Hasselblad Planar CFE 2.8/80 lens review
Superseding the venerable Hasselblad CF line of lenses, CFi/CFE lenses were introduced in 1999. They retain the already superb optical lens designs of the CF line while increasing image quality, reliability and convenience of operation. As the name suggests, the CFi designation stands for "CF improved", and CFE lenses further add 4 data bus contacts on the lens mount that allow the lenses to communicate with the metering system of the 200 series cameras. According to Hasselblad, CFi/CFE lenses offer the following improvements over their CF counterparts:
New internal design and anti–reflection materials that reduce stray light and enhance image contrast;
Improved design and a new main spring that extends life expectancy and increases precision; the main spring is made of "Nivarox";
PC–socket with positive lock;
Redesigned focusing mechanism;
Reinforced rear bayonet;
Front bayonet in durable non–metallic material;
New external design for comfort and style including easier to read scales (numbers are larger);
Improved grip controls on the focusing ring, shutter speed ring and on the FLE ring on the 40mm and 50mm lenses.
Features, build quality and handling
The lens boasts a built–in leaf shutter, and apart from shake–free operation when mirror pre–release (mirror lockup) is used, it also means flash sync at all shutter speeds (up to and at 1/500 sec.). The shutter can be disabled when the lens is used on Hasselblad bodies that employ focal–plane shutters. The lens also has a unique and handy feature common to all Hasselblad CFE and CFi lenses: it boasts an EV (Exposure Value) scale and a locking button that allow one to easily change the combination of shutter speed and aperture while maintaining the same exposure value.
Hasselblad V–series lenses define what the proper quality of lens construction should be. The CFi 5.6/250 is very solidly built and a pleasure to handle and use. Operation of the shutter speed and aperture ring, as well as that of the DOF preview knob located on the lens barrel, is smooth and substantial. Very importantly, operation of the focus ring is silky and precise (meticulous and accurate focusing of medium format lenses is absolutely crucial to obtaining the best sharpness possible).
The lens is small, light and fits Hasselblad V–series cameras nearly perfectly. Considering this and given its versatile focal length, it is a great travel companion. It is also suitable for hand–held photography—arguably more so than any other lens in the Hasselblad V–series lens lineup.
Technically, there is vignetting; aesthetically, there is no vignetting. This is to say that unevenness of illumination that the lens exhibits is mild and gradual; you are unlikely to notice it unless you juxtapose two identical shots of an evenly lit surface taken at f/2.8 and, say, f/16. In other words, vignetting signature of the lens is gracefully unnoticeable. Indeed, the lens has a fairly large image circle—it can be shifted 10mm when used on the Hasselblad Flexbody camera.
The images that the lens delivers are very sharp and contrasty. Although you probably would not think so given that this is a standard "kit" lens, in my experience it is one of the sharpest lenses that Hasselblad have on offer. Moreover, for all practical purposes the lens is nearly equally sharp center–to–corner and at all apertures. If you insist on being seriously picky, though, there is a slight loss of sharpness at f/2.8, which is only detectable at high magnification and upon thorough examination; there is a visible loss of contrast when the lens is wide–open, too. As expected, once you go past f/16 or so diffraction takes its tall and image quality begins to decline.
Although the Zeiss technical sheet indicates that the lens produces slight pincushion distortion, the aberration is barely perceptible even when dissecting slides with a ruler and a loupe on a light table. The lens is most certainly suitable for architectural applications, so feel free to run straight lines near and along the frame edges.
Genrally, out–of–focus areas have a very pleasing look (as an example, take a look at this photograph that was taken at f/2.8). Beware, however, that the lens has five aperture blades that are not rounded, so that bright sources of light in out–of–focus areas might have a somewhat distracting pentagon shape.
Reviewing Hasselblad V–series lenses is both boring and exciting. It is boring, because there is consistency in their performance: you sort of know what to expect and, as usual, there is not much to complain about; and it is exciting, because using a fine lens is always a treat. At the same time, it is never a waste of time: each lens has its unique characteristics and knowing them well allows obtaining the best image quality that each individual lens can deliver. The Hasselblad CFE 2.8/80 lens is my favourite optic ever and I recommend it without reservations.