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Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

Reviews Views Date of last review
43 295,454 Thu June 28, 2018
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
98% of reviewers $26.95 9.12
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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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: 3,456
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: 893

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

New Member

Registered: December, 2012
Posts: 1
Lens Review Date: March 25, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $15.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Unique bokeh, built like a tank, sharp
Cons: None so far
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10   

Got this in a lot with some other stuff off of an ebay/craigslist type site. Turns out the guy had packaged together all his bad crap and sold it off. Ended up with two moldy lenses, a Zenit EM with a dirty prism and this little gem of a Helios 44M. However, the focus ring was so stiff it would twist right of any M42 mount, nevermind my knockoff M42 to K adapters. Fortunately I only paid $40 for the lot, and wanted to study the inner workings of a lens anyways. It was just a matter of some sewing machine lube on the helicoid to make it as good as new. Weīll see if the oil migrates eventually, but for now Iīm proud.

I took some great photos over the past couple of weeks both on my K-5 and the ME, and the Helios has now officially managed to earn a spot in my bag, kicking out my teleconverter. The bokeh is just absolutely amazing if you are into the slightly surreal and it is sharp all the way from f2.0. I also really like the 58mm for portraits.

Had a couple pictures with some flare, but have not noticed any aberrations. The handling is as with all M42 lenses, a little more cumbersome, but easy once you get into it. I have the version with an M/A switch.
New Member

Registered: February, 2013
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: March 11, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $23.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very smooth focus and aperture ring, stepless. IQ is very good. It is small and handy. Convenient focal length for crop sensors
Cons: Aperture is so smooth it is easy to change it by accident, 8 blades are nice, but not jawdropping for vintage lenses
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10   

This lens has enough reputation to be hyped, but it really lives up to the reputation. I havent had a chance to produce swirly bokeh, but the normal bokeh is indeed very smooth. My aperture ring is put on opposite , reading F16 wide opena nd F2 closed. I don't know if this is typical, but it can happen. It doesnt matter in practice, it is easy to reverse in the head. The IQ is very good - see the dust on the buddha, haha. This is a 23 dollar lens, what's not to like!


New Member

Registered: September, 2012
Posts: 7
Lens Review Date: November 19, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $15.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: cheap, if you can find one
Cons: flare, but has its charm
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 9   

I love the swirly bokey and the supersharp results when a stop or two closed down
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