HASSELBLAD XCD 135MM F/2.8 IN-DEPTH REVIEW

Hasselblad X1D and Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8

A DOUBLE TELE FOR THE X1D: HASSELBLAD XCD 135MM F/2.8 IN-DEPTH REVIEW WITH X CONVERTER 1.7!

With its 135mm, extendable to 230mm, this tele for the Hasselblad X1D covers two focal length and various purposes, from portrait to landscape: read in this Hasselblad XCD 135mm in-depth review my thoughts about this lens!

The Hasselblad XCD 135mm, with its 105mm field-of-view (FOV) equivalent in 135 FF terms, is for now the only tele lens available for the Hasselblad X1D system. However, thanks to the dedicated X Converter 1.7, developed especially for this lens (which I’d recommend you buy together with the Hasselblad XCD 135mm), the lens cleverly becomes a 230mm long tele with a 178mm FOV equivalent and a f/4.76 maximum aperture. Effectively, the X Converter 1.7 gives the X1D user two lenses in one.

Once more, with the XCD 135mm Hasselblad went for a pretty unique choice of focal length in the medium format world. No other manufacturer offers a 135mm prime, or a 230mm prime for that matter. Fujifilm, Pentax and PhaseOne all choose to cover 135mm with zoom lenses instead. Only Pentax covers 230mm, with a zoom, and PhaseOne gets closer to covering the same angle of view with their 240mm f/4.5, a 149mm FOV equivalent on their larger MF sensors.

As I mentioned in my HASSELBLAD XCD 90MM F/3.2 IN-DEPTH REVIEW, while I am a wide-angle lover there are locations that just scream for a longer lens, typically hills and mountains where the compression of a tele gives a very different look and feel to the landscape. Tuscany, with its rolling hills, is one of those locations, and the Dolomites is another. So, I was very much looking forward to having the 135mm and its tele-converter for my last trip to Tuscany last spring. Alas, despite Hasselblad Italy’s promises, the lens arrived into my hands only after the trip.

Luckily, I’ll be in the Dolomites in September and in Tuscany again in the fall, and I am looking forward to trying it in the field then. For now, I’ll put the lens through my usual test, but there won’t be any “real world” images at the end of the article, I am afraid. I will add them to the article as I’ll have them. 

I couldn’t start this review without extending once more my heartfelt thanks to the people at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan, and to Ryuichi Watanabe in particular, for their help in getting this lens to me and for their patience in helping me deal with Hasselblad Italy. I highly recommend NewOldCamera, both for new and second-hand gear. 

Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Hasselblad or NewOldCamera 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.

Let’s get started now and see in this Hasselblad XCD 135mm in-depth review how it performed!

The Dolomites Photography Workshop

BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
This is my fifth review of Hasselblad lenses, and I haven’t found one yet that weren’t built like the proverbial tank. The Hasselblad XCD 135mm, as all its XCD siblings, is very solid, with no rattles, internal moving parts or noises of any kind. As with any prime in the XCD lens line-up, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm barrel’s controls are very minimalistic, featuring just a focus ring.

As mentioned above, Hasselblad offers this lens bundled with the X Converter 1.7, a 1.7x tele-converter, which I’d recommend you get since it’s not clear at present whether, and when, the X Converter 1.7 will be available for purchase alone. If you get the lens in this configuration, in the box you’ll find the Hasselblad XCD 135mm, the X Converter 1.7, and the Tripod Mount Ring to use the lens on a tripod. A pouch for the X Converter 1.7 is included as well, and I have to say that it’s probably the sturdiest pouch I have ever seen.

The X Converter 1.7 is also an extremely well-made piece of kit, if a substantial one, and so is the tripod bracket with a built-in Hasselblad tripod mount. Unfortunately, the tripod mount is not Arca-Swiss compatible. You will need to add an extra Arca-Swiss lens plate to be able to use the Hasselblad XCD 135mm + 1.7 converter on your Arca-Swiss compatible tripod head.

Given the weight and size of the lens + converter combination, I most definitely recommend you use the included bracket if you plan to use the Hasselblad XCD 135mm + X Converter 1.7 on a tripod. The bracket’s foot is perfectly positioned in the center of gravity, as proved by the camera and lens combination standing perfectly balanced when rested on the foot (see the last image in the group here).

As all XCD lenses and cameras in the X1D line-up, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is weather-sealed. Once more, since I am in the field for more than six months a year, often working in very bad weather, weather-sealing is a fundamental feature for me. I haven’t used the lens extensively in the field yet, but if other XCD lenses are to be taken as example, I am sure the Hasselblad XCD 135mm won’t disappoint as well. More, the X Converter 1.7 seems to be weather-sealed as well, featuring a gasket on the camera side.

With its 81mm diameter and 149mm height, weighing at 935 gr, and with a filter thread of 77mm, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 – while bigger and heavier than most XCD lenses – is still a pretty small and light lens by medium format standards. The X Converter 1.7 will add 46mm to the lens’ height and 437 gr to its weight. 

For reference, the Pentax 150mm f/2.8 FA 645 is 74.5 x 96mm, has a 67mm filter thread and weighs 500 gr while the PhaseOne 150mm LS f/2.8 is 115 x 141.6mm, has a 95mm filter thread and weighs 1658 gr. Finally, Hasselblad’s own HC 150mm f/3.2, while half stop slower, is 86 x 124mm, has a 77mm filter thread and weighs 970 gr. While it’s worth noting that all XCD lenses are generally smaller and lighter than their competition, in this case you can find a smaller and lighter lens in the Pentax 150mm f/2.8 FA 645.

Cinque Terre & Tuscany Photography Workshop

USE OF FILTERS
The Hasselblad XCD 135mm’s 77mm filter thread allows me to use my trusted set of Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra 100mm square filters with my 100mm Formatt-Hitech Firecrest filter holder with no issues whatsoever. If you wanted to keep your filter kit 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 135mm (and with any other lens in the XCD line-up, for that matter).

If you haven’t got your filters yet, get your kit on FORMATT-HITECH or FORMATT-HITECH USA at a 10% discount using code

VIERIB10

at checkout. Disclaimer: I am a Formatt-Hitech Signature Artist and Brand Ambassador.

IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM
The Hasselblad XCD 135mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, supports either auto-focus with manual focus override or manual focus with auto-focus override. The Hasselblad XCD 135mm’s auto-focus is adequately fast, and the AF motor is much more silent than the one you’ll find in the 30mm, 45mm and 90mm, and I find it slightly more silent that that of the 21mm XCD as well. As I mentioned in previous reviews, and while I have no information confirming this either way, the more XCD lenses I test, the more I feel that Hasselblad changed auto-focus motor for their newer lenses. In particular, I feel that the 135mm has the best auto-focus motor of all, as far as silence and speed.

That said, what counts for my work more than speed or noise is focusing precision, and the Hasselblad XCD 135mm 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 viewfinder, which I find just great for my work.

The Hasselblad XCD 135mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, is a focus-by-wire design, meaning that turning the focus ring in manual focus will send electrical impulses to the auto-focus motor rather than directly mechanically operate the focus mechanism. While I prefer classic old-style manual focus solutions, thanks to the well-implemented focusing aid of the X1D manual focusing the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is easy and precise. As with any XCD lens, for your convenience a tap on the AF-D button will activate auto-focus even in manual focus mode, which is my favourite configuration.

Like on all XCD lenses, aperture on the Hasselblad XCD 135mm 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 135mm’s will give you in the real world, both alone and with the X Converter 1.7, and to see the origin of the crops (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the crops in detail, starting with the center of the frame with the lens alone, without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

Sharpness in the center is extremely impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 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 add the X Converter 1.7 and see the results (click on the images to enlarge):

Even with the X Converter 1.7, sharpness in the center is extremely impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 + X Converter 1.7 starts razor sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Again, a perfect performance despite adding the X Converter 1.7, which is truly remarkable.

Let’s now examine the bottom left corner with the lens alone, without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

In the corner, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm again offers a truly incredible performance. The lens starts pratically razor-sharp wide-open, becomes so at f/4 and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Again, perfect.

Let’s now add the X Converter 1.7 and see what the results are (click on the images to enlarge):

With the X Converter 1.7, sharpness in the corner is quite impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 + X Converter 1.7 starts very sharp wide-open, improving at f/5.6 to become razor sharp at f/8 and stay that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Again, quite an amazing performance despite the X Converter 1.7, which is great.

Finally, let’s check the mid-right side of the frame with the lens alone, without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

I might start to sound boring by now, but the Hasselblad XCD 135mm at mid-right of the frame is already razor-sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Again, apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.

Let’s now add the X Converter 1.7 and see what the results are (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, even adding the X Converter 1.7, sharpness at mid-right of the frame is extremely impressive: the Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 + X Converter 1.7 starts razor sharp wide-open and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. This is a perfect performance, despite adding the X Converter 1.7, which is something indeed remarkable.

Normandy & Brittany Photography Workshop

SHARPNESS AT CLOSE FOCUSING DISTANCE AND BOKEH
To examine sharpness at close focusing distance, as well as to see how the Hasselblad XCD 135mm 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 images first, again to see what angle of view the Hasselblad XCD 135mm covers in the real world first alone and then adding the X Converter 1.7, as well as to see the origin of the crops (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine sharpness at the point of focus, first without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

Wide open, the performance of the Hasselblad XCD 135mm close-up is amazing. Considering the razor-thin depth of field, for all practical uses I’d consider the lens to be razor sharp from wide-open to f/16. As expected, apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.

Let’s now add the X Converter 1.7 and see what the results are (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, a pretty amazing performance, considering that we are in the corner, the even thinner depth of field and the close focus distance. The Hasselblad XCD 135mm + X Converter 1.7 starts pretty sharp to become razor sharp between f/8 and f/16. As expected, apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction.

Let’s see now how the Hasselblad XCD 135mm renders out-of-focus areas at far distances in the center of the frame, first without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now add the X Converter 1.7 and see what the results are (click on the images to enlarge):

Focussed so close to the lens, as expected the Hasselblad XCD 135mm’s depth of field is not enough to bring the background back in focus at any aperture, and even less so when adding the X Converter 1.7. There are few things as personal as Bokeh, so take this for what is worth. Personally, and in line with all other XCD lenses I tested so far including wide and ultra-wide-angles, I found the Hasselblad XCD 135mm to paint out-of-focus areas very, very beautifully. Bokeh is dreamy wide-open, and the lens sharpens gently stopping down along the aperture range without losing definition in the out-of-focus areas. Just beautiful.

Death Valley Photography Workshop

SHARPNESS CONCLUSIONS
The Hasselblad XCD 135mm’s sharpness performance is nothing short of amazing, and as close as perfect along the aperture range as a lens can be. At infinity, this Hasselblad XCD 135mm in-depth review showed a simply perfect performance: the lens is practically razor sharp all over the frame at any aperture and is limited only by diffraction. The Hasselblad XCD 135mm is so good that you can choose your aperture based on your depth of field requirements, which is a photographer’s dream. At its closest focussing distances, the lens is again practically razor-sharp all over the frame; be aware, however, that the very thin depth of field will nullify sharpness if you aren’t extremely careful both with focussing and with camera movement (if you are shooting handheld, that is). As well, the lens draws beautifully under an artistic point of view.

Add the X Converter 1.7 and you are in for a pleasant surprise: the converter has very little effect to the lens’ sharpness, effectively adding one long tele to your arsenal with very little bulk and weight and without any performance penalties. If critical sharpness is necessary, I’d recommend you use the Hasselblad XCD 135mm + X Converter 1.7 half a stop from wide open, just to be on the safe side. In doing so, you’ll get a perfectly sharp 230mm f/5.6, which pretty amazing.

Overall, this is one of the best sharpness performances I have tested.

VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION
The Hasselblad XCD 135mm shows a little vignette wide-open and is effectively vignette-free stopping the lens down past f/5.6. Adding the X Converter 1.7 will add a little more vignette. If you use Adobe Camera Raw to develop your negatives, the good news is that the software comes with two different lens profiles, with or without the X Converter 1.7. As with all XCD lenses, applying Adobe Camera Raw’s Hasselblad XCD 135mm lens profile you can easily fix what little vignette there is, modulating it to taste. During this Hasselblad XCD 135mm in-depth review I found that a vignette removal value between 20 and 30, 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.

DISTORTION
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 135mm appropriate profile has been applied. Let’s see the results, without X Converter 1.7 first and then with the X Converter 1.7 added (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm with its lens profile applied is completely distortion-free, with or without the X Converter 1.7.

FLARE AND CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS
As customary for my lens tests, during this Hasselblad XCD 135mm 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 for a real torture test. As customary, I included a crop of the area surrounding the sun to check for contrast and chromatic aberrations.

Let’s start with the Hasselblad XCD 135mm without the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

The Hasselblad XCD 135mm images show extremely high contrast even when shooting into the sun and show very good resistance to flare even in the crop, taken very close to where the sun is. While you can see a faint green ghost image in the top right corner, let’s remember that this is possibly the worst-case scenario for shooting a lens into the sun. My test images showed no CA whatsoever in high-contrast areas.

Let’s see what happens adding the X Converter 1.7 (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm images show very high contrast when shooting into the sun even adding the X Converter 1.7. While they still show perfectly good resistance to flare, areas closer to the sun in my torture test have slightly lower contrast than the rest of the frame, compared to using the lens alone. As well, adding the X Converter 1.7 making triggering ghost images a little easier. Again, my test images showed no CA whatsoever in high-contrast areas with the X Converter 1.7 as well.

CONCLUSIONS
With its 105mm FOV equivalent in 135 terms, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm covers a pretty classical medium tele angle of view. Traditionally, 105mm has been used as a classical “close” portrait lens and as a landscape / travel medium tele. Adding the X Converter 1.7 brings you to another classic FOV equivalent lens, 180mm, offering a lot of flexibility in a relatively compact package.

Technically speaking, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is as close to perfect as a lens can be. As its shorter sibling the Hasselblad XCD 90mm, at infinity the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is effectively diffraction-limited (see my HASSELBLAD XCD 90MM F/3.2 IN-DEPTH REVIEW here). This means that the lens is razor-sharp all over the frame at any aperture up to f/16, and that you can choose your aperture simply according to your depth-of-field requirements. At close focussing distances, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is so close to be razor-sharp wide-open that is practically diffraction limited in use at short distances as well. If you do landscape as I do, this means in practice that at our “standard” working apertures for landscape photography, apertures between f/8 and f/16, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm will guarantee you perfectly sharp images all over the aperture range and all over the frame. The lens has exceptional macro and micro-contrast and very good flare resistance, showing no chromatic aberrations to speak of as well. With its lens profile applied, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is distortion-free and vignette-free as well.

Adding the X Converter 1.7 will effectively add one extra lens to your arsenal, and a great one at that. The X Converter 1.7 will just introduce some very minor penalties in terms of sharpness wide-open, effectively inconsequential in real use, and some little penalties in terms of flare & ghost when shooting straight into the sun, which is a pretty amazing result for a tele-converter.

Artistically speaking, as we know I generally prefer to use wider lenses. However, I have been waiting for the Hasselblad XCD 135mm for those situations where a longer lens is needed for compression, and I am truly looking forward to putting it to work soon. The lens draws truly beautifully, it’s as sharp as you’ll ever need and features beautiful transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas. Thanks to its out-of-focus drawing, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm creates a smooth and beautiful three-dimensional effect. As all XCD lenses, the colours and files produced by the Hasselblad XCD 135mm together with the Hasselblad X1D are gorgeous and very easy to work with in post-processing.

In short, paired with the fantastic sensor of the Hasselblad X1D, this lens outputs files as sharp as they come, clean and detailed, with great colours and as easy and flexible to work with as they come.

Iceland Photography Workshop

A MUST-HAVE LENS? THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL LENGTH
As I mentioned above, the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 135mm in-depth review covers a classic spot in so-called “full frame” FOV equivalent terms, that of a 105mm lens. The X Converter 1.7 adds another real classic focal length equivalent such as 180mm. While not a landscape photographer’s bread and butter couple of focal lengths, for my landscape photography work I love to have such a duo of lenses in my toolbox. They are extremely useful for those situations such as hilly landscapes, mountainscapes, and so on, and it’s great to effectively have two lenses almost for the bulk and weight of one. As all Hasselblad XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 135mm is perfect to use with square filters, either 100mm or 85mm.

Should you get it? Well, if you need the focal length(s) for your work, look no further. The Hasselblad XCD 135mm is a no-brainer, is a unique prime lens in the Medium Format arena and an amazing one at that. If you get it, my recommendation would be to get the X Converter 1.7 with it, first and foremost because it’ll give you one extra great lens for very little bulk, weight and cost, and then because it might not be easy to find it afterwards. Highly recommended.

As always, the photographs are what counts the most. As mentioned before, however, Hasselblad Italy failed to deliver this lens when they promised to do so, and therefore I didn’t have it for my Tuscany trip in spring 2019. I am looking forward to putting it through its paces really soon and will add images here as soon as I’ll have them.

Glencoe & Isle of Skye Photography Workshop

Thanks for reading this Hasselblad XCD 135mm 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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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

4 thoughts on “HASSELBLAD XCD 135MM F/2.8 IN-DEPTH REVIEW”

  1. Vieri, I agree this is a superb lens. And the TC only makes it even more versatile, with barely perceptible sharpness loss. I have a question for you about the tripod foot. While superbly balanced, my copy’s foot profile is significantly narrower than all my clamping devices, both screw-knob and quick release lever. I am traveling with RRS [QR and screw], Rollei [screw], and Arca [QR lever] heads and/or clamps [in Italy right now]. For every single one of those clamps, the HB tripod collar foot is too narrow to be used, no matter how much I adjust the gap. I wonder if I have a defective unit—doesn’t seem likely; the fit and finish are otherwise superb—or if there isn’t some other part to be attached he’d that I left in the box. Though that seems unlikely, as mine appears identical to your photos.

    Reply
    • Hello Greg,

      thank you for your message, I am glad you enjoyed the review. About the Tripod Mount Ring, your copy is perfectly fine – unfortunately, the foot is Hasselblad-compatible, not Arca-Swiss compatible. I amended the review mentioning that, following your message. You will need an Arca-Swiss lens plate to be able to use the lens on your Arca-Swiss compatible head. Hope this helps!

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  2. Hello Vieri,
    A detailed and wonderfully methodical review indeed, and so now I have the 135mm + X converter 1.7 on order.
    As I already use an Arca Swiss Cube atop an RRS tripod, is the L85 lens foot (only one shown for Hasselblad on RRS website) the best one to use, or is there one with a better fitment. Does the lens collar rotate? negating the need to fit an L-bracket to the X1D II 50c camera body.

    Best regards,
    Gregory

    Reply
    • Hello Gregory,

      thank you for your message and kind words, I am glad you enjoyed the review. About your questions, I am using an old Kirk PZ-106 plate I had lying around and it works just fine, I am not familiar with the one you mentioned though. The lens collar rotates, which is great when using the lens foot. I always have a RRS L-Bracket on all my cameras anyway, so the one doesn’t exclude the other for me.

      Hope this helps! Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply

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