[Vintage lens] Helios-44-2 58/2

Helios-44 series

Helios-44 is a series of standard lenses for SLR cameras, produced in Soviet Union (CCCP/USSR) by KMZ, MMZ, Jupiter from 1958 until 1999; it is considered to be one of most mass produced lenses in the world. KMZ was probably the most prolific producer.

Based on a Biotar 58/2 lens (Carl Zeiss Jena), at the beginning was called "БТК" - "БиоТар Красногорский" (BioTar Krasnogorski). A fast 6-element anastigmat, it was available in both single-coated and multi-coated versions.

 

 

Biotar 58/2 and Helios-44-2 58/2

 

 

In the way of CCCP optical , cameras were most often categorized by their lenses. Telephoto lenses were known as Tair, while wide-angles were called MIRs, and the run of the mill standard lens of 35mm Zenit cameras was the Helios. The 50, 58 and 85mm were the first Helios lens options built.

 

 

Biotar 58/2 and Helios-44-2 58/2 comparision

 

 

The Helios-44 (-N) 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 index.

The name of Helios lenses are usually written as Helios-44X-N, where X -is the index of lens mount (non-preset or M for M42 thread, K for Pentax-K bayonet, Д for Zenit-D bayonet) and N is a optical resolution index 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (the higher number the higher is an optical resolution of lens). More recent versions include multi-coated lens elements.

Optical design, typical double gauss structure

 

 

This 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.

 

Helios-44-2

This is one of the most popular lenses released for the ZENIT-E camera.

 

ZENIT-E with Helios-44-2

 

 

It has a connecting thread M42x1 (M42 mount). Iris control - manual, with the preset ring.

Despite its prevalence and cheapness, the Helios-44-2 58/2 lens allows you to get very vivid, moderately sharp and contrast, "airy" images with beautiful, slightly twisted bokeh.

Beside the different index of Helios-44 series, the lens family of Helios-44-2 has introduced various models.

 

Lens details:

  • resolution: 38/20 ( Center/side, unit: lp/mm)

  • construction: 8 aperture blades, pre-set aperture

  • mount: M42

  • manufactured from 1971 in KMZ and MMZ, in 1974 production moved to JOV, in 1982/83 production moved to MMZ

  • serial numbers often corresponds to year of manufacture (with the exception of 0xxx / 00xxx numbers and "N" marked MMZ lenses)

  • MMZ zebra lenses with serial number beginning by "N90xxx" or "N00xxx" are likely made in 1969 and 1970 (first number of sn very likely means year of 196x decade)

 

Made by KMZ

  • black + white lettering

  • v1: sn "N00xxx" - "N0xxx" (likely pre 1970)

  • v2: sn "00xxx" - "0xxx" (likely 1970-71)

  • v3: sn "xxx" (e.g. 1971)

  • classic version: black + colored lettering (e.g. 1974, rebadged/export models may have sn "0xxx")

Made by MMZ

  • zebra

  • v1: sn "N90xxx" or "N00xxx" (1969-70)

  • v2: sn "Nxxx" (e.g. 1971-72)

  • black + white lettering, sn "xxx" (e.g. 1973-74)

  • classic version: black + colored lettering (e.g. 1982-83)

  • redesigned version - similar look to 44-3 (e.g. 1988-89)

Made by JOV

  • silver + black, "2/58"

  • classic version: black + colored lettering (e.g. 1974-1982)

  • classic version + sn located on lens barrel (e.g. 1983)

 

Gallery:

44-2 model 1.a.v1: KMZ black glossy paint + white lettering, sn "N00xxxxx":

 

 

 

44-2 model 1.a.v1: KMZ black glossy paint + white lettering, sn "N0xxx":

 

 

 

44-2 model 1.a.v2: KMZ black glossy paint + white lettering, sn "00xxxxx":

 

 

 

44-2 model 2.b: MMZ black glossy paint + white lettering, sn "73xxx":

 

 

 

44-2 model 3.a: JOV, black + colored lettering, sn "77xxx":

 

 

 

44-2 model "2.a": MMZ "zebra" - same barrel as MMZ version of 44(-1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

44-2 model "2.b": MMZ - white lettering, black glossy paint

 

 

 

 

 

 

44-2 model "1.b": KMZ - colored lettering

 

 

 

 

 

 

44-2 model "3.a": JOV - colored lettering

 

 

 

 

 

 

44-2 model "2.c": MMZ - colored lettering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

44-2 model "2.d": MMZ last design - new barrel

 

 

 

About aperture preset ring, commonly seen on lens from CCCP. There are two rings to control the aperture. The aperture ring/preset ring is used to set the F number and provide a mechanical limit for aperture blades. Another iris ring is used to adjust the blades from max aperture to target aperture.

You could adjust the blades to target aperture without looking when focusing through viewfinder with max aperture.

 

Swirly bokeh

While at first glance the Helios 44-2 is a basic legacy lens, it has retained its popularity due to its character and ability of the lens to create a “swirly bokeh” for photos. Thus giving the photos a slightly unfocused look with swirly effects that center around the subject being captured.

 

NONS SL42 + NFE + Helios-44-2 58/2

 

 

Other interesting usage

Based on the classic double gauss design, its unique mechanical construction makes the possibilities of other uses.

 

 

The mechanical assembly

 

 

Telephoto conversion

 

Remove back unit
Add a corrector tube to use its front unit as a telephoto lens

 

Macrophoto conversion

 

 

 

With a reverser ring, a filter ring and the corrector tube mentioned in the telephoto conversion, you could easily achieve 3 macro ranges.

 

Reference:

  1. https://www.u42.co/Lens-Design/CarlZeiss-Biotar-58mm-f2-Info/

  2. https://helios-lens.com/tproduct/124170769-714919742756-lens-helios-44-2-58mm-f2

  3. https://www.pentaxforums.com/userreviews/kmz-helios-44-2-58mm-f-2.html

  4. http://forum.mflenses.com/complete-list-of-helios-lenses-getting-closer-t26100,highlight,tessar+50mm.html

  5. https://camerapedia.fandom.com/wiki/Helios-44

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios-44

  7. http://allphotolenses.com/lenses/item/c_455.html#prettyPhoto

  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenit_(camera)

  9. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zenit_-_E_camera_with_Helios_44-2_lens.JPG

  10. https://www.gearfocus.com/blog/2020/05/helios-44-2-bokeh-king/

  11. http://ussrphoto.com/wiki/print.asp?ContentID=297

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