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Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

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46 301,247 Fri March 29, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
98% of reviewers $27.63 9.11
Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

Helios 44-2 58mm F/2
Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

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:

Add Review of Helios 44-2 58mm F/2
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Registered: September, 2013
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 897
Lens Review Date: March 29, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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 nice restaurant! My lens arrived in great shape but was shipped in only an envelope with only a layer of bubble wrap around it. 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. Definitely proof how tough these things are built! 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 and can even be good enough for landscapes. It 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 copy cat 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 though. 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: 10
Lens Review Date: March 28, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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: 8
Lens Review Date: March 20, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $45.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Smooth action, sturdy build
Cons: Over-rated
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 9    Value: 6    Camera Used: Zenit E Pentax K2   

It's amazing how cheap and cheerful lenses that sold in their thousands upon thousands by amateurs have suddenly become sought after with huge value inflation. They are, and will always be, cheap and cheerful. But they are also fairly robust and genuinely good, if not always very good, lenses. 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. Some are because of variable quality standards in the factories where these were made, but some are not. It's a hit and miss game and the 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 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, so the effect is not down to only the lens, but how the 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. Beyond that, this is a great - if rather ordinary lens - It's not overly sharp across the full f-stop range in all contexts of exposure in itself. You also need to remember that the quality of an image in digital technologies will fool some people into thinking it's all in the lens, rather than digital technologies linked to the processor/sensor. Lovely fit and finish with some versions and nice coatings with some versions. Sweet focus ring movement (if a rather large 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. Most lenses of this time had a manual/auto switch, but this has these double rings. Lovely to use and hold in your hand, but that does not make your photos any better. Because of all the "swirly bokeh" online entrepreneur-marketing talk the prices of these 44-2 versions are ridiculously inflated for what they are. Oil on the aperture rings is pretty 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. The rear lens is often found to be factory glues 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: 4
Lens Review Date: June 28, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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 Ä for a perfect sample!
Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2016
Location: Alberta
Posts: 3,498
Lens Review Date: March 21, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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
Lens Review Date: August 21, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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: 8
Lens Review Date: March 1, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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
Lens Review Date: November 10, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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
Lens Review Date: February 14, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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
Lens Review Date: April 14, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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
Lens Review Date: August 27, 2013 I can recommend this lens: No | 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
Lens Review Date: July 16, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | 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.

New Member

Registered: February, 2013
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: June 1, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $21.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Unbelievable value, solid construction, beautiful bokeh and sharp images
Cons: Quite heavy, needs adapter for k-mount, focus ring stiff
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

I picked up this beauty of a prime lens on eBay about a year ago now, for a mere $20 AUD (about $21 USD at the time). I originally intended to pair it with my Zenit 3M or Pentax ME Super, but these days I often mount it on my Pentax DSLR with an M42 to k-mount adapter as well.

Great lens if you're a beginner looking for something to wean you off kit lenses. Metal body, glass lens. Apart from its relative heaviness (as opposed to recent plastic models, that is) it's really well-built. The overall quality is so much better than the rubbish kit lenses they give these days.

Pro 1: Vibrant, punchy, sharp images. Iím accustomed to my Pentax slightly underexposing so it was a pleasant surprise to see this lens produce such vivid photos.
Con 1: On my model, the focus ring is quite stiff. As mentioned earlier, itís also a little heavier than your standard lens, as itís made from metal.

Pro 2: Lovely, unique bokeh. For shots such as the one above, you get your usual soft dappled bokeh Ė nothing out of the ordinary. But take wide open shots such as the one below, and youíll end up with this really bizarre creamy, swirling bokeh that looks almost like paint strokes.

This can possibly be Con 2, because some may find this sort of bokeh distracting, given that itís not completely out of focus, but is quite sharp. I personally find it charming!

The verdict: for me, this lens is an absolute winner. Again, brilliant, almost unbelievable value especially if youíre just starting out and unsure of which lens to buy. It will force you to be creative as with all prime lenses, and because of its manual focus, youíll also need to be quick and nimble. All it comes down to is whether youíre willing to embrace its quirks.

Some have complained of extreme flare, unreliable exposure meters and washed out colours, but I havenít experienced that personally, apart from one instance (below). It may be due to the inconsistency of factory quality control or simply that my particular lens is a later model??

Veteran Member

Registered: May, 2009
Location: Lithuania
Posts: 344
Lens Review Date: April 20, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, unique bokeh, well build, reasonably smooth focusing ring
Cons: Prone to flare
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

Mine is Helios 44M with A/M switch. It has 8 aperture blades and is a sharp lens. It also produces quite unique and pleasing bokeh, kinda oil painted background. The focusing ring is reasonably smooth although it does not allow to be turned very quickly. The lens is prone to flare due to poor coating but it's not that bad. It produces cooler colors however contrast is generally fine. I use this lens both with my K-5 and Zenit ET and I am really happy with the results I get. As time goes by this lens becomes more expensive. Definitely needs to be saved for later times and used with respect.

Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2012
Posts: 899

5 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 19, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Extra-ordinary results for the price
Cons: Wobbles a bit on the M42 screwmount
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

One really needs to suspend the laws of ratings for this lens. Just before posting this review, the Helios' average rating was 9.23 while the FA50 1.4 was 8.86, and the FA's optical quality is in a different league to the Helios. Plus the FA also delivers beautiful bokeh, in an entirely different fashion. So I'm rating the Helios an 8.

But, but, but.....rating by fun, swirly bokeh (most love, some hate), 'dirt-cheapness' and even its gun-metal feeling and smell, the Helios is beyond a 10. Forget about trying to re-create that famous swirly bokeh at f2 for a moment, close the aperture from the front (that's fun too), and its actually a center-sharp lens. It also delivers lovely pastel like colors on a sunny day, as long as its not pointing near the sun's rays, as it flares outrageously. Colour contrast is not always great, so images often need PP tweaking.

This lens can re-juvinate one's love for photography; rushing back to the computer to look at the results, just like people used to rush off to collect their developed negatives.

The big handling issue I have is that my lens wobbles on M42 screwmount because of its design, something that the 44M's snug fit avoids, so I got both, plus a lot of dirt (on the 44M), very cheaply.

EDIT: My 44-2 version was made in 1975 in the Valdai plant....and here are some examples of swirly bokeh

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