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The three big differences I see are shutter type, lens coating, barrel design, and flare supression.
C - older, Compur shutter with limited or no lens coating.
CT* - same as above with multicoated lens.
CF - same as CT* but with Prontor shutter and redesigned barrel (more rigid).
CFi - same as CF but upgraded Prontor shutter (lasts roughly twice as long) and better flare suppression due to better internal barrel coatings
CFe - same as CFi but with electronic contacts for use with 200 series.
There is a lot of talk about the CFi/e having a cheaper feel but I think this is nonsense. Both are excellent. The flare suppression on the CFi/e matters for longer focal length lenses in high key situations -- i.e., where there is a lot of white background in or just outside of the picture. The upgraded Prontor shutter only matters for professionals taking 1,000's of pictures -- the CF can handle roughly 200K exposures; the CFi/e about 400K. Both are a lot.
Multicoating matters more as contrast will be enhanced under most circumstances as opposed to high key circumstances. But, higher contrast isn't always necessary -- in b/w you can adjust for higher contrast through developing and/or printing. With color this is more difficult. In general higher contrast is better.
What has been said about Hasselblad lenses in other fora is that for quality one should focus on the lens design rather than the age of the lens. I agree. The 100 for ex&le is better than the 80 and the perspective close enough to make them equivalent except for studio use where you may not be able to step back far enough.
Anyone serious about purchasing any lens, and in this case a Hasselblad V-system lens, should become literate in reading MTF and distortion graphs. These are available from Hasselblad and Zeiss. Although not the whole story, these graphs will tell you much about the performance of the lens in absolute terms and relative to other lenses. It is surprising in fact how little information is not captured by these graphs -- chromatic errors being one of them.
Of course, the nature of medium format is that a mediocre lens on the bigger 6x6 negative will equal or better a good lens on a 35mm negative. Moreover, excellent technique -- a sturdy tripod, mirror lock-up, an adjusted camera back for a flat, true film plane -- will sw& differences between lenses. So, give a great photographer a C lens and you will see stunning images. A well-designed CFi/e in the hands of a mediocre photographer -- not much to talk about.
I am also new to this excellent forum, with a similar question. I am looking for a 250 lens and see similar prices quoted for used 250mm FE f4 and 250mm CF f5.6 lenses in excellent condition. BUT what is the difference between an FE and CF lens?? I had not heard of the FE (not to be confused with FLE) designation.
The F and FE series of lenses were designed for the focal plane shutter bodies. The F series do not have a leaf shutter, nor do they have electronic contacts; they were designed for the 2000 series bodies. The FE lenses were designed for the 200 series cameras, but could also be used with the 2000 bodies. They do not have leaf shutters, but have the electronic data bus for the automation features in the 200 series bodies. The major feature of the 2000/200 series bodies is the electronic focal plane shutter. The 500 series has not "true" shutter, just an auxiliary shutter at the focal plane to protect the film from stray light.
In general, F and FE lenses are not usable with 500 series bodies. (There are certain situations were one could use them, but for most applications the answer is NO.)
I am not sure if one could use the F lenses effectively on the 200 series. Someone with more experience than me would have to answer that question.
I would expect that the FE lenses are similar to the CFE lenses in technology with the primary exception being that the FE lenses have no leaf shutter. The FE (and F) are in general one full stop faster than their CF cousins (except the 80mm F/FE which is f/2.8 as well).
In response to Simon P Galbally (Simonpg)and his search for used 250 lens with similar prices quoted for used 250mm FE f4 and 250mm CF f5.6 lenses, his question is about differences between an FE and CF lenses.
FE lesese range from 50 to 350 mm and are exclusively designed for the 200 Series Hasselbald cameras. 200 series lenses have built in focal plane shutters, so there is no need for a shutter in the lens, intead the maximum aperature - with the only exception of the FE 2.8/80 mm has been made a full f/stop larger than the corresponding CF lens. 200 Series cameras are equiped with data base connections as are FE lenses which mate with the 200 series cameras.
CF lenses consitute the main series with focal lengths from 30 to 500 mm, and can be used on both 500 and 200 series cameras. CF lenses have built in leaf shutters with shutter speeds from 1/500s and flash sync on all speeds.
Three different designations separate the CF lenses. CF stands for the basic version, while CFI and CFE indicate the lens design is furter improved to provide higher image qualiy, long lasting reliability, and convenient operation.
CB lenses are similar to CFi and CFE lenses as to the built in leaf shutter, and improvements over CF lenses. They can be used on all Hasselblad cameras, except the 202FA and Arcbody models.
As usual, Taras is right on for his explanation. Just to add to the point about F versus FE lenses: F lenses don't have the databus connection to the body. That means the body doesn't "know" what aperture you set on the lens. This it the only information passed to the body in the case of a FE (or CFE) lens.
In practice, that means you need to shoot in stopped down mode: compose wide open, and before shooting, stop down to the actual aperture you want to use, making sure you have the depth of field preview on (the screen becomes darker). This is extremely simple, BUT it is also easy to forget, especially when you are in a hurry.
I have a 110mm FE and a 50mm F, and I am quite happy with the 50mm F which I bought for about half the price of the FE version.