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12-23-2016, 02:44 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Helios 44-series production dates & concurrent production?

In my little collection of mostly-Soviet-era Russian lenses, I have three Helios 44-series models - a 44-2, 44M and 44M-4.

All three lenses bear the "KMZ" logo, showing that they were manufactured by, or on behalf of, the KMZ plant.

The 44-2 has an eight digit serial number starting "83", the 44M's number is seven digits starting "77", and the 44M-4's number is six digits starting "83". Assuming that - in all three cases - those first two digits signify the year of manufacture (which I believe is correct for these later lenses, though not necessarily so for many earlier Russian lenses), that means the 44M is the oldest of the three, followed by the 44-2 and 44M-4 which were manufactured in the same year.

And so, I'm a little confused... My understanding is that the 44-2, 44M and 44M-x series are evolutions of the same design (in that order). If that's the case, why would the same factory continue to produce the 44-2 alongside the later (and optically better) 44M and 44M-4? I could believe they'd build them concurrently to use up parts stocks, but my 44-2 was made six years after my 44M. That's an awfully long time to be using up old parts.

Is my assumption on those first two digits signifying year of manufacture incorrect?


Last edited by BigMackCam; 12-23-2016 at 06:01 AM.
12-23-2016, 07:37 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I looked for similar info when I was researching which Helios 44 to buy; there's some here:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/97960-lovin...8mm-f-2-a.html

but it's strewn throughout the thread and does not always seem to progress logically....

---------- Post added 12-23-16 at 08:51 AM ----------

some technical data here:

Helios-44 | Camerapedia | Fandom powered by Wikia

and the manual focus lens forum covers quite a bit, too:

Helios 44M Date Of Manufacture Question?

A Word about Russian Serial Numbers
12-23-2016, 10:35 AM   #3
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Thanks very much for that!

That first "mflenses" link is an interesting thread, with a further link that adds even more info: Complete Helios Lens list anyone?

From what I've read quickly at the sources you provided, the various 44-series lenses were indeed produced in parallel for some time. Weird.

I think my favourite of the three I have is the 44M (I had one previously but gave that away, and a replacement landed on my doorstep just this morning). The build quality is at least equal to the 44-2, handles better (especially on a Pentax M42-to-K adapter) and is definitely a step up optically from the 44-2... The 44M-4 is nice optically, but doesn't feel quite as robust as the earlier designs...
12-23-2016, 11:15 AM   #4
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my 44K-4 is built like a tank....

12-23-2016, 11:28 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by pepperberry farm Quote
my 44K-4 is built like a tank....
Oh, please don't misunderstand me, my 44M-4 is still considerably more robust than the majority of other MF lenses I own - it's just the 44M feels just a little heavier-duty.

What's the aperture ring like on your 44K-4? On both my 44M and 44M-4, this is the only obviously weaker part of the construction... It's metal, but just doesn't feel quite as solid as the rest of the lens. In that respect, the 44-2 with its preset ring feels better...
12-23-2016, 03:20 PM   #6
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I compared mine to my K55/2 when I received it - the Helios feels like it's been weaponized....

the aperture ring seems to be the weakest link of the lens - it's got a little wriggle room in it, either due to the manufacturing or just its age....
12-23-2016, 04:28 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by pepperberry farm Quote
the Helios feels like it's been weaponized....
LOL... yep, that's about right...


QuoteOriginally posted by pepperberry farm Quote
the aperture ring seems to be the weakest link of the lens - it's got a little wriggle room in it, either due to the manufacturing or just its age....
I suspect it might be just part of the design... My 44M and 44M-4 are both like that, and I have a '91 Zenitar-M 1.8/50 (very, very similar to the 44M-4 in look and feel) which is also exactly the same. I don't think the aperture rings will fail in my lifetime... they're just not the best part of those lenses
12-24-2016, 02:22 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
... the 44M ... is definitely a step up optically from the 44-2...

In what way(s)?

12-24-2016, 03:03 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by .a.t. Quote
In what way(s)?
The 44-2 is softer wide open and needs stopping down a little to match up with the 44M. That doesn't mean I'd avoid using the 44-2 at wider apertures, but the results are slightly different.

Of course, this could be copy variation at play. I've only owned one 44-2 and two 44M lenses, and gave my first 44M away before I bought the 44-2, so I'm working from memory and a subjective comparison of the lenses I now own.
12-24-2016, 02:32 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
The 44-2 is softer wide open and needs stopping down a little to match up with the 44M.....


Thank you.
I really enjoy the out of focus rendering of my #76..... 44-2, but the 44M sounds interesting, too.
12-24-2016, 02:54 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by .a.t. Quote
I really enjoy the out of focus rendering of my #76..... 44-2, but the 44M sounds interesting, too.
The A/M switch on the 44M is very handy when using the lens on a DSLR, as you can switch to A while focusing (aperture will be wide open), then switch to M to stop it down. It's quicker to operate than the preset system on the 44-2, although I'll admit to having a soft spot for preset lenses. I wouldn't suggest getting the 44M instead of your 44-2, but if you're happy to have both, it's worth picking one up
12-24-2016, 04:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
The A/M switch on the 44M is very handy when using the lens on a DSLR, as you can switch to A while focusing (aperture will be wide open), then switch to M to stop it down. It's quicker to operate than the preset system on the 44-2...

I appreciate the info. Except... ...I shoot my 44-2 wide open 95% of the time!


QuoteQuote:
...44M instead of your 44-2...


Those words aren't in my vocabulary!!


QuoteQuote:
...but if you're happy to have both, it's worth picking one up
Having spent a few years around here, it goes without saying I have rampant LBA.
...Heading off to do some shopping on eb*y.
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