Zeiss 40mm f/4

Distagon T✻ FLE (1982-2000)

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Hasselblad Zeiss 40mm f/4 CF FLE

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 40mm f/4 CF FLE (fits Hasselblad V system, 33.180 oz./940.7g and takes 93mm drop-in filters with filter adapter as shown, 1.5'/0.5m close focus, about $1,500 used if you know How to Win at eBay.) bigger. I got this one at this link directly to them at eBay. 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.

 

The ZEISS 40/4 CF is a spectacular lens, visibly just as sharp and distortion-free as my 38/4,5 BIOGON.

This 40mm is supremely sharp and has no visible distortion. The SWC isn't visibly better, and this lens has much less light falloff than the SWC — but the SWC takes much easier to find B60 (or Series VIII) filters.

This 40mm lens takes impossible-to-find 93mm drop-in filters, presuming you have the filter adapter as shown. You can find B60 filters for the SWC at B&H, at Adorama and used at eBay, but 93mm drop in filters are nearly impossible to find and probably don't come in the types you need.

For this 40mm, it's best to use an 86x1.0mm to 95x1.0mm step-up ring in place of the two-peice Hasselblad 93/40 adapter ring, and use regular 95mm screw-in filters.

The 86 -> 95mm adapter rings sold on eBay from China typically use an incorrect 0.75mm thread pitch for the 86mm threads, so be careful since they won't fully attach to the lens. Don't force it and these rings will work well, too.

With filters sorted out, the huge advantage of this 40mm lens is that you can see what you're doing, focus and meter through the lens, while with the SWC you're guessing distance, always using an external meter and guessing at what's actually in your picture with the SWC's goofy peephole finder.

This 40/4 weighs 32.150 oz. (911.5g) with no filter adapter. The two-peice filter adapter weighs 1.030 oz. (29.3g).

 

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Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 internal construction

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 internal construction.

 

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 Distortion.

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 Illuminance

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 Illuminance.

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 MTF at f/2.8

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 MTF at f/4: 10, 20 and 40 cyc/mm.

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 MTF at f/5.6

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 MTF at f/5.6: 10, 20 and 40 cyc/mm.

 

Sample Image

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Earthrise

Buzz Aldrin inside the LEM during the lunar descent, 20 July 1969. bigger. (Hasselblad 500 EL, 40mm f/4 Distagon, Kodak SO-368 Ektachrome 70mm film. photo: Neil Armstrong, commander, Apollo XI, NASA)

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Introduction

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Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

The Zeiss Distagon 250 f/4 is one of the two most classic Hasselblad lenses. These 40mm 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 40mm and the 40mm; 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 40mm, the 40mm, 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 40mm 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.

 

Compatibility

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The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 250 4 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 250/4 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.

 

Format

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It covers 2¼" (56.5 mm) square, or a 3.15" (40mm) diagonal.

 

Specifications

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Name

This is the Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4, often suffixed CF or CFi.

It's made by Zeiss for Hasselblad.

 

Optics

 

40mm f/4 CF FLEinternal diagram.

 

 

40mm f/4 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 Distagon design dates to 1931 by Dr. Ludwig Bertele; this variant uses fewer elements and covers a smaller angular field than the original 40mm f/2 and f/1.5 designs. The big deal about the Distagon is that it has few air-glass surfaces so it works great even with uncoated glass. The 1932 40mm 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.

 

Diaphragm

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

40mm.

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?

Yes.

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

Yes.

 

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).

 

Hood

Special square bayonet hood.

 

Size

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

 

Weight

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).

 

Quality

Made in Germany.

 

Introduced

1957.

 

Discontinued

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)

 

Performance

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Overall    Focus   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff

Filters   Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness   Shutter

 

Overall

The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 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.

 

Focus

Even my 1972 sample still focuses smoothly.

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

 

Distortion

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

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

 

Ergonomics

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.

 

Falloff

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

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).

 

Mechanics

Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4. bigger.

Lenses don't get any better than this. The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 250 4 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.

 

Internals

All metal.

 

Rear Barrel

Chromed brass.

 

Identity

Engraved into barrel and filled with paint.

 

Mount

Metal.

 

Markings

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

Germany.

 

Sharpness

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 Distagon 40mm f/4 is equally sharp all across the field at every aperture. While not quite as sharp as the 40mm 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 Planar 80mm f/2.8 MTF at 200mm

Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 MTF at f/4 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm.

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 MTF at 200mm

Zeiss Distagon 40mm f/4 MTF at f/8 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm.

 

Shutter

Measured at f/4

My shutter is within a quarter of a stop, except a half stop fast at 1/8 and almost a stop fast at 1/15. This lens ought to be serviced to get 1/8 and 1/15 back on-spec; or simply consider 1/8 as 1/10 and not use 1/15, which is almost the same as 1/30.

The good news is that it's dead-on at 1/30 and 1/60 and within ±1/8 stop from 1/30 to 1/250, which is most of where you'll use this hand-held.

Marked
Actual
Actual
Error
1
940 ms
1/1.06
0.09 stops fast
2
476 ms
1/2.1
0.07 stops fast
4
200 ms
1/5
0.32 stops fast
8
88 ms
1/11.4
0.51 stops fast
15
34 ms
1/29.4
0.88 stops fast
30
31.7 ms
1/31.5
0.02 stops slow
60
16.2 ms
1/61.7
0.05 stops slow
125
7.15 ms
1/140
0.13 stops fast
250
4.25 ms
1/235
0.12 stops slow
500
2.3 ms
1/435
0.24 stops slow

Measured wide-open, 06 January 2016.

 

Compared

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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 250/4 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 Distagon 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.

 

Usage

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Exposure

Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 EVS controls

Zeiss 40mm f/4 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/4, 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 = 40.9 mm (actual design focal length)

f/

feet
meters
Aperture on Zeiss' scale
4
266
81
5.6
133
40.5
8
66.5
20
(f/1.4)
11
33.2
10
(f/2.8)
16
16.6
5
f/5.6
22
8.3
2.532
f/11

(how to use this)

 

Flash & Digital Back Sync

Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 EVS controls

Zeiss 40mm f/4 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.

 

Recommendations

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This is a perfect lens for head shots. Better than the 40mm, it lets you stand far enough away to get the best facial rendering.

Since the optics of all the versions are the same, you may as well save money and get the oldest and cheapest C model I've shown here.

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.

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' 40mm Distagon C data sheet, 1980

Zeiss' 40mm Distagon CF data sheet, 1996

Zeiss' 40mm Distagon 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.

 

© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

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Jan 2017, Feb 2016, 18 November 2015