Helios M42 lenses - Have I misunderestimated them?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by EASmithV, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Well, I have had a Zenit-E sitting around for some time, but never actually used it. I needed to shoot some film to test my developer times, and as my Nikon was loaded with KR64, and my Minolta was loaded with TMZ, I decided to run a few frames of Pan F+ through it, just for the hell of it.

    After enlarging the negatives, I was quite surprised at the result.

    It seems like this Helios 58mm f2 that I had sitting on the Zenit for the longest time gives better results than I had ever dreamed of. For the longest time, I had thought "Oh it's just a cheap ass Russian lens" and never really bothered with it. Does anyone else have any thoughts on these lenses?

    The below image is the one that got me thinking. It has a circular DOF, with an ALMOST petzval look, something I was not expecting from 35mm.

    I believe this was shot on f5.6.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Back around 1969/70 I had my first magazine cover, the camera was a Zenit E with an f2 Helios, it was a surprisingly good lens, the camera wore out after about 3 years heavy use :D

    In fact looking back the lens was always good even at wide apertures. I have a russian FED bought from an APUG US member and the lens on that is excellent too. Even "Che" used Russian cameras and he was very accomplished photographer, perhaps not in the CIA's eyes :D

    Ian
     
  3. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    That Helios 44 is a Soviet copy of the Zeiss Biotar. A good sample can give outstanding results. I have several.
     
  4. eSFotos

    eSFotos Member

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    Helios 44 is not a bad lens (I too have several) especially earlier model, Helios 44-2. The later 44M-x models, although multi-coated, has fuzzy bokeh that I am not very fond of.
     
  5. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Yes, apparently mine is an earlier model, it is a 44-2
     
  6. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I find that the earlier versions are nicer too. Also the Helios is usually better built than the East German Biotars, which suffer from stiff focussing and hazing of the elements.
    Funny how most people dismiss the Soviet lenses, and true the odd one is crap, but most of the ones that I have used are surprisingly good. The Helios is one example, and the humble Industars that you find on the Feds and Zorkis are a surprise packet as well
     
  7. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    I used to have a Helios 44-2, which I used with a K-mount adapter on my Pentax film SLR. Very nice results, and, iirc, it focuses pretty close, too. I've generally had excellent results with Soviet lenses in both medium format and 35mm (m42 and Leica screw mounts). Their quality control gets slagged off a fair bit, but I've only ever had one 'bad' lens [the focusing helical was gummed up] and I was able to fix that myself.

    I've had good results with the Industar 61, the Jupiter's 8, 9, 11 and 12, the Helios 44-2 and a Volna 90mm in medium format.
     
  8. C A Sugg

    C A Sugg Member

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    I've got a Helios 44, unfortunately on a semi-functional "Start" SLR. By semi-functional, I mean that apparently the mirror rests at the wrong angle. It looks like it's adjustable. Any ideas on how to correct that?
    Charles
     
  9. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    A while back a friend gave me a pair of un-used Zorki-4 and Zenit-B cameras. Complete with paperwork and original receipts from USSR. The Zorki-4's signed 'Certification Document' indicates the lens develops 31 lines/mm at the center and 14 lines/mm at the edge wide open. I checked the the Helios-44-2's certificate to see if the resolution is indicated but it just says "meets the technical requirements and is admitted to be useful."
     
  10. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    Helios 44-2 lens yields very good results as long as you remember it is a preset lens...

    As the front lens is recessed into the barrel, you don't need to carry any lens hood.

    Too they are fairly easy to clean and re-grease for a smooth focussing.

    And for the price, you don't take any risk!
     
  11. Mike P

    Mike P Member

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    The Helios 44-2 is a great lens. The physical construction is not up to Japanese standards, but optically it's very strong, with the added bonus noted by the original poster that you can still get circular bokeh even with it stopped down.
     
  12. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    Can anyone recommend a person or facility that can relube my Heliar 58mm M42 lens? I like the images it produces, but the focus is very stiff. I don't have the tools here where I am to attempt this work myself. Recommendations welcomed!
     
  13. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Soviets are not fool and not everything cheap is ass. Zenit 58mm f:2 Helios is one the best lens I have ever used. I bought mine at 1986 , Zenit ET and I put it to -25 celcius deep freezer and it was working like it is in Hawaii:smile: Its a copy of Biotar and if I am not wrong same architecture with Summmitar and I get few better color prints with my 7 Leicas. And Kiev 60 and 88 are ultra good , you must be intelligent to use them because some bits and nuts could be damaged but 250mm Jupiter and 80mm Planar Copy is using film and laughing to their digital craps.
    Dont forget Soviets sent first man and woman in to space and their mathematicians and all other science people is 50 years forward to west.
    Check science news and what they accomplish in every 6 months is not be able to done in 150 years with your cowboys.
    They were a empire when you are busy with horse shit and run from indians :smile::smile::smile:
     
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  15. Nikon Collector

    Nikon Collector Member

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    Is this guy for real????
     
  16. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    :laugh::laugh::laugh:
     
  17. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Aa real as anybody seeing things from the other side of the ocean.
     
  18. Nikon Collector

    Nikon Collector Member

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    As an old cold war survivor and watching with a fairly unbiased eye and having onwned a Zenit, I found that most things Russian lacked precission and attention to detail, and the nice things they produced, they usualy stole from someone else
     
  19. Jon Goodman

    Jon Goodman Member

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    Possibly you should study the Russian wristwatches. Some of their mechanical watches can be accurate to within 5 seconds a day right out of the box. Some of these movements contain as many as 31 jewels. I would say their watch and clock making history contains many examples of precision and great attention to detail.
    Jon
     
  20. Nikon Collector

    Nikon Collector Member

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    But John, Who did they steal the designs from?
     
  21. Jon Goodman

    Jon Goodman Member

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    As I recall, they purchased the first watchmaking equipment from the USA in the 1920s or 1930s and then later they purchased some more equipment from the French (I think this may have been around the 1950s) and then as time passed they developed their own equipment and built new factories. Wristwatches (mechanical ones) like cameras are all very similar in design.
    Jon
     
  22. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    The entire Hampden watch factory was packed up and moved to the USSR in 1930. http://www.pocketwatchrepair.com/histories/hampden.html
     
  23. AgX

    AgX Member

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    To my understanding it was typical for the young Soviet Union to buy complete plants in industrial fields the did not have yet experience with.
     
  24. momus

    momus Member

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    I think Mustafa should stop hemming around and tell us what he really thinks! For those who are satire deficient, that's one of them tongue in cheek statements. I applaud his attitude too. For too long Americans have gotten away w/ their delusions of "exceptionalism", which by itself is harmless and good for a laugh, and has managed to really annoy about 90% of the world. It's the disparaging of other more "primitive" (non western) cultures that is not acceptable, especially to those who happen to be a part of those cultures. The Soviets were able to do a heck of a lot w/ little technology, and that is a fact. As for who they stole the designs from, it was the same people Americans and Japanese stole their designs from. The Germans.

    Getting back to the issue for a sec, you couldn't give me a Soviet camera if you held a gun to my head (or a Pinto for that matter, so there are apparently limits to our exceptional technology), but I WOULD pay for a good Soviet lens. I've owned some remarkably great ones. Yes, you do have to deal w/ QC control issues, but if you're willing to work on one, or send one out to be worked on, or plain get lucky, they will reward you w/ great images for little investment. Shoot, at least give the Soviets credit for being able to manufacture, w/ scant resources, some of the better lenses in photography, no matter where the design came from. As a nominal American (being born in the South gives one a different perspective to that moniker), I can say w/ some experience that I would rather shoot some old Soviet lens or other than be stuck w/ an Argus. The only cameras Kodak ever made that were any good were rebranded German Retinas anyway. He who lives in a country that cannot seem to manufacture even one decent camera anymore should not throw stones.
     
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  25. MartinCrabtree

    MartinCrabtree Member

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    Misunderestimated?? :confused:


    Says the man so proud of his home he doesn't mention it.