Mod: Autofocus Helios-44 for Nikon pt2

Hello, everybody! We are going to continue with our Autofocus Helios-44 project and you will now see the current evolution of this project lens. I have many responsibilities so I’m not going to work on this project regularly so updates will take some time but here it is!

If you recall in part 1, we tried using a zoom lens as the donor body so that we can use its zoom cam for macro mode but this failed miserably because there is no space inside for the huge objective of the Helios-44! While it was working OK, I decide that I want to have a better solution for this so I found a junk AF-Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 for little money to use as the donor body. I think that this is a better solution because f/1.8 isn’t too far from the f/2 maximum aperture of Helios-44. This will help us with the EXIF data. I doubt that there’s any difference the way the camera will meter with this lens because it’s a preset aperture lens so the camera will always meter though the lens in whatever aperture it was set.

IMG_5460I get plenty of stares from people who see this lens. It looks like the usual AF-Nikkor but there’s something strange with this lens which demands you to take a closer look. It’s like going to Thailand for a vacation, you will have to check if the woman you are hitting on’s the real deal and not a “kathoey”. The “farang” will fall for this but not us. I have a saying: Transvestites: more than meets the eye. A Helios in disguise, how novel is that!?

IMG_5441I have to remove the rear barrel part of the casing. It is not wide enough to accommodate the objective of the Helios-44. If you are transplanting an objective that can fit inside of it without any modifications then that is the ideal scenario. Some lenses may have a bigger inner diameter on this part so you will have to find this out for yourself.

IMG_5442This is how it looks like now everything has been trimmed off. This part is now kosher! It is still a bit too narrow so I had to widen the inner diameter even more, about 2mm-3mm wider than what you see here. Good thing that this is made of plastic so that was easy.

IMG_5443Now, here is the tricky part. The rear part of the inner barrel had to go,too. What made it tricky is I didn’t remove it from the rest of the lens barrel. To prevent fouling the helicoid with plastic shavings, I covered every opening leading to the threads with tape. The hole should be wide enough to accommodate the new objective. Again, if the new objective is small enough to fit inside the inner diameter of this part then just leave it alone.

IMG_5444The inner diameter of the rear baffles is too narrow for the objective of the Helios-44. The inner surface of the baffle had to be carefully ground to make the inner diameter wider. Be careful with this because the electronics on the other side may be damaged when you have removed too much material to reach the other side. I had a really close call that is why I’m warning you now. It was a very delicate task and some parts of the baffles is just a fraction of a millimeter thick! I would prefer not touching this but I need to make it fit.

IMG_5446Here is how the objective of the Helios-44 looks after I modified it by shaving away all of the excess material to make the overall diameter smaller. It was a long and tiring task to do it manually with a file, grinder, emery sticks and a pipe saw. The rear parts had to be shaved off to give me an extra 2mm of clearance so the mirror won’t hit it as it travels up and down. You can judge for yourself how much you need to remove and it will require plenty of trial and error. Notice the 2 black lines? These were made so I will know how much the iris’ post will travel as it opens or close.

IMG_5448Now, time to secure the objective to the front barrel! I secured it by tapping the holes for the screw to make a thread. I found that having 3 of these spaced as evenly as possible along the circumference of the collar to be ideal. How far in or out this thing should be is something that you will have to find for yourself by trial and error.

IMG_5447Here it is, I am almost done! What’s left is to adjust the infinity focus of this setup! Check the AF-Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 article to know how I calibrated this. One thing to note is that I have the lens focus past infinity slightly to compensate for any difference because this is a hack so the helicoids aren’t calculated precisely for the transplanted objective. As long as it can focus to infinity and it can focus closely then that’s all that matters. This is an AF lens so the camera is the one focusing this thing so whatever the scale says isn’t critical.

IMG_5460Here it is right now. The front baffles had to be modified to accept the wider diameter of of the new objective. I may have trimmed too much on this part so I will need to cover it somehow with something but that is a problem for another day. I am too busy to bother with this thing for now so I may work on this project again after a few months’ time.


I am going to leave this project for the time being but I will certainly work on this lens in the near future. Currently, this little thing cannot be stopped down because I didn’t mill a hole for the aperture coupling pillar. I forgot everything about it because I was too much in a hurry to finish this (I was excited). If ever I do fix this, I will update you guys with a part 3 of this series. This probably took me 2 nights to do and as a very busy person, this is too much time for me to spend on a side-project. I hope you understand.

The above video shows the lens in action. I have forgotten to mill a hole for the aperture coupling pillar so this lens cannot be stopped-down for now. I will get to that one day but for now I am happy with how this works. The AF is fast and sure!

(click to enlarge)

Here are some samples that I took with this “frankenlens”. While there is nothing to see here because it is basically the Helios-44, I am just showing these to you so that you can see that I can use this lens perfectly fine like any native Nikkor lens except for the fact it can’t stop-down for now. I had to take these pictures wide-open with my junk Nikon F60.

IMG_5576Here is my next project, an autofocusing Tessar 50/2.8! I got this junk lens from the used camera bazaar last week. I am not sure when I will have the time for this but I will post any updates here on the blog so keep coming back and see what’s new every day!

We are now at the end of another article! This one is a short one because I have not time to write the usual lens repair article; those take a considerable amount of time to write, I need to research about the lens and write essays about the lens along with shooting some sample photos for my readers to see. Of course, I cannot illustrate my point if there aren’t any sample pictures to show. How can I convince anybody with words alone when we’re talking about something as visual as photography here.

Thank you guys for the support! I have reluctantly paid Facebook $14.00 to show an ad for our companion Facebook PageClassic Nikon Maintenance and I was hoping that it will reach more people but it looks like it is attracting as much people as fruitcake on a Saint Valentine’s Day. Damn kid Mark Zuckerberg sure knows how to money! Anyway, see you again next time as I cover a special Nikon event tomorrow for you! Love, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my account ( Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.


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