Skip to content

Review: Helios 44M-7 58mm 1:2.0

The popularity of Russian lenses has grown considerably over the past few years. Perhaps this is the result of globalization, perhaps – Photographers protest against the principles of modern lenses – sometimes too featureless.

One day I spotted in the sale Гелиос 44М-7 at an attractive price. Directly with the camera Zenit-122 instead of the back cover. So…

Lens review: Helios 44-7 58mm 1:2.0 MC Zenit

After getting a new lens, I always take a few technical shots to understand its strengths and weaknesses – usually, it helps me a lot to start using an unknown lens with much less of doubt. One day I decided that my data might be interesting for someone else and this site has been made.

HELIOS447__exterior_326

Helios 44-7 58mm 1:2.0 parameters:

Name engraved on lens HELIOS-44M-7
f[mm] 58
A max [1/f] 2.0
A min[1/f] 16
Lens design [el.] 6
Lens design [gr.] 4
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm] 52
Lens Shade
closefocus[m] 0.5
Dimension Ø x length [mm] 63.5 x 47
Weight[g] > 230gr
Year 1958 – 1999
Style Back in USSR
Notes vodka, balalayka

Floating elements NO
Aperture blades number 6
Average international price (sold items) 2020: 1000 руб
Reviewed Lens SN: 93490252

The tested lens has been produced in 1993 on Valday, Russia (the factory is here – 57°58′49″ x 33°13′32″). This lens is from the latest generations of Helios’s 58mm era, only one modification was created after this 44M-X but was produced in small amounts and considered as rare.

Historically, Helios-44 is a copy of  Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 2,0/58, and the first incarnations called “БТК”. In Russian, it meant “BioTarKrasnogorski” (“Biotar from Krasnogorsk”, the first factory is based in Krasnogorsk town near Moscow). So, “Helios-44” was born in 1958, but since that time the lens got a lot of modifications. Anyway, optically they are a continuation of the same parent.

One of the most popular lenses in the world. I would not want to go deeper into history in this article, but one note should be posted here:

The numbers in the index show the lens’s resolution if it applied to “M” versions:

  • «МС Гелиос-44М-5» — 40/20 lines/mm
  • «МС Гелиос-44М-6» — 45/25 lines/mm
  • «МС Гелиос-44М-7» — 50/30 lines/mm

Lenses were tested after assembly in the factory and, depending on the test results have obtained an index and a corresponding front ring. Thus, this copy with index 7 has been considered as a very good copy.

And one more feature – Russians had large deviations in quality, that’s why just one copy does not give us an idea about IQ of other copies of this lens.



Lens exterior:

(Please, forgive me the dust on the lens, I never have the patience to clean objects for close-up photo sessions)

Mounted on Zenith 122 camera. This set is authentic, both camera and lens were in production in the same period of time. I believe that this pair was a kit:


Sharpness – close distance:

Test description: target is a 10×15 cm picture (printed, glossy photo paper), fixed on the wall by scotch. Distance – 1.7m. Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with computer display as a viewfinder. All groups of shots were repeated 3 times for every target position on all apertures from fully opened up to F16, ISO-200, WB – same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot. After all needed shots have been taken for one target position – I moved the target to the next place. Main idea – to exclude the field curvature affect on so close distance. Of course, I can’t be absolutely accurate, but test results looks correct.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings (Some single files have a slight light correction, for better visual convenience in comparison), then cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Yukino Yukinoshita 21 2print

Scene preview:

HELIOS447__b_res_close_previewNEW.jpg

Test results:

HELIOS447__c_res_close.jpg


Sharpness – long distance:

Test description: Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with computer display as a viewfinder. Targets (buildings) were fixed by gravity power on the distances in more than 200 meters. All shots have been taken with apertures from fully opened up to F16. ISO-50. Shutter Speed – depends on light (camera A-mode), WB – fixed and the same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot to exclude focus-shift affect.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings (Some single files have a slight light correction, for better visual convenience in comparison), then were cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Scene preview:

(note for perfectionists: do not pay attention to the slope of the horizon, it was necessary to bind the image to certain points)

HELIOS447__e_far_preview.jpg

Test results:

HELIOS447__e_res_far.jpg


Vignetting:

(frames scaled – 300×200)

HELIOS447__f_vignettingNEW.jpg


Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)

HELIOS447_F_5_6_geometry_73.jpg


Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

HELIOS447__h_coma_aberr_.jpg


Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

HELIOS447__i_chrome_aberrNEW_.jpg


Long distance bokeh:

Test#1:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 0.5m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

Such scenes can’t be meet often, so this is a demonstration of extreme conditions. In most cases of real-life photography, the blur level will be less, see the next Test#2.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

HELIOS447__k_bokeh_far_min_NEW.jpg

Test#2:

Test conditions: lens was focused on 1m, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

HELIOS447__k_bokeh_far_mid_NEW.jpg


Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test #1

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 0.5m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

Such scenes can’t be meet often, so this is a demonstration of extreme conditions. In most cases of real-life photography the blur level will be less – see Test #2.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

HELIOS447__m_dots_far_min_NEW.jpg

Test #2

Test conditions: lens was focused on 1m – ‘portrait distance’, houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)

HELIOS447__m_dots_far_mid_NEW.jpg


Minolta MD XXmm 1:X.X:

AvatarReview_HELIOS447

Good news: geometric aberrations are almost absent, vignetting is OK, especially for modern digital sensors. Average news: not too bad coma and chromatic aberrations on wide-open apertures. A lot of lenses from the middle of the 20 century have the same behavior. Bad news: there is no sharpness in middles and corners at F2.0-4.0. The middle became acceptable at F5.6 and corners became the same just from F8.0.

Special news for artists: this lens is the simplest way to get possible the best and coolest bokeh which you ever have seen with a near-fifty. But don’t forget: the absence of sharpness – is a payment for this. A huge price, at least for my taste.

If to remember that this lens has been produced in 1993, then it seems that we have two enough different conclusions:

  1. The IQ of this lens is enough poor from the modern point of view.
  2. This lens is a nice working replica of ancient rare lenses.

There is no need to pay hundreds for collectible Zeisses because these cheapest Helioses can provide the same picture. It’s a good tool for photographers who are going to play with bokeh – independently of the person’s skill. A fairly cheap lens, so as not to regret the purchase, even if you can not make masterpieces with it. I can easily imagine it in a professional bag and in an amateur bag. But be sure – this is definitely not a lens for every day.


Battles with this lens:

AvatarLensWars_HELIOS447_MCC5814.png

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: