Comparison of Hasselblad photos / lens quality with XCD lenses versus Zeiss V system lenses?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by 10961137, Oct 26, 2019.

  1. I didn't know that, interesting. Thanks for the info!
  2. The issues with SWC 38mm Biogon and modern digital backs vary in severity depending on the particular sensor: some users find it perfectly acceptable. But generally speaking re current backs, the issues are similar to those confronted by fans of symmetrical wide Leica M, Zeiss, and CV rangefinder lenses when adapted to mirrorless 24x36 cameras like the Sony A7R series, Nikon Z or Canon R. Modern sensors like the 50MP Sony in the CFV50C and CII employ microlens arrays which conflict with the steep Biogon imaging light rays at edges/corners (rear element of the SWC nearly touches the sensor glass). The result is color casts, local contrast reduction, and add'l glitches contributed by the sensor cover glass.

    Historically, digital medium format had been slightly less problematic with the SWC. Earlier CCD sensor backs had lower resolution with larger pixels, larger sensor sizes approaching film-era 645, no microlenses, and thinner cover glass. So the SWC Biogon worked reasonably well with those. As CCD resolution increased, the SWC became somewhat less compatible. Then Sony's mass-produced 50MP 33x44 CMOS sensor upended the entire MF market. The wide variety of CCD sensor sizes and MPs vanished, replaced by a uniform, "mini-MF" format with the advantages of 50MP CMOS but also its drawbacks.

    The SWC is a killer single-purpose camera designed to make stunning wide pics in 6x6 format. Strike One against adapting it to digital CFV50cII is the ludicrous 33x44 crop factor wiping out its raison d'etre. Even if you're willing to deal with the silly crop factor, Strike Two is the potential for color casts and artifacts. While imaging apps like Capture One and Phocus employ LCCs to do a capable job of ameliorating these digital issues with the SWC, photographers of more exacting subjects like architecture and fine art find such corrections a bit lacking vs raw results obtained with a current, digital-optimized wide lens made for a native mount (i.e. the 21mm or 30mm XCD lenses on 907x or X1D).

    Hence Hasselblad's motivation for bundling the 907x XCD-mount body with digital backs ostensibly marketed to owners of V system bodies/lenses. The bundle encourages continued enjoyment of most of the classic V system in digital mode, while acknowledging the XCD lenses are more suitable for digital superwide. Promoting the CFV50cII as a common digital sensor module swappable between V and X systems is a rather clever solution to the SWC digital dilemma.

    You mention both 907x body and CFV50cII back: the 907x may not be suitable for this task (workable with an V>X lens mount adapter, but not optimal). To 'scan' 6x6 film with the V mount 135mm and bellows/slide copier, you'd probably use a V body and CFV50cII. Whether this would offer appreciably better 'scanning' performance than a 24x36 camera with appropriate macro lens and accessories is open to question.

    Remember the 'blad digital sensor is not 6x6 or 645 but 33x44, so it isn't quite a direct 1:1 'scan'. You'd either stitch multiple 1:1 sections, or adjust the magnification to fit the sensor size (same as with a 24x36 camera). The advantage of using a smaller 24x36 digital camera to 'scan' 6x6 film is easier handling, wider range of macro/micro optics, and wider range of sensor "flavors". Interestingly, neither MF digital mirrorless brand (Hasselblad or Fuji) offers a truly practical native macro lens suitable for scanning film. Both the XCD and GX macros are superb but huge, slow to AF, have frustrating manual focus by wire, and don't go to 1:1 without adding an extension tube. A 'V' body with 135mm + bellows, or 24x36 with modern macro, might be easier to control for scanning purposes.

    Phase One offers a super-ultra-premium medium format "film scanning" workstation comprising a digital back in either 50MP 33x44 or 100MP 40x54 sensor size, Schneider Apo-Digitar Aspheric macro lens, and custom copy stand/film holder mechanics more solid than the Brooklyn Bridge. Light years out of the price range of us ordinary folk: even museums lease it instead of buying. But the basic premise is a scaled-up version of the rig you suggested, and similar rigs cobbled together and discussed in various other forum threads. Camera-based film scanning can work great, tho In some respects a dedicated Nikon 9000 or Hasselblad/Imacon film scanner is still preferable. Esp for color negative films that are tricky enough to capture in arcane scanner software (never mind standard camera raw apps).
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2021
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  3. Actually, I only mentioned the 907X cost-wise, because you have to buy the whole thing to get the CFV II 50c. I wasn't even considering using the 907X itself as part of a scanning rig, I really was only thinking of a V-system camera with the CFV II 50c back, the focusing bellows with the negative holder accessory and (say) a macro lens like the 135mm Makro-Planar, which is meant to be used with the bellows setup anyway. And yes, the bellows makes it much easier to achieve the proper scale to that end, that's why I was thinking of this setup. The scanning resolution I estimated for this rig does take into account the fact that the square crop of the CFV II 50c sensor is 37.5 MP in a 33mm x 33mm square and not the original 56mm x 56mm from the 6x6 format. The only thing I'm unsure of is whether 2800 dpi is enough to resolve the fim grain of, say, a Kodak Portra ISO 400 film or a Ilford XP2 ISO 400 (which are the films I use) without pixel artifacts. The Phase One scanning rig you mentioned seems to indicate that it is, since its smaller sensor option has the same scanning resolution. The Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Digitar Aspheric lens is probably more resolving than the Makro-Planar, though.
  4. I'm afraid I can't offer a comparison of V series glass vs. XCD lenses on digital. What I can do, which may be useful to some following this thread, is show full-resolution what a couple of the V series lenses do on a fairly old digital back. And I can give my impressions of a few other lenses used the same way.

    I run a portrait studio in West Orlando, and my setup is a Hasselblad 553ELX with a 2004-vintage Sinarback 54M mounted on it. It's got the venerable 22-megapixel (36 x 48mm) Kodak KAF-22000 CCD sensor that was common in many backs of that era. This particular back has no screen, no battery, and no memory card slot, so it has to be tethered to an older MacBook Pro.

    These are full-resolution JPEGs (or close to; I may have slightly cropped one or both of the portraits). They've had a bit of post-processing, including a touch of NIK Sharpener, but you can see what's there for all practical purposes. The two portraits were taken with, I think in both cases, the 180mm Sonnar (CFi version), the very tight face shot with an extension tube, can't remember which one, but it was likely the 10mm and 21mm used together (and if it wasn't that combo, it was the 55mm by itself). The final one is a closeup of the fibres of a jute coffee sack hanging on my studio wall, shot with the 120mm Makro-Planar on the Hasselblad Auto Bellows at maximum extension (on both the lens and the bellows). I just wanted to see what that combo could do when pressed to the extreme; I was fairly careful, if not scrupulously so, in trying to get the camera aligned properly to the plane of the wall. All three were shot with strobes.

    The macro shot, by the way, encompassed an area of less than 1.5 x 2 inches.

    I also use the 150mm Sonnar CF and at portrait distance it is really, really good. It's not quite as spectacular as the 180, but it's certainly very capable. Plus I have the 80mm Planar CF version which I use for full body shots. At that distance, it's good but not great. But when you get closer and shoot mid-body or nearer with it, it becomes impressively punchy indeed. Finally, I have the floating element 50mm Distagon CF and I've found it quite good, too, although I haven't used it enough in the studio with the digital back to draw any firm conclusions on where it ranks.

    But yes, I would class the 180mm and the 120mm macro as outstanding performers on digital. The 150mm Sonnar is very good--it may not be as razor sharp as the XCD lenses, but you can print up to 16x20 inches (and more) with fantastic detail; I've done so. The 80 is a bit meh under some circumstances, and I suspect, from the times I have used the 50mm FLE, that it doesn't lag at all far behind the 180 and the 120.

    I hope this is at least somewhat helpful!
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  5. Damn Bernard, that's some serious pixel peeping porn you've just posted there. And all that on 22 megapixels... The 120mm and 180mm damn sure deliver on digital. Thanks a lot!
    BernardMiller likes this.
  6. Cheers! I have no complaints, really,

    To me, it's better than my 36-megapixel Nikon D810. Because to print a portrait from that camera, you're generally going to crop some off the bottom of the 3:2 ratio to fit standard print sizes, so by the time you throw some of that away to get to, say, a 16x20 print, you're at roughly 22 megapixels anyway.

    In my opinion, the Zeiss lenses look far superior to the Nikkor output (I normally use the 24-70/2.8 and 80-200/2.8 AFS Nikon zooms), and I really prefer the color I get from the Kodak sensor, too, over what the Nikon puts out. Reds are *way* better, particularly, on the medium format sensor.
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  7. Well, regarding Nikon there is also the 45.7 MP D850 (or the Z7 II if you wish to go mirrorless, and the Z glass is reportedly superior to F glass). I've been trying to find a good price on it for a while to replace my D7200 (which will probably remain next to my computer for video), which is not so trivial here in Brazil due to taxes and recent unfavorable exchange rates.

    By the way, have you had any chance of using the 100mm Planar on your digital setup? If so, how does it perform? As I mentioned above, there are not so many examples of the 100mm Planar being used on digital around, although there are plenty for the 120mm Makro-Planar.
  8. Unfortunately, I don't own or have access to the 100mm Planar, so I haven't tried it yet. If it's as good as reputed, it should be brilliant!
  9. Thanks for posting those examples, BernardMiller! Just beautiful, showcasing the advantages of both the "vintage" Zeiss optics and the "hopelessly obsolete" Kodak sensor when deployed by a talented photographer. Many studio pros still feel those early to mid-period mid-resolution CCD backs were the peak of MF digital as an artistic tool distinct from mainstream 24x36 DSLR. The current Sony CMOS MF options offer dramatic improvements in live view and high ISO performance, but the older CCD MF tech arguably offers more pleasing color tonality with less effort. Esp in a studio or other controlled lighting situation, an older digital back with older lenses can be surprisingly competitive with today's cutting edge systems.

    Re the 100mm Planar: its performance is widely considered as exceptional on digital as it was on film, generally ranked alongside the 250mm SuperAchromat at the top of the V lens lineup when adapted to digital. But the 100mm focal length can be a bit tricky to master when cropped by smaller sensors like the CF-V50cII (this superb "long normal" on 6x6 film becomes more of a portrait lens in framing/composition when shooting 33x44 sensors).

    The 100mm is astonishingly good at the longer distances it was optimized for, but for closer work the "ordinary" 80mm Planar is often a better choice (in some respects, the 80mm/120mm and 100mm complement each other rather than compete with each other). Back when these optics cost $2K to $3K apiece, most could afford only one (so had to choose based on their primary shooting need). Today's prices make owning both options more practical, at least in CF guise (CFi 100mm is scarce and pricey).
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  10. You are getting there, Orsetto. ;-) But you still heap far too much praise on the 100 mm.
    As you say, it is a bit better than the 80 mm Planar at infinity (and at infinity only). For the rest, it really is not special. Considering the inherent better quality a "standard lens design" delivers, it certainly ranks as a good, but not outstanding, design, compared with the rest of the line up. Not in a league with Superachromats.
    If you do not have one, use the 80 mm instead, i´d say there is no reason to get the 100 mm other than that you might like the focal length better.
    Compared to modern lens designs, it is nothing special at all.

    And talking about focal length: it all depends on what you need. Tricky? Why? Using a 100 mm on a crop sensor may very well give the perfect angle of view for what you need.
  11. Just as with 35mm film cameras and various eras of their digital FX derivatives, legacy V lenses can have varying subjective performance on film, earlier digital sensors, and current digital sensors. Conventional wisdom and reputations established for decades on film did not always carry over to early/mid period digital sensors, and this changed again with newer sensors. Venerable Nikkors that worked great on film and seemed about as good on Nikon D700/D3 began to fall apart on 24MP and 36MP, then oddly recovered somewhat on the latest 40+ sensors. The same applies with some of the V glass depending on the camera and/or digital sensor: what was once absolute on film can turn on a digital dime.

    The 100mm vs 80mm question is as old as the lenses themselves. There are test results and subjective impressions, some of which agree and some of which don't (as with most such comparisons). When used with film in typical situations, the two perform closer to each other than most might expect from mythology and test charts. As q.g. suggests, it takes a specific shooting requirement to reveal a significant difference: the 100mm is as optimized as possible (given '60s-era engineering) for zero distortion and flat field at absolute infinity wide open f/3.5 aperture. It was intended as a special-purpose lens for tasks like mapping from aircraft, photogrammetry, etc. Peak performance is at infinity: used at typical portrait and product shot distances performance declines, in certain respects below what the 80mm can achieve.

    The 80mm is more affordable, offers a brighter f/2.8 maximum aperture, but entails some tradeoffs due to slightly retrofocus design constraints. There is some slight distortion, field is not entirely flat, and like almost every other lens ever made performance improves noticeably when stopped down a bit. For general-purpose photography at distances closer than infinity many prefer the 80mm over the 100mm in terms of framing, exposure versatility and optical rendering. But unless one truly is doing mapping or photogrammetry work, or always shooting wide open, or exclusively shooting portraits? These differences become moot and it just boils down to focal length preference. Haselblad lenses are expensive, so most 'blad owners try to settle on a three lens kit: usually 50-80-150, but some prefer 60-100-180 or 50-100-250.

    Thats for film: with digital backs things become more complicated (crop factor alone shifts the entire lineup). Lenses that were considered legends on film (80mm, 60mm) can be somewhat less stunning on some (not all) V-mount digital backs. It can be difficult to parse the anecdotal reports and photo samples, because most discussions and photos date from the era of CCD sensors with moderate resolution and ISO-limited shooting envelopes. Most tests, discussions and photo examples of V lenses on older V digital backs consist of landscapes shot at infinity (or heavily reworked fashion portraits that resist evaluation).

    Photographers doing that work at that time using those CCD backs generally ranked the 250mm SA at the top of their lists, followed closely by the 100mm and 180mm, then the floating element 50mm. The final 40mm IF was also in the top half of rankings. The 80 and esp the 60 disappointed many who loved them on film, rating them mid-pack at best on V digital backs. The 150mm and non-SA 250mm were rated decent if unexceptional. The 120 Makro maintained its high reputation for portrait, product and nature closeups but fell well behind the 100 for digital landscape work.

    Today one is more likely to use modern CFV-50C or 50cII digital backs with markedly smaller CMOS sensor sporting denser 50 MP resolution than most common CCD V backs. Unfortunately there is a dearth of user reports and examples regarding the V lenses on this Sony sensor, so you'd need to rely more on personal testing than group opinions (the wisest course in any case). The only consensus re the CMOS V backs I've seen is the 60mm remains remarkably blah compared to its sterling performance on film, the 40mm IF and 120 Makro still hold up well, and the SWC Biogon loses much of its luster.

    Nobody seems to be reporting or showing much with the other V lenses on the 50 MP Sony: digital use of the system by studio and landscape pros declined significantly right before the introduction of the original CMOS CFV50c back. The advanced Phase One backs grabbed more market share, what remained went to the Hasselblad H system with its AF and wider choice of backs, while high MP Nikon and Sony FX chipped away at the lower end "obsolete" MF digital options like second hand V. The V system is currently enjoying renewed and tremendous popularity with film photographers (prices are up dramatically from a couple years ago), but seems stalled as a digital platform despite availability of the affordable, excellent CF-V50cII back. The glamorous, exciting Hasselblad X1D mirrorless system has stolen much of its thunder.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
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  12. Orsetto, you keep making such general statements, summing up "the anectdotal reports" in your typical "most" or "generally" type statements that however remain your anectdotal report. I like that you tone down your previous this-is-the-greatest-and-everyone-says-so type of statement, yet after doing so you still continue to post such.
    As one of those "photographers doing that work at that time using those CCD backs", and as a photographer still doing that, and having used the lenses mentioned on film for a long time before, and still using those lenses, and backs, alongside other digital capture thingies, i can give my "general" but anectdotal report that, for instance, the Superachromat is not really special on CCD sensors (you need more resolution to get the benefit of superachromatic correction. And modern lenses are quite good too. But we were discussing the old ones, i know), and that the overall (and yes, also subjective) ranking of other lenses mentioned and their relative performance has not changed going from film to digital.

    I marvel at how the 60 mm once was hailed by you as one of the very best now is rated by you as "remarkably blah". It was and is neither. It was a decent lens on film, and still is in front of a sensor.
    The 40 mm IF is a rare lens, and whether it is rated over the older non-IF? Who knows? Do you have one? What is your personal experience with this lens on CCD and CMOS sensors, compared to film? What was public info was that its center performance was boosted a bit at rather large cost to the off center performance.
    The 80, 120, 150 and 250 mm lenses' performance is also very much the same as it was. The 120 mm never was very good at distance (it, after all, is a macro lens...), so yes, when people find it is a good lens, it is when they use it in the range it was made to perform well in. It did not fall well behind when digital capture came around. It never was good at distance. (The 150 mm Sonnar does a better job at distance, and at least equally good at portrait distances. It always did.) The 80 mm does what it did before. No change. So do the 180 and 250 mm lenses. The 350 mm Tele-Tessar did quite well too, despite it being a bit less on film, due to the lower resolution of "those CCD backs".

    The Biogon... well, it is a mixed thingy. When regarded first and foremost as the Ultimate Super Wide lens, it cannot but disappoint that crop sensors turn it into a bit less wide. (In front of, say, a 37 mm square sensor not uncommon in the early days, you in fact lose quite a bit. My sample of that small crop sensor back, by the way, was/is a Phase One P20+). But it still is the widest option available, and on backs with larger sensor (50+ mm using equally old Phase One CCD backs), you only lose image height. I use the Biogon now and again, but prefer reflex viewing and so use the 40 mm instead. Wide enough most of the time.
    And yes, depending on the sensor put behind it, you may lose performance due to aberration introduced by the cover glass thickness (though the typical 22 MP or so those 37 mm square sensors deliver are not enough to show it), and/or notice colour faults (which, by the way, all lenses do quite a bit. In camera or RAW processing using lens profiles hide quite a lot.
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  13. Really enjoying seeing all these different perspectives on the matter.

    It's clear that the 100mm performs best at or near infinity, while being comparable in practice to the 80mm at closer distances. It must be remarked, though, that the MTF charts of the 80mm and 100mm indicate that the latter is indeed overall sharper than the former, FWIW. In fact, there is a very interesting article from 2009 by Michael J. Hussmann which compares the 100mm Planar to the HC 100mm f2.2 lens for the H system in detail - at infinity, the Planar manages to beat even digital-age Hasselblad glass such as the HC f2.2 in sharpness. At closer distances (more precisely, 1.2m), though, the Planar comparatively falls short, particularly at the corners. This particular deficiency is cut off by a smaller sensor such as the one in the CFV II 50c back, at the price of working at an effectively larger focal length.

    Chromatic aberrations are another matter, though. The Slanted Lens's review of the CFV II 50c, which includes V-glass usage, show that clearly on the 80mm Planar, but the 120mm Makro-Planar seems to pass the chromatic aberration test on the CFV II 50c with flying colors (no pun intended...). No idea of how the 100mm Planar performs on that field, would love to know more about it. Anyhow, correcting chromatic aberrations is what the Superachromats are all about, so surely they'll outperform all other Hasselblad V glass in that respect. According to Hussmann's article, the 250SA fares against the HC 210mm more or less about the same as the 100mm Planar against the 100mm HC.

    The 80mm certainly has its advantages, being a faster lens (by about half a stop). For most photography, I agree with q.g._de_bakker that ultimately it comes to personal preferences. I, for one, prefer a slightly longer normal lens. I also concur with orsetto's viewpoint that the 80mm, 100mm and 120mm sort of complement each other (supposing you can afford them all) - the 100mm being best at infinity, the 120mm being best at closer range and the 80mm lying in between but faster than both.

    I really like using the 100mm Planar. It was the first "normal-length" lens I got for my Hasselblad system (I bought my 503cx without a kit lens, and it wasn't until very recently that I could find a standalone 80mm CF - they are not easy to find to buy without a body), and I'm amazed at what it can deliver, even at closer range. That also adds to my particular interest on how it performs on digital.
    stephen_lee|13 likes this.

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