I bought the Helios m44 lens some time ago and eventually made it work on my Canon EOS 40D by screwing it on an adaptor ring with an autofocus confirmation chip.
I was so touched to see it came to life on the EOS 40D. It just like the grandfather reunion with the lost grandson.
In the first few shots taken by the Helios m44, I found it was not bad at all in terms the color, sharpness and contrast.
I compared its performance with my old companion – Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM.
The first thing to find out is how “swirl” the bokeh produced by the Helios m44 could be. The two pictures below were taken by the Canon and the Helios. The apertures were both set to f2.
How do you like the swirl background at the far end of the picture?
I randomly took some photos along the street and found the flaring of Helios was quite significant.
By then the lens could work happily under bright light.
The macro was also impressive.
The same yellow flower was taken by the Canon and Helios lens at a different angle.
You may be able to tell the upper photo was taken by the Helios from the swirl bokeh. In terms of picture quality, the $300 Canon EF lens could hardly outperform the $30 Helios m44 by 10x.
In black and white, the Helios is equally impressive.
Again, the upper one is taken by the Helios. The bokeh light patches are oval. The Canon, at the bottom, gives circular light patches. The sharpness and contrast of the two lenses are just too close for the Canon to justify is price tag. Yeah, I know the Canon is a super fast auto focusing lens with ultrasound motor and the Helios is a grandfather lens with only manual option.
The Helios m44 is an over-produced lens. They are floating around in the second hand market excessively. There are a series of seven models spanned in its production life. The characteristics of each model is slightly different. You may find detailed comparison at Camerpedia.
jr photography shows great bokeh photos of the Helios m44.