There is an accessory shoe fitted on top of the pentaprism but it is not a “hot” shoe, flash connection being by way of a PC connector on the face of the camera.
Loading film is simple and easy. The back is hinged along one short side and the other short side is locked by a sliding catch. The rewind knob has to be pulled up to allow for the insertion of film the cassette and when pushed back in, locks the cassette in place. The film travels over the film plane, over two sprocket wheels and fits into a slot on the take up spool. Once the back is closed it is necessary to wind on two frames to place unfogged film behind the lens. At this point, you can set the film counter to zero.
Focussing is not as easy as with most manual SLRs of the period as the focussing screen is plain ground glass – no micro-prism, no split image – but it is certainly adequate.
The Helios-44 lens is very sharp and if stopped down to f8 the depth of field is more than capable of removing any defects in poor manual focusing.
When one is used to an automatic camera, it is easy to forget to manually stop down the lens before pressing the shutter release. To make focussing easier, the aperture ring has click stops at each f number but does not actually alter the aperture which remains wide open until the secondary aperture ring is turned after focussing. Once used to this camera, it becomes second nature and adds to the slowness of using this camera. I find that this slowing down to be useful as you are forced to be more considered in your actions and this leads to better pictures.