This is a short review of the 65mm 2.8 Hasselblad XCD lens. I just received it a few days ago and took it out on a few walks for some handheld shots. I am currently working on a larger review of the X1D, which I will publish in a few days. So stay tuned for that. A week ago I looked at BHPhoto’s website late at night and to my surprise this long awaited lens was in stock. Since a 50mm on full frame cameras and 80mm on full medium format cameras is my preferred focal length I was hoping to get my hand on this 65mm for this cropped medium format camera. Two days later it showed up and I have had the chance to try it out for the last two days. Weight-wise it is similar to a Leica SL with a Noctilux.
The X1D is 100g lighter than the SL combo but larger in size. So if you think that this is an easy walk-around camera I can assure that it is not. Build quality of the lens seems great on the outside and I am assuming it is the same on the inside as well. And you feel the weight of 1452 grams of the entire camera/lens combination. The lens alone is 300grams heavier than the 45mm lens. In comparison, a Leica M10 with a 50mm Summilux is just 995grams. Still. the X1D with the 65mm lens is much better to carry around than any other medium format camera. And that’s how you have to look at it. You can take it on hikes and city explorations. but at the end of the trip you are glad to get rid of it, while the M10/Summilux combination usually can stay around my neck unnoticed for a long time. I have had the chance to use the X1D wit a 45mm XCD lens for two months now. I have enjoyed the system despite some awkward bugs. The 45mm has not a fast auto-focus but it is ok. I have never had the feeling that it hindered me much. Only a few times when I tried to capture something moving. The 65mm seems to shift a lot more glass around than the 45mm. The auto-focus is similar to the 45mm lens when the focus doesn’t need to travel much. A short zig and it has snaps into focus. But frequently it seems to have a hard time finding the focus right away and then it lets the glass travel all the way in and out, or wise-versa. Imagine the lens would say to you: “Let me find the focus”. That’s how long it takes to lock in the focus. But once it locks, it usually nails it.
Image quality is fabulous so far. I only took images handheld, with shutter speeds not lower than 180. Files are rich of detail and they are a joy to explore.
I have not done any controlled study of the lens, so I can not tell you exact details about corner sharpness, etc. But those images that are in focus, which are most of them, show crisp detail all the way into the corners. Separating an item from the background at f2.8 works but it is not as strong as a f1.4 lens on a full frame camera.
I have noticed that the X1d in aperture priority mode tends to shift around on the aperture. I set it to f2.8 and took a few images. After waiting a little bit and continuing I noticed that the camera would be at f3.5 or even f4. And I did not move any of the wheels. The camera has some of these strange bugs.
So what is my take away from this? The lens is sharp, a bit slow and big for a 65mm lens. Even the PhaseOne 80mm 2.8 autofocus lens is smaller and comes in at 500grams. As mirrorless cameras are getting smaller, their lenses strangely tend to increase in size. My guess is that it takes a lot of glass to accommodate a short mounting distance to a large sensor.
So what is this lens good for? You can walk around with it and take some snaps here and there. It is not ideal because of size, weight, and focus speed. Compared to a full frame system you have to use shorter shutter times to freeze all movements and you have f2.8 versus f1.4. So that leaves you with an increased ISO speed. The X1D can handle that but it has its limits as well.
Usually I stop at iso 1600 and only go beyond in very dark environments. Iso 3200 is good for people shots at night but details are not as rich and the images get grainier. Colors usually look great even at higher ISO. Out of focus looks smooth but highlights will show the blades of the lens. You won’t get fully round circles.
So then what is this lens good for? I think it is great for urban landscapes, nature landscapes, stuff that stays in place for a bit and doesn’t move much. To me the X1D is a great replacement for my medium format back, because it reduces the weight and lets me take images in situations that in the past I couldn’t take shots because I would not be able to set up a tripod. Plus it is a much better travel medium format camera. Less size, less weight, smaller tripod, etc.
My only concern is that the X1D makes me lazy and not use a tripod at all, even in situation in which a tripod would lead to a much better image. So I have to remind myself that this is a smaller medium format system, not a more powerful Leica M or SL replacement. It handles some street situations well, but you won’t get the speed and stealth that a Leica would provide.
Here are a few more examples of images taken with the XCD 65mm f2.8 lens.
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