Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4

for Hasselblad V System (1982-1989)

Sample Images   Intro   History   Compatibility   Format

Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

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Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF (fits Hasselblad V system, B60 bayonet filters, this sample from 1983, 27.8 oz./789 g, 1.5'/18.2"/0.46m close focus, about $300 ~ $650 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 $299. Never buy at a retail store or dealer; 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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Sample Images

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Christmas Lights

Looking up a 220 kV High Voltage Electrical Tower, 1:40 PM, 12 December 2015. Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad PME finder, Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4, focus set to 15 feet, f/6.7 at 1/60 (EV 11½ / LV 12½) on original Fuji Velvia (not Velvia 50; this is original Velvia frozen when new and expired 2006-09). NCPS process and scan. bigger.

 

Introduction

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The Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 CF has superior optics, the same as the classic 50mm f/4 C, in an updated barrel and shutter.

 

History

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This 50mm f/4 Distagon T✻ was sold in several different versions, all with identical optics:

 

1964 ~ 1973: Chrome, Series VIII filters

Chrome C version.

 

1972 ~ Today: T✻

T✻ brand multicoating was added in 1972.

You will see some chrome T✻ versions.

 

1973 ~ 1982: Black T✻, Series VIII filters

Black C version. Same as the chrome version, simply finished in black to get people to buy new ones.

All of these will be multicoated (T✻ trademark).

 

1982 ~ 1989: CF T✻, Bayonet 60 filters

This Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF uses exactly the same optics, in a completely different barrel with a completely different shutter.

This CF version has stiffer (more damped focus) than the C versions.

 

1989 ~ 2000: CF FLE T✻, Bayonet 60 filters

In 1989 a completely different 50mm design was introduced. It has manually adjustable optics to improve astigmatism in the corners at close focus distance.

This is a completely different lens and not reviewed here.

 

2000 ~ 2013: CFi FLE T✻, Bayonet 60 filters

The CFi has exactly the same optics as the CF FLE.

It has less legible (all the same color) foot and meter markings and ribbed rubber grips.

Hasselblad claimed other various minor improvements, like easier focussing. Seeing how the original C versions also had easier focussing than the CF versions, it seems like Hasselblad simply returned to the same thing as in the beginning.

This is a completely different lens and not reviewed here.

 

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF. bigger.

 

Compatibility

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The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50 4 works on all V system Hasselblad cameras, but not today's H system from the Orient.

It doesn't work with the ancient 1600 and 1000 focal plane cameras from 1948-1957.

All versions of the 50/4 all work on all the usual 500, 501 and 503 series.

Only the CF and CFi versions work optimally 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" (80mm) diagonal.

It makes a 55.0mm wide x 55.5mm tall (78.1mm diagonal) image on an A12 magazine.

 

Specifications

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Name

This is the Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF.

It's made by Zeiss for Hasselblad.

"Distagon" is the trademark Zeiss uses for any of its retrofocus (wide-angle SLR) lenses.

T✻ is simply a colorful trademark for Zeiss' multicoating.

 

Optics

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF internal diagram.

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF internal diagram.

7 elements in 7 groups.

Actual focal length: 51.3mm.

Multicoated (T✻ ) mostly in blue, with green on the rear surface.

Flange focal distance: 74.9mm.

 

Diaphragm

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4

Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF at f/5.6. bigger.

5 straight blades.

Stops down to f/22.

 

Shutter

Prontor leaf ("center") shutter.

1 ~ 1/500 and Bulb.

 

Flash Sync

Synchronizes at all speeds; a huge advantage of the Hasselblad system is flash sync at 1/500 for daylight fill flash.

 

Close Focus

19" (0.5m) from the image plane, closest marked.

18.2" (1.5 feet or 0.46m) from the image plane, actual.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

About 1:5.3, measured.

 

Minimum Subject Field

About 12" (300mm) square, measured.

 

Focal Length

50mm.

When used on a Hasselblad camera, it sees an angle of view roughly similar to what a 28mm lens sees when used on a 35mm camera.

 

Angles of View

75° diagonal.

58° 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.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Yes.

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

 

Infra-Red Focus Index

Yes.

 

Aperture Ring

Yes.

 

Filter Mount

Metal 60 mm Bayonet (Bay 60 or B60).

 

Hood

Special square bayonet hood.

 

Size

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

It becomes longer when focussed more closely.

 

Weight

C version

32.327 oz. (916.5 g) actual measured weight with Series VIII filter retaining ring.

31.510 oz. (893.3 g) if you've lost the filter retaining ring.

Rated  31.2 oz. (885 g).

 

This CF version

27.820 oz. (788.7 g), actual measured weight.

 

CF FLE version

Rated 28.2 oz. (800 g).

 

Quality

Made in Germany.

 

Prices, USA

Christmas 2015: About $300 ~ $650 used if you know How to Win at eBay.

 

Performance

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Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

Overall    Focus   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff   Filters

Flare & Ghosts   Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness   Shutter   Sunstars

 

Overall

The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF has superb optics in an accurate shutter.

 

Focus

It's stiffer than the older C version, but requires less turning.

The ring turns about 240º from infinity to close-focus distance.

 

Distortion

The Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50 has no visible distortion.

For more critical use, use a value of +1.2 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the minor barrel distortion at infinity.

Zeiss 50mm f/4 distortion

Zeiss' distortion curve.

 

Ergonomics

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 CF. bigger.

It feels better than the C version; it's softer and easier to set the aperture and shutter speeds.

 

Falloff

It has some falloff wide open, most of which which goes away at f/5.6 and is completely gone by f/8.

Zeiss 50 4 illuminance curves

Zeiss' Illuminance curves.

 

Filters, use with

It uses odd B60 bayonet 60mm filters. These are typical for Hasselblad, but no one else uses them.

Most people will use an adapter ring and regular filters.

 

Flare & Ghosts

Hasselblad Zeiss 50mm f/4 Flare and ghosts

Shooting into the sun, 10:27AM, 12 December 2015. Hasselblad 500 C/M, Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 CF, 8 meters focus distance, f/8 at 1/15 (EV 10/ LV 11) on original Fuji Velvia (not Velvia 50; this is original Velvia frozen when new and expired 2006-09). NCPS process and scan. bigger.

Don't get your hopes up; in spite of the showy T✻ multicoating, the multicoating isn't that great, and with seven separate elements, flare can be pretty bad.

Most modern DSLR lenses are much better than this.

 

Lateral Color Fringes

There are no lateral color fringes seen on Velvia on the light table or as scanned at 2,400 DPI.

This is exceptionally good performance.

 

Macro

Macro gets close enough to fit something about 12" (300mm) square in the 2¼" frame.

This is the closest of the classic non-macro ZEISS lenses.

The catch is that while super sharp at normal distances, this lens isn't very sharp in the corners at macro distances. When shot very close, stop-down if you want the corners sharp.

This is improved in the newer FLE version.

 

Mechanics

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF. bigger.

The 50/4 CF is as well made as the other CF lenses, which is not quite as sturdy as the original C lenses, but still more than good enough to have been the reference for a generation of full-time professional photographers.

 

Filter Mount

Anodized aluminum.

 

Hood Mount

Anodized aluminum.

 

Front Barrel

Anodized aluminum.

 

Shutter Ring

Metal.

 

Focus Ring

Anodized aluminum with plastic ring with a knobby rubber band on top.

 

Aperture Ring

Plastic.

 

Aperture Preview Button

Plastic.

 

Internals

All metal.

 

Identity

Engraved and filled with paint around the front element retaining ring.

 

Mount

Metal.

 

Markings

Simply painted, except for the engraved identity ring.

 

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: the letter is the month (A ~ L = January ~ December) and the two digits are the year, reversed.

Thus L38 on this lens means December 1983.

 

Noises When Shaken

Almost no 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 T✻ 50mm f/4 is super sharp, even shot wide-open, all the way out to the corners.

This is a real ZEISS lens made by ZEISS in Germany, not some offshore rubbish made by Sony or Cosina and simply branded "Zeiss" for show.

While the MTF curves suggest slightly more sharpness stopped down, in actual use on Velvia as seen on the light table and scanned at 2,400 DPI, it's just as sharp at every aperture right out to the corners.

If you're not getting sharp images, something's not in perfect focus or something moved.

It's so good wide-open that the only real reason to stop down is for depth of field, or for less falloff.

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 MTF at f/4
Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 MTF at f/8
MTF at f/4 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm. bigger.
MTF at f/4 and 10, 20 and 40 cycles/mm. bigger.

 

Shutter

My shutter is within a quarter of a stop at every speed. Except for 1 second, it's within a fifth of a stop or better at all speeds, including 1/500. This is excellent:

Marked
Actual
Actual
Error
1
853 ms
1/1.17
0.23 stops fast
2
456 ms
1/2.2
0.13 stops fast
4
240 ms
1/4.17
0.06 stops fast
8
120 ms
1/8.33
0.06 stops fast
15
65 ms
1/15.4
0.06 stops slow
30
30.5 ms
1/32.8
0.04 stops fast
60
16.5 ms
1/60.6
0.08 stops slow
125
8.9 ms
1/112
0.19 stops slow
250
4.2 ms
1/238
0.10 stops slow
500
2.25 ms
1/444
0.20 stops slow

These are measured wide-open, 16 December 2015.

 

Sunstars

With a straight 5-bladed diaphragm, you'll get sharp 5- or 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

See a sample at Flare.

 

Compared

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Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

 

1964 ~ 1982: C

The older C version has exactly the same optics, in a tougher and heavier barrel.

It takes Series VIII filters, which are plentiful and inexpensive.

The C versions have a self timer, absent in this CF and all newer 50mm lenses.

 

1982 ~ 1989: CF T✻

This Zeiss Distagon T✻ 50mm f/4 CF has exactly the same optics, in a completely different barrel with a completely different shutter. It takes B60 filters.

This CF has usually uncoupled shutter and aperture rings, easier to change to different light, but more likely to get knocked accidentally if you're using the EVS scales as I do.

This CF version has stiffer (more damped focus) than the C versions, but a gripper rubber focus ring.

This CF version weighs less, and its Prontor shutter will be newer and probably be super accurate as you receive it.

This CF version uses nearly impossible-to-find B60 bayonet filters. If you find them, expect to pay about $50 each, used. You'll wind up using B60 adapter rings and conventional threaded filters, which can be clumsy.

 

1989 ~ 2013: CF and CFi FLE T✻

This is a completely different lens not reviewed here.

The FLE versions are much sharper in the corners at macro distances, but only if you remember to set the manual distance compensation ring properly. If you forget to set this second independent manual focus ring correctly, you'll get even worse results!

 

Usage

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Exposure

Exposure sets in half-stop clicks; shutter speed of course only in full stops.

The aperture and shutter speed rings usually turn freely from each other. To lock them together to keep the same exposure (EV) as you select different shutter and aperture combinations, press down the little tit on the aperture ring to the right of f/4 as you move them.

 

Depth of Field

To preview the depth of field, press down (towards the bottom of the camera) the lever to the left of the f/22 on the depth-of-field scale.

To open the diaphragm again for focus, press the bottom of this lever towards the center of the lens.

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 depth-of-field scale and use these half distances (see here for details of how to use these):

51.3mm (actual design focal length)

Aperture
meters
feet
Aperture on Zeiss' scale
4
124
407
5.6
62
204
8
31
102
11
15.5
51
(f/2.8)
16
7.761
25.5
f/5.6
22
3.88
12.7
f/11

(how to use this)

 

Recommendations

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Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

The 50mm is the widest practical lens for Hasselblad, which is why it's been so popular.

The 40mm lenses take crazy and impossible to find filters, so unless you're using a digital back, you need filters and the 40mm lenses become not that great an idea.

The SWC Super Wide cameras use either Series VIII or B60 filters, but you can't see what you're doing for composition — which is critical with a wide lens where you need to be close. You have to use a separate peephole finder, or torture yourself with a cockamamie view-camera-like focus screen contraption, but have none of the movements of view cameras.

Thus this 50mm is the widest lens you can shoot conveniently, use filters and see what you're going to get in your picture.

The advantage to this CF over the older C lenses are lighter weight, potentially easier exposure setting, and if you prefer B60 filters to Series 8. Unless you have a stack of B60 filters, use an adapter ring so you can use regular filters. A 67mm filter is the closest size to a B60 if you're adapter shopping. Use an adapter to a larger size, like 72mm or 77mm, if you plan to use thick or multiple filters.

T✻ multicoating is potentially helpful with a wide lens like this, but I don't see any performance difference between this and my old 1965 regular C lens. Remember that Zeiss and Hasselblad sold the exact same optical formula for 25 years from 1964 through 1989 and had to do something to keep people buying the same old thing.

The newer FLE lenses aren't any sharper in actual shooting at normal distances; they are only sharper at macro distances but only in the corners and only if you actually remember to set their secondary focus rings correctly. Otherwise, this ancient lens is just as fantastic, and super-sharp even at macro distances in the center.

Get whichever version you prefer, and know that these non-FLE lenses are just as sharp on film at normal distances; the only reason to pay more for an FLE is vanity or if you're shooting very close-up.

This lens has extraordinary optics, far better on 2¼" Velvia than the offshored Zeiss-labeled rubbish people send me today to test on mirrorless digital cameras.

I got mine at this link directly to them at eBay. Never buy at a retail store or dealer; 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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18 December 2015