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Well simply put they are optically the same. However the CFi current lenses have a few different features most of which will not produce any imaging difference that the eye can detect except in the most extreme uses.
Probably the most significant issue for some shooters in that the current CFE lenses offer data-bus connection between lens and camera. BUT, the current 150mm you are looking at is a CFi so it does not have data-bus connection anyway.
So, the differences between CF and CFi are:
The barrel and grip design differs - some think this CFi design is nicer. It makes no difference to me.
The internal barrel coating of the CFi lenses is new and said to be more resistant to stray light - enhances contrast. Most pros agree that unless shooting in extremely high key uses, the eye cannot see the image difference.
The CFi lens shutter spring is made of a new high-tech metal thus said to extend the life by many decades - well the CF spring is likely to outlast most of us. I understand that the CFi spring can be retro fitted to a CF lens anyway.
The lens mount is a nice unpainted high-tech metal so never shows wear. No real benefit that I can tell.
The filter bayonet is also made of the nice hign-tech metal - resists the paint wear on the CF lens hood and filter bayonets.
Finally (I think!), the CFi has a X synch cord locking fitting on the lens designed to avoid accidental disconnection. Some CFi users complain that the lock device is plastic and too fragile.
So there is no compelling reason IMHO to buy CFi over CF. There is no optical design difference. The choice comes down to relative value between the 2 as far as your personal budget is concerned.
In my case all my lenses are CF except for the 80mm CFE that came with my camera body. To my pocket CF is much better value for money - I get mint used lenses for much less than nice CFi/CFE versions. My CF 150mm is excellent.
Simon thanks for your explanation of CF and CFi lenses.
May I add that the most obvious difference is the helicoid.
Later generation lenses like the CFE and CFi models have a new helicoid that makes focusing easier.
For Jan over 50 years of Hasselblad lenses summarized:
1956-1982 "C" lenses using Compur shutters.
Till 1975 these lenses had silver barrels.
From 1975 till the end of the production the barrels were black.
Just before the introduction of black barrels T* coating was introduced on some lenses still with silver barrel.
Most black lenses have T* coating.
1982-1998 CF lenses with Prontor shutter.
These lenses can also be used with cameras using focal plane shutters from the 2000 series and the later 200 series. In F mode only the shutter in the camera is activated.
Some optical designs were changed like the 40 mm CF.
Others remained the same and even used the same glass.
1998-present CFE and CFi lenses.
CF lenses were upgraded for details see Simons post.
CFE means these lenses were fitted with databus and electronics to communicate with 200 series cameras.
CFi is an upgraded CF without databus.
"F" and "FE" lenses that can only be used with 2000 and 200 series cameras because they do not have a built in shutter.
The 2.8/150 FE is not suitable for your 501CM camera.
The latest 150 is a CFi lens.
This of course is also the most expensive choice because these lenses are only available from 1998 onwards.
Try to find a nice CF lens that will give the same results as the later CFi version it will be less expensive.
Also the older black C series lenses deserve to be considered.
They will give about the same quality as the CF and can be found for less money than CF lenses.
With Zeiss older does not mean less good.
Only the condition of the lens and the sort of use it had is important.
After the C series most changes that influenced image quality were found with wide angle lenses, 40 and 50 mm and the 350 and 500 tele lenses.
Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad are a confusing matter.
From 80 mm till 250 mm age does not matter much.
The amount of use or abuse a lens had before is more important for the new owner.
Thank very much for your explanation. I think the 150mm C or CF will be a good choice. I want to start with portrait photography.
I will see how it works for me.
In digital photography world I am not content. I do not know but if I a first time saw a photo from MF cameras - analogue I was very surprised about the difference tonality, colors, etc.
The photographer has more work with analogue photo is clear, but the result is distinguishable mostly.
IF one uses a Hasselblad lens to a great degree with strobes and sync cords, the CFi does indeed have a better sync port design and mitigates the notorious issues with the earlier sync port caused by frequent use of sync cords. There is also a incremental improvement of reflection control inside the lens that strobes can occasionally create.
While one has to pay a premium for such incremental improvements, one need only experience sync port failure during a portrait sitting one time to appreciate those incremental improvements. Those who use these lenses frequently in this manner know this, and opt for the CFi versions when we can afford them. This is also what keeps the value of CFi and CFE lenses high should they be sold later.
On the other hand, it's also why one can pick up an older lens with excellent performance for less money. I would offer an opinion that the V series Zeiss lenses are the absolute best optical bargan available today.
The * symbol belongs to "T" meaning T*, T star multicoating.
These lenses have slightly improved contrast, better colour rendering and are less troubled by flair.
When used shooting against a lightsource the better control of flair is important.
Wide angle lenses are more easily affected by flair than longer lenses.
If you can get your hands on a clean 150 C lens that does not yet have the later T* coating and the price is right buy it.
Get yourself a good lens shade or a professional lens shade that can be adapted for several lenses and start shooting.
Any lens from Zeiss produced for Hasselblad will give excellent quality.
This also goes for lenses from the first generation.
In many cases it will be impossible to tell which lens was used if you
take pictures with early and later lenses and compare the prints later.
This does not make it easier to decide what to buy.
For portraits many photographers still use lenses from the first generation.
Amongst these are some world famous photographers. Do not look at age but at the condition of the lens.
If the lens you buy was used with care it will serve you at least another 5-10 years.
Some of us collect older Hasselblad cameras and still use these with lenses that are nearly sixty years old.