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10-21-2009, 12:40 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Caution For Helios 44 Fans and Potential Buyers

The Russian Helios 44 58/2 lens has received a lot of raves on this site and is somewhat of a cult classic. As many of you are aware the Helios 44 is based on the optically similar Zeiss Biotar 58/2 and is available in a number of different variations based on mount, manufacturer, and diaphragm automation.

Most of the happy Helios owners on this site have one of the M42, automatic aperture versions (44M, 44M-x) or the earlier 44-2 with preset aperture. Although these are the more common variants, there is another version with pre-set aperture, the 44-3, that is highly regarded. The Helios 44-3 often features multi-coated optics and was manufactured well into the 1990s by the Belomo plant. While this lens is desirable, the potential buyer should be aware of a serious compatibility flaw with some (not all) Helios 44-3 lenses.

The Helios 44-3 was originally designed as the normal lens to be shipped with various Zenit 35mm SLR cameras. These bodies have a M42 lens mount with an unusually narrow body flange to accommodate the focus ring on the Helios 44-3. Now you are scratching your heads and muttering "huh?"...let me explain further. The focus ring on a pre-set lens is nearest the camera body with the aperture ring being towards the far end of the lens. On some models of the 44-3, the focus ring nests OVER the lens mount. Here is a picture:

Name:  helios_44-3_mount.jpg
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The above lens was made in 1986. With many non-Zenit M42 bodies as well as all K-mount cameras (adapted), the focus ring will not clear the mount face on the body to allow for a clean mount. The fix is to machine the back of the focus ring down a couple of millimeters so that it is forward of the mount flange.

Note that this is not true of all Helios 44-3 lenses. The physical design varied over the years. So...before you contract to buy from a Russian or Eastern European seller where a return might be difficult, be sure to request a detailed photograph of the lens mount from the side.

Edit: Apparently date of manufacture is not a reliable indication of whether a lens has the incompatible design. At least one example made in 1994 has the issue (reported by lens owner on the Flickr Helios 44 group).

Steve

(Almost plunked down a few rubles for the above lens before I noticed the mount...)


Last edited by stevebrot; 06-06-2012 at 09:06 AM.
10-21-2009, 12:58 PM   #2
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Interesting info. Thanks, Steve!
10-21-2009, 03:09 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by deadwolfbones Quote
Interesting info. Thanks, Steve!
My pleasure. M42 compatibility issues are pretty rare, so I figured it would be a good idea to give this one a little bit of attention. This forum is heavily indexed by Google, so with any luck someone searching for Helios 44-3 will be presented with this thread.

Steve
10-22-2009, 03:09 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Interesting Steve, and of course you made me check my 44-3:



I remember that it worked OK with the M42 adapter on the K100D. That flange on the 44-3 that you have posted presents a challenge for grinding.
Same with M42 Mamiya Sekor SX lenses, and in a similar fashion all post-AI-lenses from Nikon (cause otherwise these are most usable on Pentax
K-mount without any adapter) - still thinking about grinding the outer bayonet of the cam - not by much and it would be SX and AI compatible :-)

My 44-3 must be a 1990 version, as you can see by the serial number 90xxx. The logo is Belomo, just like Steve said.


Mother Biotar and her daughters: These lenses all share the exact same lens scheme - diff. in aperture and coating, though (all @f/4)
All the best, Georg (the other)


Last edited by georgweb; 10-22-2009 at 03:18 AM.
10-22-2009, 05:36 AM   #5
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It's too late for me. I bought a 44-3 of 1986. Not infinite focus, but usuable.

ONLY 1986 lenses have the problem ( like we know N 86.....).

Rino.
10-22-2009, 10:50 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by estudleon Quote
It's too late for me. I bought a 44-3 of 1986. Not infinite focus, but usuable.

ONLY 1986 lenses have the problem ( like we know N 86.....).

Rino.
Thanks for the info on the affected year. I will update the original post...

Steve
10-22-2009, 05:16 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Thanks for the info on the affected year. I will update the original post...

Steve
I just did a look at the current eBay auctions and there is a 44-3, serial #8403347 that has the problematic mount. Apparently the problem existed before 1986 as well.

Steve
10-29-2009, 05:13 AM   #8
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question.. what does the number represent after the 44M-#? Is a 44M-7 better than a 44M-4 or 44M?

10-29-2009, 06:37 AM   #9
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what is interesting in the collection shown by georgweb is that the 44-2 and 44-3 have 8 aperture blades, the 44-6 and 44-7 have 6 blades and the origonal boitar appears to have 11 blades.

My Helios 44-M has 8 also.

Also the 44-M has the aperture close to the camera body as opposed to many of the lenses in the photo which have (or at least appear to have) the aperture at the front

What is the best version from the point of view of IQ and Bokeh?
10-29-2009, 06:54 AM   #10
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From everything I've heard, the 44M-7 has the best resolution.
10-29-2009, 08:01 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I just did a look at the current eBay auctions and there is a 44-3, serial #8403347 that has the problematic mount. Apparently the problem existed before 1986 as well.

Steve
Thanks for the info. I never saw one of the "problematic" in #84..

The lenses give us surprises !!
10-29-2009, 09:52 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by xhanatos Quote
question.. what does the number represent after the 44M-#? Is a 44M-7 better than a 44M-4 or 44M?
The numbering of the Helios 44 lenses is a bit strange. The short answer is that they represent design/tooling series. While the series are roughly sequential, there is overlap in terms of production dates. Here is copy/paste of a summary I did for another thread:
  • All share the same optical formula based on the Zeiss Biotar 58/2
  • Except for the earliest production, the first two digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture
  • Models with "M" or "K" (e.g. 44M-4) have auto-aperture. Those without have pre-set aperture
  • Production of both auto-aperture and pre-set aperture models continued into the 1990s
  • The early designs have all-metal bodies with the later having more plastic parts
  • Models intended for export have Roman characters, while others have Cyrillic lettering.
Helios 44: pre-set aperture, eight or thirteen-bladed iris, most are M39 mount (rarely M42)

Helios 44-2: M42, pre-set aperture, eight-bladed iris
Helios 44-3: M42, pre-set aperture, eight-bladed iris, Multi-coated, updated body

Helios 44M: M42, auto aperture, eight-bladed iris, A/M switch, rare with MC
Helios 44M-4: M42, auto aperture, six-bladed iris, no A/M switch, some with MC
Helios 44M-5: same as above but with improved optical quality and MC
Helios 44M-6: ditto
Helios 44M-7: ditto

Edit
Helios 44K-4: Same as 44M-4 except in K-mount rather than M42
Here is a link to my earlier thread with lots of Helios info:
Sibling Rivalry: Helios 44M vs. Helios 44M-4
Here is another link to an extensive discussion (some of which is mildly inaccurate) of the Helios 44 clan:
Manual Focus Lenses :: View topic - Complete Helios Lens list anyone?
Probably more than you wanted to know, eh?

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 10-29-2009 at 10:20 AM.
10-29-2009, 09:57 AM   #13
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Steve's list is missing the odd duck 44K-4, which is optically identical to the 44M-4, but in K-mount.
10-29-2009, 10:14 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote

What is the best version from the point of view of IQ and Bokeh?
The 44M-6, 44M-7, and 44-3 are supposed to have the best resolution and also have the advantage of having multi-coated optics. The eight-bladed versions (44M, 44-2, and 44-3) have somewhat better bokeh (at least when stopped down). If you don't mind the pre-set aperture, the 44-3 seems to offer the best combination except for the mount compatibility issue (the purpose of this thread).

Steve
10-29-2009, 10:15 AM   #15
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steve

thanks for the info, it is useful.

now for the real question, is the most desireable bokeh with the preset aperture, (i.e. blades at the front of the lens) or auto aperture (blades closer to the back of the lens)
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