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Lens version optical improvements CF v CFei


Active Member
I wonder if anyone is knowledgeable about the technical and "visible" imaging quality differences between specific Hasselblad/Zeiss focal lengths in CF and CFe/i versions.

Usually one expects later versions to have improvements over their predecessors, but one can't always "bank" on this in lens optics.

So among the 50mm FLE Distagon; 120mm Makro-Planar; 150mm Sonar; 180mm Sonar; 250mm Sonar CF lenses, did any of these obtain noticeable (visible) imaging improvements (yes, a relative concept but here I refer to worthwhile, user noticeable improvements)?

Has anyone here ever felt compelled to "upgrade" froma CF version to a CFe/i version?

I am well aware of the main "non-optical" differences, but also wonder if users see "real" substantial benefits from these enhancements as well as any optical enhancements?

I'd be very interested to know, especially if I'm considering adding a lens to my kit.

Two years ago I replaced a1974 C version of the 150 with a new CFE 180. The difference is quite noticable The new CFE 180 is the sharpest lens I have ever worked with. Last fall I took a picture of Mountain Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the tower on top of CLingman's Dome. On an 8 x10 inch print I could see individual lims on dead treas 7 miles away. Milage measured from may in straight line. The old 150 was a great lens and I gave it to my son.

James A. Bryant

The short answer is: no.
Most lenses have not changed since they were first produced.
The changes that were made are well-known, and were advertised (new designs -> new names, like your FLE 50 mm). Plus there was one not so well-advertised change (f/2 110 mm. Rear group first two separate elements, now cemented. Noone can tell the difference...

The only 'optical' difference is in the coating (and perhaps baffling in the mount).
But telling the difference between shots made with an old single coated 150 mm Sonnar and and new CFi super-baffled, multicoated 150 mm Sonnar is quite a task.
Thanks James, but my question is specifically about a direct comparison between same focal lengths.

I have the CF 180mm and find it a wonderfully sharp lens resolving super fine detail to a very high standard, just as you have found the CFi 180mm.

Qnu, thanks. I suppose your comment is the suspicion I held. That is, while all "new generation" CFe/i focal lengths benefit from new interior coatings and enhanced mounts etc.; only some focal lengths had a specific glass or coating change and optically it is a very difficult task to pick up optical performance benefits.

So, Qnu, is your view that if you are buying a new focal length there is some value in checking if there was a specific glass/design/coating change and visible enhancement in performance to determine if it is worth paying the higher cost for the most recent CFe/i version (over a CF version)?

I have to add that there is not one attribute of any of my CF (don't have any earier version Hassy lenses) lenses that I am unsatisfied with.
From what I've heard, the 120mm CFI/CFE version may be better due to the internal baffling, especially when shooting high-key backgrounds. I do notice high-key backgrounds somewhat when I shoot with my 120mm CF. Switching this lens to the newer version will require a substantial cash windfall!
Larry, I agree, while that has not posed a problem for me using my 120mm CF, that's the type pf situation where changes from CF to CFe/i versions may provide a needed benefit deserving of the higher cost. For me it does not, but if there was also a noticeable optical advantage, things may be different. Like Qnu often says these things are "relative".
When CFi lenses came to market Hasselblad had a leaflet with ex&le photos taken with CF and CFi lenses. Most of them (all?) where with high key background and the difference in contrast was great. Perhaps the biggest difference is although in ergonomics, that is not only question of convience but affects also to your working speed and accuracy - so your photo quality too. But still, they all, C, CF and CF, are great. Just different.

Kerkko K.
Of course the marketing department went to great lengths to make sure the pictures extolling the benefits you get when dumping your old lenses and spending lots of money buying new ones would show.
Come hell or high water...

(Imagine these poor ad-photographers facing the task of producing poor results using 'old lenses... You cannot but feel a little sorry for them.

Never noticed how detergent Brand X produced so much whiter whites than Brand Y?
Pretty much convincing, right?

But yes, it will be possible to find conditions in which the better baffling shows (note: there was no change in lens coating! Not since the introduction of T* coating many, many moons ago).

And if you perchance happen upon such conditions with your 'old' lenses, you're out of luck.
The question however is how often that will be.

So if you're not one of those people regularly using too bright lights to bleach out a white paper background, the old ones will do fine.
No worries. And no need to trade them in.
(And (here's a novel thought...) you could always not use 'over the top" 'bleach' lighting).
Touche Qnu. But, being a little less cynical, I suppose that Zeiss did not go to the expense of new barrel, lens mount, shutter component and interior coatings for the sake of it.

While I agree that the marketing department has well created a benefit construct, maybe the enhancements are valuable and show the company will continually adopt new developments rather than stand still.

However, I wonder how significant the enhancement is to the interior coating from an imaging perspective. Do you feel that this is only really usres in quite extreme high key background lighting?

Would landscape users benefit much where, for exapmle, mountain scenes include skies; or, is the benefit more broadly about overall lighting technique similar to what you described?

Sure enhancements to shutter components and lens mount materials are good product developments showing a commitment to "the best". But I suppose as an amateur user, for me, much of these attributes are well beyond what I will gain direct benefit from (other than the obvious appreciation of the superb overall product quality).
Thanks Kerrko. This enhancement to the interior coating seems to be the main imaging benefit, albeit a high level one.

Better baffling isn't the only change in the CF to CFi transition.
Better bayonet, main spring, smoother focus, better typeface... and better baffling.

The baffling is the only thing that could show in pictures though, so if not the main reason for the upgrade, it's the main focus in advertising.

So a good dose of skepticism, or rather suspicion, distrust, is not out of place.
(you can't 'wink' too much in these murky, grey-on-grey days, can you...? ;-) )

The improvements, any improvement, made to Hasselblad/Zeiss gear are fine tuning of already finely tuned things.
You cannot expect them to produce very evident differences.

And yes, these differences will only show in those instances you need the thing the now even more finely tuned thing the most.
In normal photography, the differences in baffling will be impossible to detect. Not there.

Look at it this way: people have used, and praised, the Zeiss lenses for many, many years. Even given them 'mythical' status.

Now, some improvement comes along, and we must all change our views?

Where we ones were thrilled beyond something-you-can-get-thrilled-beyond by the excellent results we got, now we must regard them (the lenses and the results they produced) in disgust and run to buy the new-and-improved lenses?

I don't know about you, but i still like my 'old' lenses. They leave me desiring nothing. So what 'improvement' are we talking about? Even if real, is it something i want, need? was pining for?
Qnu, I agree that I too am not left wanting. But, for others the benefit of this thread may be a better understanding of what's in the latest lenses from an imaging results perspective - "relative" of course!

My point in singling out the interior coating potential benefits to the imaging result, was to separate that from the obvious "in-use" and longevity benefits of the new mount and shutter materials etc..

Keep those smiles going. A very grey old day here in wintery Melbourne!

Nothing to add at this moment.

I just didn't want to let my turn to get the darger grey background slip through my fingers unused.
Now it's you, in grey Melbourne, who has to make do with the light grey on a bit less light grey.

Anyway, i'm aware of your focus on optical charateristics in this thread.
I just referred to the other ones because of the suggestion that the fact that Zeiss did "go to the expense of new barrel, lens mount, shutter component" would be proof that the optical improvements indeed are significant.
The "why else bother if not?" thing.

They, of course, went to the expense of a new main spring, because they wanted to improve the main spring, they went to the expense of a new rear and front bayonet, because they wanted to improve the rear and front bayonet, etc.
The internal baffling and dead black paint coating is only part of a larger, total package.
Any single one of these alone was not significant enough to justify the expense of retooling.

But the baffling/black paint part is the part that speaks most to buyer's imagination. It, after all, is the only thing that would improve their results, making them (the buyers) look better, give them more 'impressing power'.
"Look at my beautiful picture. It was made with improved legibility of numbers and letters on my new lens barrel." doesn't really stack up to, say, carrying a Porsche key ring, does it?

Now let's see how some other colours fare on this gloomy background:
- Not so hot.
- Not a good thing to look at on any background colour.
- Ah well...

I wonder why they left these things untouched. Maybe they scared the interior designer (like small children often are afraid to touch a picture in a book, showing something horrible, like a spider) who so stylishly rev&ed this forum's 'wallpaper' in similar shades of grey, ignorant of the fact that it is in fact 'writing paper'?
Totall agree Qnu. I suppose it's called either "continuous improvement", or "not resting on one's laurels"!

Touche re the grey greys! Dark and black here now and oh so wet! But after years of drought no Aussie dares complaign.

I'm just hoping I can go play with a camera this weekend!

Cheers and good light.