HASSELBLAD XCD 30MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW
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THE 24MM EQUIVALENT WIDE-ANGLE FOR THE X1D: HASSELBLAD XCD 30MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW!
Covering a classic focal length for landscape photography, a 24mm FOV equivalent lens is a must-have if you love wide-angle lenses: read in this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review my thoughts about it!
The choice of focal length for any photographic application is, of course, very personal. I love wide-angles, and I love Medium Format wide-angles because of the different compression they offer compared to so-called “full frame” lenses covering the same angle of view. At the time of writing, no other Medium Format manufacturer offers a 24mm Field-of-View (FOV) equivalent lens, except for Leica with the Elmarit-S 30mm. However, since the Leica S system with its lack of long exposure support is extremely limited for landscape photography (to the point of being useless for me), this leaves the Hasselblad X1D system as your only option if you really need such a lens for Fine Art landscape photography.
Personally, I love to have as many options as I can in the wide-angle range: for me, the difference between 21mm and 24mm, or between 24mm and 28mm FOV equivalent is real. In my kit, I have all wide-angles available for the Hasselblad X1D, the 21mm XCD (see my HASSELBLAD XCD 21MM F/4 IN-DEPTH REVIEW), the lens featured here in this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review and the 45mm (see my HASSELBLAD XCD 45MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW). When the Hasselblad 35-75mm XCD will be available, upon reviewing its performance I might add it into the mix, to have a 28mm FOV equivalent available as well. But, as I said, I am a wide-angle lover, so take that into consideration.
I got the Hasselblad XCD 30mm together with my first X1D body and it came with me everywhere since then. As always, this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review will be based on real use of the lens in the field, without any charts or any studio shots.
Finally, please keep in mind that all my reviews are made under the point of view of a Fine Art Landscape Photographer: if your genre of photography is different, my findings might not apply to you and your work.
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Hasselblad in any way. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
Before we start, I’d like to thank once more the great guys at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan for their help in getting this lens to me. They are just wonderful to deal with: extremely knowledgeable, friendly and always ready to go the extra mile for you. Highly recommended, whether you live in Italy or not. Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with NewOldCamera in any way.
Let’s get started now and see in this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review if it delivers!
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
The Hasselblad XCD 30mm is built like a tank. In use, the lens feels very solid, with no rattles, internal moving parts or noises of any kind. As all other XCD lenses, the lens barrel’s controls are truly minimalistic, featuring just a focus ring.
Also like all other Hasselblad XCD lenses, and like the X1D itself, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is weather-sealed. Since I am constantly in the field, this is fundamental for me and my work.
Having used the lens under pretty much any possible adverse weather condition, I can definitely confirm you that the weather sealing works perfectly.
With its 83mm diameter and 88mm height, weighing at 550 gr, and with a filter thread of just 77mm, at the time of writing the Hasselblad XCD 30mm f/3.5 is smaller and lighter than anything else in the medium format arena covering either the same angle of view, or offering coverage similar to that of this lens.
For comparison, the Leica 30mm Elmarit-S f/2.8, while half a stop faster is 88 x 128mm, has a 82mm filter thread and weighs 1100 gr; PhaseOne 35mm f/3.5 is 111 x 119mm, has a 105mm filter thread (you need to use 150mm filters with it) and weighs 1370 gr; finally, Hasselblad own HCD 35mm f/3.5 is 100 x 124mm, has a 95mm filter thread, and weighs 975 gr.
USE OF FILTERS
Thanks to the Hasselblad XCD 30mm’s 77mm filter thread, I can use my regular 100mm Formatt-Hitech Firecrest filter holder and my set of Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra 100mm square filters with it, without any issues whatsoever. More, as you can see in my FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM FILTER HOLDER REVIEW, amazingly enough if you wanted to keep your kit even smaller you could go one step down in filter size and use Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm filters with the Hasselblad XCD 30mm (and with any other lens in the XCD line-up, for that matter).
After almost 5 years working with Formatt-Hitech filters as a Brand Ambassador & Featured Artist (09.2016-05.2021), I am now looking for new filters to help me create my Fine Art landscape photographs. I am currently testing various options, and will update you as soon as I’ll have found the best, highest quality solution for my work.
IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM
As with all Hasselblad XCD lenses, you can focus your images using either auto-focus or manual focus. Auto-focus is not really blazing fast, but that is of no consequence for my Fine Art Landscape work. The XCD 30mm’s AF motor is slightly noisier than that in the 21mm and 135mm (perhaps Hasselblad changed motors for the newer lenses). What counts the most for me is focusing precision, and here the Hasselblad XCD 30mm doesn’t disappoint, focussing precisely enough given a little light. Of course, as with any Hasselblad XCD lenses, you can move your focus point all over the frame leaving your eye on the viewfinder, which I find very handy for my way of working.
In manual focus mode, you can focus by turning the focus ring on the lens’ body. Of course, a tap on the AF-D button will still activate auto-focus. Please note that, like all XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is a focus-by-wire design, meaning that turning the focus ring will not directly operate the focus mechanism but will send electrical impulses to the auto-focus motor instead. While I’d prefer a classic old-style manual focus ring, thanks to the well-implemented focusing aid of the X1D manual focusing the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is very easy and precise.
Like all XCD lenses, aperture on the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is controlled via a wheel on the camera body, or via the touchscreen, in all shooting modes supporting aperture control.
SHARPNESS AT INFINITY
Methodology: using my usual “real world” test scene, I manually focussed on the trees on the far ridge in the middle of the frame using the maximum focus area magnification for precise focus, with the lens wide open. I then prepared 900 x 600px, 100% crops of the center, bottom left corner and mid-right side of the frame at full-stop apertures ranging from wide open to f/22. My Hasselblad X1D had Firmware 1.22 installed.
Let’s start looking at the full scene first, to see how much coverage a 71 degrees angle of view will give you in the real world, as well as to see the origin of the crops (click on the image to enlarge):
Let’s now examine the crops in detail, starting with the center of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
Sharpness in the center is very impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 30mm f/3.5 starts very sharp wide open, becomes razor sharp at f/4 and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Perfect.
Let’s now examine the bottom left corner (click on the images to enlarge):
For landscape photography use at infinity, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm offered a very good performance in the corner as well. The lens starts slightly soft wide-open, but sharpness improves already at f/5.6 to be perfectly sharp from f/8 to f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.
Finally, let’s check the mid-right side of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
Results at mid-right of the frame are much better than in the corner, with the lens starting off very slightly soft wide-open, improving at every stop to become razor-sharp from f/8 on. Again, apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.
SHARPNESS AT CLOSE FOCUSING DISTANCE AND BOKEH
To examine sharpness at close focusing distance, as well as to see how the Hasselblad XCD 30mm draws out-of-focus areas, I focused on the Phillips screw right under the mailbox’s red flag in the lower right corner of the frame. Together with the full frame image, I included 900 x 600px, 100% crops taken at the point of focus, to check out sharpness, and center crops to see what happens in out-of-focus areas near infinity.
Let’s see the full image first, again to see how wide a 71 degrees angle of view is in the real world, as well as to see the origin of the crops (click on the image to enlarge):
Let’s now examine sharpness at the point of focus (click on the images to enlarge):
Wide open, the performance of the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is extremely good, even stronger than what it showed on the lower left corner at infinity. The lens is already quite sharp wide-open, improving at f/4 to become razor sharp at f/5.6 and staying like that up to f/16. As expected, apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.
Let’s see now how the Hasselblad XCD 30mm renders out-of-focus areas at far distances in the center of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
While I wouldn’t particularly choose a wide-angle lens to do bokeh, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm paints out-of-focus areas beautifully. The lens has a dreamy character wide-open, and sharpens gently stopping down, very smoothly and progressively along the aperture range. Just beautiful, and very impressive for such a wide-angle lens.
Hasselblad XCD 30mm’s performance is very good for such a wide-angle medium format lens, and while not technically as perfect as Hasselblad’s extremely impressive 21mm XCD, is perfectly suited for landscape photography work. At infinity, this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review showed that the lens is razor-sharp in the center of the frame from f/4 on (which is just half-stop from wide-open), and while slightly soft wide open in the corner, sharpness improves constantly when stopping down, to become perfectly sharp all over the frame between f/8 – f/16. At closer focussing distances, the lens is perfectly sharp all over the frame starting from f/5.6 on.
In case you were wondering if the slight softness in the corners at infinity will negatively affect landscape work, I can easily say that in real world use between f/8 and f/16, during the months I used the Hasselblad XCD 30mm either in near-far compositions or focussing it at infinity, I haven’t found any issues with the sharpness of this lens.
VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION
As to be expected from a wide-angle lens, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm features a hint of vignette wide-open, which gently disappears stopping the lens down. Applying Hasselblad’s own lens profile in Adobe Camera Raw, you can easily fix what little vignette there is, allowing you to modulate its level to taste as well. During this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review I found that a vignette removal value between 30 and 50, according to the situation, gives me the results I want. Please note that I often add back some soft vignetting to my images at a later stage in post-processing anyway.
Colour rendition is beautiful to my eye, and very consistent with all XCD lenses. Applying the camera standard colour profile gives me a wonderful starting point for my post-processing work.
To check for distortion, as always, I photographed my uninspiring but very useful garage door which, with its straight metal lines, provides me with a good test scene. For your convenience, to help you check for distortion easier I slightly increased contrast, added straight red lines in PP, turned the image horizontal and cut the frame in two, leaving just the top half of the frame. Adobe Camera Raw’s Hasselblad XCD 30mm profile has been applied. Let’s see the results (click on the image to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm with its lens profile applied is perfectly controlled for distortion: straight lines stay straight all over the frame.
FLARE AND CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS
During this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review’s flare test, on purpose I didn’t use the provided, removeable lens hoods. Since I almost inevitably have a filter holder on the lens when working, I never use a hood and I want my lens tests to mimic my working conditions as closely as possible. In the test image below, I included the sun in the frame, keeping it close to the image’s corner. As well, I included a crop of the area surrounding the sun to check for flare and chromatic aberrations (click on the images to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm showed great contrast and resistance to flare, with no “ghost” images of sorts. This confirms my “real world” use findings, since even shooting against the sun I have never seen any sign of colour fringing or chromatic aberrations.
Sitting in between the Hasselblad XCD 21mm (17mm FOV equivalent in the so-called “full frame” format) and the Hasselblad XCD 45mm (35mm FOV equivalent in full frame format), with its 24mm FOV equivalent the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review offers a classic focal length for wide-angle landscape photography. As I mentioned above, this is a focal length and a field-of-view equivalent that is effectively missing in other Medium Format manufacturers’ line-up, making the Hasselblad X1D system pretty much your only choice if you need 24mm FOV equivalent for your landscape photography work.
Under a technical point of view, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is an extremely good performer. At infinity, it’s razor-sharp in the center starting at f/4 and perfectly sharp all over the frame stopping down at f/8, while it’s perfectly sharp all over the frame at close focusing distances at f/5.6 and above. Between f/8 and f/16, the standard working apertures used for near-far compositions in landscape photography, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm will guarantee you perfectly sharp images from corner to corner. More, the lens has great macro and micro-contrast as well, is extremely resistant to flare and has no chromatic aberrations to speak of. With its lens profile applied, the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is distortion-free, and while it does show a little vignette at larger apertures, this is easily fixable applying the lens profile in Adobe Camera Raw if you prefer vignette-free images.
Artistically speaking, I think that the Hasselblad XCD 30mm draws beautifully, with a gentle and smooth transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas, outputs beautiful colours and creates a three-dimensional effect in its images that I just love.
A MUST-HAVE LENS? THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL LENGTH
The lens in this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review covers a 24mm FOV equivalent, and I consider 24mm to be a “classic” focal length for landscape photography today. Focal length “user habits” do change with time, partly because technology advances and lenses are offered that weren’t available before and partly because lens availability in turn causes aesthetic understandings to change. While this is especially true for extreme ultra-wide angle lenses, it has to be noted that while most older “normal” zoom lenses for the so-called “full frame” format reached just either 35mm or 28mm at the wide end, nowadays almost all of them cover the 24-70mm range (24-90mm range for the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm). I believe that this change in zoom lens availability had a large role in making 24mm the new “wide end” most photographers got used to, as well as helping to replace the older 35mm or 28mm standard for a “moderate” wide-angle focal length.
Personally, I love the field of view covered by a 24mm equivalent lens, and I love to have such angle of view covered by a lens featuring the compression of a 30mm lens. The Hasselblad XCD 30mm is plenty sharp in general and especially so at the apertures I need for my work, it draws beautifully, has no distortion, no vignetting and no chromatic aberrations. In short, for my work the Hasselblad XCD 30mm is a no brainer.
Should you get it? Well, as always it depends on your preferences in terms of focal lengths, and on the work you do. If you do Fine Art landscape photography and you love both long exposures and the 70-degree coverage of the Hasselblad XCD 30mm in a small and light package that is weather-sealed, the Hasselblad X1D with the XCD 30mm is not only your best option, it’s pretty much your only option. Highly recommended.
As always, the photographs are what counts the most. Before saying goodbye, enjoy a small gallery of images created with the Hasselblad X1D and the Hasselblad XCD 30mm f/3.5 around the world (click on the images to enlarge):
Thanks for reading this Hasselblad XCD 30mm in-depth review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?
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