Hasselblad F, Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8, should I attempt to fix it myself?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by arthurdigbysellers, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. This is one of those Hasselblad F lenses, with no built-in shutter and the focusing ring placed at the front. I bought it from Ebay years ago to use it on an APS-C DSLR with an adapter. Optically, the lens is nothing short of amazing, it's a Carl Zeiss, T* coated, with beautiful contrast and colors. I really love it and I would not be able to buy it today for the price I paid for it back then.

    However, one thing that the Ebay seller didn't mention is that this lens has a pretty stiff focus ring. There are no weird sounds, no grinding, no uneven travel, it's just that you need to apply some force on the ring in order to move it. This hasn't stopped me from using this lens successfully so far. But it does bother me a bit, especially because I'm afraid it might get worse with time or maybe even damage the lens.

    Repair shops I inquired about this did not reply for the most part. The only one that was willing to do it gave me a quote of $300 to $350 for the job, which pretty much sealed it for me. This might be a fair quote for a focus CLA on a Hasselblad lens but I am not willing to pay this kind of money for it. Also, all these shops are abroad (there is no one in my country that I know of), so I would have to pay for shipping as well. Given these circumstances, my intention is to leave the lens as it is and deal with the stiff focus. I know it's not wise to try and mess around with a crazy complex mechanism that require special tools to get into. The reason I wrote this post is to find out from the more knowledgeable people on this forum if this is by any chance a trivial job to do. Something that happens to be a simple fix that doesn't involve dismantling the entire lens. If there is any chance at that, I might give it a try.
  2. $300-$350 sounds reasonable to me. Shipping cost is not the concern of the repair shop. Shipping cost is something that you need to accept, given that there are no local repair shops in your area.

    Can you download and read a repair manual for this lens? You can then make a decision, based on your knowledge of your repair skills, whether or not it is a trivial job in your assessment. If the DIY project is not successful, what is the probability of reassembling the lens to its current condition, or not being able to reassemble it correctly? Answers to those questions will help you decide what to do.
  3. Thanks for your reply, Wilmarco Imaging. I only mentioned there are shipping costs involved to give some context on the overall practicality of this approach in my circumstance, not to imply that they are somehow the concern of the repair shop. Indeed, the total cost of this operation would come close to what I would need to simply buy another lens.

    I looked for service manuals online - or repair videos, which would be even more helpful - but couldn't find anything conclusive. I guess these lenses are a lot less common than the ones for the 500 series. My hope with this post is that someone who did look into one of these before could chime in with an answer on how difficult it is.
  4. From day one back in 1957, Hasselblad has had the absolute worst focus ring feel in camera history. Every lens made from 1957 to 1980 is torture to use: turning the focus ring takes as much effort as shoveling snow in an ice storm. Ridiculous, but Saint Victor deliberately baked this in for whatever sadistic reason and we're stuck with it. From 1980 to the mid 90s, lenses added rubber focus rings instead of sharp metal, but the turning effort remained the same or just very slightly less. Your non-shutter 80mm Planar falls between these two eras, probably made in the late 1970s.

    A couple of very highly esteemed Hasselblad repair technicians have told me little or nothing can be done to make the focus feel any easier or softer. The high torque is designed into the metal helical threads: changing the lubrication has only a minor effect on this. Since any disassembly of a Hasselblad lens triggers an automatic $300 service fee, they recommended I not bother unless/until the lens developed a serious mechanical malfunction. Their honest advice saved me a small fortune, I suggest you heed it.

    I own a half dozen Hasselbald lenses from the same period as yours (CF-era with rubber focus ring). They all require significantly more effort to turn than lenses from any of my other camera systems. There is some variation from one Hasselblad lens to another: a couple of mine are a tiny bit less stiff than the rest. But essentially, they all have high turning resistance. You may simply have an 80mm Planar that falls more toward the higher-resistance end of the spectrum. A service and re-lube might take it down one notch (from say 10 to 9), but it is doubtful you would find such a small difference worth the cost. DIY re-lube of any Hasselblad lens is a bad idea, unless you truly are expertly skilled at that sort of thing: these lenses are still worth far to much to risk damaging otherwise.

    If the focus resistance is really limiting your enjoyment of the lens, might I suggest a few alternatives? First, all 'blad 80mm f/2.8 Planars perform the same pictorially: the only difference is age and barrel design. The very last late-90s versions, known as CB, CFi or CFe, finally DID vastly improve the focus ring helicoid. These feel fantastic when turning: silky-smooth, very little resistance: a night and day difference to the version you have now. They are more expensive, of course, but you might be able to sell yours and trade up at fairly reasonable cost. Your current Planar is worth about $500-$600 (US) in nice condition, the CB version about $699-$799 (US). The CB has one fewer element than yours: the design is optimized for extra sharpness in the center while sacrificing the corners slightly. It is the most popular 80mm Planar for digital cameras. The CFi and CFe use the older 7-element optics of your current lens, but are much more expensive (($799-$999 US).

    You might also consider a radical change, like using a smaller Zeiss optic more specifically designed to cover smaller APS-C and FX formats. Zeiss is Zeiss overall: they have a "house look", so if you love the rendering of one lens you'll usually love any other (with the occasional glaring exception). A very popular choice for APS-C is the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7 made for the old Contax/Yashics RTS system. Or, you can more closely match your current lens with the 85mm f/2.8 Sonnar, legendary as one of the best lenses Zeiss ever made for a 35mm camera. Typically referred to as "C/Y" Zeiss, this series of lenses runs half the cost of most Hasselblad lenses, at half the size and weight. Selling your current 80mm Planar and opting for one of these instead would likely result in a cash profit, or at the very least cost you nothing:


    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  5. Thank you for your very informative reply, Orsetto. It not only answers my dilemma in a pretty definitive way, but it is also a short history lesson in Hasselblad's fondness for stiff focus rings. I intend to keep this lens and leave the focus ring as it is. I haven't used another Zeiss lens but I have seen their results and they are outstanding. And some of them can be bought for very reasonable prices.
  6. This same problem also occurs on other lenses of the same period from Carl Zeiss Jena. It is possible to introduce a little naphtha (VERY little at one time) into the lens helical and work the lens until the gunk originally used to lubricate the lens is thinned and spead out. If you are brave enough to dissemble the lens. you can wipe the crud out with some solvent and reassemble (take lots of notes, pictures, and mark the len parts with a pencil).
    Pentacon 6 mount​
  7. Good advice on taking notes and pictures while you do any disassemble of this kind. Though I think it's not worth to do it in the end if the improvement is not that drastic. Trying to squeeze naphtha from the outside is an interesting idea but sounds crazy risky. Maybe a small probability, but lubricant can end up in unwanted places, like on the glass elements or the aperture blades.
  8. The problem with Zeiss lenses is they are built too well (wink wink). The tolerances in the helicoids are excruciatingly tight. Any "dead" lubricant deep in the grooves will cause friction. A notoriously stiff lens on the Zeiss Contarex is the Sonnar 135 F2.8 I have one that was locked up so badly when I bought it I could not turn the focus ring at all. Long story short, I managed to get it apart and after scrupulous cleaning of the helicoids and use of very thin synthetic grease (Microtools) the lens actually turns TOO easily, if that can be imagined.

    I would not drop any solvents in there without knowing exactly where it is going because you don't want to risk starting lens separation but since this is a front focusing lens, you might be able to get in there with minimal effort and try some of the previously mentioned remedies under a more controlled process. In a few Planars I have had good results exposing 1/3 the helicoid and adding the thin synthetic grease. Once it was buttoned up and worked in, the focusing effort improved but this was NOT the same lens you and Orsetto are talking about so beware.
    orsetto likes this.
  9. Dude, seriously: you're killing me now with your Ninja repair skills.;)

    The few remaining elderly Contarex repair specialists trained by the factory wouldn't touch these lenses anymore for any payment you tried to bribe them with, yet you not only got the accursed 135mm opened, but put back together properly and re-greased?

    RESPECT! :)

    You oughtta start a repair class, or post webinars on youTube, or something: your persistence with impossibly balky gear is beyond impressive. If I ever pick up one of the rare Series E 100mm f/3.5 multicoated lenses for my Mamiya Press, which is notorious for its aluminum on aluminum helicoids fusing after the lube dries out, I know who I'm calling for help...
  10. ^ Since this thread and section are about "medium format" putting up info on a 35mm (Contarex) would be a bit inconsiderate. I'll post up something in the "Classic Film Cameras" section within the next day or so. Suffice it to say, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. This situation was one of the wins.
  11. Thanks for your reply, andyfalsetta. Your Sonnar anecdote, along with orsetto's account of his own experiences, paint a bigger picture of how this problem appears. It seems that 3 factors contribute to it happening: Hasselblad's choice for tight tolerances, your luck in getting a lens that is extra tight and the gunk that inevitably accumulates in the lubricated areas. They probably work in conjunction to produce all levels of stiffness that people encounter in these lenses.

Share This Page