Update. New firmware is now available, which will make this lens compatible with the X1D. So disregard the autofocus and exposure issues mentioned.
I like surprises and Hasselblad surprised me and others when they launched the 45p f4 lens out of nowhere. Nobody expected it, nobody saw it coming, but it hit a nerve. Many Hasselblad X1D users have bought into the system because of its size and mobility. The current lens lineup is fine but the weird shutter sound of earlier lenses and the weight made it only ok for carrying around. The original 45mm lens actually has been my favorite because of its versatile field of view and the relatively small form factor. But when the new 45P lens got launched I ordered one within 10 minutes. The promised size and weight reduction, while not dramatic, hit at least my triggers. Making the lenses smaller and lighter is one of my big wishes for the X system. I would be fine even without autofocus if this would allow for smaller lens form factors.
To make this story short, I have received the lens and have tried it. Overall take away. The form and build quality is great, the performance …ok on the original X1D, the image quality is top, and the weirdness factor of the camera is high. Why has the weirdness increased? Because the lens does something that the system has not done before, something that is not good. At least for now. It tends to overwrite my manual settings. Worst thing a camera can do. Unless I have done some repeated user error, which I would blame a camera for, this lens/camera combination does not allow me to shorten the shutter time to underexpose an image. I can overexpose by lengthening the expose time. I can manipulate the f stop. But I can not go to 1/1000 of a second when 1/100 is ideal, to underexpose. To be clear, this is only happening on my X1D (original model) and with the 45P lens. With the original 45mm 3.5 lens the camera does everything well. Now someone could tell me to upgrade to the Model II. Yeah….. . Honestly? Somehow this lens should work on the original X1D without any problems from the start. It is a software bug, I am sure, and I am assuming a firmware update would be available at some point. If that is the case, why not wait selling these until the firmware is available. But right now it is weird and not what a professional system should do. Having full control in manual mode, by the way it does that in A and S mode as well, is a basic functionality of a camera. Have a look at the the four images. All taken in manual mode, slightly overexposed and not corrected. I used f4 and 100 Iso. The images were taken with 1/180, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000 shutter speed.
f4, 100 ISO, 1/500
Surprised? They are all identical. The metadata shows my settings but I have no idea what actual shutter speed the camera used. Hasselblad, if you are reading this, please have a look at the metadata. Something is seriously wrong here. I have heard rumors that the X1D might need a firmware update but I have not read anything on the Hasselblad website. It just states that this lens is designed for the X system. So I would expect it to work on a X camera. If that is not the case, then I would expect the manufacturer to disclose this in BOLD letters, and not to sell a lens and think that they don’t have to mention compatibility right away or that people will figure it out through other websites. Put it there where people place an order. Apropos Meta, it would be great if Phocus would indicate if a shot was taken with the 45 XCD or the 45P XCD. Right now they both seem to show up as 45XCD. From time to time I experienced other glitches. For example the camera would be in P mode and would take a perfect image. I would try to take another shot and the camera would jump into -14 underexposure. The wheels would not allow me to recover. Only after a restart I managed to get the camera back on track. At his point I would not use this lens for any serious work. Too much of a gamble.
Ok, back to the rest.
Here are two images that show you the difference in the field of view between the two lenses. The first is from the 45 3.5 lens with a 63• diagonal viewing angle. The second from the new 45P, which has a 61• narrower viewing angle.
Image quality overall very similar to the original 45. Images look sharp even at f4. I looked at two images side by side and at f4 the new 45P seems more detailed and sharper. Up to a point where I thought that I had misfocused the original lens. Here is a crop from the two images. It is the same view that I have used in the images above but I took a sample from the right side.
I wish I could have more control over the P lens to conduct some tests, but at this point I don’t know what values the camera is using.
Shutter sound is fantastic. Super quiet and great for indoor usage. Sometimes hard to hear outside but you get the blackout as a confirmation that you have taken the shot. If you do ‘from the hip’ photography, which this system is not designed for, then you may have to trust your thumb. You won’t hear the click. In comparison the original 45 lens is loud and harsh in its sound. Hasselblad has improved the shutters with each new lens. My guess is that they will retire the original 45 3.5 at some point and replace it with a quiet f2.0-2.8 lens. Something that creates a bigger gap to this smaller sister.
Performance. Here we may have to look at two different worlds. The X1D world and the X1dII world. On the X1D the autofocus seems slow, especially when you first focus on an object near you and then on one further away. The lens barrel goes in and out, or out and in, and it takes time. The original lens seems snappier. This new 45P reminds me a bit of the focus of the 65mm lens, which is a big piece of glass. I read that this may just be the case when mounted to the original X1D. On the X1DII it may actually be faster than the old one. Weird its is. Hasselblad really seems to push people unintentionally to the newer camera. On the old one this lens is no speed king. It is small, but fast in autofocus it is not. Here is one image I took and I tried to autofocus on people walking in front of cars. It did not grab that focus at all. Still looking interesting. 😉
At some point I had to leave the road to not get run over by a bus. So focusing in the dark, not its thing. But we can always switch to manual focus. The implementation is good, but not like a Leica Q2, which to me has an incredible manual focusing experience. The Q jumps into magnifying mode and it provides hard stops at each end of the spectrum. The 45P by contrast gives you some tactile feedback when you reach the end, but it is a stronger resistance of the turn, not a hard stop. Still you feel when you reach the transition point. The nice thing is that you only need to turn the barrel by 1/3 of a rotation to get from the closest focusing point to infinity. That makes manual focusing easier to handle, because you don’t have to reposition your hand. On the old lens you turn roughly 180 degrees and you don’t get any tactile feedback. That doesn’t seem to be a lot more but try turning a lens 180 degrees without repositioning your grip. Difficult. Sadly, on the 45P I can not just turn the barrel to infinity and expect objects 1km far away to be in focus. You have to dial back a bit. But in lens design infinity may mean infinity.
Overall the lens direction is great. Good sharpness in a compact design with a quiet shutter. Distortion is well controlled. Maybe it is done in software, but the results are pretty good. The image below I did not correct for any distortion.
AF is slow on the original X1D and the metering/exposure problem is a thing that should not happen in this category. I have been using the X1D for more than a year now. It is a mixed bag. I love some features and the overall direction but these bugs keep frustrating me. Personally I just wish that software issues would be under control by now. And don’t let me get into the topic of dial directions. Someone at Hasselblad needs to create a map of interactions and look at it from a photographers perspective. The dials are often contradicting other camera’s mental model. Which is ok, but even within the X1D settings you sometimes have to turn the same dial in one direction to reduce exposure, and then in a different setting you turn the wheel into the other direction to do the same.
Ok, lets stay on topic here and lets focus on the lens. It is relatively affordable, it is a great entry lens for the system. If you are comparing Leica Q2s or SL2s, or similar cameras to the X1D, stop right now. Even if sizes are getting closer, this system is not made for what the Q or SL is made for. Look at the photography that Hasselblad is promoting. Not street photography. Not candid shots. It is landscapes, urban landscapes, portraits of people the are not really moving, studio portraits, mountain tops after a storm, a person in an icy area almost blending into the landscape, people posing in colorful clothes matching the color of the architecture or interior, some weathered family somewhere in nowhere in Mongolia. For those shots the system works well. Fetching a quick expression of a stranger or capturing the ‘decisive moment’, not really. To do those you need a much faster autofocus or at least scales on the lens that would allow you to do zone focusing. But for that ‘Hasselblad Shot’, this lens could be a great addition. You can take it easily with you, it seems to be well build, and it creates strong output. And who knows, maybe on my future X1D2 it may perform much faster and more reliably. Until then I will mostly use it for indoor discreet shots and in situations when I question taking a camera with me or not. Can I recommend this lens? Depends on what camera you use. For the X1D1 I would not recommend this lens unless some firmware update improves the autofocus speed and eliminates the exposure bug. I had moments when I could not control the image and could not get any usable outcome out of this camera. If those issues don’t exist on the X1D 2 then great. Then you may enjoy this lens more than the original one. Hasselblad claims that this lens is made for the X system cameras, but they don’t state if there are any known limitations with the X1D today. If there are limitation then they should let people know. I don’t want to do research for this to figure it out. Really, not just in fine print, but bold on your website. In the meantime I will ask myself why Hasselblad didn’t wait with the release until they had all the firmware updated. As I mentioned, no-one did see this lens coming, no-one would have complained. Now it is out and its impact is less than what it could have been. Hasselblad, ship items when they are fully baked and compatible. Especially those that no-one expects anyways. Lets practice that again with the 67P and 80P. I am happily volunteering to test those ahead of launch. 😉 Truthfully, I am still a fan of the X1D, but hanging on a thin rope. D!RK
PS. Feel free to leave comments.
PPS. If you own an original X1D and the 45P, please let me know about your experience.
PPPS. I found on DPReview that one article mentioned a future firmware update to make this lens compatible with the X1D. So that seems to be in the making. Hasselblad pushed out the info to photo websites, but there is no disclosure of this on their website and in their store. BHPhoto has no disclaimer. Adorama has no disclaimer. So how should current X1D owners learn about this?