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Helios 44-2 58mm F2 Review RSS Feed

Helios 44-2 58mm F2

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49 388,136 Fri March 13, 2020
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
98% of reviewers $27.82 9.08
Helios 44-2 58mm F2

Helios 44-2 58mm F2
Helios 44-2 58mm F2

The Helios 44 (-x) is the standard, fast, 58mm lens typically found as the kit prime on the Zenit-series russian SLRs. The earliest versions were just "-44", later they acquired the additional -2, -3, -4 etc up to -7, the latter is supposed to be the highest resolution version and normally commands highest prices, however sample variation is likely to be more significant with soviet lenses! This page reviews the 44-2 - probably the most common version. It is a classic preset lens with two rings, one to set the desired f-stop, one to open/close the iris, f2-f16. More recent versions include multicoated lens elements. There are also non-preset "M" versions, and "K" versions with PK mount. See relevant review pages.
Helios 44's were made in more than one factory. KMZ was probably the most prolific producer, the one in pic 1 however has the Valdai logo.

49mm filter thread.
8 diaphragm blades.
F/2-16 max-min aperture.
45cm minimum focusing distance.
Focuses down to 0.5m and has a mag ratio of 1:6.5 at closest focus point. Takes 52mm filters.

Earlier 13 blade helios 44 listed here.
8 blade 44 (very similar to this lens) listed here.
44M-4 listed here.
44M-6 listed here.
44M-7 listed here.
44-M listed here.

Kuuans big standard (40-60mm) lens test.

Tips on using Helios 44 with pentax M42 adapter (loose fit, light leakage around mount edge) see this thread.
Mount Type: M42 Screwmount
Price History:

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New Member

Registered: August, 2018
Posts: 2
Review Date: March 13, 2020 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Inexpensive, lovely rendition of colour
Cons: On APS-c limited to portraits and moderate telephoto work
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-01   

Happy with this lens. Mostly used for portraits because 58mm on APS-c (eq to 90mm on full frame) also works well as medium telephoto. The lens is a pleasure to use, to get the swirly bokeh one needs to experiment with the distance between the subject and the background.

Registered: February, 2014
Posts: 366

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: August 24, 2019 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: lovely effects contra-jour if you use the flare right
Cons: flare contra-jour!
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: Zenit E, Pentax KS-1   

My first standard lens, bought with a Zenit E back in the mid 1960s. Still have the lens and camera, still working...not bad for 18 from Jessops when they only had one tiny shop in Leicester!
As I said above, the lens is prone to flare, and also a little soft wide-open, but back then I managed many candid shots indoors using the lens wide open, and hand-holding at a guestimated 1/5 second. They all printed fine using Ilford HP3 and then HP4 film. Some of my favourite shots are from those days....
The lens of course is not actually a 'copy' of the Zeiss Biotar, technically it IS a Biotar because when the Russians seized the Zeiss photographic machines and designs-plus the personnel, of course-they continued to maufacture the same lenses using the same equipment for decades, and apart from modifying the body of the lens and improving the lens coating to make it slightly less flare-prone, it remains nevertheless a Biotar at heart.Some I dismantled back in the 1960s still had German markings on some of the inetrnal parts . (The same applies to a number of other Russian lenses and cameras, of course-and when repairing a pre-war Contax shutter the much later Kievs provide an excellent source of parts. Not as well finished as the Zeiss, but every screw hole lines up, and every internal screw uses the same pitch thread. Surprising when you consider the use those machines must have had over the decades since 1945!)
So a cheap lens for your arsenal, and you can end up with sharp wide-open examples as much as you can find VERY soft versions! But they are a lovely lens in use, and make a decent portrait lens on film and digital given the 58mm focal length. Just DON'T pay a huge amount from a seller who tries to sell you one as 'rare' or 'sought after'!
Forum Member

Registered: June, 2014
Posts: 58

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: July 18, 2019 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: beautiful rendering and bokeh, easy to focus, small, cheap!
Cons: poor contrast wide open, flare!
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: Samsung NX30, Pentax Z-1P   

I received this lens as a gift. The lens is in great optical and mechanical condition. On a cropped sensor it makes beautiful portraits and flower shots with impressionistic bokeh and pastel colours. Is it sharp? Surprisingly, yes! Wide open the centre of the frame is sharp enough for portraits and the corners become decent at F8. There aren't any chromatic aberrations to speak of.

Build quality seems pretty good, obviously my lens wasn't made at the year end The focusing ring is very smooth and rotates 270 degrees allowing for precise focusing. I like the two aperture rings. I set the clicked ring to F8 and adjust the aperture smoothly between F2 and F8 which covers most of my shooting needs.

The main drawback of this lens is poor coating and inner blackening. You don't want to shoot against the light with it the flare is hideous! A screw-on 49mm hood makes big difference.

I highly recommend Helios 44-2 for amateurs who want to step away from the kit zoom and try a manual prime lens without breaking the bank. It's fun to use and great for learning. Shooting Helios 44-2 is like driving a Lada: if you learn to do it you will have no problem driving any car

As Russian photographers say: "Among ten Nikkors there aren't two different ones, among ten Helios' there aren't two similar ones". Buying a Helios is always a lottery, but considering the ticket price, I think it's a lottery worth playing.

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Pentax Z-1P, Kodak Gold 200

Registered: September, 2013
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,070
Review Date: March 29, 2019 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, excellent bokeh, good low light abilities
Cons: Lower contrast and less resistance to flare as modern lenses
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-3   

For the $40 total I paid including the shipping from Russia, I have to say this is a 10/10 lens. I mean, I can easily spend more than this eating at a decent restaurant! My lens arrived in ok shape but was shipped in only an envelope with only a layer of bubble wrap around it. Definitely proof how tough these things are built to make it through that trip! It did have some oil on the aperture blades but this is a known issue of this lens and I knew it would when I bought it. I wish it had a little faster aperture but f2 really is good enough these days with how good camera tech is.

This lens is very sharp wide open in the center even on my high resolving K-3, and stopped down a little is sharp corner to corner. It seems at a wide open aperture it struggles to focus to infinity a bit, so stopping down is a must for landscapes. My Takumar 50mm f1.4 also struggled here, I think it more has to do with my off brand m42 to K mount adapter than anything else.

The Helios has very little purple fringing even shooting chrome objects in bright light. And the swirly bokeh you can get wide open is neat and my main reason for purchase, but the bokeh is also amazingly smooth the way it transitions at all apertures. You can tell this is really a Zeiss copycat lens when using it.

The only downsides are lower contrast which is no issue to me since I can increase it when editing on my computer, and that it is manual focus only. My copy is buttery smooth and nice to focus, but near its minimum focus distance there is a little extra friction when turning the barrel. I'm not entirely sure how the preset aperture rings on these lenses work, but one of my two aperture rings seems stuck. I think it is the aperture limiting one, which doesn't really matter because I can control the whole aperture range from f2-f16 with the other working one so functionality it isn't affected. Plus I think I prefer it this way. It turns very smoothly without any clicks, which would be good for video too. I use this lens in aperture priority mode and adjust metering to my liking with the exposure comp. Works great!

Here is a few samples I have taken:
New Member

Registered: March, 2019
Location: Ontario
Posts: 15
Review Date: March 28, 2019 Recommended | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp in the centre, natural colour rendition, artistic bokeh, little to no axial CA, sturdy and durable, easy to repair, good value, lightweight and compact
Cons: very flare-prone, contra-light performance, corner softness, corner CA, soft at close distances, eight blades, two-ring preset aperture
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: Sony a6300   

This lens is well built. It's lightweight and compact, making it highly portable. It's also quite sturdy. Should you ever have any problems with the lens' mechanics, it is easy to open up.
Optically speaking, this lens performs okay. Sharpness is good in the centre at all apertures, though it is somewhat soft wide-open when doing close-up photography (spherical aberrations at play). When stopped down, this lens becomes very sharp in the centre. The corners are not sharp at any aperture, though that is not a problem, so long as you don't use this as a landscape lens. My copy of this lens is probably one of the better ones, as at medium distances to infinity, it is quite sharp in the centre, on par with my Helios 77m-4.
Colour rendering is warm and natural, as is the norm for single-coated Soviet optics. Some may say it's boring, I personally quite like it.
The bokeh is really interesting. It can deliver soft and creamy bokeh if you use it right (or in the case of this lens, wrong). However, creamy bokeh is boring. This lens can deliver the (in)famous swirly bokeh, even on APS-C, and some soap-bubble bokeh to go with it. This is a lens that makes producing bokeh a fun artistic adventure.
One thing that is not so sweet about this lens is its contra-light performance. Not only does it flare quite a bit, which is to be expected, it also loses a lot of contrast when shot contra-light wide open. It loses a lot more contrast than my other Soviet lenses, so it's not a coating issue, but a blackening issue. On my copy, stopping the lens down to about f2.5 clears up the abnormal flaring. I've used a sharpie to better blacken the lens elements, which mostly solved the problem.
You don't buy this lens for its sharpness, you buy it for its character. This is first and foremost a lens for subject photography, and it does its job extremely well.

Photos, unedited (Shot wide open or stopped down to f2.8 unless stated otherwise. Shot in AdobeRGB, so please view with a properly colour-managed browser)
There is sharpness if you need it


Even stopped down to f5.6, corner sharpness is pretty bad...
In this photo, that's not a problem at all.

Artistic bokeh:

Love that swirl!

Contra-light torture test after sharpie fix:
New Member

Registered: February, 2019
Posts: 15

4 users found this helpful
Review Date: March 20, 2019 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Smooth action, sturdy build
Cons: Over-rated and hyper-inflated
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 7    Camera Used: Zenit E Pentax K2   

Is the 44-2 that different to the Helios 58mm "44"? Nope, the difference is all hype and online blurb that hinges on which online old lens trader has a surplus to sell.

A classic Hipster lens and suffers from over-enthusiastic reviews from many frantic people who want to appeal to that style. It's amazing how basic lenses that sold in their thousands upon thousands by amateurs so many decades ago have suddenly become sought after with huge value inflation that grows and grows as these old lenses get more and more worn out and run down. They are, and will always be, cheap and cheerful. But they are also fairly robust, well-made, and genuinely good lenses. Some versions are better than others, some are better looked after than others.

Bokeh? This nice lens is one of the most over-rated around since online entrepreneurs started to pump up the sellers-market nonsense about this being a "swirly bokeh" lens. The 44-2 is not a "swirly bokeh" lens in a generic manner because it varies a lot from lens to lens. Some are good or not so good because of variable quality standards in the different five or six factories where these were made. Also, some Helios 58mm 44-2 lenses are different to each other as there are a few versions around. Some just vary because different manufacturing standards and checks were in place across the long length of production through the years. Some vary because they were early or late lenses in historical production. Some vary because previous owners have meddled with them or swapped out lenses in the glass stack. And, of course, a lot of people enhance Bokeh digitally after taking the picture, so you rarely see a raw image untouched. It's all variable. This makes finding a fine lens and talking control of your expectations a real hit and miss game. Finally, because many people don't understand that with a digital camera, both software and sensor/processor interact with a lens - Bokeh is not always down to just the lens. For example, you'll get better Bokeh if used with a full-frame digital sensor than a smaller one. For example, depending on software presets on both camera and scanners, images change considerably.

Some rip-off merchants on Ebay, and elsewhere, that cash in on the online linguistic feeding frenzy about "bokeh" will take a lot of money from you before you find one that gives you something like the heavily software-manipulated images you'll see in Google image banks. Moreover, the "swirly bokeh" online talk often avoids telling you this only happens strongly at low apertures on some digital full frame cameras. Others will be more honest and say clearly that the effect is not down to only the lens, but how the digital processor/sensor interacts with specific lenses in the Helios 44-2 range. Good luck with your search if you follow all that swirly bokeh stuff with belief. While you throw your money around, you'll also find some lenses that have been abused and butchered by lots of people trying to find out why they have no "swirly bokeh" to enjoy. If you do buy one, check first what quality of image it takes and on what camera it was taking pictures through. Otherwise, you could be buying a poor one; especially for Bokeh quality.

Beyond all that, this is a great lens to have. It's not overly sharp across the full f-stop range in all contexts of exposure in itself. It's very good on f8 and f11 and often good at f5.6, and it can take some very nice photos either side of that sweet spot range. mechanically, it is a lovely lens. Lovely fit and finish with some versions and nice coatings with some versions. Sweet focus ring movement (if a rather large and slow turning circle) and nice mechanics all around. The double functioning aperture rings are fun to use, even if it is confusing to get used to. It also has to be turned backwards to close down the aperture before taking the photo. The main aperture ring can be very clunky or stiff because of the stiff retaining system inside the lens, but don't worry as this is often normal. Don't waste time messing with this to "lube" it. The lovely big size of this lens feels good and it's lovely to use and hold in your hand, but remember that what it feels like does not make your photos any better.

Oil on the aperture rings is normal and because the manual function is not affected by this, you don't have to see it as an issue. Because it was made as a cheap and cheerful lens, internal dust and filth is to be expected. Some versions are famous for having bubbles in the glass, but unless you have lots, a small few make no difference to your images. Very easy to open up and service. A great lens to start with if you want to try lens servicing for yourself. If you find one advertised as "no oil on blades" and "little/no dust" then you know it's been opened and fiddled with (remember that the oil on the blades is there for a reason with this lens) or maybe it has been cleaned out. The rear lens is often found to be factory glued in place. So if you remove the glass, make sure you glue it back or it can fall out.
New Member

Registered: June, 2018
Posts: 6
Review Date: June 28, 2018 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Still affordable, unique swirly bokeh
Cons: Overrated, unpredictable rendering
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 9   

Lots of things have been said about this lens.

Sharpness is ok, not outstanding but good considering the age of the optics. Well used, it has an unique swirly bokeh signature, quite impressive. The effect is even stronger on full frame.

The problem with the Helios 44 is that it's rendering is unpredictable. Sometimes it's beautiful and probably better than any other lens, sometimes it is just flat and dull. It's good for portraits, flowers and generally bokeh but used outside on a sunny day, and better with trees and leaves on the background. Well, it's a good lens but a specific one.

I think it's a fun lens every photographer can buy, but don't expect it to replace anything. It's unique, that's why it's fun. It also means that you cannot do everything with it. Don't pay more than 30 for a perfect sample!
Custom User Title

Registered: January, 2016
Location: Alberta
Posts: 6,595
Review Date: March 21, 2018 Recommended | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: fun, cheap, sharp, cool swirly bokeh
Cons: preset aperture, have to use an adapter to k-mount with manual focus/aperture
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 7    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-S2   

A fun, swirly bokeh (for me, even on APS-C), cheap little russian lens.
Well worth the money just to have a bit of fun seeing how to get the most swirl in a shot!
Great for interesting portraits!
Love that it says Made in Russia on it - it's a fun conversation starter
New Member

Registered: August, 2017
Posts: 2
Review Date: August 21, 2017 Recommended | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Price, fun-factor, sharp enough stopped down, interesting bokeh
Cons: Fiddly focus ring, unwanted glare even when being 'arty'
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 6    Value: 10    Camera Used: Fuji XT-1   

I have a nice clean copy of this lens, the only issue really is that the focus ring is loose and fiddly. It's a fun lens, I adapt mine to the Fuji XT-1, and even use it with macro rings, sometimes reversed for macro.
New Member

Registered: August, 2016
Posts: 15
Review Date: March 1, 2017 Recommended | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: bokeh, sharp, very light
Cons: needs an adapter, flares on analog cameras
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: Pentax Super Me, Pentax K-50   

I do not own a lot of lenses, but when I compare the images I take with my Helios 44-2 with the ones I take with my SMC 55/1.8 or 50/1.7 or my kit lens (DA 18-55 WR) or even Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.0, the results are better and absolutely amazing. This lens provides an incredible image quality for both digital and analog. The swirly bokeh is easily achieved both in Full Frame and APC sensors when taking portraits at f/2 in parks, with trees serving as background. At f/8 this lens proves to be almost perfect.
What I like the most in this lens is the fact that the focus and aperture ring are a joy to use, vey smooth. I can also say that focusing with the Helios 44-2 feels MUCH easier than with the normal SMC Pentaxes I have had so far.

There are a few negativ points about this gem: I feel that 58mm is quite long on a crop sensor. Also, the lens flares like hell, even with lens hood attached. Better be really careful. On analog cameras the flaring is very strong, but this sometimes helps to give the picture a bit of character.

Inactive Account

Registered: October, 2015
Posts: 2
Review Date: November 10, 2015 Recommended | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp image quality in the centre of the frame wide open
Cons: flares quite easily
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 9    Camera Used: A7r   

I do love the Helios 44-2

While wide open the lens is still quite sharp in the centre of the frame, as you move outwards it becomes quite blurry, although much of this has to do with the shallow DOF and getting the manual focus spot on at first can be a little difficult. Once you master the MF this lens becomes one of my favourite pieces to shoot with.

Would highly recommend, especially with the price tag!!

Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2012
Location: Boise Idaho
Posts: 466
Review Date: February 14, 2015 Recommended | Price: $45.00 | Rating: 7 

Cons: Shipping time
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 3    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 7    Value: 8    Camera Used: Pentax K5   

I wish the lens was an 85mm. Then the bokeh would be more pronounced at focal lengths suited for portraits. To get amazing bokeh you have to focus pretty closely to your subject OR shoot with full frame. With the new Pentax Full frame dslr I'm really looking to have fun with this lens!
Sample images at f/2. PM me if you want other sample shots!

New Member

Registered: August, 2013
Posts: 11
Review Date: April 14, 2014 Recommended | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, bokeh, colors, vintage lens, aperture ring
Cons: IQ wide open
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Kr   

I may have told everything with the "pros"!

In fact this lens is a very good suprise, at f5.6 it is incredibly sharp, as good as my best primes, perfect for portait. The colors are great and the bokeh too.

The bad point is that when wide open, my pictures are really soft and blurred, especially when I focus infinity, Maybe it is my copy or the M42 ring...

In conclusion : if you can get one, don't hesitate !
New Member

Registered: July, 2013
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Posts: 7
Review Date: August 27, 2013 Not Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, excellent DOF, price.
Cons: Focus ring too loose (in my lens)
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

Light lens, very sharp, provides a very interesting bokeh. My came from Latvia, widely used without protective covers and the diaphragm ring inverted (the widest aperture is f16 and the smallest aperture is f2). But I was surprised by the image quality. I'm loving the experience of using this tank war in my T3i. : Lol:
New Member

Registered: July, 2013
Posts: 3
Review Date: July 16, 2013 Recommended | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Flare,resolution,bokeh at f/2,build quality
Cons: None significant
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

I love the bokeh and flare in this lens!
The great thing with old lenses is that they have personality
which new digitally optimized items lack.
You must fight the flare into something creative and
the lower contrast wide open gives the images an analog feel to it.

The picture is taken wide open.

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