Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Long View and some GAS: 250mm Sonnar Lens for the Hasselblad

Dear Readers, a confession: I suffered from GAS a few months ago. No, I did not eat baked beans or cabbage; I had Gear Acquisition Syndrome. All photographers suffer GAS to some degree or another, especially the ones who deny it! Last year, a friend let me use his 150mm Sonnar lens on a Hasselblad, and I enjoyed the longer reach compared to the 75-80mm lenses from past experience with my Rolleiflexes. Afterwards, while perusing eBay (a dangerous habit), I saw a 250 mm ƒ/5.6 Sonnar lens for $87, bid on it, and, amazingly, it was mine. So, for about $100 total, a magnificent Zeiss lens from the best of 1967 West German craftsmanship took up residence in my camera bag.
This is one of the chrome-plated units with single-coated glass, as opposed to the contemporary Zeiss T* multi-coating. Multi-coating has its greatest benefit in reducing flare in complicated wide-angle lenses, especially if they have large front elements, but usually has less noticeable effect with tele lenses. These Zeiss lenses were always built with baffles and edge paint on the elements to reduce flare, so they always performed well, even in glarey light.

But regardless of coating, you should always use a hood, and this is true for any lens. In this case, a Hasselblad Bay 50 hood cost half as much as the lens did. As the years go by, accessories become rare and the prices go way up. Decades ago, real camera stores often had drawers full of camera and lens fittings, filters, and accessories, often at reasonable price. Where have all these things gone? Were they mass disposed in dumpsters over the years or hoarded in cabinets of eBay customers?

The shutter speeds on this old-timer sounded good, although 1 sec. may have been a bit slow. But with some exercise, it smoothed out and appears to be fine as per correctly exposed negatives. The coating was pristine.
Clay Street, Vicksburg, Kodak Tri-X 400 film
Old Courthouse Museum, Vicksburg. The old Clay Street YMCA is on the right. Kodak Tri-X 400 film

Here are two examples taken with the 250mm Sonnar from the 4th floor of the Relax Inn in Vicksburg. The proprietor generously let me go to the balcony with my tripod. The light was misty, accounting for the soft contrast.
Washington Street view north, Vicksburg, Fomapan 100 film
Kansas City Southern (KCS) tracks view east from Mission 66 bridge, Vicksburg, Fomapan 100 film
Yes, it does occasionally snow in Vicksburg. We had two snowfalls this winter. It is such an unusual event, I could not resist recording the scene.
KCS tracks from Baldwin Ferry Road, Vicksburg. Fomapan 100 film
KCS tracks and rail yard from Washington Street, Vicksburg. Fomapan 100 film
So far, I have used the 250 lens on a tripod, thereby letting me stop down to f/8 or smaller. It is sharp, and contrasty - what is not to like? (To see more detail, click any picture to expand to 1600 pixels wide). Next bit of GAS: some Bayonet 50 filters, and maybe one of the 120mm lenses.
Hasselblad advertisement, Popular Photography, March 1981, p. 72.
UPDATE May 2021: The 250mm Sonnar continues to serve well. It is a spectacular lens.

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