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Stiff Manual Focus


New Member
I've got a 150mm f/4 C lens I purchased used. To me, the manual focus ring is quite stiff, but I'm coming from a Canon 16-35 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 where the manual focus is smooth and really easy to move around. It'll take me a couple seconds to focus the lens from closest focusing distance to furthest. Is this normal?
A couple of seconds is quite normal, yes.

Whether your lens is stiffer than it should be is, of course, hard to say.
Is this consistant with all of Hassie's lenses? Sorry, a bit new to MF and Hassies. Thanks for the reply.
You did not provide a great deal of detail (what lens, what age etc) but in general this indicates the grease in the helicoid has aged and has become 'sticky'. A cleaning / relubrication typically fixes this.

The lens is a C 150 mm lens, right?

Do not expect that after a clean and relube it will take less than a few seconds to twist it from one end to the other end of the scale.

The CF lenses are a bit better, but still take a few seconds.
The CFi/CFE lenses are a bit better still. But again...
I use a number of early "C" type lenses.
The later ones are now over 25 years old and have known various
amounts of use and misuse. The oldest is over 50 years old.
Some like the 120 S-Planar simply cannot be replaced by later
versions like the Makro Planar.

All my gear is serviced at least once a year.
Yet there are not two lenses that have the same feel as far as the helicoids are concerned.

What you find nowadays in "C" lenses depends strongly on the use and the service these lenses have had.

When everything is in order the helicoid gives a smooth consistant feeling as it is turned. No extra light or heavy spots.

If you plan to enjoy the great quality of these products for a longer period it certainly pays to have a newly acquired lens serviced.
The lens is about 30 years old. I do plan on having it serviced. From what I'm hearing, it sounds like this is just a characteristic of the lens that I'm going to have to get used to. The focus is smooth and consistant, it just takes longer than I'm used to. Oh well.
Difficult to tell via email how 'stiff' or 'smooth' it feels. The helicoid on a C150 is quite long, in other words takes quite a twist from one end of the focusing scale to the other.

In general, compared to my Pentax MX 35mm gear (that is also 30 years old by now) the Zeiss lenses are a bit stiffer (both the C and the CF) but not in an (to me) annoying fashion. This is of course highly a matter of personal preference.


You do know that the 'modern' 120 mm Makro-Planar and the 120 mm S-Planar are optically the same lens, despite the one stop difference gained by using the larger Prontor CF mount?

The only C lenses that cannot be replaced by a CF lens are the 40 mm Distagon and the 500 mm Tele-Tessar.
Dear Q.G.
are you really sure about this point that the glass of the 120 mm C-lens (S-Planar) and 120 mm CF-lens (Makro-Planar) is the same? I remember that Kornelius MüllerFleischer from Zeiss said, I think in, that the 4/120 mm Makro-Planar is recalculated. This is also said in some Hasselblad brochures and in the book off Putkamer, Jeschke,..

When you compare MTF charts, lets say at F8 and image scale 1:5 you can see differences betwen the lenses. You know where to find them.. ;-)

BTW, the time to focus from 8.5 m (closest focus)to infinity with the old C 8,0/500 mm Tele-Tessar is for most people not measured in seconds but in minutes. It comes with a big focusing wheel that serves the same function as the big steering wheel in my old Landrover without power-assisted steering.

I think you will find the MF photography is a more deliberate process, in that you will find yourself spending more time making a photograph, so a little time focusing won't brother you. If in a hurry you can also hyperfocal focus. I also think you will appreciate the solid functional qualities of Zeiss Lenses, and above all the results.


There are focussing handles available (only used, of course. They haven't been made for a long time) which help speed the process of turning the ring.
Maybe one of those (the 150 mm lens needs "Quick focussing handle 2", the one with a straight handle) might suit you?
At least your old Landrover has selectable high and a low gear to trade speed for pulling power. No such thing on the Tele Tessar C500 ;-)

Dear Q.G.

The 120 S-Planar and the 120 Makro Planar are not the same.
The 120 Makro is not merely one stop faster.
Optimum image quality for the 120 Makro Planar lies more at infinty as with any general lens design where the 120 S-Planar finds its optimum at close range.
It seems this was a deliberate choice from Carl Zeiss.

The 120 S-Planar shows a stronger resemblance to the 135 S-Planar
that delivers mediocre quality at infinity for which it was not meant in the first place.

At the change over to CF lenses many designs were updated or even completely changed.
Two of the few exceptions that I know of are the 100 mm Planar and the 250 Sonnar.
This means that glass for the earliest 100/250 can still be ordered from Zeiss.
Parts supply for "C" lenses was discontinued a few years ago.

The 40 mm, the 350 mm and the 500 were different designs after the changeover to CF models.

Let's put it differently: the rear lensgroup of a 120 Makro Planar and other parts do not fit in a 120 S-Planar.
A Macro lens in which its "optimum" image quality lies at (or near) infinity?

Now that is something different!!

As far as I know, every other manufacturer compute their macro lenses to perform best in the close-up focusing range.
I wouldn't try hyperfocal on the 120. I got much better results once I started focusing each shot, which is not easy in the predawn dark. It may not be optimum but it is excellent as a short tele, IMHO.

And merging two current threads, here is an Imacon scanned shot taken with a 120:


I'm afraid that's really not right at all.

The two lenses are the same. The design never changed. Only the mount, and the name. But that's it.
The performance is the same too: both (being one) are better at short distances.

All the other lenses, with the two exceptions i mentioned, also remained unchanged going from C to CF (and to CFi/CFE).

The 350 mm Sonnar was left untouched too. A new 350 mm Superachromat was added later, replacing the Sonnar.
Just like a FLE 50 mm Distagon was added later and eventually replaced the non-FLE.

That lens groups from one version do not fit in another version will be due to the diferent mount. Not a different design.

I wouldn't try hyperfocal with any lens. It's always (!) better to focus.

Great image!
I wrote: lies more at infinity as against lies at infinity.
May be I should have written the performance at infinity has been
improved against the optimum results at close range.

Do you really believe a quality oriented company like CZ simply repeats its designs after 20 years?
The 120 Makro-planar needed more than just bigger elements to gain one stop.
It was not just the mount of these lens elements that was changed.