How a lens is rated is nothing if not subjective, in the main it comes down to personal likes and expectations.
Rating numbers in review forums illustrate that reality – that being said I recently acquired a Helios 44M-4 I’m using on a k50 and a Spotmatic.
I wasn’t expecting to be overwhelmed, my interest lay primarily in the much talked about bokeh, which kind of reminds me of that produced by a mirror lens, and of course everyone has their favored copy of a Helios whether a 7,6,2, 4, or others.
Truth of the matter is this is a lens whose sharpness exceeded my expectations and definitely a keeper. It really steps up it’s game from f4 to f8, such a sweet spot is common to lenses, though their aperture location may vary. And when you add a hood to this lens, which I always do with any lens either indoors or out, it really shines – very rich colors.
I’ve known others who’ve had one Helios or another and while I thought they were a good lens I wasn’t in a rush to acquire one and there weren’t any turning up in my favorite haunts.
I kind of fell into this lens, a “closet find” that was gifted to me, as a result I’m almost compelled to ask friends to root in their closets in the hopes of coming up with another gem, as a few of the lenses I own were closet finds and the rest from thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales.
This is a well built lens and at f.2 considered to be fast – made in Russia with a production run from 1958 to 1992.
The focus ring is a little stiff, common I understand due to the lubricant used that is noted for drying out.
I thought to CLA it but putting that off as I kinda like the way it adjusts – a reduced chance of sliding past focus once acquired, and it’s not all that stiff, just enough that others might niggle about it.
I may in time but everything else is almost pristine, not even dust, so I figure why bother, if it isn’t broke or requires a wrench to turn leave it alone.
What I did do though was to remove the rear mount and manipulate the aperture pin as it doesn’t have a A/M switch so it would stay depressed and allow for a full manual ability to set the aperture – not brain surgery or rocket science, basically a simple procedure.
Helios lenses produces a very distinct and sometimes over the top circular bokeh – mirror lens do the same but their’s are referred to as “donuts” as they are hollow in the middle resembling a donut.
I happen to have a 600mm f.8 Sigma mirror – a real beast whose intent seems to be to challenge the user to capture a good image – the sole reason I keep it – the challenge.
Yet inspite of all the negatives that have been deservedly said it is a lens that can surprise you at times if you accept the challenge.
In the past “kit lenses”, those that came with a camera, were in the vast majority of a much higher quality than those today – but in the rush to digitize they are often overlooked.
Being a kit lenses the majority available are of the 50mm or 55mm version and they abound – ebay seems to be teeming with them.
But like all things sold on ebay once an interest is noted prices begin to creep up – so I would advise people to look around a little first-check out those thrift stores, flea markets, and the like.
Pawnshops have been recommended to me as a source, but the few I’ve checked out weren’t offering any spectacular deals.
I happen to have the multi coated six aperture blade Helios version with the original Zenit front and rear caps.
It’s a lens I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend bearing in mind that reviews and opinions are subjective and one man’s treasure could be anothers trash.
The above photos were taken on a whim, something quick to add to the blog demonstrating the capability of this lens.
The Raspberry tea? Kinda fell into that too, good stuff.