You can congratulate me with my Helios-40!
while I am sitting home with a terrible flu, one of my friends came to visit me, and brought me a gift... an incredible Helios-40 85/1.5, in a perfect state with no damage to glass at all, in an original leather case and three odd M66 filters, complete with passport and proof sheet. Ilya says he got it for $30 in an used camera store. The lens has M39 LTM - it should have been designed for older Zeniths. What do you think about this lens, apart from its incredible speed and size (about a kilogram of quality glass and aluminium)? I have never had one, though I am living in Russia As I can understand, it has a basic Planar optical design? I am still unable to go and test it, so I would be very glad to hear your comments
Regards from Moscow,
"while I am sitting home with a terrible flu,"
"an incredible Helios-40 85/1.5, in a perfect state with no damage to glass at all, in an original leather case and three odd M66 filters, complete with passport and proof sheet."
I hope you are strong enough to lift it despite your fever. ;->
"Ilya says he got it for $30 in an used camera store."
Thats a good price. Later black H50-2 sell vor 100-150USD.
"The lens has M39 LTM - it should have been designed for older Zeniths."
It is, it wasn´t made for rangefinders... it would obstruct both the viewfinder and the rangefinder function.
" What do you think about this lens, apart from its incredible speed and size (about a kilogram of quality glass and aluminium)?"
I don´t own one, but a friend got a H40 with broken mount. He machined it down (soft brass) and epoxyd a Canon FD-mount on it.
Well, it is certainly impressive, but the judgement on the optical quality is split - perhaps due to Peter´s modification, perhaps due to the optical design... it is quite soft in rendering, difficult to handle because of it´s sheer size and when used as a portrait lens it might put the subject into a state of fear. ;-)
Another thing is the discoloration of the glass - similar to other lenses of that age it developed a greenish/yellowish cast, very unpleasant and obvious when you look through the viewfinder.
Please, once you found the chance to test it - share your observations and images with us.
"I have never had one, though I am living in Russia As I can understand, it has a basic Planar optical design?"
It´s derived from the prewar-Zeiss Biotar, but probably a russian variation of that design - as the Jenaer Pancolar isn´t the same as the Helios and Biotar.
Thomas Kaltschmidt once put the differences out for me in a message at de.rec.fotografie, you can find it at
Follow his links, he put optical schemes online.
A scheme of the Helios-40 is to be found at
The Helios has one oddly shaped diaphragm - at certain positions it´s opening is shaped like a star, it _might_ give an interesting bokeh. ;-)
Dante Stelle has a review on his interesting website:
" I am still unable to go and test it, so I would be very glad to hear your comments "
BTW, I checked the Iskra and compared it with the images at Stephen Castello´s new site. Someone purposely removed the stop from the film advance mechanism to use it as a 645. :-(
Just wanted to throw an image of it in here:
an excellent portrait lens
I bought a Helios-40 (chromed, M39, _not_ L39 aka LTM) a few years ago, with the M39/M42 adapter ring, for my daughter who was using a (film) Pentax Spotmatic. She didn't use it much until last year: now she has a baby and a K20D Pentax it has become her second most used lens.
This lens was originally calculated in order to have maximal sharpness at around 2 metres. It is very sharp indeed between 1.5 and 2.5 metres, which is the distance range for portraits. At full aperture (my daughter and I only use it at full aperture, otherwise why use this lens?) the shallow depth of field helps to make fantastic images. The sharpness falls quite a bit near the edges on full format, but on the (cropped) digital SLR it is hardly noticeable.
To summarise, this is a great great lens for portrait. It is hopeless for most other applications e.g. landscape etc.