Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 review

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the new post on using the Helios with the Mitakon Lens HERE
Review time!

Todays blogpost is a review of the Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 lens. The lens was produced in the old Soviet Union by Jupiter among others from 1958 till 1992 and is one of most mass produced lenses in the world! I bought the M42 screwmount version (hence the 44m name), since I have that adapter, but they made it available in many other mounts.

The reason for buying this lens was one thing, and one thing only: The swirley bokeh effect!

The lens has, what is referred to as optical vignetting, meaning that out of focus “bokeh-balls” becomes more elipsoid as you move away from the center of the image. Also referred to, as “Cat-eye” effect, this phenomenon gives a pronounced feeling that the background “swirls” around the center focus subject. What really surprised me though, was all the other scenarios this lens was good for! The 58mm focuslength on a APS-C sensor turns into a 87mm FOV equivalent which makes it a really nice medium tele lens. For the streets I was VERY surprised at how well it is doing. And it does amazing with black and white photography. The lens is built like a tank! Seriously. METAL and GLASS….the USSR-way!! My copy is very smooth in the focus ring, and the aperture ring has nice clicks. A good condition lens.

Because the lens was built in such superfluous numbers they’re CHEAP…. and I mean REALLY cheap! $10 on ebay and you get a good condition lens…. it’s ridiculous, really.



This lens has actually replaced my fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4R as my “stay-on-camera” lens. Which is crazy, since I’m not that good at manual focussing…. but the results from this lens is just damn worth it!

For black and white street photography the lens is really great. It does have a little glow at the highlights in bright sunshine, but that only adds to the charm. The contrast needs to be upped in post-processing, since I find the OOC files to be a little lacking in that area. Micro-contrast on the other hand is great. Files get a real sense of 3D “pop” Quite cool.

The swirley bokeh is not as pronounced on the APS-C sized sensor, since the FOV is cropped, but I assure you it is still there. The maximum effect is when you have a  focus subject about 2-3 meters away and the background about 10-15 meters away, so count a factor 1:5 ratio for foreground/background subject distance. The optimal background is sunlit foliage. This is where you get that amazing special “cat-eye” effect.

I only shoot this lens wide open at f/2. Same as with the Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 M42 that I reviewed here you get a little softness which I actually like. Stopped down it is not as sharp as the Takumars or the Fujinons. but for 10 bucks…I’ll manage!

The Bokeh on this lens is amazing. It can get harsh when you want it to (foliage background) but for street use with regular busy backgrounds the bokeh is fantastic.


No need for me to ramble on. This lens is an amzing lens, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an X-series lens system. It’s cheap and gives you amazing results! Below is my typical review shots. Shot in many situations. Mostly street. But for this lens, also alot of nature shots.

All shots below were shot wide open at f/2 mounted on my X-Pro1. For the most sunlit days I mounted a 3-stop ND filter.


























      1. Hi Jonas, do you mean you used a m42 to Pentax screw mount to mount this lens onto the fuji XP1?

  1. Hi Jonas,
    It’s good to see the amazing pictures that you take, I follow you since you were an icon designer and I put really sad when you decided to leave it for study medicine. Now I can see your creative side again and again, and it’s awesome, never leave it!

    Regards from Argentina,

  2. Hi Jonas,

    Really nice bokeh, I must admit.

    You really must have been lucky, when buying this lens.

    I cannot find any lens that is cheaper than ~30$ (+20$ for shipping).

  3. Seriously, I don’t know what else to say other than “Holy crap!” Beautiful images. There is a film-like quality to them that is gorgeous and the bokeh is nothing short of stellar. Great job, once again.

  4. Hi Jonas,

    This one’s among the very well-known semi-cultic russian ‘cheapskate’ optics enjoyed by many for years… it’s a knock-off copy of the 58/2 Zeiss Biotar and one of the examples where the copy to a large extent actually outshines the original;o) – theres quite a few different variations to choose from in that series (the Helios-44’s) and some a sharper and better coated than others… It can be dead sharp stopped down just a little depending on Your version… mine is! It came of an old 70’s Zenith SLR – the camera is loooong gone but the Helios lives on… Theres quite a few other Helios-xx’s to choose from and not all are as cheap as this one… take the 85mm/f1.5 Helios-40 that goes for well over 500$ in reasonable shape – also to be had in Contax mount… Also I don’t really think the namedesignation has the least to do with the mount as You mention – the Helios’s in M39-mount is still named Helios-40/44/etc nonetheless and not Helios-39 etc;o) Also it’s not that Jupiter is making the Helios-lenses – they are two different brands but could very well be maked on the same plants of which there also is quite a few… Again, some more well-regarded than others… It’s a jungle of mixed quality an often cryptic orignation…


    1. Hi Klehmann.

      Thank you for stopping by, and reading my blog!

      I didn’t state that the entire name indicates the mount… only the “M” in the 44M-X stands for M42. The Contax mounts were called 44K-X
      They were produced by (among others) KMZ which also produced the Jupiter lenses. You’re right about Jupiter being another brand just like Helios.

      Very cryptic origins indeed…. but when you find a decent quality specimen, they’re divine!

  5. Hello,
    Because of you I spent some money, I read your article and bought one identical lens straight away, in very good condition but not as cheap, it was 50 euros, but if it brings me similar results that in your photos, and can become too the “stay on” lens on my Fuji XE1, then thank you very much for the tip and your beautiful photos about what can be done with it.
    Regards from Paris,

  6. It was very intersting to read this note. I have about 20 lenses, named Helios (I live in Russia), and I can to say, that Helios has nonstable quality. Best of all: MC Helios-77M-4 (but 50/1.8), -44M-7, 44M-6,… That is right – glass&metall, but dimensions… As for me, I like to shot with my CZJ Sonnar 50/1.5. And, if you take
    Jupiter-3 or Jupiter-8 (about 1950-1960), I think, you like it also. Excuse me for my english. Good luck!

  7. Hi,

    Just had to stop by and say that I enjoyed the mini review. Great images too.

    I pick my near mint Helios up tommorow. I can’t wait to try it out. I too got the lens because of the bokeh, I’ve been using a 50mm F1.8 Pentacon M42 lens and that too can have swirly bokeh at the correct distances.

  8. Hi Jonas,
    Love your pics and have just put a bid on ebay for Helios 58 f2 but its going to go for more then $50 au ( Australian )

  9. Great photos!
    I came across your blog, while making some research for a review for the Helios 44 I was writing for my blog.
    I really love this lens. I have a 44M I got from my grandfather and I use it on a Canon. It has a really nice ‘film-like’ quality to it’s images.

    I was thinking about making the switch to Fuji, and your blog makes me consider it all the more 🙂

    Cheers form Israel!

    1. Hi Lev.

      Thank you so much for stopping by the blog.

      Take the plunge, and switch to Fuji… You won’t regret it! Trust me.


  10. Hi Jonas… I just got the XE-1. I have a D600 that i do my pro work with. I dont have any Fuji glass and I have been using a Nikon 24mm f2.8D with an adaptor. I am a bit disspoint with teh quality that I am getting. Can you tell me what body you are using this lens on. Also have u unsed NIkon glass with your X Body. Thanks and keep up the good work…

  11. I’ve recently bought one. It is a 44M-4 model. It looks like a new one. It costed me $40. The M42 to EOS mount costed me another $5. All from taobao. I briefly tried it. At f2, the sharpness is very close to my 50mm f1.4 USM less which costed me over $450. I can’t think of a reason of not keeping it.

    1. Hi Tom.

      Should work just as well. The adapter would even be alot smaller, so it would be a very compact system. Have yet to try it out. Please give me a heads up if you get one 🙂


  12. Pingback: Anonymous
  13. hola mirando en flickr, en busqueda de imagenes que sobresalgan en calidad, nitidez contraste pureza de colores, etc, me sorprendi que una camara -tanque sovietico- como la zenit, traiga un objetivo de tremenda calidad, te comento antes en la era analogica usaba olimpus y nikon, luego con la llegada de lo digital pase a canon, pero nunca estuve conforme con los objetivos standard de canon jamas, y los de alta gama me parecen inalcanzables, compre tokina, sigma y canos USM, para mejorar, pero sigo buscando, es asi que encontre ZENIT HELIOS MM 44M 58MM F2, a tal punto de no creer que produzcan los resultados que se publican, realmente asombrosos, en este momento tengo enmis manos una camara zenit que me entere que un amigo la tenia sin uso, adivinen que voy a hacer, logico pero me faltara el adaptador, asi que una vez que lo reciba, voy a subir fotos. Muy buenos tus comentarios y te felicito por tus conocimientos.

  14. You really exhibited the swirl bokeh effect of the lens. I had a Helios m44-4 lens and attached it to my EOS 40D with an adaptor ring. I just found that the swirl effect is the most significant when the background is kind of spotty. I compared it with my Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens. The sharpness, contrast and color of the Helios is no way second to the Canon lens except the autofocusing feature. The Helios m44-4 lens is really a great bargain.

  15. I’ve tried several vintage glass, but when I want a sharp close focus shot , I always go to my helios 44m-4. the helios 77m-4 is also very nice.

  16. nice pics, dude. let me ask you something: can the use of adaptors damage the camera ? i´ve seen there are some adaptor rings that come with af-assistant chip instaled, is that the one that you have?

  17. Hey there ! very nice pictures ! AS many people I was just googling here and there and I saw your images. Reading this page decided me to get a Zenit Helios Lens ^^
    I ‘ve found one on Ebay not as cheap as the one you bought. Mine is a Helios 44-2 2/58 . I don’t know yet what i’ll be able to do with that 40$ lens but I hope I ‘ll take some beautifull pictures like yours.
    I also bought a m42 to m4/3 adapter because i’ll use it on my panasonic GF3. I just can’t wait to test it.
    I read that you sometime lose the infinite focus when using adapter …… doesn’t matter !

    1. I didn’t lose infinite focus with my cheap no name adapter. It works flawlessly. I think you will find this lens very satisfying to use. Even though you will get an ever tighter crop and less swirl effect on your micro 4/3. Thanks for stopping by the blog. /J

      1. Hey there !
        I sometime write directly from french to english and forget I could be easily misunderstood ^^
        When I said “I read you sometime lose the infinite…” I should have written that sometime people lose infinite focus with adapters. 🙂

        I found some new informations about my lens. It could be a “M39” lens perhaps one of the first zenit helios .
        Here is the link to the item I bought :

        Have a nice day !

    2. Matt — I am looking to get this lens for my GX7.

      I am also unable to find a Helios 44-2 2/58 for < 40 – 50 USD.
      Also which m42 to m4/3 adapter did you get?

      — S

  18. Jonas,

    Great review and lovely pictures so thank you, incredible style! Do you know how many aperture blades your particular Helios has?

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi J.

      Thank you for reading.

      My particular 44m-4 has 6 surved aperture blades. I believe the 44 (no moniker) has 8 blades.


  19. Can i use this lens with my Sony A mount Camera ? (Allpha 35).. If so which adapter should i chose ?

    1. type this on ebay: M42 to Alpha 35… And it will list you adapters. Buy chinese ones for 15$. No need to spend 60 on Kipon one. I never saw a difference.

  20. I have this lens on Fuji XT1 took it of my old Zenit that was sitting brand new for years. This lens should be worth at least 100$ because it beats many lenses that cost 100$ ! Must try it to believe it. Bokeh, ok, i dont care just sharpness is perfect. Colors very real.

    1. Helios has glass recipe from the Carl Zeiss Biotar but it is just made under Russian name Helios. Maybe that is the answer for a good image quality.

  21. When twin flames arrive with each other they be a part
    of forces and are capable of conquering road blocks the ordinary
    mortal could not begin to encounter. When a video
    match takes in excess of, for the subconscious component of the head it
    is as real as real can be. Entire world of Warcraft (BLIZZARD) This sport will choose hrs out of your lifespan just by the sheer articles on your own.

  22. Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump
    out. Please let me know where you got your design. Many thanks

  23. That lens has the most amazing swirly bokeh. I have one I used on a lumix for a while, but I’ve just picked up the x-pro1 and am awaiting delivery of an m42-fuji adaptor. I cant wait to play with it; your shots are amazing.

  24. Good evening! i just found this camera in my dad’s basement! i love vintage photos and i loved your blog about this! but i’m from greece and i don’t really understand what should i do to take beautiful pictures like yours! please if you could help me that would be great thanks!

  25. Also i googled about x-pro1 and a camera poped up! so i didn’ really understand if you used zenit helios or another camera..so please if you could reply i would be grateful!

  26. I bought an M42 adapter from somebody on the Internet, and he threw in the Helios… for free. So basically it’s the absolutely best value for money lens I have 😀

  27. first of all thank you for this review. While I was reading it, I remembered that there is a nice camera I saw once when repairing my Contax RX; camera is Zenit ET and the price of 20EUR for almost in mint condition was so tempting; after reading your review I bought it today, immediately :)) just for a start; now I am gonna buy this beautiful lens, and I can choose between 44M-4 and 44M-4 MC; one of those is gonna be mine for happy shooting until I but some Fuji X camera (at the moment I am so happy with good old X100) ao…. if you know anything that can make me choose which one I will be grateful, otherwise, I will stick with non MC version probably

    I almost bought Fuji X-T1 few weeks ago, but decided to wait for a while until X-Pro2 will come out :)) maybe not

    Thank you for this and other articles, they are great, and no wonder everybody likes them, cheers man

  28. This electronic smoke starter unit is not worth what you are paying for, and will no doubt break and
    abandoning you need to purchase another electronic
    smoke starter pack. It still contains nicotine mist to taste like real cigarette without dreaded carcinogens.
    By removing the material that absorbs the liquid nicotine, a consumer is able to remove the mouthpiece and
    put several drops of e-liquid onto the part that they call the atomizer bridge.

  29. Hi there
    very informative site, love the pics of Helios!!
    I need your advice, I shoot street photography and I’m interested in a sharpe fast 50ish vintage prime, I shoot in different apertures and you said 44m-4 is not that sharpe stepped down so do you recommend it or you recommend Super-Takumar 55mm f/2 or you have another fast sharpe vintage in your mind for shooting street photography with different apertures.
    P.S.(i use fuji x-e1)

    1. Hi Zack.

      I think you misunderstood. The Helios IS sharp when stopped down. From f/4-f/8 it’s very good. So definitely recommendable for street, although you might want to go a little wider, but thats a personal preference I guess.


  30. thanks for reply
    i know its kind of tele range on cropped sensor but i like to shoot from distance.
    as for the lens sharpness you said in the review ” Stopped down it is not as sharp as the Takumars or the Fujinons” so thats why i asked about the Super-Takumar 55mm f/2 and which one do you recommend.
    also i would like to ask you what do you think is the best wide angle sharp vintage lens which is also cheap?
    thanks again man

  31. Hey Jonas,
    I really like your photos. You do a good job!

    I’m a very beginner and collect as many experiences as I can.
    I’ve got the an “helios 44m 58/2” too, but I don’t know how to handle with it. My camera is a Canon 550D EOS. I got the camera together with the lens and I can combine them without any adapter, but everytime I try to make a photo with these lens the pictures are diffuse, no matter how near or far my motive is away. It’s only possible to photograph the cup of my fingers in a bad quality. When I like to make a picture of a person,then I’ve got no chance.

    Do you have an idea, where my mistake is? Or do I need something more like a adapter, screwmount etc?

    It would give me great pleasure if I will get a reference from you.

    Thanks a lot.

  32. Just purchased the Helios 44M and looking forward to putting it on my NEX-7, the M42 mount lenses feel real nice on the NEX and I’ve shot some great stuff using my Pentacon 50mm, I really do have a love for Russian lenses and even if they don’t give the same picture as a newer made lens they can surprise you, 1956 is the oldest lens I have and I think what it does for Black and White is much better than a newer and much more expensive lens.. Thanks for the article and your shots are beautiful.

    1. Hi Jeremy. Nah. the Canon 50mm f/1.4 is in a league of its own. But for the ridiculously cheap price, the Helios can’t be beat…IF you find a good copy! 😀 /Jonas

  33. Amazing photos, Jonas!
    I also have a Helios 44M-4 58mm f/2 and I use it on my Nikon system with very good results.
    I’m investing on the Fujifilm system (X-E1) next month and hope I can get similar results, and based on your samples, I can expect the same quality (not so good compositions as yours though, hehe).
    Thanks for sharing.

  34. Hello Jonas! Interesting article. I have bought the 44-2 and EF adaptor but I hear ru ours about the mirror being hit when used in Canon 5D due to the adaptor being too thin. Do you know anything about that? I don’t want to ruin my precious 5D as you can imagine, but I am very keen to try out my Helios lens.
    Thank you in advance!

  35. I just received my 44M-4 for my XE-2, convinced by your great review! I look forward to testing its famous bokeh.
    Thanks Jonas and great blog & photos by the way !

  36. Hah. Was looking for info about my m39 helios 44 58mm f2 with 13 apperture blades. The sharpness isn’t that great, but the bokeh and quality are as good as stated.
    Now, since 3 years passed there are some pieces of gear which might bring the lens perform even better On mirrorless cameras.

    1) Speedbooster/lens turbo/focal reducer x0.71
    Adapter with a lens which compresses the Image circle by 0.7 time, and gives 1 additional stop of light.
    Basicaly it means that used On aps-c Sensor of Fuji, you will get real ff Performance in terms of field of view and bokeh. Price ~150€

    2) Tilt Adapter, Tilt/shift Adapters.
    Those 2-3 cm space used by Adapter might be used much more wisely by using Tilt or even Tilt/shift Function.
    The price vary between 25$ and 400€, my advice try first a cheapo Tilt Adapter.
    I went full On a “high quality” mirex t/s Adapter which i kinda regret. For 400€ it offers me a great build quality,and absolutely not so great usability o fingerforce Tilt/shift – i would love geared wheels for finetuning, but i misunderstood the Info i was given by the manufacturer.
    Also all lenses(testedeven with zeiss glass) will perform poorly – poor sharpness, tons of chromatic abberations, etc.
    Still it’s fun to have extra control over dof.

    Fuji is a nice choice, but i chose omd e-m5 due to ibis, which alows me to use Image stabilisation for all Manual lenses. And possibility of making 64MP stills with tripod%)

    Have fun exploring and testing new possibilities

    Best luck


  37. Hey Jonas!
    You know, I got this lens from my grandpa’s zenit 12 XP wich is a beautiful machine. Sadly i’m from Argentina and here it’s way too expensive to shoot film.
    None the less I decided to use the 44m on my nikon D5300, since I only have my 18-55 kit lens.
    I had to make a few adjustments and yet have to do another one, but I can’t wait to mount it and shoot!
    The photos look amazing, regarding the lens and the composition! Thank you for such a great post! Greetings from Argentina.

  38. Hi Jonas,

    Great link, great photos.

    I have bought a good copy of this lens on eBay (pin modified) for use with the XT-1. I have the Fuji M-mount adaptor, but I’m sure that it fits. The plastic gauge that comes with the adaptor suggests that the diameter of the rear element is too large.

    May I ask what sort of adaptor you’re using and whether you know if the arrangement I have should work?

    Thanks very much


  39. Hi Jonas what is your set up/settings on your XT1? I am new to vintage lens and was inspired by this post. I have the XT10 + the Helios 44m4 58mm with a 42mm adapter. can you give me any tips? thank you so much! I am a newbie photographer.

  40. Hi Jonas

    I am trying this lens with a Fotodiox adapter. The lens screws well etc but my X-E1 shutter doesn’t take a shot. I see through the viewfinder etc but no photos taken. Am i missing anything here? Any tips?


  41. Hi Jonas, how are you?
    Inspired by your post I got to Helios in the past two years, a 44M4 and a 44-2.
    The 44-2 swirls more and the 44M4 is more sharp in my opinion.

    But I would like to ask you a question: are you aware of any lens that have the “helios look” but is wide angle?
    Thank you and best regards

    1. Hi Rafael. Unfortunately I don’t know of anything wider. – Maybe try using a Kipon Baveyes adapter. That will make it “wider”

  42. Hi Jonas,

    I ‘m sorry if I ask a question that had already been answered but I think it hasn’t.
    I have a Helios 44.2 58m f2 and would like very much to put it on my X-Pro 2, so far I used a M42 to FX adapter so I could used it on the X pro 1. That adapter works just fine but then The Helios acts as a 85 m ( or so ) .
    I would like this Helios to acts like a 58mm and doing more research and your marvelous site I then find your review of the Mitakon turbo lens and tried to find one like it. I’m afraid I didn’t brought the right one, I purchased a focal reducer speed MD to FX ( it’s actually right now in its way from China) but if I understant correctly I would then need a M42 to MD mount ring adapter as mentionned in another post of yours right ?

    Thank you very much for your attention and for your articles, they are very instructives and it’s a pleasure to read your thoughts on your inspirations and see your pictures !


  43. Hi Jonas

    I’ve the same lens and it’s awesome. Way better than I had expected at first. But it hasn’t replaced my 35/2…YET😊 Love the bokeh in spite the bokeh balls are alittle bit oval in the corner, but so what. The swirl bokeh is also great.


  44. I have had many different copies of helios 44 during the last 10 years. Some of them where just ok but very modest, some were really sucking (specialy in the way they respond to colors). One day in a second hand store i have found a zeint with a 44 m4 , both almost rotten, 5 dollars the price. I bought them sure they would have gone soon into the garbage. I clean it a little and found out the aperture was stocked on f2. Before trashing it I just wanted to give a try on my sony alpha 6000 with an m42 – nex adapter. I couldn`t believe my eyes….. that rotten piece of glass was in sharpness, color rendition and bokeh much better then my leica summicron. Unbelievable !!! The intensity of the bokeh was stronger then an F 1.2. If you find the right copy this lens can be outstanding !!

  45. I just got my helios and cant wait to try on both my canon full frame and fuji mirrorless. Great review, thanks! Oh…and the photos are perfect!!! You are very talented

  46. Been looking for a lens like this for ages. Can’t believe my luck – found a 44-2 in a closing down sale second hand shop for $2.50 Australian (Abt US$2). perfectly clear glass, smooth focus and aperture. Can’t wait to try it on one of my old Yashicas.

  47. As usual Jonas, another great article from you that resonates with so many of your regulars !

    Just got my Helios 44-M and M42 adapter for my XE1 and can’t wait to start shooting and enjoy the bokeh. I sold my other Fujian 35mm for this as I like a longer FL. So swirling bokeh it is again !

    1. You would need an M42 to Nikon F adapter.
      Im using one for my Helios 44 on my Nikon D5500. Dunno which adapter I have as it came with the lens

      1. Dear Wolfod
        Have you managed to shoot in Aperture priority mode using your Helios on D 5500, and what other settings you need to fix? Or just manual mode. Thanks

  48. I have a Nikon D3100 and would like to achieve a vintage/retro look. I think I will purchase the Helios 58mm. What adapter is best with this combination to achieve pictures like you did ? Please Help Thank You

    1. M42 to Nikon F adapter – cheap on eBay from China. If you are in a hurry you’ll likely find one in your country but a bit dearer.
      eg. I bought one UK for £2.99 but ordered two from China for £1.92. Super-glue or Loctite the adapter on the lens.

  49. Hello Jonas! Nice article, I have to say I also love this lens and I also have the M42 mount one. I used to use it on my dad’s old Zenit camera. However, now I got a Pentax K-3 and I was trying to use this lens so I got an adapter for K-mount but it seems like the lens won’t focus to infinity. What sort of adapter did you use?

  50. Hi Jonas,

    I just watched the recent Fujilove webinar where you talked with Tomasz about the use of vintage lenses on Fuji X cameras; really enjoyed it. I have a Helios 58 f2 with an M39 screw mount rather than the later M42 version(s). It is from the late 60s (Zenit 3M). The M39 to Fuji X adapter that I have is too short. Do you know if anyone makes one that provides the correct flange to film/sensor plane distance for this lens?

    Thanks in anticipation and kind regards,

    Chris Bone

  51. Totally agree! I just love this lens. For me it was going back to the roots and staying there with all Jupiters. Great read keep it up.

  52. Hey Jonas!

    Beautiful photos! This is more of a technique related question, but how do you manage to focus manually in the relatively unpredictable situations of street photography – that too on a tele lens such as this?


  53. I’d seen this review before because my love for the Helios is bordering on a bit of an obsession, but having used it on Canon and Nikons, I’m finally getting a Fuji (cheap, used XM1 for my work bag) where I feel it’ll be more at home. As soon as I got my X100F I realised Velvia and a Helios would be quite special, so I’m definitely looking forward to pairing the lens with the film simulation.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: