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05-27-2012, 07:20 AM   #1
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Which version of the Helios 44M?

Hi everyone... I have heard of the Helios 44 and it sounds like an impressive lens... but I'm not really sure which version is the best.

According to this list, the 44-3 is better than most the others, but I've also heard that 44M-4 and 44M-7 are very good, and also the 44M is good... I'm sort of confused and I don't know which one would be best for me

Ideally I'd be looking for the one that has the best IQ and bokeh, and preferably I wouldn't have to do anything with a pin or something (on which versions exactly is there that pin?)

Thanks for your help!

Ben

05-27-2012, 07:42 AM   #2
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The 44-2 and 44-3 are preset lenses. The 44-2 is single coated and the 44-3 is multi coated. If you are looking for the swirly bokeh these are the lenses to get.

The 44M is a single coated lens. It is the only auto aperture 44 with the A/M switch. The 44M-4 and above are multi coated, but they are auto aperture only. That means gimicking the pin. They also have 6 blades instead of 8 like the earlier lenses.
05-27-2012, 07:57 AM   #3
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There are more info about them here in Getting Closer
I have 44M and 44-2 (pre 1970?) both KMZ, I like both.
05-27-2012, 02:39 PM   #4
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I'm personally quite fond of the 44K-4, probably because it's the one I have. It's auto aperture, but in the good way, since it works on your camera. (In other words, it's a K mount lens.) (MC too, of course.)

If you want the "most helios 44" one of the old presets is probably better if course.

05-27-2012, 06:03 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
If you are looking for the swirly bokeh these are the lenses to get.
Unless, of course, you get one of the other versions. I have the 44M with the A/M switch and am very fond of the lens. It has swirly bokeh, but not as much as some I have seen in photos from others having the same model. From what I understand, the swirl is related to the optical design and the care given to aligning the elements during assembly. I have been tempted to get the 44-3 because of the multi-coated optics, but have not bit the bullet due to inflated prices and the chance of getting one with the incompatible focus ring (binds to body when adapted to K-mount).

My advice would be to get the version that is priced right and is most practical for you. The A/M switch is nice (no surgery needed) as is the eight aperture blades. The higher-numbered versions are reputed to have better optics, but not as good a build. A late build 44-2 might be just the ticket if you like preset lenses (on recent lenses, the first two digits of the serial number is the year of manufacture). Yes, most of the variants were being made concurrently at different locations and were offered as normal lenses on the available models of Zenit SLRs.


Steve

BTW...The link above to mflenses.com is definitely exhaustive, but not completely accurate. "M" as in 44M, refers to automatic aperture operation, not M42. "K" variants are K-mount and also automatic aperture. The date ranges for some lenses is also a little skewed. It cannot be overstated that the numbering does not represent consecutive models with the high ones replacing the lower. There is huge overlap in the production runs for most of the Helios variants sometimes within the same plants!

Last edited by stevebrot; 05-28-2012 at 08:08 AM.
05-27-2012, 07:47 PM   #6
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44-3 MC is "one of the best" due to high resolution among the 8 blade design.
44M-7 should have the best coating because it's the latest version.
It's all up to you in this case.
Just watch out for the focus ring on 44-3. It might get in the way of your k-mount body.
05-27-2012, 11:04 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I have been tempted to get the 44-3 because of the multi-coated optics, but have not bit the bullet due to inflated prices and the chance of getting one with the incompatible focus ring (binds to body when adapted to K-mount).

My advice would be to get the version that is priced right and is most practical for you. The A/M switch is nice (no surgery needed) as is the eight aperture blades. The higher-numbered versions are reputed to have better optics, but not as good a build. A late build 44-2 might be just the ticket if you like preset lenses (on recent lenses, the first two digits of the serial number is the year of manufacture). Yes, most of the variants were being made concurrently at different locations and were offered as normal lenses on the available models of Zenit SLRs.

Steve
Hi Steve and everyone else!
Thanks so much for your helpful comments. It seems to make sense to get either a 44-2 or 44-3… but I just have a couple more (OK, three) questions

What does preset mean exactly?
Whats up with this incompatible focus ring on the 44-3? How could I know if the lens I see for sale on fleabay has this problem or not? Is it for a certain run of lenses, so I could tell from the serial number?
Also, when you said late build 44-2, how late do you mean? Which years?

Thanks a bunch, I really appreciate it!

Ben
05-27-2012, 11:49 PM   #8
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I found a 44-2 from 1988 on fleabay - does $35 + $20 shipping sound like a good price?

05-28-2012, 08:38 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben E Quote
What does preset mean exactly?
Wow...prepare for a lesson in lens history. Most lenses have provision to change the diameter of the lens opening (aperture). This is usually done using an adjustable iris diaphragm with 4 or more blades. How the aperture is set falls into several different categories:
  • Manual -- The lens is always at the "taking" aperture. Turn the ring and the opening changes.
  • Preset -- The "taking" aperture is set using the aperture ring and enabled using a separate pre-set ring or switch. This allows for the user to focus with the lens wide open and with a simple action, stop-down to the taking aperture. While it may seem cumbersome to us today, this sort of arrangement is quite usable when working with a hand-held meter.
  • Semi-Auto -- These lenses have a pin or lever in the lens mount that allows the body to stop the lens down at exposure time. Restoring the aperture to wide open is done with a lever on the side of the lens.
  • Automatic -- Like the semi-auto designs, these lenses have a pin or lever on the mount that allows the body to stop the lens down at exposure time. They also have a mechanism that reopens the aperture immediately afterward. Almost all modern lenses have automatic diaphragm and many from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s are prominently labeled as such (e.g. Auto-Rikenon, Auto-Fujinon, Auto-Sears, etc.). Be aware that being labeled as "Auto" is not the same as supporting automatic aperture control from the camera body ("A" position on aperture ring).
In regard to pre-set lenses...At one time, this was a common design and is present on several FSU (Former Soviet Union) lenses. On the Helios 44-2 there are two rings. One is used to set the aperture and the other to toggle from full-open to stopped-down. Sometimes people refer to this as having "two aperture rings". While it may look that way, there is only one that actually sets the "stop".

A happy side-effect of this arrangement is that if you set the aperture ring to its narrowest setting (largest f-number), rotating the pre-set ring allows for infinite aperture adjustment similar to a fully manual aperture lens. In Av mode you can "dial in" the desired shutter speed as you stop down. (Note that there may be significant metering issues using stop-down metering in Av mode with Pentax dSLRs.)


Steve
05-28-2012, 09:06 AM   #10
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Thanks for the explanation, Steve.

Do you have any idea on what a reasonable price for the 44-2 or 44-3 is?
05-28-2012, 09:24 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben E Quote
Do you have any idea on what a reasonable price for the 44-2 or 44-3 is?
Prices have been creeping up for these lenses, despite the fact that they are incredibly common in Russia and Eastern Europe. If purchased from Russian or Ukraine, $20 USD shipping is pretty much the norm. A price of $35 USD (as per your post above) is also pretty typical. $20 - $40 USD is to be expected. Be sure to confirm condition before purchase:
  • Glass free of scratches (front and rear)
  • Glass clean and free of fungus
  • All controls work smoothly
You might also want to look at purchase of a Zenit camera with lens attached. Often, the camera with lens is priced at or below what a lens itself might cost.


Steve
07-06-2012, 12:55 AM   #12
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I ended up getting a 44K-4 from a fellow member here in Israel. Its a great lens, I love the bokeh
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