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Hasselblad C Lenses

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Is there any good reason not to buy C lenses for my Hasselblad?  It's not that I need them, but I love the look of the silver  50mm and 60mm lenses. Still,  I see that long-time Hasselblad repairman David Odees  no longer services them because of a lack of parts. Others apparently still do,  but I wonder for how long. 

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Most Hasselblad users standardize on either the original C or more modern CF/CB/CFi lens version, to have consistent operational feel across all their lenses. But if you already own a mx of C plus later lenses, and/or don't particularly mind having a significant difference in operational feel between several of your Hasselblad lenses, theres no reason not to continue buying additional C lenses if you prefer their vintage barrel design.

It is true that some of the aging specialist repair gurus have begun to shy away from offering C repairs, but that is mostly down to them being excessively perfectionist: they charge a premium service fee based on their special capabilities like having all spare parts on hand, etc. But there are still plenty of multi-brand camera techs skilled in typical Hasselblad repairs who will gladly work on C lenses. Eventually you may indeed run up against lack of an arcane new replacement part, but most common C lens repairs only entail a clean lube adjust and perhaps replacing the mainspring.

Substitutes for original mainsprings are available: frowned upon by purists but if you can't get an original and the substitute works, why not? One could also supply a second donor lens to the tech to harvest parts from if absolutely necessary. Not ideal, but this is the path now required for many decades-old classic cameras: if you want to use the really old gear, compromises sometimes must be made to keep them running. Eventually, parts will run dry for the CF lenses as well, so we all must be prepared for additional repair hassles someday.

Aside from the different operational feel of C vs later lenses (default locked EV setting, incredibly stiff and nasty serrated metal focus ring, oddball Series 8 filter size for the 50 and 60 Distagons), there are are a couple considerations to bear in mind for specific use cases. The silver C 60mm lens is fairly hard to find in the faster f/4 version, most I've seen are the very slow f/5.6 which makes for dim viewing (and all I've come across required a complete shutter/diaphragm overhaul).

The common single-coated 50mm silver C lens can have wild sample variation from mediocre to quite good, depending on age and how well the glass was maintained. While rather scarce nowadays, patient hunting can net you a silver 50 C lens with T* multicoating, which benefits the 40mm and 50mm more than the other C lenses. I owned a silver 50 T* for eight years, it made beautiful images, while a single-coated backup was just "OK".

On the off chance you're interested in using a digital back on your Hasselblad, be aware some of the popular older Phase/Leaf backs have a known incompatibility issue with the Compur shutter in C lenses. There is something inherent in the Compur flash sync mechanism that fails to trigger exposure with some digital backs. The later CF, CB, CFi and CFe lenses with Prontor shutter have no issue triggering digital backs.

Edited by orsetto
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C lenses are more difficult to service, they take 1.5x longer to dis/re-assemble. But that might just be my (lack of) skill level, if I worked on more C lenses, I might be faster. But that is one of the reasons people don't like working on them, especially if they have to return them when they don't have the right part.

I see nothing in the x-sync that would make C lenses worse for digital, but keep in mind how old they were, all early flashes had high voltage triggers, so the contacts on those lenses would likely be more corroded.

I like C lenses.

Edited by tom_chow
"Manfred, there is a design problem with that camera...every time you drop it that pin breaks"
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The main argument against them is that they are very old now so even more likely to require repair or servicing, which is harder to find, but they are cheaper. The B50 filters (80 and 150mm lenses) were quite easy to find. The series filters less so. The interlocked EV scale is also something alien to current photographers (although it is nice to use when on a tripod as you are probably not worrying about shutter speed). They may also be heavier than the CF lenses (don't know this). I used a set of silver C lenses with the 50mm and 80mm with T* and 150mm single coated. They all worked very nicely. The C 50mm does not have the floating elements that improved close up focusing imagery found in the CF CFE lens. I agree with the OP that they are absolutely beautiful pieces of optical machinery and much more so than the CF lenses, but logic tells me this is not a reason to buy them over CF lenses. 

Robin Smith
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Yikes!  Just started looking  on Ebay for the two lenses I'm interested in, the 50mm and 60mm, and I've found one good reason not the buy one-- the PRICE.  They are now on par with CF and Cfi lenses. This must reflect collectors interest rather than user interest. Out of my price range. 

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Prices have been pretty stable over the past few years for the 50mm C lens in silver barrel: if anything, prices seem to have dropped recently. Curiously, the available supply of 50mm C in silver barrel with T* multicoating is better than its ever been (even odder, the price premium for the rather rare silver barrel T* variation has almost vanished). I think I paid $679 for a mint silver 50mm C T* in 2013 that quickly developed a sticky shutter, I see several similar examples for sale today in the $400 range (on par with the far more common black barrel 50mm C T*).

OTOH, prices on surviving silver 60mm C lenses have noticeably increased from a few years ago. Not surprising: far fewer of these were made than the 50mm to begin with, and the early 60mm was almost exclusively bought by pros who beat them into the ground and left them for dead (vs the tens of thousands of still-mint 50mm C lenses bought by dentists and abandoned in a closet for decades). To whatever degree there is a Hasselblad collector's market, the early 60mm is definitely sought after. The 60mm f/5.6 was among the first wave lenses introduced with the 500C camera, the improved faster 60mm f/4 followed up a few years later only to be almost immediately displaced by the vastly more popular 50mm C. 

Supply of both early silver 60mm variations is limited today: only 2000 each (give or take) of the f/5.6 and f/4 version were made. The f/5.6 was discontinued in 1961, the f/4 in 1964: age + limited production = collectible pricing. Contrast this with the silver 50mm  f/4 C that replaced them: approx 30K were sold between 1964 and 1973, plus another 40K in black finish thru 1982 when the CF version arrived. So the pool of available silver 60mm lenses is tiny. Most of the f/5.6 I've seen were well and truly worn and grungy, the f/4 seemed to suffer less abuse but has been hoarded more by collectors.

Complicating matters further, the later 60mm f/3.5 black barrel C T* was a significant improvement, one of the best optics Zeiss made for Hasselblad. It is an overall better performer, and with 11K made and sold between 1976-1982 easily found at reasonable prices. Of course it wouldn't match an otherwise all-silver C lens lineup in your camera bag (think of it as a Black Swan).

Sweet lens, but after I handled the immensely more comfortable 60mm CB version I sold it with no regrets. The C lenses are works of industrial art, but the focus ring handling of the wide to normal focal lengths is abysmal. The later CF and CB/CFi/CFe look like they were made by Vivitar on an off day, but are much easier to operate. The CF focus is still ridiculously slow and stiff but at least has a comfortable rubber grip, final CB/CFi/CFe have buttery smooth perfectly-damped focus feel (they should, for the prices asked).

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