Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6

for Hasselblad V System (1957-2013)

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Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6

Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 C (fits Hasselblad V system, this sample from 1972, B50 filters (later B60), 32.8 oz./929g (later 35.3 oz./1,000g), 8.2'/2.5m close focus, about $150 ~ $800 used if you know How to Win at eBay.) bigger. I got this one at this link directly to them at eBay, and it cost me only $148. They're also at Amazon. Never buy at a retail store or other dealers; you'll pay way too much and have very limited options if you don't like it.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Use only the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.


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Earthrise as shot from the Command Module of Apollo XI, 20 July 1969. Shot with a modified Hasselblad 500EL/70, Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6, shot wide-open at f/5.6 at 1/250 on Ektachrome. bigger. (Courtesy NASA Image Lab.)



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The Zeiss Sonnar 250 f/5.6 is one of the two most classic Hasselblad lenses. These 250mm lenses flew numerous Apollo missions and shot on the moon. The classic shots of the Earth rising over the lunar surface are made with this lens. If you want Hasselblad Lunar, the lenses that shot almost everything on most missions were this 250mm and the 80mm; the other lenses rarely flew.

Planning an important, once-in-a-lifetime photo outing and need to be prepared for anything and everything and to make the most important photographs ever produced? All we brought on most flights to the moon were this 250mm, the 80mm, and that was it.

If you have good eyes and want to see a few of these lenses, just look up at the moon. We left left several of these on the lunar surface, still there today.

Although there are many cosmetic variations from 1957 through 2013, its optics never changed.

T* multicoating was added in the 1970s, but since this is a very simple 1930s four-element, three group optical formula, it delivers great images even uncoated. All versions work great since all are at least single coated. The T* multicoating doesn't add any significant contrast or color boost; it's just marketing here.

What did change over the years is cosmetics, shutters and filter sizes.

The first C version, shown here, came in chrome, then black. It's not marked "C" anyplace; you just have to know. It takes 50mm bayonet filters.

All newer versions are black.

The CF version moved to a rubber focus ring and a larger bayonet filter mount 60mm (B60 or Bay 60) filter. They have a newer Prontor shutter that also works with the focal-plane shutter Hasselblads.

The CFi version replaced the metal filter bayonet mount with a plastic one.

Hasselblad has mostly abandoned making new lenses or bodies for the V system, but that's no big deal because it lasts forever and it's easy to get digital backs for it. That's right; for the same piece as a typical DSLR it's easy to get a used medium format back today; you don't have to hock your Mercedes to buy a new one anymore.



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The Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250 5.6 works on all V system Hasselblad cameras, but not today's H system from the Orient.

None of the Hasselblad system works with the ancient 1600 and 1000 focal plane cameras from 1948-1957.

All versions of the 250/5.6 all work on all the usual 500, 501 and 503 series.

Only the CF and CFi versions work on the focal-plane cameras like the 200 and 2000 series.



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It covers 2¼" (56.5 mm) square, or a 3.15" (80mm) diagonal.



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This is the Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6, often suffixed CF or CFi.

It's made by Zeiss for Hasselblad.



Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar EF-M 250mm STM internal construction

250mm f/5.6 C internal diagram.


Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar EF-M 250mm STM internal construction

250mm f/5.6 CF internal diagram. (optics are the same; the outsides of the glass are cut differently to fit in the different barrel and shutter.)

4 elements in 3 groups.

The originally Sonnar design dates to 1931 by Dr. Ludwig Bertele; this variant uses fewer elements and covers a smaller angular field than the original 50mm f/2 and f/1.5 designs. The big deal about the Sonnar is that it has few air-glass surfaces so it works great even with uncoated glass. The 1932 50mm f/1.5 design is still sold today by Zeiss.

The first versions are single coated mostly in blue, and most later versions are multicoated, which Zeiss brands T*.

Actual focal length: 248.4 mm. (the CFi version is 243.4mm.)

Flange focal distance: 74.9mm.

Back focal distance: 120.0mm.


Close Focus

8.2 feet (2.5 meters) from the image plane.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:7.8 (0.13 x).


Minimum Field Size

427mm (16.8") square.



5 straight blades.

Stops down to f/45.


Vibration Reduction

Most of the weight is towards the front, so when used on a camera its large angular moment of inertia gives it good inertial stabilization.


Focal Length


When used on a Hasselblad camera, it sees an angle of view roughly similar to what a 135mm lens sees when used on a 35mm camera.


Angles of View

18° diagonal.

13° horizontal and vertical.


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?


Just set it to the stop and you're all set for astronomical photography.


Focus Scale

Yes, very precise, with tick marks.


Depth-of-Field Scale

Yes; the red indicators on the C version move automatically as you set the aperture!

Depth of fields are indicated for a 60 micron circle-of-confusion, which is twice the size usually used for 35m cameras.


Infra-Red Focus Index

Yes on the CF and CFi version, not on the C version.


Aperture Ring



Filter Mount

C version: metal 50 mm Bayonet (Bay 50 or B50).

CF version: metal 60 mm Bayonet (Bay 60 or B60).

CFi version: plastic 60 mm Bayonet (Bay 60 or B60).



Special square bayonet hood.



C version: 3.11" (79 mm) diameter by 6.14" (156 mm) extension from flange, focussed at infinity.

CF version: 3.21" (81.5 mm) diameter by 6.44" (163.6 mm) extension from flange, focussed at infinity.

CFi version: 3.27" (83 mm) diameter by 6.10" (155 mm) extension from flange, focussed at infinity.

It becomes 31.95mm longer when focussed to its close-focus stop:

Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6
Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6
Focussed at infinity. bigger.
At close-focus distance. bigger.



C version

32.780 oz. (929.4g.) actual measured weight.

Rated  32.8 oz. (930 g).


CF version

35.3 oz. (1,000 g).


CFi version

35.3 oz. (1,000 g).



Made in Germany.




The optics are identical to the 250/5.6 introduced in 1954 for the older focal-plane Hasselblads!



2013, with the end of the V system.


Prices, USA

November 2015:

Except for the Superachromat, all these lenses have the same optical design. Only the external cosmetics, filter sizes, shutter systems and coatings have changed.

If you know How to Win at eBay:

C, Chrome or Black, Bay 50 filters: $150 ~ $300. (Those with imperfect glass or needing repair can be $100 or less)

CF, Black, Bay 60 filters: $175 ~ $500.

CFi, Black, Bay 60 filters: $500 ~ $800.

Superachromat, Black, Bay 60 filters: $1,400 ~ $6,000. (completely different and superior optical design)



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Overall    Focus   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff

Filters   Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness   Shutter



The Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 is big, beautiful hunk of precision.

It's all metal, all precision, and at least the C models travelled to the moon and are built to last more than a lifetime.

The one I have here was made in 1972, and still works perfectly.



Even my 1972 sample still focuses smoothly.

It's wonderfully precise; the ring turns about 330º from infinity to close-focus distance.



The Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250 has a little bit of pincushion distortion.

Try a value of -1.0 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion.

Zeiss 250 5.6 illuminance

Zeiss' distortion curve.



It's a handful, and feels great.

At least the C version is built to last more than a lifetime.

The chrome C version is all matte, not shiny, so it's easy to read even in direct sunlight.



It does have a small amount of falloff wide open, going away as stopped down:

Zeiss 250 5.6 illuminance

Zeiss' Illuminance curves.


Filters, use with

Typical for a long lens, there's no need for thin filters.

Use Bayonet 50 or 60mm filters for fast on/off; or you can use an adapter ring to use conventional screw-in filters.

On the C version that wants B50 filters, an ordinary 52mm screw-in filter will sit inside in the front of the lens. Hold or tape it there and you're good in an emergency. 52mm filters just have enough glass to work without vignetting; don't use adapters to anything smaller.



Macro gets close enough to fit something 17" (427mm) square to fill the 2¼" frame.

This isn't that close; use an extension tube to get closer.

Since it extends 32mm at its close-focus distance, using a 32mm extension tube will let you focus in two ranges down to about 4 feet (1.2 meters).



Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6

Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6. bigger.

Lenses don't get any better than this. The Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250 5.6 C shown here is solid chromed brass.

See the fine milling marks on the barrels? This lens is lathe-turned brass!

Newer models add more plastic and skimp by painting some markings that should be engraved.


For the C version:


Filter Mount

Chromed brass.


Hood Mount

Chromed brass.


Front Barrel

Chromed brass.


Focus Ring

Chromed brass.



All metal.


Rear Barrel

Chromed brass.



Engraved into barrel and filled with paint.






All engraved and filled with paint, except for printed shutter speed and EVS scale and sync indications.

Everything else, even "Made in Germany," is all engraved to last for centuries.


Serial Number

It's on the barrel near the hood mount, on the bottom when the lens is held in the shooting position.

It's engraved and filled with paint


Date Code

Zeiss serial numbers have been sequential forever, so we use these to date Zeiss lenses.

There's also a red date code stamped inside the rear barrel. Once you have that number:

C version: The last two digits are the month, and the first one or two are the year. Add the year digits to 1957 to get the year. (Hasselblad started this series of lenses in 1957.) 501 is January 1962, and 1503 is March 1972, for example.

CF version: The letter is the month (A ~ L = January ~ December) and the two digits are the year, reversed. Thus F38 means June 83.


Noises When Shaken

Mild clicking.


Made in




Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat.

This Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 is equally sharp all across the field at every aperture. While not quite as sharp as the 250mm Superachromat, what counts in real photography is consistency across the frame, which the Zeiss 250 does extremely well. Corners are as sharp as the center, presuming you're in perfect focus.

It doesn't get sharper as stopped down; go ahead and shoot wide-open if you like. What will improve stopped down is depth of field and evenness of illumination.

Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 MTF at 200mm

Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 MTF at f/5.6 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm.


Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 MTF at 200mm

Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 MTF at f/8 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm.



My self timer has a 9.1 second delay.

At first, my 43-year old shutter was quite sloppy, as measured through the center:

1.139 s
0.19 stops slow
608 ms
0.28 stops slow
322 ms
0.37 stops slow
168 ms
0.47 stops slow
80 ms
0.36 stops slow
43 ms
0.46 stops slow
21.3 ms
0.45 stops slow
11.6 ms
0.57 stops slow
5.4 ms
0.47 stops slow
3.8 ms
0.96 stops slow

After a week or two of use, it settled down to being about a third of a stop slow at most speeds:

1.170 s
0.23 stops slow
620 ms
0.31 stops slow
326 ms
0.39 stops slow
163 ms
0.38 stops slow
74 ms
0.24 stops slow
40.4 ms
0.37 stops slow
20 ms
0.36 stops slow
9.9 ms
0.34 stops slow
4.34 ms
0.15 stops slow
2.34 ms
0.26 stops slow

16 December 2015, measured at full aperture.



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C, CF and CFi

I've compared the C, CF and CFi versions above.

They all use the same optics; the differences are your preference for cosmetics, weight, filter size and of course shutter design and compatibility.

I prefer the C; it weighs the least, is built the best, takes the smallest filters, has a built-in self-timer so I can skip the cable release and pre-release, costs the least, and has the same optics as the newest versions.


The Superachromat

The 250/5.6 Superachromat is about the same size, but has a completely different optical design using a fluorite element.

The Superachromat weighs a little less since it uses thinner elements; the Sonnar uses some very thick glass elements.

The Superachromat doesn't focus quite as close (3.0 vs. 2.5 meters), but its whole reason of being is that it can be significantly sharper. Its fluorite element lets it banish lateral color fringes.



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Zeiss 250mm f/5.6 EVS controls

Zeiss 250mm f/5.6 EVS controls. bigger.

To set an EV (exposure value) from your meter (or guess based on experience), press the ridged tab towards the camera, and move it until the triangle points to the EV number you want.

Exposure sets in half-stops only.

The aperture and shutter speed rings are usually locked together. This way you retain the same exposure (EV) regardless of how you rotate the ring. Once set, rotating the ring lets you choose different apertures or shutter speeds while retaining the same exposure, Clever, eh?


Depth of Field

To preview the depth of field, press-in the little lever shown near the "11" above.

If your lens is cocked, the diaphragm will stop down, and change as you set apertures.

To reset it to stay open, either take the picture, or set the lens to f/5.6, at which the diaphragm will stay locked wide open as you set different apertures.

This C version has an automatic analog computer that calculates the depth of field for a 60 micron circle of confusing. This is always displayed by the red bars next to the focus scale. Newer models economized and removed the computer; they have the usual markings.

To calculate the aperture that will give optimum sharpness when you need depth-of-field and don't want diffraction to soften the image, put a new scale over the computer display and use these half distances (see here for details of how to use these):

Focal length = 248.4 mm (actual design value)


Aperture on Zeiss' computer

(how to use this)


Flash & Digital Back Sync

Zeiss 250mm f/5.6 EVS controls

Zeiss 250mm f/5.6 sync, focus and exposure controls. bigger.

The V X M selector sets the flash synchronization and the self timer.

To unlock the V X M selector lever, move the little lock lever (near the 25 as shown above) towards the front of the lens.

X is normal, for modern studio strobes, digital backs and ordinary electronic flash.

M is for M-type flashbulbs.

V is the self timer. Push the lever all the way towards V, and you'll get an 8 to 10 second mechanical delay after you press the camera's shutter. The self timer always uses X sync when it fires.



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This is a perfect lens for head shots. Better than the 150mm, it lets you stand far enough away to get the best facial rendering.

Since the optics of all the versions have been the same since 1954, you may as well save money and get the oldest and cheapest C model I've shown here. Of course a CF version will be newer and less likely to need an overhaul.

T* multicoating is unnecessary with the simple optical formula of this lens, so don't worry about it.

I prefer the C model because it weighs 2½" oz. (70 g) less than the CF and CFi versions. The C version is also the only one with flashbulb (M) sync, and the only one with a built-in self timer to save me from needing a cable release.

A great reason to get a CF or CFi version is if your other lenses take B60, as opposed to B50, filters.

Unless you're shooting infrared, forget the Superachromat version. For actual photography, even my 1972 sample is uncannily sharp. The Superachromat won't take any sharper pictures.

Don't bother adapting this to smaller format cameras. A Nikon 200mm f/4 is a stop faster, a fraction of the size and weight, and focuses closer for use on 35mm format cameras.

For a front cap, a common 55mm snap-in cap works well if you don't have a real Hasselblad bayonet or slip-over cap.

I got mine at this link directly to them at eBay; they're also at Amazon. Never buy at a retail store or other dealers; you'll pay way too much and have very limited options if you don't like it.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Use only the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.


More Information

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Zeiss' 250mm Sonnar C data sheet, 1980

Zeiss' 250mm Sonnar CF data sheet, 1996

Zeiss' 250mm Sonnar CFi data sheet, 2000


NASA's page about this lens and Apollo photography.

NASA's page showing what flew in what on what missions.

NASA's page showing on what Apollo flights this lens flew.


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18 November 2015