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LENS PORN: Helios 44-2 58mm f/2, M42 Mount Lens With Swirly Bokeh And Infinity On Nikon SLRs

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2, M42 Mount Lens With Swirly Bokeh
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2, M42 Mount Lens With Swirly Bokeh



First Published: 16 November 2016
Updated: 28 October 2017 (Re-written from scratch, new videos, new photos)


In the old days, people bought lenses not for sharpness or clarity, but for their unique characteristics, such as the swirly bokeh produced by this Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 prime lens in M42 mount. It was produced for decades starting from the 1960s up to the 1990s.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2, M42 Mount Lens With Swirly Bokeh



There were several generations of this lens but there is no one perfect lens -- there were the early generations (44-2, 44-3) were sought for the swirly effect and had 8 blades for rounded bokeh balls but were soft at f/2 only and gets sharp by f/2.8; and then the later ones (44-6, 44-7) with better image clarity but not so much swirly effect and only had 6 blades that produce hexagonal shaped bokeh balls when stopped down.

To add to the variety, even lenses of the same generation were produced in different factories, identified by their unique logos on the name ring. I have had 2 copies of this lens as of now, made from different factories and years. My first copy was 1983, the second one was 1969. Everything is the same, except the colors of the markings and minor cosmetic differences like where the serial numbers were placed.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
My first copy, made in 1983.

My second copy, made in 1969.



It comes in M42 mount, which should mount on most cameras without problem, except it won't focus to infinity on Nikon DSLRs because of the flange distance (Nikon F mount has the longest flange distance of any existing SLR).

Fortunately, it can be easily fixed since M42 and Nikon F only has exactly 0.96mm difference in flange distance. I've tried using an adapter with optical glass, but there was a deterioration in image quality and the image darkens by 1 stop. The best solution was to mod the mount without having to add extra optical glass.

Oh silly. This lens was mint but I wanted to give it a unique grunge look by sanding off the paint.





Mechanically, the problem with both my copies were the stiff focusing ring and aperture rings. After doing a fix, the lens is now buttery smooth to operate. The preset-style aperture ring also makes this lens very nice for shooting videos. Probably the biggest mechanical downside I've observed is the long focus throw -- I don't want to use it in fast action scenes where I could easily miss the subject.

On crop sensor cameras like my D5200, the swirly bokeh effect can be seen in the periphery of the images, but only a bit. I think this is why the effect will be more appreciated when used on full frame cameras. A crazy extreme swirly effect can be achieved by inverting the front element.

Inverted front element, f/2

Inverted front element, f/2.8

Inverted front element, f/4



The glass of the second generation (44-2) is not coated, as you can see that the color of the reflection on the glass surface is white. Even the edges of the elements are un-blackened, so I blackened it to minimize internal reflection and improve the image contrast a bit. Fortunately, the front element is recessed deep inside so the sides act as a hood, but putting on a hood still helps!

A white surface reflection indicates that the glass is non-coated.
None of the elements inside are coated,
and both front/rear elements do not have blackened edges.



It is very very soft at f/2, but produces improved contrast/sharpness and stunning colors by f/2.8 (the swirly bokeh is effective up to this point). The trick is, when you use f/2 indoor or in low light scenes, you won't see much of the glow. Never use f/2 outdoor! Fortunately, it has 8-blades so that when you stop down while shooting outdoor, the bokeh balls in the background appear rounded.

Shot indoor, f/2.



CONCLUSION: Despite some shortcomings, I really love this lens! It is one of the very few lenses that I want to buy again and again just for the sheer fun of the swirly bokeh and converting it to a Nikon mount.














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SPECS

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2

44-2 = second generation

Focal Length: 58mm
(Nikon DX = 87mm)

Minimum Focusing Distance:
0.5 meters

Focus Throw: 
270°

Filter Thread Size:
49mm

Aperture Type:
6 blades, preset aperture

Non-coated glass

Made in Russia






Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
My first copy.



This is the same lens from above, my second copy.
Now with a grunge look.



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Samples

Nikon D5200 Settings:

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2

Note: These shots were both from my first and second copies. I have never noticed any significant difference in image quality between each of them.



Infinity on Nikon DSLRs

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)




Mandatory Flower Shots

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)


Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)





Swirly Bokeh

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)




Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)


Flare Shots

f/2

f/2.8





Day and Night Shots

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
Shot at f/4


Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)



Pet Shots
(Mostly shot at f/2)










Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)


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Links

My Second Copy
https://flic.kr/s/aHskP8V3jy

Logo Identifier
http://cameras.alfredklomp.com/logos/

Helios Serial Numbers
http://forum.mflenses.com/complete-list-of-helios-lenses-getting-closer-t26100.html


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