HASSELBLAD XCD 90MM F/3.2 IN-DEPTH REVIEW
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A SHORT TELE FOR THE X1D: HASSELBLAD XCD 90MM F/3.2 IN-DEPTH REVIEW!
With its 90mm focal length, this short tele for the Hasselblad X1D serves many purposes, from portrait to landscape: read in this Hasselblad XCD 90mm in-depth review my thoughts about it for my work!
The Hasselblad XCD 90mm, with its 71mm field-of-view (FOV) equivalent in so-called “full frame” terms, is the short tele for the Hasselblad X1D system. 90mm is a pretty unique focal length for a prime lens in the Medium Format world: besides Hasselblad, only Pentax produces a 90mm prime lens, though a special purpose macro. Fujifilm, Leica and PhaseOne all chose to cover this focal length with zoom lenses instead.
Thanks to a focal length sitting somehow “in-between” 50mm and 85-90mm FOV equivalent lenses, this is a lens intended to serve many purposes, from portrait to travel and landscape. As you know, I am a wide-angle lover. Nevertheless, there are locations that just scream for a longer lens – Tuscany, with its rolling hills, is one of those – and I really like the aesthetic possibilities of compressing landscapes. So, I always end up carrying a short tele with me, even when I know that my destination won’t really “need” it, because I really enjoy such possibilities. While you could almost say that it’s an odd choice for a focal length, I found that paired with the Hasselblad XCD 45mm as my “normal”, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm works pretty well for me. If you prefer to see the world through slightly “longer” lenses than I do, you’d probably be better served by a Hasselblad XCD 65mm + Hasselblad XCD 120mm combination instead.
I bought the Hasselblad XCD 90mm together with my first Hasselblad X1D body, and I always carried it with me everywhere I went, giving it quite a workout. As always, this Hasselblad XCD 90mm 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.
I couldn’t start this review without extending once more my thanks to the people at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan, and to Ryuichi Watanabe in particular, for their help in getting this lens to me. I highly recommend NewOldCamera, both for new and second-hand gear. 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 90mm in-depth review how it performed!
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
It’ll not come as a surprise to hear that, as all XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm is built like a tank.
Very solid, with no rattles, internal moving parts or noises of any kind, the lens feels like it could take a beating. As with any prime in the XCD lens line-up, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm barrel’s controls are very minimalistic, featuring just a focus ring.
Also as all XCD lenses and cameras in the X1D line-up, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm is weather-sealed. Being in the field for more than six months a year, and often working in very bad weather, weather-sealing is fundamental for me and my work.
After using the Hasselblad XCD 90mm for months under any weather condition, I can confirm you that the weather sealing just works with no problems.
With its 77mm diameter and 100mm height, weighing at 619 gr, and with a filter thread of just 67mm, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm f/3.2 is a pretty small and light lens. This is customary for all XCD lenses that are, with a couple exceptions, all smaller and lighter than their competition.
For reference, the Pentax 90mm f/2.8 D FA 645 Macro, while slightly faster, is 90.5 x 111.6mm, has a 67mm filter thread and weighs 1040 gr; Leica Summicron-S 100mm f/2, while more than a stop faster and slightly longer, is 91 x 102mm, has a 82mm filter thread and weighs 910 gr.
USE OF FILTERS
The Hasselblad XCD 90mm’s 67mm filter thread allows me to use my trusted set of Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra 100mm square filters through my 100mm Formatt-Hitech Firecrest filter holder with no 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 90mm (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 90mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, features both auto-focus and manual focus. As with the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, auto-focus is not extremely fast, and the AF motor is noisier than the ones you’ll find in the 21mm and 135mm. While I have no information to confirm this either way, the more XCD lenses I test, the more I feel that Hasselblad changed auto-focus motor for their newer lenses. If this is true, I’ll call the motor in the Hasselblad XCD 45mm and 90mm lenses “generation I”, the one in the Hasselblad XCD 21mm and 135mm “generation II”, while I am not sure about the one in the 30mm XCD, which seems to “sound” different than the other two, but in such a small way that it might be just the way it’s mounted in the lens body. Or, perhaps, it’s a development sitting in-between the other two, and is then ”generation 1.5”.
Speculations aside, what counts for my work more than speed or noise is focusing precision. While perhaps slightly less “sure” in locking focus than the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, when it locks focus the Hasselblad XCD 90mm focuses as precisely as all other Hasselblad XCD lenses. Of course, as with all lenses in the XCD line-up, you can move your focus point all over the frame leaving your eye on the camera’s EVF, which I find just great for my work.
The Hasselblad XCD 90mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, 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 90mm 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 90mm 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 90mm’s 34 degrees diagonal 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 90mm f/3.2 starts razor sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Simply perfect.
Let’s now examine the bottom left corner (click on the images to enlarge):
In the corner, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm offers a truly incredible performance. The lens starts razor-sharp sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Again, simply perfect.
Finally, let’s check the mid-right side of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
Having seen what this lens can do in the center and in the corner, it won’t come as a surprise to witness an amazing performance here as well. The Hasselblad XCD 90mm is almost razor-sharp wide-open and become so at f/4 to stay that way until 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 90mm 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 what angle of view the Hasselblad XCD 90mm covers in the real world, as well as to see the origin of the crops (click on the image to enlarge):
Wide open the performance of the Hasselblad XCD 90mm 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 90mm renders out-of-focus areas at far distances in the center of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):
Focussed so close to the lens, as expected the Hasselblad XCD 90mm’s depth of field is not able to bring the background back in focus at any aperture. As always, Bokeh is very personal, but – in line with all other XCD lenses I tested so far, wide-angles and ultra-wides included – I found the Hasselblad XCD 90mm to paint out-of-focus areas really beautifully. The lens has a dreamy character wide-open, sharpening gently and progressively stopping down along the aperture range without ever being mushy. Just beautiful.
Hasselblad XCD 90mm’s sharpness performance is simply amazing. At infinity, this Hasselblad XCD 90mm in-depth review showed an incredible performance: the lens is pretty much razor sharp all over the frame at any aperture, until diffraction kicks in. This lens is so good that you can choose your aperture based on your depth of field requirements, and perfect sharpness will always be there. At its closest focussing distances, for landscape work the lens is razor-sharp all over the frame starting at f/5.6 and until f/16. For portraiture work, on the other hand, I’d consider it definitely sharp enough even wide open. As well, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm draws beautifully.
Frankly, this is just one of the best performances I have ever seen, even better than the already impressive Hasselblad XCD 45mm and Hasselblad XCD 21mm (see my HASSELBLAD XCD 21MM F/4 IN-DEPTH REVIEW and my HASSELBLAD XCD 45MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW).
VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION
The Hasselblad XCD 90mm shows almost no vignette wide-open and is vignette-free stopping the lens down past f/4. 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 90mm in-depth review I found that a vignette removal value between 20 and 30, 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 pretty 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 90mm profile has been applied. Let’s see the results (click on the image to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm with its lens profile applied is completely distortion-free.
FLARE AND CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS
As customary for my lens tests, during this Hasselblad XCD 90mm in-depth review’s flare test 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 90mm showed extremely high contrast and resistance to flare, with no “ghost” images of sorts, and showed no CA whatsoever in high-contrast areas. I have never managed to get the lens to flare, nor I have seen any sign of colour fringing or chromatic aberrations in my “real world” use as well.
While seemingly an “odd” focal length, I found the angle of view covered by this lens to be very useful for my landscape work, especially when paired with the 45mm as my “normal” lens. In fact, I love the whole “spacing” of my XCD line-up: having lenses with a full-frame FOV equivalent of 17mm, 24mm, 35mm, 71mm, 105mm (180mm with the 1.7x) is just perfect for my work.
Technically speaking, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm is as perfect as a lens can be. At infinity, the lens is effectively diffraction-limited: it’s razor-sharp all over the frame at any aperture up to f/16, and you can just choose your aperture according to your depth-of-field requirements with perfect results. At close focussing distances, it’s very sharp wide-open and becomes razor-sharp at f/5.6 and above. What this means in practice is that at apertures between f/8 and f/16, the “standard” working apertures for landscape photography, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm will guarantee you perfectly sharp images from corner to corner over all the aperture range. The lens has exceptional macro and micro-contrast and flare resistance, showing no chromatic aberrations to speak of as well. With its lens profile applied, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm is perfectly distortion-free and vignette-free as well.
Artistically speaking, while I am generally more inclined towards the way wide-angle lenses see the world, I found the Hasselblad XCD 90mm to be perfect for those situations where I love to slightly compress my scenes. It draws beautifully, it’s as sharp as a lens can be and the transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas are beautiful, smooth and gentle. The lens draws with a three-dimensional effect that I just love. As all XCD lenses, the colours and files created by the Hasselblad XCD 90mm together with the Hasselblad X1D are gorgeous and very easy to work with in post-processing.
A MUST-HAVE LENS? THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL LENGTH
As I mentioned above, the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 90mm in-depth review covers a slightly odd focal length for a medium format prime. However, for my landscape photography work this is a focal length that I love and use very often in situations such as hilly landscapes, mountainscapes, and so on. Paired with the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, this lens makes for a great “normal” kit, covering the FOV equivalent of 35mm & 71mm, and if you – like me – prefer a slightly wider-than-50mm normal you’ll be very happy with this duo in the field. As all Hasselblad XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 90mm comes in a very small and light package, with great ergonomics and is perfect to use with square filters, either 100mm or 85mm.
Optically speaking, I’d call the Hasselblad XCD 90mm effectively a perfect lens. Artistically speaking, while obviously a personal remark, I find it a beautifully drawing lens. Paired with the fantastic sensor of the Hasselblad X1D, this lens outputs files as sharp as they come, extremely detailed, with great colours and 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. Hasselblad’s own XCD 80mm f/1.9 is a great contender for a lens with similar coverage, and if you need the fast aperture it will be hard to resist. If you are happy with f/3.2, and if you love the focal length, the angle of view and the compression that this lens offers, look no further. 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 90mm f/3.2 around the world (click on the images to enlarge):
Thanks for reading this Hasselblad XCD 90mm 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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