HASSELBLAD XCD 45MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW
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A 35MM EQUIVALENT MODERATE WIDE-ANGLE FOR THE X1D: HASSELBLAD XCD 45MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW
Covering an angle of view slightly wider than a “normal” lens, 45mm in medium format terms is the classic moderate wide-angle for the Hasselblad X1D: read in this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review my thoughts about it!
While I consider the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, with its 35mm field-of-view (FOV) equivalent in so-called “full frame” terms, a moderate wide-angle, many photographers through history chose 35mm as their “normal” lens over 50mm. This, once more, shows how personal the choice of lenses is. When I decide which lens to put on my camera for a particular photograph, besides the obvious matter of “how much to include”, I am also deciding how the image is going to look like, and this is why I prefer a slightly wider “normal” lens – of course, your preferences might be different.
The look of a 35mm lens is different than what a 50mm lens offer, and this is why the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, sitting in between these two, is a lens that I really love using: it covers the field of view of a moderate wide-angle, but it draws more like a “normal”.
This is not just true for me, of course: to give you an extreme example, I know of various photographers that would use a long lens and stitch frames to cover a wide or ultra-wide field of view, rather than simply using a wide-angle, because they prefer the way longer lenses draw. While I don’t go that far, as I mentioned in my review of the Hasselblad XCD 30mm f/3.5 here: HASSELBLAD XCD 30MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW, this is one of the reasons why I prefer Medium Format over 35mm.
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm came as a “kit” with my first X1D body, and I never left it home since. As always, this Hasselblad XCD 45mm 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.
As always, let me take this chance to extend my thanks to the people at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan, and particularly to Ryuichi Watanabe, the owner, for their help in getting this lens to me. For new or second-hand gear, NewOldCamera is highly recommended, wherever you live. 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 45mm in-depth review how it performed!
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
As all XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm is built like a tank. In use, the lens feels very solid, with no rattles, internal moving parts or noises of any kind. As customary for all primes in the XCD lens line-up, the lens barrel’s controls are truly minimalistic featuring just a focus ring.
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm is weather-sealed, as all XCD lenses and as all cameras in the X1D line-up so far. Being in the field for more than half the year, and working often in very bad weather, this is fundamental for me.
After months of use of this lens under any weather condition, I can confirm you that the weather sealing works perfectly, no problem there.
With its 77mm diameter and 75mm height, weighing at 417 gr, and with a filter thread of just 67mm, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm f/3.5 is smaller and lighter than anything else in the medium format arena covering the same angle of view.
For reference, the FujiFilm GF 45mm f/2.8, while a half-stop faster, is 84 x 88mm, has a 62mm filter thread and weighs 490 gr; Leica 45mm Elmarit-S f/2.8, while also half a stop faster, is 88 x 136mm, has a 82mm filter thread and weighs 1030 gr; PhaseOne 45mm f/3.5 is 101 x 123mm, has a 95mm filter thread (you’ll need to use 150mm filters with it) and weighs 1220 gr; finally, Hasselblad own HCD 50mm f/3.5 is 85 x 116mm, has a 77mm filter thread, and weighs 975 gr.
USE OF FILTERS
Thanks to the Hasselblad XCD 45mm’s 67mm 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. If you wanted to keep your filter kit even smaller, as you can see in my FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM FILTER HOLDER REVIEW, you could go one step down in filter size and use Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm filters with no vignetting at all with the Hasselblad XCD 45mm (and with any other lens in the XCD line-up, for that matter).
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IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, offers either auto-focus or manual focus. While of no consequence for my Fine Art Landscape work, auto-focus is not extremely fast, and the AF motor is noisier than the one you’ll find in the 21mm and 135mm (perhaps Hasselblad changed it for these newer lenses). What counts the most for me is focusing precision, and here the Hasselblad XCD 45mm doesn’t disappoint, focusing precisely enough with just 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 great for my way of working.
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm is a focus-by-wire design, meaning that turning the focus ring in manual focus will not directly operate the focus mechanism but will send electrical impulses to the auto-focus motor instead. While I prefer the classic old-style manual focus rings, thanks to the well-implemented focusing aid of the X1D manual focusing the Hasselblad XCD 45mm is easy and precise. As with any XCD lens, for your convenience a tap on the AF-D button will still activate auto-focus even in manual focus mode.
Like all XCD lenses, aperture on the Hasselblad XCD 45mm 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 the Hasselblad XCD 45mm’s 63 degrees angle of view will give you in the real world, and 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 extremely impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 45mm f/3.5 starts razor sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Just perfect.
Let’s now examine the bottom left corner (click on the images to enlarge):
In the corner, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm offers one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. The lens starts a hair from being razor-sharp 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.
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 again truly impressive. The Hasselblad XCD 45mm is razor-sharp from wide-open to f/16. 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 45mm 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 the Hasselblad XCD 45mm 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 45mm close-up is extremely good. The lens is already very sharp wide-open, improves at f/4 to become razor sharp at f/5.6 and stay 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 45mm renders out-of-focus areas at far distances in the center of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
Quite exceptionally for a wide-angle, and in line with the Hasselblad XCD 21mm and XCD 30mm, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm paints out-of-focus areas beautifully. The lens has a dreamy but not mushy character wide-open, sharpening gently and progressively when stopping down along the aperture range. Just beautiful.
Hasselblad XCD 45mm’s sharpness performance is just spectacular. At infinity, this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review showed an amazing performance, being already practically razor-sharp wide-open all over the frame and becoming razor-sharp between f/4 and f/16. This lens is so good that you can choose your aperture based on your depth of field requirements, and perfect sharpness will be there at any aperture. At closer focussing distances, the lens is razor-sharp all over the frame starting at f/5.6 and until f/16.
Frankly, this is just one of the best performances I have ever seen.
VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm shows a slight hint of vignette wide-open, which disappears stopping the lens down. Applying Hasselblad’s own lens profile in Adobe Camera Raw, you can easily fix what little vignette there is, modulating it to taste. During this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review I found that a vignette removal value between 30 and 40, according to the situations, 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, once more I photographed my very uninspiring but quite 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 45mm profile has been applied. Let’s see the results (click on the image to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm with its lens profile applied shows no distortion whatsoever.
FLARE AND CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS
During this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review’s flare test, as always, I didn’t use the provided, removeable lens hoods. I always have a filter holder on the lens when I work and I never use a hood, and I want my tests to mimic my working conditions as closely as possible. In the test image below, I included the sun in the frame, keeping in it close to the image’s corner. As customary, I included a crop of the area surrounding the sun to check for flare and chromatic aberrations (click on the images to enlarge):
The Hasselblad XCD 45mm showed very high contrast and strong resistance to flare, with no “ghost” images of sorts. I have never seen any sign of colour fringing or chromatic aberrations in my “real world” use as well.
With its 35mm FOV equivalent, the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review offers a moderate wide-angle focal length, covering a field of view that I love and use very often for my Fine Art landscape photography, even if not as often as my wider alternatives.
Technically speaking, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm is an amazing performer. At infinity, it’s razor-sharp all over the frame from f/4 on, and even wide-open is just very slightly soft in the corner, something you’ll likely never notice in real world use. Effectively, you can use this lens at any aperture you want, and the results will be amazing. At close focussing distances, it’s very sharp wide-open and becomes razor-sharp at f/5.6 and above. At apertures between f/8 and f/16, standard for near-far compositions in landscape photography, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm will guarantee you perfectly sharp images from corner to corner over all the aperture range. The lens has great macro and micro-contrast, is extremely resistant to flare and has no chromatic aberrations to speak of as well. With its lens profile applied, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm is distortion-free, and while it does show a hint of vignette at larger apertures, this is easily fixable applying the lens profile in Adobe Camera Raw if you prefer vignette-free images.
Artistically speaking, personally I found the Hasselblad XCD 45mm to be a wonderful tool to have. It draws beautifully, it’s as sharp as you want where you need it and sharpness degrades with a smooth and gentle transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas, drawing with a three-dimensional effect that I find just beautiful for a 35mm equivalent lens. As all XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm together with the Hasselblad X1D outputs beautiful colours.
A MUST-HAVE LENS? THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL LENGTH
The lens in this Hasselblad XCD 45mm in-depth review covers a 35mm FOV equivalent, and while not everyone loves this focal lenght, I personally find it a great tool to have in my camera bag. I much prefer a slightly wider “normal” than the classic 50mm in so-called “full frame” terms, and this lens give me that while keeping the character of a 45mm lens. More, it does so in a very small and light package, but not as small as to sacrifice perfect usability when it comes to ergonomics and to the use of filters.
Optically speaking, the Hasselblad XCD 45mm is just as perfect as a lens can be, while artistically speaking it draws beautifully and together with the Hasselblad X1D gives you files that are extremely detailed, have great colours and are easy and flexible to work with.
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 love the focal length and the angle of view, this lens is an absolute no brainer. A kit with the 21mm, 45mm and 90mm would cover perfectly most people’s requirements for landscape photography; just throw in the 30mm if you are a wide-angle lover as I am, and you are good to go. 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 45mm f/3.5 around the world (click on the images to enlarge):
Thanks for reading this Hasselblad XCD 45mm 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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