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Lens choice


New Member
I am looking to buy a 50mm Distagon of some flavor, but am torn on the variants available. I used to own an older C non T* version, but got rid of that outfit years ago to fund a 4x5. Now I am full circle back in the 'Blad game, and am looking to get a newer 50mm distagon. I am torn between a CF either FLE or non, or a CFI version. However, are the FLE variants really that much better? I know they give you the ability to control image sharpness at certain focus distances, but are they truly worth the extra investment? Obviously hasselblad does think they make a difference, but what can I expect to see difference wise in my images? Will it be an easy thing to spot, or only with lab testing equipment? I have looked at various options and the CF FLE is likely the route I will take. Not sure that a CFI version will buy me anything more or not? Can someone please advise on this choice? I am also seeing two methods for using the FLE focusing. I have heard of folks that set this first, then compose and focus. Then others that focus, then set the FLE to that correct distance afterwards. On a related note, if you are using hyperfocal focusing to get more of your subject in focus, how do you set the FLE in that scenario? Sorry for all the questions. I did do a search but did not find answer to my last question especially.

IMHO..50mm CF FLE is the "best bang for buck". Just a quick look at prices..A CF is ~ $200 more than a C; FLE ~ $100 more than a CF; and CFI ~ $400 more than FLE.

I am also torned by the choices of the 60 mm CFi or the 50 mm Cfi, the 60 mm does not have floating element and the 50 mm has this feature. However, the 60 mm is less distorted than the 50 mm. The other reason that I just bought the 60 mm CFi instead of the CF version is due to the flare control of the newly internal flare resistance mechanism. My 60 mm CFi will arrived at the end of this week and I will test it against my Contax 645 Distagon T* 3.5/55 for flare and resolving power but likely only the flare will be the determinant on my interest.
Stephen, thanks for your response. I can see many price variants as well. Right now, I've got my eye on a CFI/FLE in the $1200 price range. I edited my original post to ask an additional question related to hyperfocal distances with FLE lenses. If I stopped down to F22 to get everything from infinity back to 5 yards in focus, where would I set FLE? Infinity or otherwise?
You would set the FLE to match the point you are actually focusing on. So if that object is three feet away, this is where you set the FLE. If you focus 12 or more feet away, the FLE would be set a infinity. Remember to set the FLE first and then do your fine focusing. Not the reverse.
Remember that DOF is acceptable unsharpness.
The FLE setting is to maximize the performance in the bit that is sharp.

Using hyperfocal focussing, what bit will indeed be in focus, and not just be unsharp-in-an-acceptable-way, will be left to chance.
What a waste of a good lens... And who likes images without a definite subject, without a focal point?
So my advice about hyperfocal focussing: don't.
I have both the CF 50mm FLE and CF 60mm. To my eyes they have very different "looks".

The 50mm FLE version is a wonderful lens - superbly sharp and very well corrected. Indeed the 60mm is also a wonderful lens and very very distortion free to the eye.

The 60mm I added for different purposes; a good wide-standard lens like a 35mm on a Leica-M camera. It has size and weight and slight widest aperture advantages over the 50mm; and just suits different purposes.

I was interested in QG's comment on hyper-focal distance focusing - not doing it. I actually recall him saying that once before quite a time ago, so gave his approach a go. I must say that I am now more of that opinion now that I have been using wider lenses much more in the past 5 years. When I take the time say in the bush I now revert to his point of view about such focusing and I think my image quality is better - technically and visually. Give it a try and even compare the 2 approaches.
Q.G. de Bakker can you explain Using hyperfocal focussing, what bit will indeed be in focus, and not just be unsharp-in-an-acceptable-way, will be left to chance.
What a waste of a good lens... And who likes images without a definite subject, without a focal point?
So my advice about hyperfocal focussing: don't.

a bit more ?

do you speak about landscape photography , or any photography ?

thank you

Any photography.

First, you must remember that there will be only one (!) distance a lens can be focussed on 'simultaneously'.
Everything in front and behind that will be unsharp, no matter how 'acceptable' some people might think that unsharpness is.

Hyperfocal focussing does not look at the scene in front of the camera, does not decide what the main focal point of the scene is, nor how that relates to other parts of the scene.
It cannot decide what should be sharp.

Instead, a couple of mathematical formulae are used to calculate what distance the lens should be set to to achieve maximum 'acceptable unsharpness' (the thing people call depth of field).

Whatever thing in the scene might be at the resulting distance is not even considered, but completely left to chance. It being the picture's main subject is highly unlikely (and that's an understatement).

So you end up with photos that do not have a definite main subject, or if they do, a main subject that is not in focus.

Though not strictly 'hyperfocal focussing', the technique usually also involves attempts to maximize the range of 'acceptable unsharpness'.
That involves stopping down the lens too: another way to squander what a good lens is capable of.
Yes, the range of 'acceptable unsharpness' will increase.
But with it, the maximum sharpness will decrease. (And with that, the difference between in and out of focus is decreased, seemingly increasing DOF even more. Now isn't that nice?!

Landscape photography is indeed the 'realm of hyperfocal focussing', though not exclusively so.
And indeed, many landscape photographs (try to) show everything 'in focus' (i.e. a level of being out of focus the photographer deemed acceptable, all in the cause of not having to choose a definite subject), from the daisies at the photographer's feet to the mountain tops in the far distance.
Not only a waste of a good lens, but usually boring beyond believe!

So there are two reasons not to get involved in the practice of hyperfocal focussing:
1) A technical one:
- the bits that are supposed to be inside DOF are not sharp;
- DOF is a fickle thing, not set in stone the moment you click the shutter, but still changing with print size and/or viewing distance, long after the aperture has been selected, and the hyperfocal distance set;
- the practice of increasing DOF to its maximum lowers the maximum sharpness a lens is capable of producing;
- true sharpness is assigned by formulae to somewhere and something, that will not be the thing you want to be truly sharp.

2) A creative one:
- Focus is a tool to direct attention to the subject of your photograph. Trying to get as much in focus as possible will tell the viewers of your photograph that you could not decide on a subject, or that you think everything is equally important.
- DOF is not a tool to get as much in focus as possible, but to define a relationship between your definite subject (the thing you will deliberately put in focus) and the rest of the scene. Stopping down or opening up the diaphragm changes the visual relationship significantly, providing a very important expressive tool.
Hyperfocal focussing ignores this completely, only trying to get as much in focus as possible, i.e. trying to make as much appear to be equally important as possible.
thank you for you long and precise reply Qnu
your point of view is very interresting and instructive
... but
could you call Ansel Adams photography boring beyond believe ?

that is why I was making a (big) difference between photography and landscape photography
in that kind of photography (landscape) the most interresting (for me of course) is not having a main subject, but lines and composition all-in-one, all at the same level

Believe it or not, but yes,: sometimes AA's pictures are indeed "boring beyond believe".
Their most prominent feature often is the superb tonality of the B&W prints, not the subject matter, nor how or where the lens was focussed.

AA also was rather good at composing, i.e. placing areas of different tone in a frame, relative to each other in a way that is striking/pleasing/aggressive/etc.

That too is not about subject matter nor focussing, but rather 'abstract'/non-figurative already.

Focussing is about drawing attention to one particular thing in the scene.
Using DOF is about creating/showing a relation between that bit and the rest of the scene. (Which of course can also (as in: in addition to; not in stead of) be done using the arrangement of 'bits', i.e. composition.)
Hyperfocal focussing is about not caring about that at all.
Rufus, if you are working with digital files (either film scans or digital capture), there are new applications of technology that allow what is being termed "hyper real" renditions of any photographic still scene. Perhaps something you would be interested in for landscape work.

Photographers are shooting scenes such as landscapes, commercial tabletop, and even urban scenes, using a lens' best f stop and shifting the focus plane in a number of shots then layering them in Photoshop CS3 using the new "auto align layers function". This function is quite amazing.

You can see how it works at:

I've used this function for commercial images where I did want to stop down the lens beyond
f/5.6 or f/8 ... but needed a very realistic sense of sharpness front to back greater than f/5.6 or f/8 would provide.
thank you Marc
I know of course,and use, that function (auto align + auto blend ) in CS3, you can see Russel Brown website too for good demo

a few software like Helicon for focus or Photomatix for HDR are doing good job

for landscape photography I am using different focus, there is no real needs for hyperfocal in that case and I can keep my lenses at the best aperture for them (f/8, f/11)

I am working in publicity and I need very often sharpness + focus from the front to the back
Rufus, if you get a minute free, take a look at the work of Gregory Crewdson for some interesting hyper real modern works with front to back focus that is hardly "boring".
yes very interresting ! Marc do you thing he is using diffent (2 or 3) focus ?
I can't find his personal website
Actually it was a suggestion on another web site I read made up of professional photographers ... they are currently discussing this very subject of hype realism, and there are a lot of ex&les being suggested. I assume this link was provided because the technique being discussed is that layering function using multiple focus points. But I don't know for sure that this specific guy does it that way ... I just assumed he did based on the discussion.
A very nice hyperfocal discussion , indeed .

The hyperfocal "process" is not new . I use it since I work with HASSELBLAD cameras , and thats more than 35 years now .

Merging four , five or even more images , which are not easy to capture (camera must not move in between , correct focus setting for the different images , etc.) with CS3 is relatively new and a nice procedure .

But that brings me to a point , where I believe , that many photographers are addicted to the digital process and forgot about the good old view cameras , like LINHOF , SINAR , ARCASWISS and many others .

Many , might be not all shooting situations , can easily be solved by a correct tilt of the front lensboard , and you gain a DOF , with just one shot and in most cases with the desired aperture setting .

But , why doing it the easy way , if it can also be done much more complicated .