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04-17-2010, 02:01 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Lovin' on the Helios 44 (58mm f/2)

I had missed out on the igilligan-fueled Helios craze in this forum a year or so ago but good ol' Gus recently slipped me one of his to try, a 44-2 preset model, and within a few minutes of shooting, I already knew I needed to own one.

I logged onto eBay and selected a 44-2 and then also purchased the later 44M7 model, just to get a flavor for some of the differences.


These are very inexpensive old lenses with plenty of character. As there are so many variants and several makers over many years, I suppose it would be difficult to compare them, but i'll share my thoughts on mine.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2



I only have a couple of weeks of experience using this lens, but find a key feature to be a fairly dramatic edge softness. What some would consider a weakness may actually be this lens' most redeeming quality. Portraits wide open and slightly stopped down benefit from an emphasis of the center content; the perimeter is naturally and subtly deemphasized.





I find the wide open bokeh to be pleasing in an artistic way, not harsh nor busy, yet not smooth, it can suggest brush strokes that i find quite beautiful.




I have also observed a bit of swirled bokeh at the edges, particularly when slightly stopped down. This can be dizzying but also a great effect in some cases. I have not yet explored this characteristic but here is one with a little swirl.




don't stare too long or you may get dizzy.


Helios 44M7



By all appearances, this version appears to be a better made, newer and improved member of the Helios 44 family and the published performance data show it as among the sharpest of the family. My copy appears to support that implication as well, however, I do not find the bokeh to be quite as interesting, nor the corners softness, nor swirling effect as seen in my 44-2 model. I would conclude that in its evolution of improvements, this later variant has lost much of the cool vibe of the earlier model, and serves a more serious role as a legit fast fifty with excellent sharpness.

here is one at f/2.5

at f/2.8

These pics may not show it, but compared to the 44-2, this is a much sharper lens.

more pics from 44M7 coming tomorrow...


Last edited by mikeSF; 06-02-2011 at 08:11 AM.
04-17-2010, 11:09 AM   #2
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I'd like to see more shots from your 44M-7. I was interested in getting one, but they are harder to find than the 44-2, 44M, 44M-4. Somewhere, I read that the bokeh is nicer on the old ones because they weren't multicoated. The multicoating improves sharpness, but also affects the bokeh.

I also like the 44-2 model because of the two ring aperture - it's much easier to focus, then stop down. On the 44M you can use the A/M switch for that, but I'm concerned it might wear in time.

How did you fix the pin on the 44M-7? The q-tip trick or something else?
04-17-2010, 01:50 PM   #3
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looks cool. can't wait for more pics ...
04-17-2010, 02:50 PM   #4
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I took my 44M for a stroll today, and in the local museum's yard they have a lot of old machinery that you can crawl over, and being an engineer I love all things mechanical so it's a great place to try out lenses and techniques.

Neither picture has any PP at all. Shot at ISO 200 1/250 and somewhere around f 5.6 or 4 ? on a K10


100% Crop


Love the Helios to bits, it makes me concentrate and then I get better pictures.

04-17-2010, 04:52 PM   #5
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There was just another recent thread about the Helios, actually. I think it's a very intriguing lens, especially how almost every camera mount has it adapted in some way. It seems like one of the sharpest universal lenses that I've really seen too, don't think I've ever seen a bad photo from it.
04-17-2010, 08:52 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
I'd like to see more shots from your 44M-7. I was interested in getting one, but they are harder to find than the 44-2, 44M, 44M-4. Somewhere, I read that the bokeh is nicer on the old ones because they weren't multicoated. The multicoating improves sharpness, but also affects the bokeh.

I also like the 44-2 model because of the two ring aperture - it's much easier to focus, then stop down. On the 44M you can use the A/M switch for that, but I'm concerned it might wear in time.

How did you fix the pin on the 44M-7? The q-tip trick or something else?
i also like the 2 rings for focusing wide open and then stopping back down. it is easier to move the ring than the A/M switch on a Takumar. FYI, my 44M7 has no A/M switch, so i must focus wide open and then stop back down to shoot. I do like that it has detented half stops and find it convenient that from wide open to f/8 is 8 clicks, so i don't have to ever look at the ring when stopping back down.

The pin was super easy to fix using the Q-tip technique described in the forums somewhere. Though i haven't seen a plastic shafted Q-tip in 10 yrs, i found it just as easy to snip a small piece from the end of a ballpoint pen ink tube. works like a charm. FYI, on my 44M7, the tiny ballbearing does not use a spring, so it remained in place when i removed the aperture adjustment ring, unlike the recent Vivitar and Pentax M lenses i recently disassembled.

Last edited by mikeSF; 04-17-2010 at 08:59 PM.
04-17-2010, 08:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lloydy Quote
I took my 44M for a stroll today, and in the local museum's yard they have a lot of old machinery that you can crawl over, and being an engineer I love all things mechanical so it's a great place to try out lenses and techniques.

Neither picture has any PP at all. Shot at ISO 200 1/250 and somewhere around f 5.6 or 4 ? on a K10
...

100% Crop
...

Love the Helios to bits, it makes me concentrate and then I get better pictures.
outstanding!
04-17-2010, 09:19 PM   #8
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Looks like a great copy you have in hand; also looks like the corners on the focus window are as sharp as ever!

04-17-2010, 09:26 PM - 1 Like   #9
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If you get a chance, try your Helii on 35mm film. The edge softness is a strong trait on the larger format.


Steve
04-18-2010, 09:18 AM   #10
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I went to a camera fair this morning here in the UK -

Wolverhampton Camera Fair - The UK's Largest Independent Camera Fair

and there were plenty of cheap Helios lenses, 44M and 44-2, that were very cheap. £10 with a Zenit thrown in for good luck.
There was a Zenit E kit, absolutely mint with all the case's and box's, a mint 44M, a Helios 135mm with stuck blades, but otherwise perfect , for £25.
I have enough Russian stuff lying around !
04-18-2010, 10:15 AM   #11
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Love it......

K-x and 44M-7 at f2
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04-18-2010, 11:03 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lloydy Quote
I went to a camera fair this morning here in the UK -

Wolverhampton Camera Fair - The UK's Largest Independent Camera Fair

and there were plenty of cheap Helios lenses, 44M and 44-2, that were very cheap. £10 with a Zenit thrown in for good luck.
There was a Zenit E kit, absolutely mint with all the case's and box's, a mint 44M, a Helios 135mm with stuck blades, but otherwise perfect , for £25.
I have enough Russian stuff lying around !
Ahhh, YES! Britain, where all Zenits go to die!

Seriously though, I read somewhere that the Zenit was the British equivalent of the K1000 back in the day. They are relatively rare here in the U.S..


Steve
04-18-2010, 11:11 AM   #13
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dammit, I avoided this the first time around when Gus made it very difficult. don't you start.
04-18-2010, 11:34 AM   #14
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I just picked up a M44-6 , so I'm eager to try it out myself
04-18-2010, 01:19 PM   #15
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Depending on the model and actual one you get, it seems to be a phenomenal lens. But the prices are going through the roof:

I've been trying to nail one on eBay for a few months now, but once they approach the Tak prices, I back off.

I'll keep looking, because I want one, but on an average day, maybe two are available, and they're getting into the $50 to $100 range.
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