Helios 44M-4 is a large rework of Helios 44M 2/58. The alteration concerned the internal mechanisms - 44M-4 are much simpler arranged than 44M. Helios 44M-4 - standard lenses for Zenit cameras. For the most part, these lenses come without an auto-manual aperture mode switch, they can have multilayer coating, and they have the very predictability of the optics of the entire line.

Lens for SLR cameras with M42 screw connection. This lens is installed on modern SLR and mirrorless cameras through the appropriate adapter. Read the article about adapters.

Helios 44M-4 2/58 (Helios 44m-4 2/58). General

Helios 44m-4 2/58 looks like a German Pentacon auto 50mm f1.8. The lens is "Kit". What is a kit lens? Kit lens (from the English kit - kit) - a slang word - an interchangeable lens that comes with the camera when it is sold. It often refers to a specific entry-level zoom lens that comes with budget cameras (EF-S 18-55mm f / 3,5-5,6 for Canon, AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f / 3,5-5,6 VA for Nikon, 18-55 mm f/3,5-5,6 Sony, DA 18-55 mm f/3,5-5,6 AL for Pentax, etc.)

The case is made of aluminum, the frame is engraved with the Latin type “Helios 44m-4 2/58”. Weight Helios 44m 4 about 270 grams. Helios-44M-4 a little later after the release was recalculated by P.A. Lapin and acquired multilayer coating, which improved light transmission and color rendering lens.

Soviet lens Helios-44M-4 front view

Diagram of the Soviet lens Helios 44M-4

Looks like a diagram Zeiss Biotar 2 / 58mm, did not change all the time of production.

Helios 44M-4 in operation


Focusing lens conducted within 0,5 - 14 meters, the values ​​​​on the focus ring are approximate. A scale is applied to the body for calculating the hyperfocal distance of the lens, as well as calculating the depth of field. The Helios 44M-4 focusing ring is grippy thanks to the ribbed knurling. Manual focusing is provided by rotating the focusing ring around the axis of the lens unit.

Soviet lens Helios 44m-4 MDF and depth of field scale

The protrusion of the front edge of the lens barrel at the maximum focusing distance is about 1,1 cm. Rotation is often tight, due to the type of Litol lubricant used at the factory, which loses its properties over time, and also thickens under the influence of low temperatures. The grease thickens over time so much that the lens has to be serviced. At the same time, cosmetically, the lens may look new. A timely serviced lens, as a rule, does not have any comments on the rotation of the rings. How to service your Helios - in this article.

Helios 44M-4 Soviet lens

Due to the shallow depth of field, focusing on the eye, on cameras with a small viewfinder size, can have problems in the form of focusing misses. Better to use LiveView or adapter rings with focus confirmation chip.


Helios-44M-4 is equipped with an automatic diaphragm, there is no drive lock switch. Diaphragm actuator pin may be blocked by flange adapters if your system is not compatible with the design lens; or manually. I blocked with a match. Aperture adjustment on the body is carried out by a ring with a ratchet-fixer of values, and switching takes place with effort, even on a serviced lens. The relative aperture is adjustable from 1:2 on the open and up to 1:16 on the fully closed aperture.

The diaphragm of this model has six blades, pronounced nuts in hips appear already at f / 4.

Helios 44m-4 Soviet lens

Helios-44M-4 may not have an aperture switch from manual to automatic modes, but the depth of field calculator is made on all lenses not in the form of an engraving on the body, but in the form of a cutout in it. The notch displays the focus distance, and the DOF values ​​are engraved below it.

In order for the metering to work correctly, you must have a camera with a diaphragm pusher. Modern digital cameras estimate the exposure level in the frame at an open aperture lens (in fact, old films too). When using any manual lenses at aperture other than open, you will have to enter exposure compensation.

Helios-44M4 canon 6d, example photo at long exposure and aperture 8

In the case of these Helios, I had to adjust the exposure (sometimes up to 1 stop) in the negative. That is, the camera by default "overexposed" the frame.

Shoot in RAW, especially if you're working with Helios for the first time.

Depth of field control

Without removing the aperture ring lock, Helios-44M-4 will not be suitable for video shooting with sound and soft focus shifting, with on-the-fly control of the depth of field. Since the sharpness bar is thin, it is difficult to control sharpness when focusing through the optical viewfinder. Control is carried out by rotating the focusing ring and diaphragm as appropriate.

IMG 0566

Aberrations, hips Helios 44M-4

On an open aperture, there is a noticeable "twisting" in the out-of-focus area (hips), as well as color aberrations in contrasting transitions. Twisting the background is highly regarded by some users as it gives the photo an extra artistic touch. Helios 44M-4 turns the background noticeably stronger than Helios 44-2. Coma and distortion are well corrected in "Helios-44M-4".

Helios-44M4 canon 6d, example photo at aperture 6.3

Sharpness, contrast, color

Sharpness in the center is appropriate, on par with modern lenses ... but falls towards the edges. This is not a bug, this is a feature (s). Not noticeable on the crop.

m42 helios 44m4 58mm f2 kmz samples liveviewer.ru 4

The contrast of the lens is at a normal level, however, it sags when exposed to bright light. The detailing also sags. Shooting without a lens hood (which cannot be found) in backlight and sidelight turns into a real hell.

Find out the weak points of your Helios in order to avoid obviously failing compositions.

Excellent sharpness. Different copies, depending on the year of manufacture, have different colors of the front lens coating. They are found with blue and yellow, purple. Lenses of the Helios-44M-4 series of late production were already with multi-coating. These lenses are marked "MC".

IMG 0605

Advantages Helios 44M-4

  • Any serviceable Helios 44M-4 even now it is able to compete for picture quality with modern plastic autofocus competitors, both in price and in picture quality (in comparison with lenses in the lower price range).
  • Lack of autofocus you should not be confused, because, for example, in portrait photography, it may not be used.
  • Availability and low cost Helios 44M-4 gives a tangible advantage when choosing a lens for a novice amateur photographer. Helios have been produced since the 50s of the twentieth century, they were interspersed with industrialists as staffs for Zenit cameras
  • Indestructible construction. The lens is not afraid of frost, temperature and humidity changes, drops. The metal case will not crack in case of an accidental impact, the absence of electronics will not fail at the right moment, because the higher the complexity, the lower the reliability.
  • Can be used with almost any digital camera, through the appropriate adapter. About adapters below.
  • High artistry. Even in the absence of special skills in processing, you can get a warm tube photo. Signature torsion hips, good color rendition, pleasing to the eye the transition from the sharpness zone to the bokeh zone - the firm German roots affect.
  • Great choice novice portraitist. 58mm in full frame, and almost 93mm in 1.6 crop.
  • Range indicator focusing and depth of field for calculating hyperfocal distance. On modern glasses in plastic cases, this is a rarity.
  • Helios 44M-4 has sufficient sharpness and the quality of the optics for use on cropped APS-C cameras.

Helios-44m-4 view on the depth of field and DF scale

It is worth noting that even cosmetically killed specimens retain their basic qualities - it can be a pleasure to shoot on such glass.

Using Helios-44 on modern cameras

Attention! Helios-44 lens on 1.6 crop will have EGF (equivalent focal length) and the viewing angle is equal to 1.6x58 = 92,8 mm!

To work on digital cameras, you will need an adapter from the M42x1. The easiest way is to install Helios 44m 4 through an adapter on Canon EOS with EF and EF-s mounts. When buying a lens, pay attention to whether your adapters are compatible with Helios 44M-4, whether they have a flange to block the aperture jumping mechanism.

By ordering things from the links below, you help the project cover the costs of site maintenance and development. List of adapters, systems and bayonets (direct links for ordering)

When ordering, it should be borne in mind that cheap adapters of poor quality with a lens on bayonetf Nikon F significantly spoil the picture. Adapters without a lens reduce the maximum focusing range (due to the difference in focal lengths). Adapters with chips come across poor quality, exposure metering and confirmation of focus on some models of cameras may suffer from this.

Helios-44 on Canon

Installed through the M42 - Canon EF adapter, you can read about the adapters here... Adapters without chips, from Helios 44m-6 to Canon EF are cheap. In general, you just need to buy an adapter with or without focus confirmation, and the lens is ready for use.

Helios-44 on Nikon

It is problematic to install without adjusting the gaps for the Nikon system, however, without it, although it disappears focusing infinity, the available range will allow you to take a bust portrait. To preserve infinity, the optical scheme must be "moved" to the camera matrix by about 3,5 mm. It is possible to buy an adapter with a corrective lens, but the picture quality will be deteriorated.

Helios-44 on Fujifilm, Canon EOS R

On any mirrorless camera, Helios, like other M39 / M42 lenses, will work to its full potential through the appropriate adapter. Do not forget about the crop factor and the equivalent focal length.

Alternatives to Helios 44M-4

The main application of Helios 44M-4 is bust portraits. On cropped cameras like Canon EOS 1100D, EOS 60D, EOS 650D, EOS 1300D, EOS 300D, EOS 600D, etc. with an EF-s mount and a crop factor of 1,6 will have an equivalent focal length 58x1.6 = 92,3mm. For video shooting with changing the depth of field "on the fly", as already mentioned in the article, it is not quite suitable without removing the aperture ring retainer.

The lenses below are a legacy of yesteryear that is still in use today.

  • Helios of the Mkh-X series Helios of older modifications have improved optical characteristics, slightly more resistant to back light. Lenses with multilayer coating slightly exceed the cost of Helios-44M-4 and are quite common.
  • Industar-61 L/Z 50mm f/2.8 m42. Sharp, clear. Virtually no aberration, razor sharp from open aperture. Due to the shape of the aperture blades in hips asterisks are obtained from glare. Cheap and common lens.
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f / 2.8 T m42. Rare, true German quality from the 60s-80s. With a perfectly circular 13-blade diaphragm, sleek design.
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f / 1.8 m42. It is a good choice for leisurely shooting portraits with shallow depth of field, as well as artistic background blur.
  • Zenitar-M 50mm f/1.7. Not bad option lens for portraits with even background blur, slightly better contrast and color. Light, maximum working diaphragm - f / 1.7.

Sample video Helios 44M-4

In this video we used a Helios 44M-4 paired with a Canon 6d. Not all models are suitable for filming from the Helios 44 series. On this modification, when switching the diaphragm, clicks of the locking mechanism will be heard.

Helios 44M-4 on Canon 60D

Sample photos of Helios 44M-4

Canon 6D

Helios 44M-4 on Canon 60D

Sample photos of Helios 44M-4 on Canon 7D

Technical characteristics of Helios 44M-4

Focal length: 58 mm (58,60 mm)
Relative aperture: 1:2
Field of View: 40 ° 28'
Frame size: 24 x 36 mm

Number of lenses / groups: 6/4
Anterior apical focal length: −34,25 mm
Rear vertex focal length: 38,05 mm
Distance from first to last surface: 39,80 mm
First surface luminous diameter: ∅29,5 mm
Luminous diameter of the last surface: ∅24,7 mm

Resolution (0/10/20 mm) 3): 46/33/26 lines / mm
Resolution according to technical specifications (center / region): 38/19 lines / mm
Light transmission coefficient:0,80
Geometric vignetting: 58%
Color formula:10-0-1,5
Enlightenment type: single layer, chemical

Near Focus Limit:0,5 m
Aperture scale limits: 1: 2-1: 16
Number of aperture blades: 6

Working segment: 45,5 mm
lens with camera: M42 × 1
for screw-in nozzles: M52 × 0,75
for slip-on attachments: ∅54 mm

lens length without caps: 42 mm
largest frame diameter: 64 mm
Weight: 0,3 kg


Helios 44M-4 does not show any exceptional qualities in comparison with older and younger "brothers", but on the contrary, it seems to support the party line, being a completely predictable model glass. It's not his strong point in shooting in difficult lighting conditions, but if you learn how to choose the right time, then the lens will delight you with stable quality, detail and sharpness.

If you take the lens under the old cameras, it should be borne in mind that Helios-44M-4 can be used on Zenit-ET, Zenit-12SD and others with an automatic diaphragm drive. Shooting with the Helios 44m-4 lens is very easy even with old cameras, the main thing is to have a little patience.

Best of all, the lens reveals its artistic potential on full-frame cameras. On cropped ones, the background twist will not be very noticeable, since the central part of the lens is working. I hope the Helios 44m-4 review helped you get to know this lens a little better.

Adapters for cameras and lenses

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