HASSELBLAD XCD 65MM F/2.8 IN-DEPTH REVIEW
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THE “NORMAL” LENS FOR THE X1D IS HERE: HASSELBLAD XCD 65MM F/2.8 IN-DEPTH REVIEW!
Before the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 65mm f/2.8 in-depth review appeared, the Hasselblad X1D lacked a lens covering the classic, “normal” angle of view, the role covered in 135 format, the so-called “full frame”, by the ubiquitous 50mm. The closest to it was the Hasselblad XCD 45mm, an amazing lens, covering the field-of-view (FOV) equivalent of a 35mm lens (see my HASSELBLAD XCD 45MM F/3.5 IN-DEPTH REVIEW). While there are many photographers who consider 35mm “normal”, Hasselblad left those more inclined towards 50mm as their normal lens without a viable choice. The Hasselblad XCD 65mm fixes that, closing the gap between the 45mm and the 90mm lenses the X1D originally shipped with.
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm, with its 50mm FOV equivalent in 135 FF terms, is the normal for the Hasselblad X1D system. In the film days, 75-80mm was the normal lens for Medium Format, either 6 x 6 or 6 x 4.5. With the advent of digital and of 44 x 33mm medium format sensors, newly developed system moved to a “shorter” lens for their normal. FujiFilm GF went for 63mm, Leica S for 70mm, Pentax didn’t develop a new one and is left with the old 75mm, and PhaseOne still uses the 80mm (albeit their sensors nowadays are almost all larger than 44 x 33mm).
Being more inclined towards wide-angle lenses, and thus towards a wider normal, for my work I have been happily using the 45mm and 90mm without missing the “normal” 65mm in between them. That said, I am very happy to have the option, and I am sure that many have been waiting eagerly for this lens!
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. For this article, however, Hasselblad has been kind enough to loan me a Hasselblad XCD 65mm to review, and this is actually the first time ever I am reviewing a lens I didn’t own. I want to thank Hasselblad very much for lending me this lens, giving me the opportunity to review it and to have it for my next trip to Spain as well.
Please note: Reviewing lenses that come out of a manufacturer’s test pool is fine, but obviously these lenses are not new and might have been used less than gently before getting to a reviewer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the results will be worse than what a new lens can do, but it’s something to keep in mind.
While this review will just feature my classic test images for now, as I mentioned above Hasselblad has been kind enough to lend me the lens for a relatively long time and I will bring it with me to Spain in the upcoming weeks for the first two of my Fall 2019 Workshops. If I will be able to create any images worth sharing with it, it will be my pleasure to add them to this article in the future. Since I won’t be back home until mid-December though, and I won’t be able to process my images until next spring, I thought I’d publish the review without “real world” images for now, for you to enjoy.
Let’s get started now and see in this Hasselblad XCD 65mm in-depth review how this lens performed!
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
Once more, and as all XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm is built like a tank. My sample copy had a few small dents, but that aside the lens felt like any other XCD lens I own; 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 65mm 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 65mm is weather-sealed. Being in the field for more than six months a year, and often working in very bad weather, weather-sealing is a fundamental feature for me and my work.
With its 81mm diameter and 93mm height, weighing at 727 gr, and with a filter thread of just 67mm, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm f/2.8 sits in the middle of the XCD line-up as far as size & weight.
Surprisingly, the lens is on the heavy side for its size, being heavier than any other prime lens in the XCD line-up except for the 80mm, 120mm and 135mm.
For reference, the old Pentax FA 645 75mm f/2.8 is 74.5 x 37.5mm, has a 58mm filter thread and weighs only 245 gr; the FujiFilm GF 63mm f/2.8 is 80 x 71mm, has a 62mm filter thread and weighs 405 gr (the only prime in the GF line-up smaller and lighter of an equivalent XCD lens, by the way); and the Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5, while slightly faster and slightly longer, is 90 x 93mm, has a 72mm filter thread and weighs 890 gr.
USE OF FILTERS
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm’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 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 65mm (and with any other lens in the XCD line-up so far, for that matter).
IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, can be focussed either via auto-focus or manual focus. As with other Hasselblad XCD lenses, auto-focus is very precise, which is what counts for my work; AF speed is adequate, but certainly not lighting fast. Of course, as with all lenses in the XCD line-up, you can move your focus point all over the frame while keeping your eye on the EVF, which I find just great for my work.
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm, as all Hasselblad XCD lenses, uses a focus-by-wire design. This means that turning the focus ring in manual focus will not directly operate the focus mechanism, it will send electrical impulses to the auto-focus motor instead. While I prefer the classic, old-style, mechanical manual focus rings, thanks to the well-implemented focusing aid of the X1D using manual focus with the Hasselblad XCD 65mm 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 65mm 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 X1D’s 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 65mm’s 46 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):
As with all XCD lenses I reviewed so far, sharpness in the center is extremely impressive. The Hasselblad XCD 65mm f/2.8 starts one hair from being razor sharp wide open, becomes razor sharp at f/4 (you really need to pixel peep to see the difference!) 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):
In the corner, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm also offers an extremely impressive performance. Again, the lens starts one hair from being razor sharp wide open, becomes razor sharp at f/4 (again, you really need to pixel peep to see the difference!) and stays that way until f/16. Apertures smaller than f/16 start suffering from diffraction. Again, just 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, its mid-right performance is no surprise. The Hasselblad XCD 65mm 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 65mm 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 65mm 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 65mm close-up is very good, but not as impressive as the other XCD lenses I tested so far. The lens is sharp wide-open, improving stopping down to become razor sharp at f/8 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 65mm 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 65mm’s depth of field doesn’t manage to bring the background back in focus at any aperture. In line with all other XCD lenses I tested so far, wide-angles and ultra-wides included, I found the Hasselblad XCD 65mm to paint out-of-focus areas really beautifully. As always, Bokeh is very personal, but I found the lens to have a beautiful character wide-open, sharpening gently and progressively stopping down along the aperture range. Smooth but never mushy, the lens draws beautifully.
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm’s sharpness performance, at least that of the copy I have been sent, is a mixed bag. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, however, please keep in mind that the lens I tested here is not my personal copy and has not been purchased brand new by me. It comes from Hasselblad’s test pool, and its performance can have been affected by some rough handling, as proved by the small dents on the lens’ barrel. I.e, if one of the lens’ elements moved, even slightly, as a result of mistreatment, sharpness can definitely be the worse for it.
At infinity, the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 65mm in-depth review showed an impressive performance: the lens is pretty much razor sharp all over the frame at any aperture, until diffraction kicks in. As noted for many of the XCD lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm 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, the lens is less sharp all over the frame, with the corners becoming razor sharp only between f/8 and f/16, but it draws beautifully. I can easily see how this lens could be a portrait photographer’s instant favourite!
VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION
The Hasselblad XCD 65mm shows almost no vignette wide-open and is vignette-free stopping it 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 65mm in-depth review I found that a vignette removal value around 20 gave 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 65mm profile has been applied. Let’s see the results (click on the image to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm with its lens profile applied is completely distortion-free.
FLARE AND CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS
As customary for my lens tests, during this Hasselblad XCD 65mm 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 contrast and chromatic aberrations (click on the images to enlarge):
As you can see, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm shows extremely high contrast and resistance to flare, with no “ghost” images and no CA whatsoever, even in high-contrast areas and shooting straight into the sun.
The long waited “normal” for the X1D system, the lens in this Hasselblad XCD 65mm in-depth review proved to be a very good performer, and a beautifully drawing lens.
Technically speaking, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm is perfect at infinity. At infinity, the lens is effectively diffraction-limited: it’s razor-sharp all over the frame at any aperture up to f/16, allowing you to just choose your aperture according to your depth-of-field requirements, with perfect results all the time. At close focussing distances, however, the lens is not razor sharp until f/8; on the good side, it draws beautifully wide open. The lens shows exceptional macro and micro-contrast and flare resistance, showing no chromatic aberrations to speak of as well used at any distance. With its lens profile applied, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm is perfectly distortion-free and vignette-free. In short, you have both a great landscape lens at infinity, and a great portrait lens at close focussing distances, rolled into one.
Artistically speaking, I generally prefer a wider “normal” for my landscape work, and therefore I love my Hasselblad XCD 45mm for that role. If you are a “50mm photographer”, however, I found the Hasselblad XCD 65mm to draw beautifully, it’s as sharp as a lens can be at infinity, and the transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas is beautiful. As all XCD lenses, the 65mm creates a three-dimensional effect that I find beautiful. Also as all XCD lenses, the colours and files created by the Hasselblad XCD 65mm together with the Hasselblad X1D are amazing and very easy to work with in post-processing.
A MUST-HAVE LENS? THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL LENGTH
Covering the “normal” focal length, the Hasselblad XCD 65mm needs very little discussion when it comes to its focal length. You either are a 50mm-FOV-equivalent photographer, or you are not.
If you are, optically speaking the Hasselblad XCD 65mm is amazing at infinity, and a little less so focussed up close. For me as a landscape photographer, this could be of some consequence for use in near-far compositions, even though the lens is a little long for such use. For far composition, which is where I’d use it the most, the lens is just perfect. For portrait photography, I find the lens close-focussed to draw beautifully while not being clinically sharp until f/8. Artistically speaking, while obviously a matter of personal preference, I find it to be an amazing lens to use at longer distance, which I do a lot of, and a beautifully drawing lens for portraits, which at the moment I do very little of. Paired with the fantastic sensor of the Hasselblad X1D, in the range I’d use it 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 only you can answer that, depending on your work and preferences in terms of look. For landscape work, I’d definitely recommend it.
As always, the photographs are what counts the most. As mentioned before, Hasselblad has been kind enough to lend me this lens for quite a long time, and I am looking forward to putting it through its paces during my upcoming two weeks in Spain! I will add images here as soon as I’ll be back home from my Fall 2019 Workshops tour.
Thanks for reading this Hasselblad XCD 65mm 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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