Boasting the fastest aperture in the XCD range of lenses, the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens is aimed squarely at portrait photographers, promising great control over depth of field and minimal distortion.
The lens is designed for Hasselblad’s digital ‘medium-format’ which features a 44x33mm camera sensor size and a 0.79x magnification. What we have is a 63mm f/1.5 (full-frame equivalent) lens, with the aperture equivalence referring to depth of field.
Armed with a leaf shutter, it’s a hefty lens with a hefty price tag of £4,430 / $4,845 (current street price), but that juicy f/1.9 aperture is sure to get Hasselblad enthusiasts excited.
Read on to find out how we got on with the lens.
Ease of Use
Straight from the off, it’s clear that the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 is a serious lens. By that, we mean there is some serious glass inside.
Yes, the maximum aperture number begins with a 1 and this is on a medium format camera! This kind of feature – an f/1.9 aperture (with an equivalent f/1.5 depth of field) gets photographers excited.
Additional weight comes with the territory. We’ve got 14 lens elements in 9 groups, two of which are aspherical lenses. And those substantial elements combine into a lens that weighs more than 1kg.
There’s the signature Hasselblad XCD lens look – minimalist, all-black, with a large diagonal-ridged focusing ring. Otherwise, there’s no other external controls or switches. Aesthetically, this lens scores high.
Although it’s weighty, the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens only measures 112mm in length and size-wise it fits nicely with the Hasselblad X1D II camera that was used for this test. You feel the lens on the camera, but there is no ungainly tug when in the hand.
There’s automatic and manual focusing available and switching between the two is done in-camera. That ridged focus ring looks the part and feels durable, but in use for manual focus it’s not quite as fluid as we would hope for.
The Hasselblad X system is different from most others. As such, the handling of the 80mm F1.9 lens has both a good and a not-quite-so-good side to it.
On the less positive side is autofocus speed. Although the latest X1D II camera is faster than it’s predecessor, it is still slow by today’s standards.
For each image capture there is the inevitable contrast detection focus hunt, whatever the lighting conditions. This is further slowed down by the 80mm F1.9 lens, where the twin AF motors seems to struggle shifting the weighty glass. For example, AF in this lens is slower than Hasselblad’s lighter 21mm f/4 and 45mm f/4 P XCD lenses and even the 80mm f/2.8 (by a fraction).
Autofocus is also audible noisy, more so than most. Focusing wise, the lens is slow and loud.
There’s an additional aspect of the camera’s autofocus set up and how it affects the function of the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens. The three autofocus options are all based around spot focusing. Should you choose the most precise spot focus method, there are three size options for the spot.
Unfortunately, the smallest possible AF spot size is still not quite small enough for precise focusing, unless you are framing as close up as can be. For portraiture with the 80mm F1.9 lens, it can be a challenge to make sure that focusing is sharp on the eyes.
(We should say though that the hit ratio of sharp shots once autofocus has acquired its target is impressively high when the depth of field isn’t critically shallow.)
You may find with stationary subjects that manual focus becomes your best friend with the 80mm F1.9 instead of autofocus. Handling of manual focus works well when employing focus magnification. Like single-point autofocus, you select the point of magnification in the frame by touch on the large and responsive 3.6in touchscreen.
At 100% magnification, the magnified view of your chosen focus area is clear. In additional to the touchscreen, it can also be viewed through the EVF. What you won’t find is focus distance markings on the lens itself or displayed in-camera. No, you’re really relying on sight using focus magnification.
While going through the various focus distances, the lens barrel extends by a fair amount.
Another comment on the camera system is that start up time is slow. From turning the camera on, to acquiring autofocus and capturing an image, it’s around 7 seconds. That time can be halved by leaving the camera in its sleep mode. Compared to the Fujifilm GFX system, it’s slow.
On the positive side has to be the leaf shutter which can be found in all of the Hasselblad XCD lenses. It features instead of a camera shutter like in most other camera systems.
What we appreciate most about a leaf shutter is that it’s audibly quiet compared to a mechanical camera shutter, plus it creates very little vibration.
In Hasselblad’s system, the leaf shutter offers a shutter speed range from 1/2000sec to 68 minutes, without the need for a bulb mode in those long exposure times like in most other camera systems. You can manually dial in whatever shutter speed you desire and we love how the X1D II is setup to do this.
With an unparralled fast aperture of f/1.9, the fastest 1/2000 sec shutter speed is not quick enough in bright light to create an accurate exposure even at ISO 100. Highlights will blow out. In the same context but within the studio, flash output might need to be reduced for an accurate exposure.
Chances are that you will need an ND filter in your kit bag in order to reduce light transmission by a good 2EV. Should a lens filter be needed, it can be attached via the 77mm lens thread.
Flash sync is possible at any shutter speed. This is what makes a leaf shutter lens so popular in the studio – flash sync in most other systems maxes out at around 1/250sec, which is 3EV more light than the 1/2000 sec of the X1D II. There’s greater freedom with what aperture you use for accurate exposures for flash photography.
To wrap things up here, while the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens can do things that many other lenses cannot, it is held back somewhat by a sluggish performance.
The 80.5mm focal length gives an equivalent (36x24mm full-frame) focal length of 63mm and a (horizontal) angle of view of 31° on this medium format sensor (44x33mm).
The Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 is affected by chromatic aberrations (colour fringing). Our observations are made by looking at identical RAW and JPEG format pictures of a forest scene against a bright sky, across various aperture settings. From f/1.9 to f2.8, CA is severe. It is reduced at f/4 and mostly gone by f8.
There are glimpses of longitudinal chromatic aberrations (LOCA) too, but for the best part it is well controlled.
Chromatic aberrations can be removed using edited software, but their presence is a good reason to shoot in RAW format to ensure the best control over lens corrections post capture.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
Light fall-off, which the difference in brightness between the centre and the edges of the frame and is also know as vignetting, is very well controlled by the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens.
Of course there is some light fall off at the maximum f/1.9 aperture and indeed f/2.0, though neither are severe. Stop down to f/2.8 and light fall off is mostly gone and there are no signs of it at f/4. That’s a solid performance for this type of lens.
As a 63mm equivalent lens there is less chance of lens distortion – typically barrel/ mustache distortion is seen in wider angle lenses and pincushion distortion in more telephoto topics. There are no nasty surprises here.
Sunstars and Flare
Flare is controlled exceptionally well by the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9, with no obvious signs of ghosting or reduced contrast when shooting towards a strong light source.
Again, sunstars are lengthy and tidy. When shooting towards the sun or strong light spots with the aperture closed down to f/16 to f/32, you’ll typically see eight clear sunrays.
Whatever Hasselblad is doing with its lens and camera technology, control of flare is a particularly strong point.
We should also point out that the lens comes supplied with a large lens hood which further reduces the risk of flare.
There is a minimum focus distance of 0.70m, which is to par for the course for a lens like this. The result is a maximum reproduction of 1:6.4 (0.64x), so it is possible to capture some close up details, beautifully rendered especially with the excellent control over depth of field.
Bokeh describes the quality of out-of-focus areas. There are three key desirable attributes; a rounded shape, soft edges free from longitudinal chromatic aberration (colour fringing), and smooth detail inside free from ‘worming’.
Boasting that f/1.9 aperture, there’s no ‘faster’ digital medium format lens that we are aware of (being closely followed by the Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 lens), so hopes are high for bokeh in this lens. This is where is needs to excel.
Of course, a faster aperture means greater control for out-of-focus areas. Pair that f/1.9 aperture with the equivalent 63mm focal length, it is possible to make in-focus subjects pop around a sea of blur. There’s no better Hasselblad XCD lens for this purpose.
But what of the actual quality of bokeh? It actually shares the characteristics of the XCD 65mm f/2.8 lens. Bokeh really is lovely when shooting at f/1.9 and f/2. It’s smooth, rounded and for the best part free of longitudinal chromatic aberrations.
Like the 80mm lens, bokeh shaping in the corners shifts from a rounded shape to what we call cats eye. It’s a common effect but there are other dedicated portrait lenses out there that limit this phenomena more effectively. We don’t mind the look here though.
Stop down to f/4 and the rounded bokeh is showing edges – that’s the shape made by the eight bladed aperture diaphragm. At f/5.6 we’ve got a clear-as-day octagonal shape. For the best possible bokeh, we would stick to the f/1.9 and f/2 aperture settings.
In order to show you how sharp the Hasselblad XCD 80mm F1.9 lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.