I Picked up this old gem on eBay for $25. It's a Helios 44-2, manufactured years ago in the USSR under many different companies.
It's in absolutely pristine condition, with no scratches or wear. The glass is clean and scratch free, no fungus, and no oil on the aperture blades. This thing is seriously in perfect condition.
I'm going to have a helluva lot of fun playing with it, since it's 100% manually operated, with no autofocus. It'll be a great tool to get out of using Aperture Priority mode and really learn how to use my camera's full-time manual mode.
It's mountable on most of the newer lines of cameras, Canon's EOS included. It's a simple screwmount, adapted easily with a $5 adapter from eBay.
After doing a little more digging, I found out some more about some of the companies that manufactured the Helios 44 series of lenses. The little symbol found near the glass shown in the picture is the logo of the factory that manufactured the lens. This one in particular was made in Valdai. I found this paragraph online:
Valdai Optical- Mechanical Factory Valdai (may be cur rently known as Valdayskaya) is located about 250 miles NW of Moscow. Very little is known of this plant, but it has been a prolif ic producer of lenses for KMZ, and Zenit BelOMO. The SLR lenses bear the Helios name, and this plant has also produced many accessory lenses for RF cameras. For many years, this plant con fused collectors, who dubbed it "Shishkebab Factory". Current status unknown.
The following is the very first shot I've taken with this lens. It was tricky nailing the focus with such a small viewfinder, but it was extremely satisfying when I got the shot I wanted.
The lens has proven so far to be incredibly sharp, especially with the aperture stopped down to 3.5 and beyond. Contrast and colors look great!
The satisfaction you feel when getting "the shot" is tenfold with one of these old manual focus lenses. It feels much more rewarding.
My conclusion? Best $35 of camera equipment I ever bought. They can be had for Canon and Nikon cameras alike, all you need is a simple M42 adapter ($5 on eBay). If you've got the patience to really sit down and shoot manually, head to eBay and get one!