There’s no arguing that in the V-System, Hasselblad created one of, if not the world’s most comprehensive and flexible medium format camera system. The V-System comprises of somewhere in the region of 35 bodies, 70 lenses, 20 film backs and a plethora of customisation options for finders, focus screens, electronic aperture control and lens shades to name a few. It boils down to a system containing over 200 components, which can be used in hundreds of possible configurations.

Thus far, this collection of articles has covered a broad overview of the V-System and taken an in-depth look at rollfilm, sheet and instant film magazine options.

Now it’s time to turn our attention to the lenses, starting with the earliest C and C T* designations. Before we get into detail, let’s have a quick recap of how they fit into the grand scheme of things. If you’re looking for the later CF, CF FLE and coveted CF IHI lenses, find them in this guide. 

These are the Hasselblad lens families/designations that this and the following four sections of this guide will cover:

DesignationManufacture datesOverview
C1959-1974Compur lens (single coated).
C T*1974-1979Compur lens (multicoated).
F1977-1991Focal plane shutter support.
CF1980-1989Prontor lens. Focal plane shutter support.
CF FLE1990-1998Prontor lens. Focal plane shutter support. Floating Lens Element.
CF IHI1990-1998?With and without Prontor lens.
FE1994-1998Focal plane shutter support. Electronic databus.
CB1996-2006Prontor lens. Basic lens type.
CFi1998-2013Prontor lens. Focal plane shutter support. Improved design.
CFE1997-2006Prontor lens. Focal plane shutter support. Electronic databus.
ZV2008-2013Prontor lens. Focal plane shutter support.


I mentioned ten but you’ll notice eleven designations in the table above. For the sake of clarity, and because they represent a distinction in performance, I have broken out Hasselblad’s C and C T* lenses into two groups.

Here’s what’s covered in this article:



Hasselblad C lens range: an overview

There were a total of 15 distinct C / C T* lenses made for the V-System, which covered focal lengths from 30mm to 500mm. C lenses were developed for the 1957 500C camera. Each one comes equipped with a Synchro-Compur shutter that runs from 1 second to 1/500th of a second in single stop increments and a B (bulb) mode. Initially provided in a chrome-satin finish, black anodised lenses became available in 1969; and became the only choice for F, CF and later lenses in the mid-1970s ( with the exception of first-party Zeiss “ZF” lenses).

With one exception, all first-party V-System C / C T* designation lenses were made by Carl Zeiss (Oberkochen, Germany). I won’t be going into Zeiss’ history, as so much has already been written but I will say this: they were and remain one of the world’s leading innovators and manufacturers of optical products.

Schneider provided the only non-Zeiss lens in the original C / C T* line-up with their formidable Variogon C 140-280mm f/5.6 – the first 6×6 format zoom lens in the world. 

Unlike other (new) multicoating technologies at the time, which were largely a single-solution treatment across various lens designs and focal lengths, Zeiss took a tailored approach which matched specific coatings to specific lenses. The end result is something not seen elsewhere at the time: using slide film as a baseline, the same film shot with the same camera body but different lenses will result in a near-identical colour rendition across the board.

These are the lenses we’ll be delving into:

NameDesignation(s)Focal LengthMax. ApertureMin. Aperture
F-DistagonCC T*30mmf/3.5f/22
BiogonCC T*38mmf/4.5f/22
DistagonCC T*40mmf/4f/32
DistagonCC T*50mmf/4f/22
DistagonC T*60mmf/3.5f/22
DistagonCC T*60mmf/4f/22
PlanarCC T*80mmf/2.8f/22
PlanarCC T*100mmf/3.5f/22
S-PlanarCC T*120mmf/5.6f/32
S-PlanarCC T*120mmf/5.6f/45
S-PlanarCC T*135mmf/5.6f/45
SonnarCC T*150mmf/4f/32
SonnarCC T*250mmf/5.6f/45
Tele-TessarCC T*350mmf/5.6f/45
Tele-TessarCC T*500mmf/8f/64

Where you see an “S-” designation before a lens, it means that the lens was meant for a “special purpose”. More information is provided in the detailed lens descriptions later in this document.



Hasselblad C lens range: in use

C lenses are all-metal and have scalloped focus and shutter speed rings. The focusing ring sits closest to the camera body and the shutter speed ring sits just in front of that. The shutter speed and aperture rings are coupled (linked) by default. If the current setting doesn’t give you the exposure combination you’d like, pull down on a tab, set the lens and you’re done.

Once you have a combination set, you are able to cycle through a number of available combinations by simply turning the shutter speed ring. For example, an initial setting of 500/sec and f/4 on the Distagon C 50/4 can cycle through the following with no further messing about:

  • 1/500 and f/4
  • 1/250 and f/5.6
  • 1/125 and f/8
  • 1/60 and f/11
  • 1/30 and f/16
  • 1/15 and f/22

C lenses come equipped with automatic depth-of-field indicators, which display how the depth of field changes for each aperture. As you cycle through your aperture/shutter combination the red indicators change to show the near and far range of DoF on the distance scale:

All lenses C come with an EV scale is marked in red on the side of the lens to the right of the shutter speed engravings – particularly useful when using the 2000 Series bodies! You can just about see the markings in the images above.

As mentioned in the previous section, C lenses have built-in Synchro-Compur leaf shutters, which are fully synchronized for electronic flash at all shutter speeds, i.e. 1-1/500 s, “B” and “T” (for time exposures) and “V” (self-timer). Although worn out in the left image above, you will see a set of green numbers to the left of the shutter speeds. These are non-selectable time markings and indicate the number of full seconds the shutter should remain open for when the B setting is in use.

In order to use the lenses self-timer (V setting), an additional lever must be pressed before the 8-second timer can be engaged. The lens must also be in a cocked state before the V setting can be engaged.

C lenses normally operate wide-open for focusing and stop down to the preselected aperture fraction of a second before the exposure is made. With the exception of the 38mm Biogon, which is permanently mated to the body of the SWC camera, all lenses can be stopped down manually for a check on depth-of-field prior to exposure. If you’ve stopped down and want to return to viewing your scene at the widest aperture, simply select the widest aperture to cancel the stop-down.

After an exposure is made, the lens’ shutter will remain closed and the aperture will remain stopped-down until the lens has been re-cocked by the body.



Hasselblad C lens range: compatibility and curiosities

Very early 80mm C Planar lenses (pre-1965 or so) do not allow you to focus at the maximum aperture unless the aperture is set to f/2.8. Set it to anything else and the lens will give you close to f/3.5

The early 120mm S-Planar lenses had a minimum aperture of f/32, which was revised early on to f/45.

The 30mm/3.5 and the 350mm/5.6 were introduced in 1973 with T* coatings from the outset.

Every C lens can be used with every Hasselblad V-system camera with the exception of the SWx range of superwide camera bodies, which are permanently mated to their dedicated lenses.

C lenses cannot be used with the 202FA body. When using these lenses with other 200 or 2000 series bodies, simply set them to “B” mode to use them in conjunction with the camera’s focal plane shutter.

Some 2000/200 series bodies will support the use of the lens’ leaf shutter. Check to see if your camera has a “C” mode on the shutter dial, if it does, you’re all set. In this configuration, the camera body’s shutter will act as the rear curtain on a 500 series body.

The only C lens not covered in this article is the kit 80mm lens provided with the 501C. This is a modified CF lens given a stupid and confusing designation and will be discussed in the next part of this collection.



Hasselblad C lens range: C T* lenses

Internally, the lenses all benefit from a black, anti-reflection finish and from 1959 until 1974 all C lenses were single coated. In 1973 Zeiss began adding their newly-developed T coating to all but two lenses: the special purpose 250mm Sonnar-Superachromat and 105mm UV-Sonnar. The Schneider Variogon used Schneider’s own multicoating technology and thus does not have a T designation.

The first Hasselblad lenses to get Zeiss’ T six-layer multicoating were all wide angle (they were the obvious candidates to most benefit from the upgrade). They were: the 30mm F-Distagon, 40mm Distagon, and the SWC’s 38mm Biogon. The 80mm/2.8 C T appeared in late 1974 and by the end of 1976 most of the C series lenses were being produced in multicoated form.

A little red icon aside, what are the real differences in image quality between C and C T* lenses? It boils down to this:

  • In situations where there are no sources of flare, a C lens paired with an appropriate lens hood should produce images which are slightly less contrasty than an equivalent C T* lens.
  • In situations where there are sources of flare, the C T* should produce images with noticeably better quality.

Simple as that.

Nearly all C T lenses are black, except for the very earliest T variants, which came in satin chrome. This is not unusual, and not just limited to Zeiss lenses. Hasselblad has a number of “transition” models, the most common of which were late-model 500Cs that were really 500CMs.



Hasselblad C lens range: in-depth

Most descriptions below were taken/adapted from Zeiss materials. Some contain additional information where pertinent.


F-Distagon C T* 30mm f/3.5

The 30mm F-Distagon is an ultra wide-angle fish-eye lens with a 180° diagonal / 112° horizontal angle of view. The lens yields outstanding corner-to-corner resolution even when used wide open.

The lens is supplied with three filters and a neutral compensation glass. This compensation glass (or one of the filters), are an integral part of the optical system. The lens should not be used without one or the other installed.

Unlike every other V-System lens, the 30mm F-Distagon includes a permanently attached lens shade tailored to the extremely wide angle of view. Even a very shallow standard shade would intrude into the 180° angular field.

Attention: The internal data of table “129” is corrupted!



Biogon C 38mm f/4.5

The Biogon C was among the first of Zeiss’ lenses to receive their T* multi-coating. Even wide-open, the Biogon provides outstanding sharpness with virtually zero distortion.

The Biogon switched to using a black anodised barrel sometime in 1972, although a number of silver T lenses were produced in 1973. A permanent switch to black lenses was made later that year. Given this slight mix-and-match manufacturing, it is relatively easy to find an early-70s SWx with a black, non-T lens.

Attention: The internal data of table “194” is corrupted!



Distagon C 40mm f/4

The Distagon 40mm f/4 is an extreme wide-angle lens which covers nearly the same field as the Biogon 38mm f/4.5 (88° diagonal / 69° horizontal). Unlike the Biogon lens, the 40mm Distagon is an extreme retrofocus design. The lens features excellent distortion correction and uses glass treated not to pass UV light, making a UV/haze filter unnecessary.

Although the lens has a relatively short closest focus, Hasselblad recommended using the lens for subjects at middle-to-far distances from the camera. In an aim to remind photographers of this, the lens has a special notch on the focusing ring at 90cm / 3 feet in an effort to remind photographers to stop-down in order to maintain image quality.

Attention: The internal data of table “195” is corrupted!



Distagon C 50mm f/4

The Distagon C 50 is the second most popular lens in the Hasselblad line-up and provides a very flexible 75° field of view (2.5 times larger than that of the 80mm f/2.8 Planar C. Like the 40mm Distagon, the 50mm is not optimised for close-up photography and should be stopped down for work where the subject is less than 90cm / 3 feet from the lens.

Attention: The internal data of table “196” is corrupted!



Distagon C 60mm f/3.5

The f/3.5 Distagon C 60mm lens was introduced after the f/4 version ceased production in 1960. The lens provides a slightly wider field of view than the 80mm (about 1.8 times larger). Unlike the 50mm, the 60mm lens does not create an exaggerated perspective, making it ideal for interior subjects that must retain a natural appearance.

The lens suffers from very little edge distortion and was a favourite for making group photos and landscape photography.

Attention: The internal data of table “197” is corrupted!



Planar C 80mm f/2.8

The 80mm Planar is the “normal” Hasselblad Lens, offering a 52° diagonal field of view. The initial Planar design was created in 1896 and represented a breakthrough in simple lens design, providing a combination of large maximum aperture, anastigmatic field flatness and Gaussian error correction.

The 80mm Planar provides an extremely uniform center-to-corner image, even when used wide open. In addition, it provides an evenly illuminated field (reduced darkened corners). It was sold as the kit lens by Hasselblad for good reason: it’s flexible and sharp as a tack.

Attention: The internal data of table “198” is corrupted!



Planar C 100mm f/3.5

The 100mm f/3.5 Planar C lens began Zeiss’ tradition of creating exceptionally well corrected and resolving 100mm lenses. The 100mm CF and CFi are still amongst the highest resolving lenses produced for the Hasselblad V-System. In short, the lenses are virtually free of distortion, surpassing even the 80mm Planar.

The 100mm Planar was recommended by Hasselblad for use in photographic applications requiring high magnification, large blow-up printing, low geometric distortion, or extreme scientific and other technical applications. It was unique in the consumer photography space, as it satisfies the technical requirements required to qualify as a surveying optic.

Attention: The internal data of table “199” is corrupted!



UV-Sonnar C 105mm f/4.3

The 105mm UV-Sonnar is a special purpose lens for technical and scientific photography and was designed to provide excellent UV transmission. Unlike other “normal” Hasselblad lenses, the UV-Sonnar’s lens elements are made from fluorite and quartz. The lens is also truly apochromatic.

The lens can be focused for UV work under visible light as normal and, in conjunction with specialist isolation filters, can be used to photograph subjects under specific portions of the visible and invisible light spectrum.

The UV-Sonnar was created for specific applications in UV research, including the study of textiles, forgery (currency and artwork), forensic archaeology, criminology, and extra-atmospheric photography.

Amongst lenses that could be purchased off-the-shelf by consumers, it is essentially unique.

ManufacturerZeissComing Soon
Focal Length105mm
Max. Aperturef/4.3
Min. aperturef/32
Design7 elements in 7 groups
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus180cm
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Type/MountB50 (Bayonet)
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



S-Planar C 120mm f/5.6

The “S”, designation tells us that the 120mm S-Planar is a special-purpose lens. In this case, the lens is optimised for close-up photography, creating 1:1 and 1:2 reproduction images. Two version were produced, an early f/32 maximum aperture version and later, an f/45 version.

Datasheets tell us that the best correction for this lens can be obtained at f/11. The lens was produced for technical macro photography, specifically to meet the requirements of technical photography, documentation and line copy.

Although corrected for close-focus distances, the lens can still be used for landscape work when stopped down. At a distance of 150cm / 5 feet from the subject, the lens will produce 1:1 reproductions without the need for extension tubes. When used in conjunction with Hasselblad’s Extension Bellows, the lens is capable of producing enlargements of 0.55:1 (approximately x1.8 times magnification).

ManufacturerZeissComing Soon
FamilyC / C T*
Focal Length120mm
Max. Aperturef/5.6
Min. aperturef/32
(later updated to f/45)
Design6 elements in 4 groups
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus95cm
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Diameter50
FilterType/MountB50 (Bayonet)
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



S-Planar C 135mm f/5.6

The 135mm S-Planar is a special-purpose lens designed specifically for use with the Hasselblad’s Bellows Extension system. It has no focusing helicoid. The lens is optimised for close-focus and macro photography but can be used for landscape, portraiture and wildlife photography.

The bellows extension and camera are operated with a double cable release. All shutter and camera functions operate in the same sequence as usual.

Attention: The internal data of table “202” is corrupted!



Sonnar C 150mm f/4

Especially suitable for portrait work, this lens was a staple of studio photographers and one of the most popular “accessory lenses” produced for the V-System. The lens provides excellent sharpness and brilliant contrast, even when used wide open; and was designed with the typical compact element groups of a “long Sonnar”. All-in-all, the lens yields excellent corner-to-corner field illumination.

The lens is light enough for handheld photography and is best described as a “modest telephoto”.

Attention: The internal data of table “203” is corrupted!



Sonnar C 250mm f/5.6

Before saying anything else, it is important to reiterate Zeiss’ statement on this lens: image quality cannot be improved to any extent by stopping down. What will improve is image flatness and field illumination. If you’re not particularly worried about that, go shoot it wide open.

For a long focal length, the lens remains quite compact and was designed to be primarily used handheld. As expected from a telephoto lens of this focal length, landscape features appear compressed and accentuated by the telephoto effect; and when used for shooting models in the field, the tight field of view provided means that the amount of background included in your frame will be reduced. Put simply, you won’t need as much time to find an uncluttered backdrop. Depth of field is reduced, increasing subject separation from relatively close backgrounds and the lens features an atypical optical design for its focal length. 

Attention: The internal data of table “204” is corrupted!



Sonnar-Superachromat C 250mm f/5.6

When released, the Sonnar-Superachromat featured a completely new optical design focused almost entirely on correcting chromatic aberration – superachromat refers to superachromatic correction, this lens being the first in the world to feature such correction.

Created primarily as a technical/scientific lens, the Sonnar-Superachromat corrects aberrations in the UV, visible and IR light spectrum. The lens was primarily used in scientific survey – geological, archaeological and hydrological and aerial, as well as botany and multi-spectral photography.

In short, it was and remains exceptional.

ManufacturerZeissComing Soon
FamilyC / C T*
Focal Length250mm
Max. Aperturef/5.6
Min. aperturef/45
Design6 elements in 6 groups
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus280cm
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Diameter50
FilterType/MountB50 (Bayonet)
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



Tele-Tessar C 350mm f/5.6

The second longest lens offered for the V-System, the 350mm Tele-Tessar is both compact and relatively fast for its focal length. The 350mm Tele-Tessar offers exceptional sharpness and perfectly-corrected pincushion distortion. A first for a V-System lens, the design of the 350mm Tele-Tessar was created almost entirely in a computer.

Although it has a particularly long focal length, the lens was designed to be used handheld. Hasselblad sold this lens to news, nature and fashion photographers alike. Subject to background compression (the telephoto effect), is enhanced, even when compared to the 250mm Sonnar lenses, making it easier to defocus the background of your subject when the lens is used wide open.

ManufacturerZeissComing Soon
DesignationHasselblad Tele-Tessar
FamilyC T*
Focal Length350mm
Max. Aperturef/5.6
Min. aperturef/45
Design4 elements in 4 groups
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus500cm
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Diameter50
FilterType/MountB50 (Bayonet)
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



Tele-Tessar C 500mm f/8

The 500mm Tele-Tessar is the longest lens in the V-System and believe it or not, it was designed to be used handheld. That said,  it remained the staple of sports, news and nature photographers.

ManufacturerZeissComing Soon
DesignationHasselblad Tele-Tessar
FamilyC / C T*
Focal Length500mm
Max. Aperturef/5.6
Min. aperturef/45
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus850cm
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Diameter86
Filter Type/MountScrew-in
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



Schneider Variogon C 140-280mm f/5.6

This was the first production zoom lens in the world for 6×6 format cameras. Its optical performance is equal to the best fixed focal length lenses. The lens has a dedicated macro function and provides a “continuous range” through all focal lengths. Put simply, once focus is achieved, the focal length can be changed without needing to refocus the lens.

ManufacturerSchneider-KreuznachComing Soon
FamilyC / C T*
Focal Length140-280mm
Max. Aperturef/5.6
Min. aperturef/45
Design17 elements in 14 groups
Floating ElementsNo
Closest Focus250cm
(macro focusing at 70cm)
IR Focus MarkNo
Filter Diameter93
Shutter TypeCompur Syncro
Flash ConnectorYes
Focus RingYes
Aperture RingYes
DoF Preview SwitchYes
Electrical contactsNo



Signing off

Thanks for reading this bumper instalment. I hope you found it useful. The next part of this series covers CF, CF-FLE and CF IHI lenses – those designed specifically to be used with Compur and Focal plane shutters. CF lenses represent a leap forward in lens design for the V-System, not optically per say, but absolutely from a reliability, servicability and usability standpoint. The scalloped metal focus and aperture rings went out and were replaced by wonderful rubber grips but look, I’ll cover that in full detail next time.

For now, I want to say thanks for reading and if you have any comments, updates or even images to share, please drop me a line via the contact page, or leave a note in the comments.

See you next time,

~ EM



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