Review: Helios 44-2 58mm lens

June 8th 2019, 22:48 | Written by Konstantin Koll

I suffer from “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and have recently purchased a vintage lens from the USSR.

What happened so far

I own quite a collection of lenses by now, and have purchased the famous Helios 44-2 lens with 58mm focal length. This lens is very much sought-after because of its cheap design: it creates a very distinctive “swirly” bokeh when used wide open. Helios lenses were built in the USSR from the 1950s, and are readily available. I managed to get hold of a mint copy in Ukraine for about 180€—you can get used ones for about half or even a third.


The lens is very heavy for its size and well built: it's made almost solely of metal. The aperture is clickless, and runs very smoothly (even a bit to smoothly for my taste—you can easily change it my mistake). The focus ring is much stiffer on my copy, but very precise and a pleasure to work with. It also runs butterly smooth on my copy. The Helios 44-2 has a 49mm filter thread, so all the filters I've purchased for my SEL-50F18 OSS lens work just fine.

The Helios 44-2 comes with an M42 mount. I bought an adapter to attach it to my Sony camera. This works great, because modern mirrorless cameras are much smaller than traditional film cameras, so an adapter can fit nicely between the lens and the camera body. Make sure to purchase one made of metal, though!

Image quality

This time, I went into the forest instead of a stroll around the lake. Sunshine and leaves are a promising combo to capture some swirly bokeh! The image quality is what I expect from a vintage lens: there is good center sharpness, but wide open the sharpness drops significantly towards the corners. This makes the Helios 44-2 lens good for portrait shootings, but can be a showstopper on other occasions.

The bokeh, though, can be stunning: from a busy background to the famous swirly bokeh when the background is far away from the focal point, this is a speciality lens that I'll be very happy to use in the future!

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