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40mm CFE or 903SWC


Which would be better, to get a 903SWC (w/ 38mm) or a 40mm CFE lens ? The 903 has excellent specs & reputation, but the camera is very basic. A 40mm on a suitable body would give more versatility on the camera side of the equation.
I am an SWC user.

Although SWC is very basic, it is able to focus considerable shorter distance than the 40mm lens. There are many exciting and interesting images happening in this shorter distance. Together with a better optical performance, this was the reason that I went for the SWC.

The situation was different in 24x36 format. C-Y 21mm was able to focus down to 0.22m. I am not sure why they did not make the 40mm hasselblad to focus nearer.
Robert, it depends on what kind of photography you are primarily interested in.

If it is more studied works, where you set up and take your time, such as landscapes, casual architectural images, or dramatic wide angle still lifes ... then the SWC is a great tool to have.
You can get the Hasselblad ground glass and various finders for critical focusing if desired ... although the depth-of-field of the 38, using hyper-focal-distance focusing also makes it useable for many other applications.

On the other hand, if you tend to shoot more spontaneously like street photography, weddings/events, general travel landscapes and such... then the 40 may serve you better.

I have both, and tend to get more use from the 40mm. This is because of the type work I tend to do, and that I need the 40 when using the CFV digital back that produces a 1.5X crop factor ... as opposed to optical considerations. Optically, the 38 is more highly corrected than the 40mm, and does focus closer ... although an 8mm extension tube will remedy that on the occasion you wanted to focus the 40 really close.
I had to make the same choice and finally decided on a CF40, for exactly the reason you mention. The difference in optical performance is not as great as some would have you believe and if you intend to do any close-up work, the TTL view afforded by the 40 is invaluable. The SWC is very appealing but less practical, in my opinion.
It very much depends on the intended use. I like the SWC as a compact lightweight travel camera e.g. for mountaineering. (please, somebody give me an Imacon scanner so that I can post pictures here ;-)

I like the SWC for its simplicity.
It easily outperforms anything else with the same AOV and gives me the Leica M feeling when I use it in a crowd.
No shutter/mirror noise to attract attention just point and shoot.
When set at 5,6 it is hyperfocal from 2m to infinity.

I like it so much that I started to collect these unique cameras.
It begins with the Supreme Wide Angle and after several model updates with little or no optical improvement ends with the 903 SWC.

Last weekend I took the oldest a 1954 SWA with a late 903 to compare image quality
with an extra effort to see how both perform with strong backlight situations.
I am sorry to say that against all marketing talk I could not detect
a significant improvement if any at all with the later camera.

For exact focusing and image control it needs a focusingscreen with viewing adapter.
That is to me the only disadvantage compared to the 40 mm CF lens.

It is a pity this camera is no longer listed by Hasselblad.


I think both would be the best option, however, the 40 CFE IF was my choice to use with my 203FE .2m close focusing to me is as Mark stated is easily overcome but not a concern of mine. The ease of use with my 203 was a primary factor for me. And, I don't have to change my shooting mode, if you will.

BTW-When I bought it 4 salesmen were very openly jealous.


Hi Robert,

What do you want to go and use the 40 versus SWC for? I opted for a CF40 myself. Maybe I need to borrow a SWC to use that camera and possibly appreciate that cameratype better. But for me the SLR viewfinder on a 500 camera with a CF40 outclasses the much more compact and lighter SWC. Even knowing that the SWC has the superior lens.

> That is partly my concern. The 40mm on a std body gives one access > to motor drive, remote trigger (if needed), 45 degree viewfinder, > etc etc All very handy and nice to have at times.
One is a speciality camera, the other is a general use kit.

There is no mirror box in the SWC, which allows a different kind of lens design. Sacrifices are made in one area to improve another.

Perhaps the historical experts here can elaborate on this question:

Was, and/or how long was, the Zeiss 38 Biogon available as a separate lens? I vaguely recall,
this in conjunction with an ALPA MF (a camera I aspire to to this day). Was it ever "generally" available, or was it just a special thing like for the ALPA?
Hi Robert,

Try an EL camera with a 40mm (preferably a C40), a 70mm magazine and a 45 gr viewfinder. First it is a perfect workout, secondly it scares the natives out of their wits.

True macho pro's could exchange the plain 70mm magazine for a 70/500 magazine, and maybe toss in the 500mm lens.


Kidding aside: SWC versus 40mm is something you really have to lay your hands on and experience what you like best. In case of severe indecisiveness: buy both. And a camel. To carry it all.

Further research on the Alpa website learned that the Biogon's were limited series, they are listed as "SOLD OUT". Looks like they built only 50 + 45 Biogons.

That is wahat I recall about the ALPA Biogon offer. Must have been a limited run or something.

That 24mm Schneider lens demands more attention and coddling than my wife does : -)

No T/S either.

That is a bad page to visit Wilko ... especially at Tax time in the USA.
Biogons were sold for a number of Linhof cameras as exchangable lenses.
The SWC is the only camera I know of that uses a Biogon as a lens
fixed to the body.
I don't know if you all agree with me in practice.

In theory, the 40mm IF CFE is significantly better than the non- IF version. It could be even better than the SWC Biogon. The only negative side with this lens is the weight.
> That brings up an interesting point...I was also looking at some of > the older 40mm Hasselblad lenses ( a $ is a $ after all) ...I have > several CF and CFis in other sizes, and really don't see all that > much difference in my "normal" shooting. I wonder where the 903swc > "break point" would be where the older 40mms are 'really' 'really' > visibly poorer?
Does it weigh more than the non IF version?>


Yes, the 40 weighs 890 grams and the IF 1130.

2.49 pounds: about 8 ounces more!

Get a workout while you shoot! What a great way to exercise albeit an expensive weight, but a much better performer.