The Helios 44-2 2/58 Lens and Stupidity

I had heard about and read about this lens a few times recently. The bokeh it could produce was very swirly. I had every intention of attaching it to my Sony A37 at some point. I had the 44M and the 44-4 versions, but I wanted the 44-2, because I am a sucker for peer pressure.

So I started looking for an example on eBay. It turned out that to buy a camera with that specific lens attached was sometimes cheaper than buying the lens by itself. So I wait and wait, then I saw a Zenit XP12 with one attached going cheap. Yippee, even better that it was a Zenit I hadn’t tried.

When the Zenit XP12 arrived I found it worked mechanically, but the light meter didn’t work. It lit up but only ever showed over exposed. The lens seemed fine, but there was a slight looseness to the build, but over all it worked. I tried it on the Sony first to make sure the images it produced were sharp.

Nice and sharp, no evidence of the swirls, but still a very nice bokeh.

So back to the camera, the XP12, it bugged me that the light meter didn’t work. I couldn’t let it drop. These Covid times seem to be exacerbating my slight compulsion for everything to be perfect.

Now, here is where the “stupid” part of the story comes in. I was chatting with a new friend who contacted me through this blog. He has since started his own blog which you can find here. Anyway, he was interested in my Ensign Ful-Vue…weirdo. As I had no intention of ever using that again I said he could have it gratis. The topic got on the the 12XP, low and behold he had one and would be willing to swap it for the Ensign…see…weirdo. So we met up, exchanged cameras and a new friendship was made.

The new 12XP had a working light meter, but there was a ding next to the film counter that stopped the winder working correctly. That’s ok thought I, I could swap the tops and make one good one out of the two examples. Nothing stupid yet.

Sooooo, the next day I needed to sell some cameras to pay for something, times are tight now I am furloughed. I advertised a job lot of brownies and other pieces I didn’t use on Facebook Marketplace and quickly sold them. Yipee again.

Now to the job of fixing the 12XP. I took the top off the one with the working light meter, it wasn’t so tricky. Once the top was off I found the damage from the ding was worse than I expected, the spring attached to the lever had snapped for one. Never mind, I will take parts I needed from the other 12XP. Where was it??? I looked everywhere…oh crap. This is the stupid part, have you guessed what I had done?

Yeap, I sold it with the job lot by mistake 😦 Hence there are no photos of the XP12. The new one could not be put back together without the part from the other one 😦 Idiot.

Well, poo. So I attached the 44-2 lens to my Zenit 11 and went for a trundle to Monk Bretton Priory to make myself feel better…it was closed, it really wasn’t my day.

Anyway, here are some shots from the walk around the fence and the park next door using that set up.

Well, no real swirls, but still lovely photos. I will try the lens again of course. I need a much brighter day, but for now that seems a little way off.

Oh and here is the lens.

And if you have reached this part, then here is where the story takes a bit of an upturn. The bloke who gave me the second 12XP lived nearby and met me at the priory. He gave me another camera which I will not take apart and will write about on another day. I think he felt sorry for me. Anyway, he mentioned the lens had a peculiarity. At the time I was thinking about the new camera and wasn’t really listening, then once he had left and I had time to wander some more and ponder some more. I then realised what he was trying to tell me.

The lens has a stop down system to aid focusing. That means you set the lens to the aperture you want, say f4 and the front will open fully and close to that aperture, stopping at the set aperture. Have a look at the red indicator dots…

The red dot closest to the end of the lens shows the set aperture of f4. The inner dot shows what the lens’ stop down system is actually set to, or so you would think.

OK, so let’s look at the photo on the right. You would think the lens is set to f4 and the aperture blades are also at f4. The dots are in the same position.

Right?…Nope. When the two dots are the same like this the aperture stopper is set to f4 but the blades are fully open at f2.

The photo on the left is the one where the lens is set to f4 and the aperture blades are actually at f4, the two dots are in different positions. If you only used the dots as a guide, your photos would be over exposed.

Luckily, I would be surprised if anyone uses the lens like that. When looking through the viewfinder, you would naturally close the aperture blades before taking the photo. You would focus in the brighter light and then close the aperture blades to darken the viewfinder before taking the photo.

Anyway, it is a lovely lens and I can’t wait to get some swirls. AND, I have learnt a valuable lesson. Always get your parts together before taking a camera apart. Of course, now I really want a Zenit XP12 😦

4 thoughts on “The Helios 44-2 2/58 Lens and Stupidity

  1. John says:

    Nice photos! (From one weirdo to another). Funnily enough I’ve been scanning film today from my own escapades with a Helios 44-2 and I love it! Like your photos, they’re nice and sharp with great contrast. Bokeh is more noticeable on film than digital, probably because the 35mm negative size is much bigger than the digital sensor. Still… I’ve had the Helios on digital this week and it’s turned out some brilliant pictures. The lens is an absolute gem. All in all, a great experience.

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