capabilities of the line as a whole. Not all models are suitable for handheld video. On some, when you switch the aperture, you will hear the clicking of the locking mechanism.

Video Helios 44-2 in full frame



Sample photos from the lens Helios 44


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