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Hasselblad — 1986 Planar 80mm Versus CB Planar?

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I see a nice 1986 Hasselblad 500 CM at an auction site.

I currently have a 501CM with the CB Planar 80mm.

It is the nicest lens I've ever had, in terms of results.

However, I'm selling the 501CM for financial reasons.

Would the lens on the cheaper 500CM be the same optically as the one on the 501CM, or did the design change?

Thanks for any info.

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I have a 501 cm with a regular 80mm planar. I gave the 1972 planar to my son. The differences are small if they exist. The newer lens has better coatings, however going through a batch of prints it would be difficult to tell the difference. No experience with the CB lens.

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At some point or another, I've owned every version of the 80mm Planar (C chrome barrel, C black T*, CF, "New C", CB, and CFe). 

Short version: theres almost no chance you'll detect the slightest difference when replacing your 80mm CB Planar with the earlier CF Planar, aside from barrel appearance (and firmer focus ring turn on the CF).

Long version:

All but the CB (which you had on your 501CM) are optically identical aside from the coatings: single coating on the initial chrome barrel C, with all the others having T* multicoating. Presumably like other mfrs, Zeiss made slight updates to their T* coatings between 1973 and 2001, but no one has ever reported a significant impact. The most important differences for most users would be the ergonomic changes.

The original all-metal silver or black C lenses are the most compact, the most nicely made, but have the least popular ergonomics: sawtooth serrated control rings, focus so stiff and fine you need a pipe wrench as a handle, the love it (or mostly hate it) always-locked EV system of conjoined aperture and shutter settings, and conflicting filter sizes (Bay 50 for 80mm thru 250mm, Series 8 for the SWC 38mm, 50mm and 60mm, insane large and rare 104 bayonet on the 40mm). The Cs also have the sticking-prone oldest Compur shutter mechanics.

Next came the CF, which ranged thru the 1986 era in question. These have nicer ergonomics: diamond grip rubber focus ring, default uncoupled aperture and shutter rings, shared Bay 60 filter size on all the common focal lengths (60mm thru 250mm). Shutter is the newer Prontor design. Includes the "F" shutter setting (missing from CB) for enhanced convenience with focal plane bodies in the 2000/200 series. Focus feel is noticeably stiffer and harder to turn than CB, but much less painful than the old metal C. Optically different from your CB: 7 elements vs 6 (see below for details). 

The short-lived "New C" came next, a transitional design midway between CF and CB, and my personal favorite version. Looks much like the CF, but slightly more compact, with much softer focus feel similar to CB. Like the CB, omits the special "F" shutter setting. Also omits the EV locking feature altogether: the only Hasselblad "CF" lens that ever dispensed with it. Again in common with CB/CFie, the "New C" ditches the vulnerable detachable plastic CF focus ring for a single-cast, non-removable all-metal focus ring. The "New C" came about when the 500 series split off into the premium 501CM/CW and base 501C/503CX: it was offered only as part of a "budget" starter kit with the base cameras.

A couple years later Hasselblad bizarrely came up with the idea of offering a complete alternative "budget" lens line, the CB series. The discount over CF barely made an 8% dent in the retail price, rendering the idea pointless, but the lenses were quite nice and introduced the final evolution of barrel mechanics. The 60mm Distagon was carried over with identical optics to CF, the rare 120 CB Makro was alleged to be slightly altered but nobody has nailed down definitive proof. The 160mm Tessar was entirely new and exclusive to CB, as was the 80mm CB Planar.

Your 80mm had all the CB barrel updates (softer focus feel, better paint durability of the markings, better rubber inserts, elimination of fragile plastic trim rings but addition of more vulnerable plastic DOF and flash controls), and a simplified optical formula from the decades-unchanged original C/CF Planar. The CB was newly formulated to 6 elements vs 7 in the CF: this was the subject of hot debates during the film era, which have quieted down considerably in recent years. Examined with a perfectionist geek eye, there are minor differences, mostly concentrated in a single aspect: the C/CF Planar has more even performance across the frame at the cost of a slight sacrifice in center sharpness, while the CB has enhanced center sharpness but sacrifices the corners a bit to achieve that gain.

In actual use almost nobody can detect a difference on film between the 1986 (or so) CF and the "simplified" CB. If anything, the CB became the preferred choice for use with digital backs: since these crop the center of a 6x6 frame, the enhanced center performance of the CB was desirable (if mostly theoretical). Unless the CF you buy to replace your CB is grossly defective, its highly unlikely you'd see a difference in performance.

The "pro" version of CB was named CFi, replacing most of the CF lineup. CFi has the CB barrel, but adds back the "F" shutter setting, optional EV interlock, and same optics of the CF series (tho the 40mm was reworked significantly). CFi also adds better blackening of internal surfaces to minimize flare, and an upgraded extra-durable Nivarox mainspring. Being the newest version, the CFi are highly sought after and considerably more expensive the CF or CB, but no different optically.

The very last V lens iteration was CFe, which is identical to CFi but adds electronic meter coupling contacts for the excruciatingly expensive automated 200-series focal plane bodies. CFe remains ghastly expensive due to newness and comparative rarity: there is no advantage whatever to choose CFe over earlier versions unless you truly need the electronic metering contacts. Or, you stumble across a fantastic deal on one: I unexpectedly acquired my 80mm CFe from a distressed studio for just $395 a few years ago, less than a third the usual second-hand price.

Edited by orsetto
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@orsetto Thanks for this detailed information: as much as I could have hoped for.

From what you say here, I think the difference between these two lenses will be undetectable.

I'm trying to think of something else to add here to reciprocate the time you must have spent putting this response together but I think you've covered every aspect, so there's not much to add.

I just have to decide whether or not I want to let go of the 501, which I really like, and which is immaculate, or not... (On closer inspection of the photographs of the 500CM on this auction site, it looks like it may have belonged to a 'Pro' and therefore perhaps have led a hard life. I don't know. I have ten days to make my mind up though.)

Thanks again.

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It seems that you haven't yet actually sold off your 501cm: somehow I got the impression it had left your hands. No one understands the economics of "too many cameras" better than me, so I empathize that current circumstances may be pushing you towards a sale. But I would caution you to consider all the ramifications of letting it go: depending on your present (and projected future) camera needs, it may be advisable to hold onto it if at all possible.

The 501cm is a glorious camera, the apotheosis and perfection of Hasselblad's fundamental crank-wound mechanical leaf shutter concept. Unfortunately, it came very very late in the game, making it much scarcer and pricier than any other (non-electronic) 'blad camera body. Aside from the ridiculously overhyped 503cw and 503cwd, anyway, which merely add an inane winder option (cw) and digital back contacts (cwd) to the root 501cm. If you don't anticipate carrying a gigantic and slow motor winder or buying a $12K digital back, they're irrelevant vs the splendid 501cm.

The 501cm has three big advances over earlier 500 series V bodies: the latest internal mechanical upgrades, the larger mirror that eliminates annoying finder cutoff with the >250mm teles or macro work, and the revised mirror construction employing durable metal positioning springs vs the 3 rotting foam pads that often cause focus accuracy drift in aging 500, 501c and 503 bodies. As more and more factory trained Hasselblad techs retire and pass on, any mechanical advantage that eliminates a failure point becomes increasingly desirable. The lenses and film backs being intractable money pits of maintenance cost are bad enough: choose (or hold onto) a later, trouble-free body cube if you can possibly afford to.

The 501cm (along with 503cw/cwd) became stupid expensive recently: they were always about double the cost of a 500cm but now they've blown past that into Leica collectible territory. This trend shows no sign of abating, despite the price of 120 film skyrocketing in tandem. As long as 120 film is available and people want to shoot it, your 501cm will become ever more expensive to replace should you change your mind later.

Such regrets aren't limited to Hasselblad: many of us who let go of systems that were commonplace ten years ago now find it virtually impossible to replace them locally at any cost. Literally overnight, North America completely emptied itself of good condition Mamiya RB/RZ67, first-gen Mamiya 645, Pentax 67 and Bronica SQ gear: astonishingly, the entire global stockpile of popular medium format is now in the hands of Japanese eBay dealers (and a handful of German dealers).

Of course, one could also make the reverse argument that your 501cm has probably achieved peak value this year, so if you need to sell it its fortuitous timing that we're in a sellers market. Depending on what you paid for yours, a resale could result in minimal loss or even a tidy profit. This seems to be your reasoning: sell the white hot 501cm now, knowing its easily replaceable with a similar system later as long as you're willing to "settle" for the older, less advanced, but far more available and affordable 500cm.  Much as I would like to replace my own three 500cm bodies with 501cm, the price difference is absolutely ludicrous: I can't justify the outlay, as I can't justify the beyond stupid money people are asking for the latest version A12 film backs.

When looking for a replacement body, you may want to keep a few subtle points in mind. Two great non-mechanical advantages of your 501cm are the late version WLF (black pull up tab, totally sealed hood/round magnifier when open) and Acute Matte focus screen. While sellers at this point know they must include these items with any 501cm or 503cw/cwd, they are often stripped from all other Hasselblads for separate accessory resale at much higher pricing.

The newer WLF easily sells for $250 by itself, and you can pretty much name any price you want for an Acute Matte D screen (the split image with microprism donut can set you back a cool $500, and even the plain cross version hits $250 for the D). Don't forget the large modern winding crank: most older 500 bodies come with the plain knob or older smaller crank (if you need to replace the old knob with a new style crank, thats another $125 outlay). All this stuff can add up fast.

So shop carefully and examine listing photos closely. The older WLF with silver button is fine if you don't wear eyeglasses and don't often shoot with the sun blasting you. The newer WLF is better sealed against stray light screen reflections and its larger round eyepiece is more hospitable to eyeglasses (making the screen corners more visible).

Focus screen type is difficult to determine from a listing photo, unless it has the two little semicircle cutouts in the metal frame indicating an Acute Matte D. Earlier non-D Acute Matte can be hard to identify in a photo unless very large and clear. The AM standard cross screen has very thin fine translucent cross bars vs the commonplace dim ground glass with its thick black painted cross.

Anything split image, microprism, or checker grid with a raised bubble over it is the old dimmer ground glass type. These can be OK if you mostly shoot outdoors: they are actually easier to focus than Acute Matte in good light. The 42234 screen with huge central microprism is particularly nice, as is the 42250 which adds a checker grid. The early split image/groundglass screens are not as nice, and most cheap third party knockoff split screens are terrible (worse than the'blad originals for even illumination and focus accuracy).

Choosing among the various iterations of 500 body style can be confusing and tricky: each has advantages and drawbacks. I personally cannot stand the now-useless (and ugly) flash ISO dial of the 503cx and cxi. The 501c is a "cheapened" version of the 503cx, omitting the flash system and the body cocked indicator, and only available in black finish: nice if you like the black finish, but its harder to find matching film backs and WLF in black.

The 500cm comes in a slew of versions, as it was updated over the decades. I prefer the late-70s era: fairly fresh and up-to-date, but before the questionable yucky crack-prone dust-generating  "palpas antireflection" glop got slathered all over the body cavity and barn doors around 1982. Between the "who asked for this $@!&?" palpas nonsense, plus the self-destructing plastic trim rings and rub-right-off cheaply painted numerals on the $2K+ "new improved upgraded" CF lenses, Hasselblad really lost the plot for a minute in 1982.

Pre-1982 bodies have nice clean black metal barn doors and body cavities, less messy to own, nicer to look at and a bit easier for techs to pull apart for repair. Later 500cm bodies have the potential advantage of being newer, more refined and perhaps less abused, but across fifteen or so 500cm I've bought and sold since 2006 I haven't seen a particular trend either way. Some older bodies are flawless, and I've had the worst headaches from funky late-80s CMs that seemed mint in every respect when purchased. 

For a long time, bargain hunters have searched out the last production run of the earlier 500c model, which was actually updated to CM before Hasselblad decided to rename the body as such. Nowadays the secret is long exposed, so sellers often don't give much of a discount on them, but you can still find one occasionally at an excellent price. They are internally and functionally equivalent to first-generation 500cm, including mechanical upgrades from the 500c and user-changeable focus screen. You can identify these "stealth" CMs by the focus screen: if the 500c listing pics show the typical removable screen, its an early CM.

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@orsetto Apologies for the late response to this detailed post — I only just discovered it.

There's a lot to think about here. Thanks for putting together such a lot of useful information.

In essence, I think you're saying I should hold onto the 501CM if I can, and that's what I've decided to do.

My reasons for selling were financial in the main. (Also, I have a nice Rollei, which I've been using quite a lot lately and which I really like and which thought might be a good substitute for the Hasselblad.)

The 501 is, as you say, worth a lot: it was playing on my mind having that much money sitting on a shelf. (I'm also a little bit wary of using it in the field in case I damage it.)

However,  I took some of my favourite photographs with a 501 and I expect I'll take more with this one.

It has the 'Crosshairs' acute matte D screen.

It's also gererally pristine, apart from a <1mm bubble in the chrome on the body, which is a cosmetic flaw only.

(As for the 500C/M, I decided to pass on it, which I think was the correct decision, given what you say here.)

Anyway, thanks again.

I'm going to go and check to see what other messages I've missed.


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You bought it to use, so use it.

The point about the increasing shortage of trained mechanics would tip the scales, for me, given that you have a camera which is better able to survive the day to day wear and tear.    I say this as a Rolleiflex SL66 user: we have just about run out of service personnel.

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8 hours ago, john_stockdale2 said:

You bought it to use, so use it.

The point about the increasing shortage of trained mechanics would tip the scales, for me, given that you have a camera which is better able to survive the day to day wear and tear.    I say this as a Rolleiflex SL66 user: we have just about run out of service personnel.

Yes — I plan on using it, John. The lens on my last 501 made photographs that were outstanding.

The Rollei I have — I like it a lot too, and have been using it exclusively the past while. As for service for the Rollei, there's a factory-trained Rollei repair man in England plus Newton Ellis, who also have a good reputation. I've used both recently and was happy with the results.

The Rollei is  50+ years old though, whereas I think my 501 is from 1996 or thereabouts. (It's not a youngster either, I suppose, but it looks like it's had very little use, so hopefully will have some miles left in it.)

Your Rolleiflex SL66 is a camera I know nothing about — I'll Google it and take a look though.


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