HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 review with Contax-Kiev RF mount

The HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 lens shown in this review was presented to Igor Burkov by Radozhive. I express my deep gratitude to Igor for such project assistance. The lens was sold and the funds credited here.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 review with Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 review with Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 is a standard lens for rangefinder cameras of the 'Kiev' brand. Nowadays it is very easy to find it at flea markets, but, due to its specific mount, it is not of great value.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 from this review has an internal mount Contax-Kiev RF and, unlike lenses with an external mount Contax-Kiev RF, does not have a focusing ring, depth of field scale and focusing distance scale. You can find a lot of useful information about the unusual Contax-Kiev RF bayonet in the review JUPITER-11 1: 4 F = 13,5cm P with external mount Contax-Kiev RF.

My HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 has a serial number of 8143748 and is manufactured at the Arsenal plant (Kiev, Ukraine, judging by the logo). The filter thread is slightly bent, but the optics are normal, without scuffs or any other damage. Like the rest of the rangefinder "fifty kopecks", HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 is small, weighing 150 grams. Like many Soviet lenses with Contax-Kiev mount, the diameter of the front thread for the filter is 40.5 mm.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

Due to the fact that HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with an internal mount Contax-Kiev RF does not have a focusing ring, it is difficult for it to make an adapter for modern digital cameras. In addition, HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 is a rangefinder lens, and therefore its use as a classic photographic lens is available only on rangefinder or modern mirrorless cameras. On SLR cameras HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with Contax-Kiev RF mount can only be used as a macro lens. I tested HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 on a full frame mirrorless system camera Sony a7, using a homemade adapter from the Contax-Kiev RF mount to the Sony E mount. My homemade adapter is made from the mount part of the Kiev camera and the adapter M39 - Sony E.

Dimensions HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with Contax-Kiev RF mount

Dimensions HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 has one diaphragm control ring. The ring rotates with a click. You can set one of the values ​​of F / 1.8, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. The maximum aperture ratio of 1: 1.8 is only 1.23 times larger than the 1: 2 value used with a similar lens - JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm P. And 1.44 is less than the 1: 1.5 value used by JUPITER-3 1,5/50. Aperture has 9 petals, while you can get pretty even circles in the blur zone (closed f / 2.8 example) The diaphragm's petals are gray, when diaphragmed on the petals, developed bare metal areas appear that reflect light.

While working with the lens, I constantly happened to confuse the focus rings and aperture to the touch, which did not improve my mood :(.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

As far as I know, HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 was not produced in a version for a threaded connection, but only for a Contax-Kiev RF bayonet. I met information that there is a version of the lens under a different name - Helios-103 2/50, but I could not even find pictures of the lens, whose name is written in Latin letters.

There are two versions of HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a slightly modified design of the case, the main difference of which is the different ribbed surface of the diaphragm control ring. And it's rather interesting that from 1993 to 1994 HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 was produced under the name Menopta 1.8 / 53, without the Arsenal plant logo.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 aperture lens petals with Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 aperture lens petals with Contax-Kiev RF mount

In its optical scheme, HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 uses 6 lenses in 4 groups. Personally, I do not know from which lens the lens was copied or recounted. Please share reliable information on this in the comments.

JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm П with Contax-Kiev RF mount and HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with Contax-Kiev RF mount

JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm P with mount Contax-Kiev RF and HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 circles of blur at the edges and corners of the frame turn into limonchiki.

JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm P HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

Lens enlightenment JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm P and HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

On the open diaphragm, HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 is noticeably sharper than JUPITER-8 1: 2 F = 5cm P. And Helios-103 is not so afraid of flare. That's just a pity, his bokeh visually looks worse than that of JUPITER-8.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount mounted on a makeshift adapter.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 has a simple chemical enlightenment cast on the front lens with a lilac hue. The lens does not really like side and backlight.

Source files can download from this link (29 photos in '.ARW' format, 550 MB). In the gallery, all photos without processing, the usual reduced on-camera JPEG from the camera Sony a7... Pictures of birds were captured in APS-C size shooting mode.

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount on a Sony a7 camera

HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with a Contax-Kiev RF mount on a Sony ILCE-7 camera (Alpha 7)

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


HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 is a good rangefinder fifty dollars, it's a pity, such lenses are unsuitable for use on SLR cameras.

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: 105, on the topic: Overview of HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 with mount Contax-Kiev RF

  • anonym

    I make an adapter from plastic to micro 4/3 (Olympus, Panasonic). The adapter consists of two parts, in one the lens is fixed, the other with a micro 4/3 mount. Focusing occurs by screwing and twisting one part from another. If anyone is interested in acquiring write mezhevskiy@mail.ru.

  • anonym

    Thank you for a very objective detailed article about this lens. It is very interesting and informative.

    • Rodion

      Here, perhaps, the only normal reviews on the Contax RF optics.

  • Vladislav Almazkin

    I use it for macro shooting, I really like it. I use by gluing a macro ring M42 + adapter to Nikon.

  • Victor

    Good afternoon, Arkady! What can you say about this adapter: http://photar.ru/eshhyo-bolshe-adapterov-dlya-sony-e/ ? The Nikon S seems to have been copied from Contax too - so maybe such optics will finally be able to give a second life?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      May fit

  • anonym

    I heard once at a lecture on photography at the Polytechnic that this is an inverted projection lens from a slide projector, so sharp.

    • Edward

      Don't talk nonsense. This is Helios according to the Gauss scheme, a copy of the German Planar

  • Dimentium

    Thanks for the sensible review.

  • Nick

    This is horror, so much about stolen, scoops and so on. Please delete my comment along with the trash. I was looking for rangefinder lenses, as I plunged into the garbage of a politota.

    • Andrei

      Write a comment to ask to delete a comment in it? To the hospital, urgently! As a victim of politota)))

  • Yana

    Good afternoon. You write that these lenses were not manufactured on the thread. So: I have such a Helios with an M42 thread :) Maybe the copy is just redone, because thread metal is slightly different in color.

    Also, a question for you: you write “constantly happened to confuse the focus ring and aperture by touch”, although it does not have a focus ring. Because of what I manage to find focus only at one point (a little more than a meter from the object). The frames are narrow, for a portrait (on my cropped canon) - generally quite cramped, more suitable for subject shooting. Street shots, as in your examples, will definitely not work - they will be out of focus. What am I doing wrong?

    • B. R. P.

      Focus ring on a homemade adapter made from part of a film camera mount. What are you doing wrong? - use a rangefinder lens on a SLR camera, because of this, shooting only in the macro range (a large difference in flange focal lengths).

  • Andrei

    They forgot to mention that Helios 103 has one of the highest resolution among Soviet lenses. Today, on various trading platforms, you can find inexpensive adapters for most mirrorless cameras at very low cost - they are made mainly from old Kiev in Ukraine and Poland. Quite high quality ones come across. Through this adapter, on full-frame Sonya, for example, the lens is quite good - sharp, “concrete”, while drawing a portrait well (still 53 / 1,8 in a full frame!) But you need to carefully choose the background - with a pockmarked or variegated background bokeh is nervous. But this can also be used for artistic purposes. In general, on the camera under which it was made - Kiev 4m lens is good, especially on slide film. And the most interesting thing is that the color rendering is quite modern.

    • Rodion

      Honestly, I did not particularly find the listed advantages in this lens, except for bokeh (and whether it is an advantage is also a question). The resolution does not differ much from Helios-44 in the center, along the edge of 103 it is better, of course, somewhat. Enlightenment at the lens is useless at all - it does not cope with light, gives a dense veil and bad gray color. At the same time, his lenses are blackened and all that ... Presumably, 81H is better.

  • Nikolay Antoshchak

    Hello! Can you please tell me if there is a possibility to install Helios 103 1.8 / 53 with Kiev Contax RF mount on a Nikon d610 full-frame DSLR? Are there migrants or is it impossible?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Does not exist. Even if you make an adapter, it will only work in macro mode

  • Edward

    “… In its optical scheme HELIOS-103 1.8 / 53 uses 6 lenses in 4 groups. Personally, I don’t know from which lens it was copied “… strangely I thought you knew .. According to the optical scheme, it is a semi-symmetric anastigmat of the“ double Gauss ”type, including six lenses in four groups. Soviet version of the German lens "Zeiss Planar", a brother of the mirror Helios -44

    • Rodion

      A schematic diagram a la planar and a copy of a planar are two different things.

  • Ken

    I agree with you over this lens it is simply superb. There have been several people guessing as to the origins of this lens. A Summitar copy, Sonnar copy and a new design from the Soviets. After a lot of searching I found a cross-section of this lens. Malcolm Taylor (Leica expert) is a friend of mine, so I sent a copy to him. Without hesitation he told me that it was in fact a version 3 Summicron made by Leica from 1969-79. According to Leica no arrangement had been agreed upon. They just copied it without asking or maybe the patent ran out. They will have recalculated it to get it to f1.8 and to suit the glass that the Soviets had access to

    • B. R. P.

      Perhaps this is a copy of Summitar or Sonnar, but the optical glass is Soviet inside.

      • Rodion

        Yes, my God, this is the usual double Gauss 6/4, what is there to copy? In the USSR, even in the 30s, they themselves considered this without any problems. If this is a copy of something there, then what about a carload of other similar lenses?

  • Willi

    I used to slaughter an old not anymore working Kiev for my adapter and a Nikon-S-adapter to Fuji-X. It works quite well for my Contax/ Kiev-lenses: Helios 103, Sonnar 2/50 and Jupiter 8 2/50. I love using these small lenses on my Fuji X-T3. My adapter has got a little helicoid function which is very helpful for taking photos of blossoms.
    Maybe my comment is a little late in April 2023 but I'd like to recommend the Contax lenses for beautiful vintage photos.
    Today everyone can take a perfect photo, sharp from corner to corner, no flares no distortion. A characterful picture is easy to make only with a vintage lens.

    • Rodion

      What could you say about Helios-103? Do you like it more than Helios-44? And could you compare Jupiter-8 with original Sonnar 50/2?

  • Willi

    hello rodin,
    I used to check all three lenses. Both the original Sonnar (1959) and the Jupiter 8 (1963) are very similar in my photos. Both are with aperture 2 not really sharp. (I had 2 Jupiter 8 with M39 too, with the same weak sharpness with fully open aperture.)
    The Helios 103 is very similar to the Helios 44-2. Both show the swirly bokeh and both are with a better sharpness with fully open Aperture. The Helios 103 is like the Helios 44, a double Gauss type like the famous German Zeiss Biotar.


  • Willi

    hello rodion,
    By the way, the Sonnar and the Jupiter 8 are both Sonnar types with very identical optical properties and quality. And as I wrote above, the Helios 103 is a Biotar type.

  • Khoz

    But purely theoretically, can someone tell me, a newbie. There is the Nikon F flange and there is the Helios 103. Purely in theory, should the lens be moved further away from the mirror so that the flange is closer to the correct one, or should it be moved closer to the mirror? Can anyone answer briefly?

    And further. Here a couple of people wrote that they use the lens on Nikon F. Someone with M42 macro rings + an adapter for Nikon, someone with a converted shank for M42 and apparently + an adapter for Nikon.

    In two cases it is impossible to focus. But, you can find a segment in the sharpness zone and place the subject there, even if we are talking about macro. Those. focus by moving the camera back and forth. And as an addition, adjust the depth of field using the aperture.

    Is it possible?

    Why am I asking? It is clear that this is nonsense, but purely for the sake of experiment, it is possible to use the lens in this way exclusively for a very, very rare, very narrow purpose. The new guy is just lying idle, at least somehow breathe life into it, at least for one photo.

    Thank you!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Only macro.
      Boo. Sony NEX 3n for $50 will help breathe new life.

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