Review Helios-123H 1.4 / 50 MS

For the opportunity review Helios-123H 1.4 / 50 Thanks to Alexander from the manual optics section.

Overview of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50

Overview of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50

TTX of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 / 50
Focal length: 50 mm
Diaphargma: F1.4-F16
Number of aperture blades: 7 pieces, matte gray
Optical design: 7 elements in 6 groups
The weight: 270g
MDF: 45sm
Front Filter Diameter: 52mm
Bayonet mount: H, similar to Nikon F ai-s type, installed on Nikon cameras without an adapter.

Note that MS Helios-123H 1.4/50 и Arsat 50mm 1: 1,4 H - the same lens with different names. Arsat 50mm 1: 1,4 H - newer version. After the collapse of the Soviet Union (possibly for other reasons), the Arsenal plant began to produce products under the Arsat brand. Lens Arsat 50mm 1: 1,4 H was a standard (whale) lens on cameras of the "Kiev" brand. On the lens you can find the inscription Made in Ukraine. I live in Kiev and I am pleased to realize the fact that lenses of this quality were produced in Ukraine.

View of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50 from different angles

View of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50 from different angles

The lens is very interesting for its huge aperture F1.4 and compatible with the Nikon Central Control Arm. Yes, MS Helios-123N just installed on Nikon. No adapters needed. At MS Helios-123H 1.4/50 The same mount (mount) as Nikon lenses. Lens AI-S such as the old and new modern native Nikon lenses, for example Nikon 50mm f / 1.4 AI-S. Old manual lenses (with manual focus) are interesting in that they can be used on other systems (on cameras from other manufacturers) without regret that autofocus will disappear. So, MS Helios-123N can be used without problems on Canon, Pentax cameras. How to use on Canon can be found in my article old lenses at canon. But modern autofocus lenses cannot be just as easily used on old cameras, as most lenses do not have manual iris control, and autofocus only works with native cameras. Roughly speaking, old lenses are more versatile in relation to different systems than modern ones, but working with old optics is much more difficult.

View of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50 on a modern camera

View of the lens Helios-123N 1.4 50 on a modern camera

The main features MS Helios-123N:

1. When working on modern digital-SLR cameras Nikon will operate semi-automatic aperture control - this means that the aperture will need to be set on the lens itself. When installed on a Nikon camera, MS Helios-123N the aperture will be constantly open, and it will close only when the shutter is released (when shooting). Almost all modern lenses work exactly the same way.. It is very comfortable. Using dandelion lushnikov it will be possible to achieve full automatic operation with the flesh lens until full automatic control of the diaphragm and pseudo-auto-focus.

Sample photo on Helios-123N

Sample photo on Helios-123N

2. Focusing is manual only. The focusing ring rotates almost 180 degrees. The trunk of the lens is lengthened by almost a centimeter. When focusing, all lenses in the lens unit move. The focusing ring is rubberized. It's easy to focus, nothing unusual for a poltininka.

Sample photo on Helios-123N 1: 1.4 50mm

Sample photo on Helios-123N 1: 1.4 50mm

3. The maximum aperture of the F1.4 lens. This is a kind of limit for lenses, since all lenses with an even larger aperture are super fast and their cost rises sharply. The aperture of F1.4 is 1.8 times lighter than F1.65. A lens with such aperture It will be easier take pictures with hand. Big aperture makes it very easy to control the depth of field. At MS Helios-123N unpaired number of aperture blades - 7 pieces. I have met models with 6 petals on the Internet. When closed, the petals form classic “nuts” in the out-of-focus area. Also, when the diaphragm is closed, it does not always form a regular heptagon, but a "curve".

Sample photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm

Sample photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm

4. The lens is well assembled, without backlash. Given that my instance number 9500419, the lens is over 17 years old and it works great. The first two digits in the number of a Soviet lens almost always indicate the year of manufacture, in this case - 1995.

Example photo on Helios-123N 1: 1.4 50mm

Example photo on Helios-123N 1: 1.4 50mm

5. The lens has multi-coating. EGF on Nikon DX cameras will correspond to 75mm, which can be used for portrait shooting. More details in the section on crop factor. Also, the lens Arsat 50mm 1: 1,4 H will work on full-frame cameras. However, I have not yet met fifty kopecks, which was developed only for DX cameras.

Sample photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm

Example photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm. Raindrops visible

Image quality:

Good sharpness begins after F2.8, the lens suffers from spherical aberrations on open apertures (the edges of the contrast elements are blurred). HA 1.4 strongly affect the image. HA disappear at F2.8. For example, fast Nikon 50mm F1.2 is losing HA already at F2.0, but its cost is also much higher. Aberrations are the main problem high-aperture lenses. The lens has very little distortion (there is practically no distortion on the crop). Crop vignetting disappears at F2.8. The color rendering of the Helios-123N lens is normal, there is no characteristic “bottle tint”. The contrast at fully open aperture could be better, the contrast increases with closing the aperture. At F4.0-F8.0, the lens is very sharp. It is hardly possible to distinguish by eye the work of fifty dollars with closed diaphragms. The lens bokeh is excellent. Discs in the blur zone are well-defined with a thin edging, blurring is smooth. Unlike the legendary Helios-81H, Helios-123H does not spin the bokeh. On aperture 1.4, strong software, on such aperture you can get good portraits. In general, image quality could be better. Perhaps I have not the most successful instance, but the lens looks great in appearance.

Sample photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm

Sample photos on ARSAT H 1: 1.4 50mm

Sample photos on the lens Helios-123N 1.4 / 50 (Examples of photos on Arsat 50mm 1: 1,4 H)

All sample photos were taken on camera. Nikon D200. All examples of photographs in this review are without processing (auto-level during conversion, since the lens has a little contrast on open apertures). I shoot in RAW, then convert to JPEG with Q80% quality and downsize to 1600 * 1200 and imprinting data with EXIF module. If you think that it will be more difficult to shoot with a simpler camera without exposure metering, just take a look at the Helios-81N gallery, everything was filmed there with a simple one Nikon D40below which nothing is found.

Comparison with cheap autofocus fix Nikon 50mm F1.8D

As it turned out, Helios-123N has a slightly wider viewing angle than a 50mm lens. I compared on aperture F2.0. The sharpness cannot be distinguished by eye. And the funny thing is that Helios turned out to be a little lighter on F2.0 than Nikon 50mm F1.8D @ F2.0, about 1/3 stops, which can be clearly seen from the histogram on my camera.

The difference in viewing angle. Taken from a tripod with the same settings

The difference in viewing angle. Taken from a tripod with the same settings

Personal impressions and recommendations:

I liked the lens. Unlike many Soviet lenses, it gives a normal color rendering and has a completely normal bokeh pattern. If you are looking for an interesting and inexpensive Soviet fifty-kopeck piece for Nikon, then you won't find anything better than the Helios-81n. At the same time, Helios-81H gives an interesting "twisted" bokeh, in contrast to Helios-123H. True, not everyone likes the "twist" of the Helios. In any case, Helios-123N still has a huge aperture.

1.4 depth of field is very shallow

1.4 depth of field is very shallow

Helios-123N MC is one of not many Soviet lenses with such a large aperture F1.4. This is even more than that of the legendary aperture Helios-40-2. It so happened that lenses with F1.4 can be counted on the fingers. If you do not even talk about the focal length, then with such aperture there are only the following Soviet lenses:

  1. Mir-46 35mm F1.4
  2. MS Zenitar-K 85mm F1.4 (MS Helionar-1 1.4 / 85)
  3. MS Wave-4 50mm F1.4
  4. MC Zenitar MA 50mm F1.4

The rest either remained in prototypes, or I simply did not find them. So Helios-123N is one of the five fastest lenses from the Soviet Union and the CIS countries.

Sharpness on Helios-123H F1.4 without processing, crop 1 to 1, quality compression 100%

Sharpness on Helios-123H F1.4 without processing, crop 1 to 1, compression quality 100%

For publicity: if you are interested in Helios-123N or old optics, you can purchase it by contacting the contacts from the manual optics section.

Sample photo on Helios-123

Sample photo on Helios-123

Comments on this post do not require registration. Anyone can leave a comment. Many different photographic equipment can be found on AliExpress.


MC Helios-123N is a standard lens with a huge aperture. On open apertures up to 2.8, a soft effect appears due to aberrations; open apertures can be used for portraiture. Compatibility with modern Nikon cameras makes the lens very attractive to use. The lens can serve as a creative tool for the photographer.

Familiarity with the Soviet Helios brand lenses I recommend starting with an inexpensive and common lens Helios-44-2 2/58 (aka HELIOS-44-2 2/58). The following links can look at modern lenses Zenitar и HELIOS.

Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comments: 71 on the topic: Overview of Helios-123H 1.4 / 50

  • Alex de Kairoy

    If you compare it (ARSAT H 50 / 1.4) and Nikon 50 / 1.4 MF, then what is preferable?
    it is clear that arsat does not need to be redone, this is easy, but how do you think Arkady, in your subjective opinion, which is better in terms of its optical characteristics?

    • 10111

      Nikkor makes absolutely any Soviet fifty dollars in all respects. I write “does”, not “better”.

  • Alexander

    Tell me the cost of Zenitar 50 / 1,4

    • Eugene

      A huge pile of money. But it’s more likely that you will never find it at all.

    • Nicholas

      100 €

  • anonym

    The review is excellent, but I wonder if the author constantly removes his “Favorite”? (And not very photogenic), or there are no other models?

    • Lynx

      Stupid things.

      • anonym

        absolutely not stupid, I support. Constantly the same .. and not so hot.

    • Kiev-Vyshgorod

      Offer the author "yours" for use ...!
      What problems ?! "Your" then YOU will definitely like it ... ??? !!!


    • Eugen

      I do not agree, the model is beautiful. Especially here.

    • volodia

      silly like that, obviously you don’t have many brains
      photogenic not photogenic - to each his own. I go to read the review to see the bokeh and who is in the frame I just do not care - even a monkey. good model!
      in order to show off, you first have to do something yourself - first, at least get up from the sofa, otherwise the armies of the sofa have long been overcrowded

      • Valery A.

        That ungrateful and rude boor.

  • Alexey

    Good day. The question is not on this topic. I take a photo on the Nikon D5200. But lately there has been a great need for making videos. Necessary wide angle, good aperture and stabilization. I’m shooting reviews for my son on YouTube channel: in the evening, in the afternoon on the move, etc. Please advise what is the best lens for making videos? Thank you in advance!

    • anonym

      Sigma AF 18-35mm f / 1.8 DC HSM

  • Removewat

    But why didn’t you mention the M42 Helios-44M-x, one of the most famous portrait painters on the crop, producing excellent twisted bokeh? One of my favorite lenses, by the way.

    • Rodion

      But how did you deign to see a bunch of reviews of these 44's on this site?

      • Kiev-Vyshgorod

        Laughing…. !!!! Shaitan….

  • Dmitriy

    I had such a fifty dollar - alas, it broke mechanically (terrible build quality). As far as I understand, this is a successful copy of the Nikkor 50 / 1.4 non-Ai six-lens symmetric anastigmata of the early 70s. And the Arsat 100 / 2.8 is no less successful copying of the Nikorr series E, which surpasses the legendary Nikkor 105 / 2.5 in sharpness. At one time, completely foolishly, I sold it. Nikkor 105, then acquired, although it belongs to the professional class, has a masterpiece quality of mechanics, but the optics is such that its actual working diaphragms are from 3,2 (half between 2,5 and 4) to 5,6. And further on the figure, diffraction spoils the contrast already from 8, after 11 the resolution drops ugly. AF DC 105/2 behaves similarly and strongly dislikes backlighting. But Arsat 100 / 2,8 is sharp in the center with an open one - only on the edges of the software gives. They did not shoot them on closed films. The progenitor of its 100mm series E, produced by Cosina for Nikon, does not give diffraction scattering at all up to f800 on the 8th Nikon. So sharp that at least set the reproduction setting

  • Ilya

    Where to buy it?

    • Rodion

      Already nowhere - a rare lens. But don't worry - even this system has better solutions.

      • Ilya

        It's a pity, of course, I want to collect the Arsenal optics park for Kiev 19 (and Nikon's number).
        As far as I understand, only Granite, Kaleinar and Mir can be really obtained (except for g81)

        • Stepan

          Be careful when placing the "Kiev" optics on Nikon - sometimes it is tightly jammed and then cannot be removed.

          • A_Lex

            I also came across, and I think I found the cause. On some H-lenses, there is no screw limiter in the frame, and if the lens is turned in the opposite direction when removing it, the diaphragm driver will jam in the drive and it becomes impossible to remove the lens. It seems that the owners of "Kiev" unscrewed this screw, but why - it is not clear. I have two of these - Kaleinar and Mir, both came from the same owner. There is a thread for this screw in them.

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