LENSTOPIA Part III – The Top 5 Lenses for Hasselblad Cameras

In case you haven’t been following the fun, this is the third installment in my Lenstopia series. We kicked off with Canon lenses a few months ago, then followed with Nikon’s top 5. In this edition we’ll be propping up the top 5 lenses for the Hasselblad system — a camera system I love for high-end, high-megapixel studio, fashion, and occasionally even outdoor photography. It’s the system I used to capture my Diver photo, which ended up appearing my Hasselblad Masters series among other places, even getting used as an album cover. (It’s also the system/shot Kai Man Wong from DigitalRev tried to replicate with a GoPro, which you can see here.) As with past Lenstopia posts, I’ve leaned on my gear gurus Erik and Sohail to help me assemble this list – and its a breath of fresh air to use some other people’s photos for this stuff instead of mine. So these are my top 5 H-system lenses. Contrary opinions are anticipated and totally welcome. You know where to leave ‘em.

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2 HC Auto

Taken with the Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2

We start our lineup with something of a surprise entrant. The 100mm lens from Hasselblad is close in size to the smallest lens in the Hassy lineup (the 80mm f/2.8, mentioned below), but it’s got additional mojo. Why? For starters, at f/2.2, it’s the fastest lens — aperture-wise — in the Hasselblad lineup. Moreover, it is by our account the fastest-focusing lens in the lineup, and if you’ve ever picked up a medium-format rig, you know that these things aren’t known for speed. Every bit counts, and when you’re moving around a subject, firing shot after shot, that extra speed is worth it.

Pixel peepers will find nothing to complain about either; as this lens is more than plenty sharp and keeps up with even the 60mp backs Hassy has been churning out lately. Moreover, its small size and slight extra reach over the 80mm f/2.8 make it an ideal portrait lens.

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Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 HC Auto

Taken with the Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8

Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8

Next up! If the venerable 50mm lens is the workhorse for DSLRs, then the 80mm plays that role for almost every medium format system — and to that extent — it’s this lense that Hasselblad actually sells it as a “kit” with the H5D-40 camera. It’s pretty close to the field of view of a 50mm lens on a full-frame sensor, too, and is most often the first lens purchase for photographers new to medium format. It’s a truly versatile lens, and it lends itself to a variety of uses, from portraiture to landscape to everything in-between.

It’s also about the smallest lens in the Hassy inventory, which makes it easy to handle. Though not as fast (in focus or aperture) as the 100mm, it’s perhaps the…um…”cheapest” modern Hasselblad lens, and there are a lot of photographers shooting medium format for whom the 80mm suffices for the overwhelming majority of shots. So consider that ;)

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Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8 HCD

Taken with the Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8

Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8

There are a lot of folks who love using the Hassy system for landscapes and architectural work, and the 24mm is an absolute joy to use. Don’t let the focal length fool you – this lens has a 104-degree angle of view, which is slightly more than the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens at 16mm. Which means that it’s wide — really, really, wide. I have shot a ton of close up action (snowoboard) shots with this lens and it truly feels like a superwide on my dSLR setup.

A side-note about apertures in medium-format work. The f/4.8 maximum aperture of the 24mm might seem comically small to folks used to f/1.4 lenses, but bear in mind that it’s a lot harder to make lenses to cover the massive imaging plane of medium format cameras, so compromises have to be made somewhere. Besides, at f/2.8, as in the case of the 80mm, your Depth of Field is already super-thin; a medium-format lens opening up to f/1.4 wouldn’t just have a nearly nonexistent DoF, the lens itself would have to be much, much larger. And it’s already big enough. Trust me on this one.

Back to the 24mm, though: This is about as wide as lenses get; in fact, I can’t recall a lens that goes wider. There was a time when Zeiss made a 24mm lens for the older Hassy V system that had to be special-ordered, so just having a mass-produced 24mm lens is a real plus. Besides Hasselblad, I think I’m right in saying that only Leica makes a 24mm medium-format lens.

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Hasselblad 120mm f/4 Macro

Taken with the Hasselblad 120mm f/4.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Taken with the Hasselblad 120mm f/4.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Hasselblad 120mm f/4

Hasselblad 120mm f/4

Let’s go macro. As sharp lenses go, this macro lens is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was created specifically to work with high-megapixel sensors, and it does so with aplomb. It checks off all the marks and requirements needed for a solid macro performer: 1:1 magnification, excellent performance even at the closest focusing distance, and great sharpness even with the aperture wide open.

This lens also does double-duty as a dazzling portrait lens. With an angle of view similar to that of a 70mm lens on a 35mm sensor, this gets you closer to a classic portrait focal length that 35mm shooters are used to. In test shoots, the lens performed admirably, delivering a detailed and clean image, with excellent (but not overbearing) contrast and tonality.

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Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Ok, now let’s go LOOONNNNGGGGG. There’s really no other way to describe it – this lens is just plain FUN.

Due to the reverse-crop of the massive Hasselblad sensor, this lens equates to somewhere below the 200mm equivalent range on a 35mm system, so it’s not winning any awards for reach anytime soon. It is, however, the longest lens Hasselblad H system makes, and is actually pretty quick to focus too. If you haven’t figured it out already, all of these Hassy lenses are sharp, and this one’s no exception. True it’s not like DSLR or mirrorless cameras, where you can have the reach of a 600mm lens in a decent-sized backpack. But in this case, every additional millimeter of focal length is a very nice-to-have. In the case of the 300mm, Sohail took it out onto a balcony overlooking San Francisco for a quick cityscape image and it didn’t disappoint. Nicely compressed the scene, and the level of detail captured was simply outstanding.

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Sooooo that’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next — and final — installment, we’ll take on the best lenses for the Micro-Four-Thirds and other mirrorless platforms.

Hasselblad 80mm, 100mm, and 24mm sample images thanks to Faran Najafi.

We are good pals with Adorama, where we buy our stuff. The sell damn near everything for photo and video, plus plus plus…

Gear for this review either owned by Chase or provided lovingly by friends at BorrowLenses.com – where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

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28 Responses to LENSTOPIA Part III – The Top 5 Lenses for Hasselblad Cameras

  1. Fabien May 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    A top 5 for the Mamiya RZ67 system would also be really great !

    • Chase May 31, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      Good ask – only problem is that I haven’t shot the RZ system except for once….and it was in 1999!!!
      (so I wouldn’t be all that good ‘o source for you ;)

    • Tim June 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      110mm f/2.8 Beautiful, fast 50mm equivalent
      65mm f/4.0 L-A Super clear 35mm equivalent with floating element
      210mm f/4.5 APO Awesome 105mm equivalent portrait lens
      50mm f/4.5 ULD Very sharp wide-angle 24mm equivalent with floating element
      350mm f/5.6 APO Fun telephoto that’s about 170mm equivalent – Used at an air show once and it was insane!

  2. faisal May 31, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Stunningly detailed pics.

    • Chase May 31, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      the 60 megapixel hassie with any of these lenses create seriously stunning results. Head-scratchingly stunning.

  3. Alex Weltlinger May 31, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Honourable mention surely must go to the 50-110mm? (in 35mm field of view terms that’s 35-90mm…ish) Magnificent workhorse and bloody beast of a lens, albeit huge and heavy, and no slouch at f3.5 on the wide end. Surprisingly fast to focus too. Image wise, that can keep up with every lens on this list, and I shoot most of my campaign work on it.

    I haven’t found a good excuse to use the 24mm yet, it’s a bit hard to get a hold of here in Aus. But I’m dying to. The 28mm has always been one of my fav’s, but not wide enough.

  4. christina Dooley June 1, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Wow! I love the first one! Pretty amazing… I’m a fan of black and white photos. Very nice shot.

  5. Ryan June 2, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Good throw down, your images from the masters awards are what pushed me over the edge to pick up a Hasselblad. Now I want to play with that 300mm.

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    Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

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  13. Joe June 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    The 24mm is addicting, almost too wide, but I look forward to working with it and the HTS. I’ve got some great shots of Seattle with the 24mm and 28mm lenses.

    The 35-90mm is a stunning lens, and a beast to carry around. It can be everything you need in a lens.

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