Review: Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 C T*

Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 C T*

This lens gets a lot of bad press.

From the moment its younger sibling, the FLE version, hit the shelves the older version became regarded automatically almost as if it were trash.

Don’t get me wrong, the CF FLE is better, just look at the MTF charts. The FLE has two more elements – 9 vs the 7 of both the C and the CF models, which share the same optical scheme. Thanks to them the FLE manages to gain one full MTF point at the borders, and supposedly it is better at close distance.

Now, especially if you do a lot of handheld or fast, reportage style, work (but then: why you use an Hasselblad for this?) sure go for the FLE. Quality aside, the focus ring of the newer style Hasselblad lenses is way faster to operate, and it may well justify the steeper cost alone. If you use a digital back go for the FLE as well. For crying out loud, after you spent 30.000€ or more on a Phase One, you don’t want to cheap out on the lenses!


Hasselblad Distagon 50mm - massiccio del pollino sopra Frascineto

Instead let’s say that you use your Hasselblad, as I do, mostly for landscape work, on film, tightly screwed on a tripod thanks to an awesome ClearSight Arca-compatible replacement foot.

If that’s the case you will find the older model not only a bargain, but a real jewel.

From f/4 to f/22 this dense chunk of glass will give you pictures really really sharp border-to-border. The only details “mushy” will be the ones out of the focus zone (obviously).

But they will not be very numerous, because other that being sharp this lens has a really extended depth of field too, and it reaches infinity pretty fast.

Frankly, the only drawback I can think of is the focus ring, pretty tight as usual for the C series. If you are concerned by this just buy a CF for a few bucks more and you will still be saving big money compared to an FLE.

How much, you’re asking? Well, I paid for mine 150€, and the more modern – in body shape, not optics – CF doesn’t change hands usually for more than 200/230€. In comparison the CF FLE variant starts around 500€ and goes only up from there, depending on personal luck, period of the year, astral connections etc.

Hasselblad Distagon 50mm - massiccio del pollino sopra Frascineto

My version, the C T*, should use some weird 63mm filters, kept in place by a special ring. But, thankfully, you can use plain 67mm filters and they will screw in all the same, just not very smoothly – the pitch is different – or up to the end. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference, though.

The only filter I use is a pretty thick Leitz yellow-green – Leica, Zeiss and Hasselblad, a threesome made in heaven! Even with this one the vignetting is limited to just a bit of a corner – yes, corner not corners. It seems to affect only the upper left side, I frankly don’t know why. Probably this has something to do with how beaten up my sample is… Anyway, dodging or cropping the affected bit in post is trivial.

Summing up: it’s a Zeiss for Hasselblad, you were really believing the people saying it was unsharp, the very same people who treat photography like it was optical engineering instead of art?

And if you don’t believe me: just try for yourself. It has become a really cheap lens nowadays. If you don’t like it you can always sell it later for pretty much the same money.

Rating: ★★★★½ on film