Having used the H5D-50c and a good number of lenses for a while now, I wanted to round off the post from a couple of days ago (which was my mid term assessment of the camera) with some more detailed comments on the lenses – especially since practical reviews of these things are not common, and I’ve been receiving a lot of email of late. This is understandable, since medium format glass is both a serious and not so liquid – at least compared to 35mm – investment and therefore not the kind of thing you want to make a mistake buying. For those who don’t know, Hasselblad H lenses are built by Fujinon in Japan. The good news is that what I’ve used is pretty much excellent across the board – there are some exceptions, but few. I’ve also added some rough numerical scores, relative to other lenses available at the time of writing. I’ve also updated the Camerapedia, too.
I know this post is probably for a very small audience, but why not read on and live vicariously…
Lenses I am currently using are in bold.
Hasselblad HTS 1.5 (9/10) – The main trump card of the H system above all other medium format: it brings movements to pretty much every lens, but at the cost of a 1.5x crop factor. Would be nice to see it with a lesser crop, but in practice it’s almost impossible to see any degradation with the HTS in play – the 24, 28 and 50 still all out resolve even the H5D-50c. You will get the equivalent (in 35mm terms) of 28mm, 33mm and 60mm. A very precisely made piece of equipment, unfortunately with an eye-watering price to match.
Hasselblad HC 1.7x Teleconverter (8.5/10) –
I’ve only so far been able to use a very old loan teleconverter that appears to be decentered on one side; by all accounts it’s supposedly superb, as is this one in the centre, so I’m reserving judgement until my own one is delivered (it’s still back ordered at the time of writing). The reason this is interesting is because it turns the 2.2/100 into a 3.5/170, which even if stopped down a little is still a much lighter and more flexible combination than carrying a separate 3.2/150. The loan 1.7x turned out to be a lemon. My own unit is symmetric and performs well with both the 100 and 150mm lenses; use without reservation. There is of course some degradation – as with all teleconverters – but if you stop down a little, performance is soon back to expected levels. If I’m travelling light I’ll use the 100 and 1.7x, otherwise I’ll add the 150 to the mix too. Furthermore, it can be combined with the other lenses, the HTS and the macro tubes for close up work (the 4/120 macro is almost too heavy for the HTS, and sometimes you want another perspective anyway).
Hasselblad HCD 4.8/24 (9.5/10) – One of the best wides I’ve ever used – the MTF charts are effectively flat at f8, and this holds true in practice. No visible CA or corner smearing/ astigmatism. Perhaps the only criticisms are that it’s got a slow aperture that gets even slower with the HTS, plus it doesn’t quite cover the full 54x40mm 645 area, but with optics this good, I don’t mind. Still smaller than the 28 Otus.
Hasselblad HCD 4/28 (9/10) – Similar comments to the 24mm; I personally prefer the rendering of this lens, but it isn’t quite as strong in the corners. Just about fast enough for documentary work – that extra half stop makes quite a bit of difference, and perhaps more so in transmission. Different enough in rendering and usability that I have both 24 and 28mm lenses.
Hasselblad HC 3.5/35 (7.5/10) – Personally, I didn’t find this one as strong as the 28 or 50 wide open – especially towards the edges until being stopped down a little. As with everything 35, I found myself wanting something longer or wider anyway, so this one didn’t get much use.
Hasselblad HCD 4-5.6/35-90, latest 1/2000s version (8.5/10) – This lens caused me much consternation initially because it did not live up to its reputation of being a stellar performer. We eventually determined it was because True Focus at longer distances does not play well with it – use regular AF-S and everything is back to being great. I ding it some points for sheer size – it’s as large as a 70-200/2.8 from most other manufacturers – and the zoom ring is rather stiff – but it is incredibly convenient and you could feasibly run with a 24/35-90/150mm setup and cover just about everything. I think I’ve found my AFS24-120/4VR equivalent in medium format land…
Hasselblad HC 3.5/50 I (7.5/10) – This lens feels and performs similarly to the 3.5/35; it’s probably of the same generation optically. Decent in the centre wide open, but improves on stopping down and eventually comes close to the newer lens across the frame by f8-f11 or so. The new one is so much better, I’d just skip this one though – something in the microcontrast just makes it pop more.
Hasselblad HC 3.5/50 II (9.5/10) – The unexpected jewel of the H system, in my opinion – I nearly skipped this lens because I didn’t see much use for a 38mm-e; however it’s turned out to be on the camera 80% of the time. No optical flaws as far as I can see except extreme corners wide open; the centre doesn’t really get any sharper as you stop down – I don’t see how it can. I almost feel it’s about as close you’re going to get to a medium format Otus. Fast and accurate to focus, usable at any aperture with subject anywhere in the frame. It also dethrones the Zeiss Hasselblad CF 4/50 FLE, especially when it comes to coma performance; who’d have thought? Unfortunately it’s quite a bit bigger and heavier than the Pentax or Phase One equivalents…
Hasselblad HC 3.5-4.5/50-110 (8.5/10) – A surprisingly good lens when stopped down a bit, but just with a trace of veiling softness wide open. It does better on the larger pixel pitch bodies but actually covers a pretty useful range since I use both 50 and 100mm with the greatest frequency. The only problem is a) it’s truly massive, both in length and diameter, and b) it extends when zooming. The helicoids of this lens are known to be delicate and it’s very easy to damage them if you don’t store the lens with the zoom in the shortest position. Some bargains are available on the used market as it’s been around for a while, but be careful of stiff zooming or decentering caused as a result of mishandling…
Hasselblad HC 2.8/80 (7/10) – I’ve used several copies of this lens on multiple occasions, and I honestly don’t like it. It’s acceptable wide open – but has a sort of hazy glow that I associate with the X100’s lens at maximum aperture; similar to the 2.2/100, actually. Microcontrast is missing til another stop down or so, and if you’re going to shoot at f4, the 2.2/100 leaves this in the dust. It’s the medium format equivalent of the 50/1.4s and 50/1.8s for DSLRs – your standard fast, small prime, the cheapest lens in the lineup, but somehow also the weakest – even though it’s optically very simple and should really have been perfected eons ago. I would honestly skip it unless you absolutely need the focal length.
Hasselblad HC 2.2/100 (6/10 or 10/10, with caveats) – Think of this as an f2.6 or f2.8 lens, and you’re okay. When it focuses, results are spectacular even at these apertures. f4 and upwards is blistering, but performance seems to fall off after f8. F2.2 is best described as ‘portrait soft’, even with critical focus achieved. Quite a bit of longitudinal and lateral CA, but goes away on stopping down. The problem is focus isn’t consistently achieved – I suspect it’s because the focus box covers a much larger area and range of subject distances than the actual focal plane. In any case, precision of autofocus seems to be the one thing holding this lens back from greatness (at least in my opinion).
Hasselblad HC 3.2/150 N, latest 1/2000s version (9.5/10) – This is one more of those bits of glass that doesn’t have much of a reputation either way, but is a quiet star in its own right – I shot with it extensively under a huge range of conditions over the last couple of weeks and have been supremely impressed with it every time. Performance exceeds that of my beloved 4/150 CF, and it exhibits significantly less longitudinal chromatic aberration at wider apertures (and almost none laterally). It focuses much faster than the 100mm + 1.7x combination, and indeed much faster than the naked 100mm itself. It has made its way into my personal arsenal.
Lastly: there are a whole bunch of adaptable V-series lenses that will be 100% functional on the H-bodies with the CF-H adaptor; if they perform well on the CFV-50c, they perform exactly the same on the H5D-50c – there’s no difference in the imaging chain or sensor architecture. My top picks here are the 4/50 CF FLE, the 2.8/80 CF with stopping down, the 4/150 CF and the 5.6/250 Superachromat (any variant). Note: if you want a cheap way into the H system and don’t need AF, then this is the way to go – there are also teleconverters by Zeiss and a PC-Mutar that gives you shift at the expense of a 1.4x crop factor. MT
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