I kicked off the previous article in this series by stating that in its V-System, Hasselblad created one of, if not the world’s most comprehensive and flexible medium format camera system. Hopefully, this chapter goes some way further towards backing up that claim.

We’ve already taken a look at sixteen C and C T* lenses and moving on in a more-or-less chronological manner this article runs through Hasselblad’s nineteen CF, CF FLE and CF IHI lenses.

The next part of this series will be looking at Hasselblad’s shutterless F and FE lenses for all of you focal plane shutter junkies but I get ahead of myself.

Here’s what’s covered in this article:



Hasselblad CF, CF FLE and IHI lens range: an overview

The three CF, CF FLE and CF IHI generations/designations cover 19 lenses made over the course of nearly 20 years from 1980 to 1998. Together they cover focal lengths from 24mm to 500mm, from specialist fisheye lenses and macro optics to the world’s first medium format zoom lens.

Here’s how CF, CF FLE and IHI lenses fit into the wider family:


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.

(For the sake of clarity, C and C T* lenses are split into two groups making it technically eleven designations.)

CF, CF FLE and IHI lenses share a number of enhancements over their C / C T* counterparts, which can be best summarised as follows:

  • All lenses now come with a T* multicoating.
  • Upgraded Prontor CF shutters with improved reliability.
  • Upgraded anti-reflective coatings.
  • Updated black external finish with rubber grips.
  • Updated shutter/aperture interlock mechanism.

Nearly every C / C T* lens was updated with a new CF barrel design from 1980 onward, although optical design for most lenses remained (for the most part) completely unchanged.

The introduction of Floating Lens Element (FLE) designs from 1990 onward is something of note, however, these updates were made to only two CF lenses in an effort to optimise image quality at close distances. Unlike the F/FE lenses (discussed in the next part of this series), which included automatically adjusting FLE systems, the two CF FLE lenses detailed below required an additional human interaction in order to be fully dialled in.

If you’re already familiar with CF and CF FLE lenses, the chances are that you’ve never heard of, come across or even seen either of the two CF IHI designation lenses discussed in this article. My guess is that not many people at Hasselblad have either. More on that unicorn a little further down.

These are the lenses we’ll be delving into further below:



CF lenses were manufactured from 1980-1989 and whilst externally different from the C / C T* lenses they are on the whole optically identical. Specific details to follow with each lens description further below.


NameDesignation(s)Focal LengthMax. ApertureMin. Aperture
(501C + CM)

Why is there a C lens in the table above? Blame Hasselblad’s marketing department for this confusing designation. It was a slightly modified CF lens that was sold with the 501CM and 501C bodies. It’s cheaper, has some features removed but is optically identical to the Planar CF 80mm f/2.8.



CF FLE lenses include a manually adjustable Floating Lens Element design. This was added in order to provide improved close-distance image photography in these two wide angle lenses.


NameDesignation(s)Focal LengthMax. ApertureMin. Aperture
DistagonCF FLE40mmf/4f/22
DistagonCF FLE50mmf/4f/32



A new designation for a single lens that was initially only sold to commercial users. This lens is a bit of a unicorn to say the least. If you’re in the market for one of the only true circular fisheye lenses ever made, you can pick one up for somewhere in the region of US$25,000.


NameDesignation(s)Focal LengthMax. ApertureMin. Aperture
F-DistagonCF IHI24mmf/3.5f/5.6
F-DistagonCF IHI24mmf/3.5f/22



Hasselblad CF, CF FLE and IHI lens range: in use

Like the C / C T lenses, CF, CF FLE and IHI lenses have an all-metal barrel. Externally, that’s where the similarity pretty much ends. Curved lines were made straight and overall, the lenses were given a purposeful, modern look. The scalloped metal focus and shutter speed rings of the C / C T lenses were replaced with user-friendly rubberised grips, the self-timer was removed, as were the automatic depth of field indicators.

Shutter speed and aperture rings are no longer coupled (linked) by default, which is more efficient for the way I shoot at least. That said, if you have just shot a frame and wish to cycle through the possible shutter/aperture combinations for the same meter reading, you simply press down the new interlock button, turn it the aperture ring and away you go.

Speaking of the shutter, CF lenses use a newer, more reliable Prontor CF shutter. It provides the same 1-1/500 s, “B” modes as the previous generation and they still provide a standard PC sync port for flash connection.

A new “F” mode was also added for better compatibility with 200 and 2000 series shutters. When set to “F”, the shutter remains open and when triggered by the body – the lens simply stops down to the set aperture. When set to a timed mode, the shutter closes as normal after an exposure has been made and will open again once the lens has been cocked by the body.

Speaking to CF FLE lenses specifically, they have a secondary FLE focus ring nearest to the front of the lens. This ring moves the lens’ front element group to improve image quality at close ranges but still requires setting for other distances. To use these lenses, one simply sets a rough distance with the FLE ring first (for coarse focus) then focuses using main focus ring as normal (for fine focus).

On the 40mm FLE lens, the FLE focusing ring selects one of three distance ranges; on the 50mm FLE, the FLE ring selects one of four distance ranges. More on this below.



Hasselblad CF and CF FLE lens range: compatibility and curiosities

Every CF and CF FLE 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 Biogon lenses.

CF, CF FLE and CF IHI lenses’ leaf shutters cannot be used in conjunction with the 202FA body. The camera’s own focal plane shutter must be used. When using CF, CF FLE and CF IHI lenses with other 200 or 2000 series bodies, simply set the lenses to “F” mode to use them in conjunction with the camera’s focal plane shutter.

If your 2000/200 series body has a “C” mode on its shutter dial it means you are able to use your CF lens’ leaf shutter for full flash sync across the range. In this configuration, the body’s focal plane shutter acts as the secondary shutter (the blinds/barn doors) on 500 series bodies.



Hasselblad CF lens range: in-depth

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


F-Distagon CF 30mm f/3.5

The 30mm F-Distagon CF is nearly optically identical to the F-Distagon C 30mm f/3.5. The CF has one fewer lens element and lens group than the C but retains the 180° diagonal / 112° horizontal angle of view, permanently integrated lens shade and outstanding corner-to-corner resolution of its predecessor.

Like it’s C-designated sibling, the CF 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 and one must be used in order for the lens to be useable.


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Biogon CF 38mm f/4.5

The Biogon CF 38mm f/4.5 was the only lens used on the (v2 and v3) Hasselblad SWC/M and then the 903 SWC from 1982-2001. As with its predecessor, the lens has a non-retrofocus ultrawide design and is not removable from the camera body. The lens’ short Flange Focal Distance means that it is impossible to retrofit this lens onto a normal SLR.

Although the lens has a stated minimum focus distance of 30cm, with the 41057 focusing screen adapter in use, it is possible to accurately focus the lens down to 20cm from the front of the lens.


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Distagon CF 50mm f/4

The Distagon CF 50mm f/4 was one of the first C lenses to be upgraded to the new CF design and has remained one of the most popular lenses in the Hasselblad line. It is optically identical to the earlier Distagon C 50mm f/4 and was upgraded to include Floating Lens Elements in 1990 (see further below).


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Distagon CF 60mm f/3.5

The second most popular “accessory lens”, this lens is optically identical to the upgraded Distagon C 60mm f/3.5.


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Planar CF 80mm f/2.8

Hasselblad’s “kit” lens, this was the first lens to be upgraded to the new CF design and is optically identical to the Planar C 80mm f/2.8.


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Planar CF 100mm f/3.5

One of the highest resolving lenses every created by Zeiss for Hasselblad, this lens is identical to the Planar C 100mm f/3.5.


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UV-Sonnar CF 105mm f/4.3

A highly specialised lens made in small quantities for commercial and aerospace applications, the UV-Sonnar CF 105 f/4.3 was one of the final C lenses upgraded to the new CF design. It is optically identical to the UV-Sonnar C 105mm f/4.3.


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Makro-Planar CF 120mm f/4

The “S” (special) designation of the S-Planar C 120mm f/5.6 was updated with the clearer “Makro” designation. The new lens consists of 6 elements in 4 groups which are arranged almost symmetrically to the iris diaphragm. With the updated optical design came a wider maximum aperture of f/4 and although this may not seem like a big deal, when focusing at macro distances, having an image on the focus screen twice as bright as its predecessor is a huge help.

Zeiss tell us that the Makro-Planar 120 performs best in the region of slightly reduced imaging of the subject (less than 1:1 reproduction). The closest focusing distance of 0.8m provides a reproduction ratio of 1:4.5. This can be increased to 1:2 by using a Hasselblad 32 or 32E extension tube; and even further using Hasselblad’s macro extension bellows or variable extension tube (see “Makro-Planar CF 135mm f/5.6” below).


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Makro-Planar CF 135mm f/5.6

As with the Makro-Planar 120/4, the “S” designation of the 135mm S-Planar was replaced with “Makro” during the switch from C to CF. The lens remains optically identical (in design) to its predecessor and when matched with the updated “Automatic Macro bellows”, the lens will reach infinity at a little over the minimum bellows extension of 63mm.

Although now discontinued, Hasselblad also provided the “Variable Extension Tube 64-85” (product number 51691), which would allow the Makro-Planar CF 135 to focus from infinity to 1.15m, giving a maximum reproduction of 1:1.


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Sonnar CF 150mm f/4

Identical to the Sonnar C 150mm f/4, the updated Sonnar CF 150 remains one of the most popular accessory lenses for the Hasselblad V-System.


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Sonnar CF 180mm f/4

A new lens for the V-System, the Sonnar CF 180 is an outstanding lens for portraiture and mid-distance nature/wildlife photography. Technically the lens is one of the sharpest ever produced by Zeiss for Hasselblad – nearly as impressive as the 100mm Planar CF.

Providing slightly more compression than the “modest 150”, the lens remains compact and lightweight with excellent corner-to-corner sharpness and can be used handheld. The choice between the 180, 150 and two 250mm lenses boils down to one of the preferences of the photographer and available working space.


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Sonnar CF 250mm f/5.6

As with many of the CF lenses described here, this lens is optically identical to its C cousin, the Sonnar C 250mm f/5.6.


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Sonnar-Superachromat CF 250mm f/5.6

Optically identical to the Sonnar-Superachromat C 250mm f/5.6. Still an exceptionally good lens.


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Tele-Tessar CF 350mm f/5.6

Optically identical to the Tele-Tessar C 350mm f/5.6.


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Tele-Apotessar CF 500mm f/8

Optically identical to the Tele-Tessar C 500mm f/8, the updated CF version comes with an additional tripod mount. The focus ring moves past infinity to compensate for changes to the lens in extreme temperatures – care should be taken when using the lens to ensure accurate focus.

The lens is now designated as “Apochromatic” and provides improved correction of both chromatic and spherical aberration. Hasselblad recommends the use of this lens with their Acute-Matte screens due to the maximum working aperture of f/8.


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Schneider Variogon CF 140-280mm f/5.6

Identical to the Schneider Variogon C 140-280mm f/5.6 but with Schneider’s new lens multicoating. Like the Tele-Tessar CF 500mm f/8, this lens includes a dedicated tripod mount on the barrel.


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Hasselblad CF FLE lens range: in-depth

The purpose of the new Floating Lens Element designs was to improve close focus image quality for wide angle lenses. Only one existing CF lens was given a Floating Lens Element upgrade – the Distagon CF 50 f/4. The second CF FLE lens, the Distagon 40mm f/4, made the jump directly from the original C version without having an intermediate CF option.

To use these lenses, the photographer needs to first set a coarse focus using the front FLE ring, then use the main focus ring normally for critical focus. The FLE ring is responsible for independently setting the front lens group to one of three or four preset distance ranges (denoted by a click stop). See below for full details.


Distagon CF FLE 40mm f/4

The Distagon CF FLE 40mm f/4 is a third lighter and a fifth shorter than its C counterpart. The diameter of the front mount was reduced from 104mm to 90mm and the lens’ optical design was updated from 10 elements in 9 groups to 11 elements in 10 groups.

The front floating lens group (elements 1+2) is what give this lens its FLE designation.

The updated lens has two focusing rings: the one nearest the camera is used as normal to focus the lens from infinity to 0.5m. The front focusing (FLE) ring has three distance presets registered by clicks: 

  • -2m
  • 2m-0.9m
  • 0.9m-0.5m

Changing the FLE ring’s distance changes the spacing between the lens’ front group (elements 1+2) and the rest of the lens.

To use the lens, first set a coarse focus using the FLE ring, then use the main focus ring as you would normally.

Interestingly, the updated 40mm Distagon uses glass that has been treated not to pass UV light, making a UV/haze filter unnecessary. In addition, the lens has a notch on the focus ring at the 90cm / 3ft mark to remind the user to stop-down the lens in order to maintain image quality.


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Distagon CF FLE 50mm f/4

The 50mm Distagon CF FLE continues to provide excellent mid-far distance results but the addition of a floating element resulted in a considerable improvement in the near range. Like the Distagon CF FLE 40mm f/4, this lens features two focusing rings for primary focus and FLE focus.

The FLE focus ring has four distance settings registered by clicks:

  • -4m
  • 4-1.2m
  • 1.2-0.8m
  • 0.8-0.5m

Like the 40mm Distagon, setting the FLE ring changes the spacing between the lens’ front group (elements 1-4) and the rest of the lens.

To use the lens, first set a coarse focus using the FLE ring, then use the main focus ring as you would normally.


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Hasselblad CF IHI lens range: in-depth

Here’s that unicorn lens designation: IHI.


F-Distagon CF 24mm f/3.5

This is not a typo.

Hasselblad made a 24mm fisheye and they are very, very rare. Somewhere in the region of 80-100 were made for specific scientific and technical use.

50 were made as shutterless lenses, which are only compatible with 200 and 2000 series camera bodies. These lenses provide aperture stops ranging from f/3.5-5.6.

30-50 copies of a Prontor CF version were made, which provides a standard 1sec – 1/1500sec shutter and aperture stops ranging from f/3.5 to f/22, it is compatible with 500, 200 and 2000 series camera bodies.

The lens is a true fisheye and produces a circular image on a standard 56x56mm negative. Unlike the 30mm F-Distagon, the lens is fully corrected and does not need additional filters in order to complete the optical design.


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Signing off

That’s all for part four. We’ve still got F, FE, CB, CFI and CFE lenses to come in this series – and that’s before we get to the camera bodies and accessories. F and FE lenses are up next; special shutterless lenses used on 200 and 2000 series focal plane bodies which don’t include shutters.

This leads to some interesting knock-on effects, the least of which being that a number of lenses were able to be redesigned with faster maximum apertures. F/FE lenses also resulted in the creation of Hasselblad’s first “art” lens. The Planar F/FE 110mm f/2.

More on that in part five.

See you next time,

~ EM



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