HELIOS-44 lenses Bokeh Page

There are many discussions on the web about the Bokeh of the different Helios 44 lenses. Some are said to be much better than others and they fetch higher to fancy prices. As I had 6 different helios 44 at hand, I did a test. I also tested a 103, a modern replacement for the old 44. So you can judge yourself.

Some pictures:

The lenses tested. Upper row: 44M, 44 2nd lens, 44. In between: 103. Lower row: 44M-6, 44M-4, 44-3.

Sample pictures: You may click on the sample image for full resolution. The full resolution image opens in a new window, so you can keep it open for comparison. Focus is on the eyes of the toy elephant. The photos were taken in the shade. The bue cast comes from the A7 daylight setting.

F2 F4 F8 F16
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F2 F4 F8 F16

These lenses were sold with Zenit SLR cameras. The old Zenit version can be found for moderate prices because of the compatibility problem, it's nevertheless a very decent lens. They are single-coated and often have some scratches.
The old M39 Zenit Mount is the same thread as ordinary M39 (Leica), but  a different flange focal distance. Please refer to the russian lens page. The other versions vary a lot price wise. The later Helios 44 M series lenses were classed from M with the lowest resolution (38/19 lpmm) to M-7 (50/30 lpmm, a bit hard to find). The M-4 has 41/20 lpmm, the M-6 has 45/25 lpmm, but I could not see much of a difference.

I have looked at the bokeh. This is my personal judgement, but as there it's also a question of taste, please judge yourself. All Helios lenses have a nice bokeh at F2 and until F4. The old 44 lenses are the softest, they have a "ringy" bokeh, very nice, my 2nd lens is even a bit softer than the first one. The M has a similar fine bokeh, but has some flare at F8 and higher. The 44-3 lens has a fine, "ringy" to "leafy" bokeh, the lens has more contrast than the first 3 lenses. The M4 is fine as well, it has good contrast. The M6 has a less "ringy" bokeh, it's kind of "feathery", but very nice if you prefer this. Its contrast is very good. The 103 is similar to the M6 and has even slightly more contrast and detail.