Shocking discovery re: Hasselblad telephoto zoom lens

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by sim_jo, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. I photograph with a hasselblad 503CW and a Phase one IQ80 back. I photograph animals, so use the Hasselblad Variogon 5.6 140-280mm zoom lens. Today, after 8 years of using this lens I made a shocking discovery. I made a test, comparing this lens side by side with my hasselblad 150mm lens, I discovered that enlarging the 150mm lens image to match images shot with my zoom lens at any zoom distance, the 150mm lens produced a far superior sharper image. Even comparing an image shot at 140mm vs 280mm, the 140mm zoom image is sharper than the 280mm. So in other words, the longer the zoom, the blurrier the image.
    Has anybody done comparisons with other hasselblad telephoto lenses? the non-zoom ones? are they sharp? I'm considering buying one in the 200- 350mm range, not a zoom this time, but a regular one. Do they get blurrier the longer they get? Am I better off just sticking to my 150mm lens and enlarging in post?
  2. "THE" lens to have, as far as getting a little reach, enlarging and ultimate sharpness etc., in my humble opinion, is the
    180mm. I have two, and they are longest I own. I have used and printed from the 250mm. You must use a tripod and lock
    the mirror. The 250mm has a beautiful quality to the prints and has that "creamy" feel like you get from the older 300mm
    f4.5 Nikkors. If you want that razor edge sharp and to be able to almost do what you want with the image, the 180mm is
    the ticket. If you're into MTF tests, which are what they are, data, you will see also that the 180mm surpases both the 150 and 250. The only other lens with that type of kick is the 100mm. Also, consider how they perform wide open. The 180mm and 100mm are as good as they get.
  3. That zoom lenses are generally less sharp than primes should come as a shock to no-one. And that their image quality gets worse toward their longest focal length is also very old news. Zoom lenses are basically a prime lens with a front focusing group and a rear magnifying group added on. Naturally, as any image is magnified its quality appears to get worse.
    Dave, I can't agree with you about old 300mm Nikkors. The pre-Ai 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor Q that I once had was possibly the worst telephoto I've ever owned. Not even passable on old B&W film.
  4. That's the real old one Joe. I still use a more recent 1980s Ais and it's very nice. It's medium sharp and has about zero
    distortion, very flat, and very low flare. Great for backlit stuff and ladies portraits, landscapes. When printed up, it looks
    nice and smooth, it's not a harsh lens. I have heard that the old ones were not too good, I don't know the difference. "KR"
    actually has a nice example on his site of the one I use, 300mm Ais 4.5 helicoid non ED, showing a great night shot.
  5. Here's a link to a cool article in Victor:
  6. However it may be with the Nikon lens, Joe is right.<br>Back in the days this zoom was made, zoom lenses were play thingies, known not to be able to deliver image quality close to what fixed focal length lenses would deliver.<br>Things have changed a bit since then. But still, too late for this particular ancient lens.<br><br>The longer fixed focal length lenses do indeed deliver a bit less than non-telephoto lenses. The ones up to and including the 250 mm lenses are excellent. The older 350 mm and 500 mm were a bit less, but have since been replaced by better versions. Much better in the case of the 350 mm lens.
  7. There's always the 350mm achromat designed for NASA and probably at the price of a space ship. Does it work on
    earth? There are two on the popular bid site, one for $7500 and one for $10,000.
  8. There might be a 1.4X converter that you could use with the 150mm. I know that some medium format systems(Pentax 67) have some really great converters that don't degrade the image and are a viable option to buying another lens.
  9. Dave,<br><br>You probably mean the f/5.6 350 mm Tele-Superachromat they designed for us, mere mortals, to replace the old f/5.6 350 mm Tele-Tessar?<br>Or the f/5.6 250 mm Sonnar Superachromat they designed much earlier for NASA?<br>There also was a f/2.8 300 mm Tele-Superachromat, that came with a dedicated 1.7x converter.<br>The old f/8 500 mm Tele-Tessar lens was replaced by the f/8 500 Tele-Apotessar, which in turn was more or less replaced by the 350 mm Tele-Superachromat when used with a converter.<br><br>The old 350 and 500 Tele-Tessars were only so-so (for Zeiss lenses), the lenses they were replaced by were better (500 mm Tele-Apotessar) and much better (350 mm Tele-Superachromat).<br>Though the 250 mm Sonnar Superachromat is also a lot better than the 'regular' 250 mm Sonnar, that 'regular' version is an excellent lens itself.<br>The f/4 150 mm Sonnars are great. So is the f/4 180 mm Sonnar.<br>So as far as the old line-up is concerned, the shorter the lens the better it indeed was. Considering the new line-up, the one with the Tele-Superachromats, that isn't so anymore.
  10. Superachromat spelled backward is tamorhcarepus. A disfuntion of the eyeball one can get by using one of those Q.G.

    And remember, I broke the story....
  11. Sim jo,
    I am certainly not an optics expert and can only speak for my own experiences. I've never used the zoom Hasselblad lenses and so can make comparisons, but have made many exceptionally sharp and finely detailed enlargements (including many 16x20 and 20x24 and a few bigger) from both the old c style 250mm and 500mm lenses that I own. If the newer ones are sharper, they must be wonderful indeed.
    I do follow a VERY careful technique of using a sturdy tripod, locking up the mirror whenever possible, and ALWAYS using a cable release even with fast shutter speeds.
  12. I have no doubt that the 150 is sharper than the 140-280 zoom. I don't own the latter, but do own the 150; which I have found to be a fine performer, even in the corners wide open. One thing you might try, since zooms are often optimized at the middle of the zoom range, is to compare it when set near 200mm. Not that it is likely to equal the 150, but it might be better there than at the extremes, and usable for your purposes. Or you could just sell it and get the 180!
  13. Deleted - please see comment below.
  14. Useful tip for B&W only: Quite often, the second best performers can be helped with the use of filters, in the yellow > orange, through to red for a crisper image. Which is ok for landscape, but not, of course, for portraits. This is because the perceived 'unsharpeness', whatever you want to call it, is simply due to the optics' failure to focus all wave lengths on the same plane. So if one of the wavelengths is eliminated, or reduced, the conflict at the image plane is reduced. If you reduce 2 wavelengths, yes there are tonal issues to deal with in the final image, but what you get is a far better rendition of detail in the brighter areas.
    However, I copy all of the comments above. I own and use the 100, 150 and 250mm, and am delighted with all of them. (The 250mm I have is an older non-T* so needs optimum shading to avoid flare.) I borrowed the Variogon zoom just once, and found it to be .. boring. . and not worth the bulk.
  15. I purchased my 180mm from a friend a year ago and I put the lens on my Nikon D700 and put it up against my Nikon 28-300 set at 180mm and the Nikon was actually sharper and showed more detail than the Hasselblad lens. I was highly disappointed. However, we all know that medium format lenses weren't supposed to be as sharp as 35mm camera lenses.
  16. The later 60-120mm FE lens is not a Zeiss lens, but is very sharp. I use this lens on my 2000fCM AND 201F. The Zeiss 45-90mm for the Contax 645 system is also a nice telephoto lens that is also sharp.
  17. What you are paying for with the 250 Superachromat is wide open color correction. The regular 250 Sonnar is not as good at focusing the various colors from the marginal area of the lens at the focal plane but once those rays are truncated by the diaphragm, its performance is actually pretty good. Stopping down really improves the performance of the mid priced telephoto lenses that use conventional glass. The 250 SA uses Fluorite and is considered a low dispersion lens. Its reputation is great among optics geeks. If you shoot stopped down, the regular 250 should do fine.
  18. The 'regular' 250 mm Sonnar does in fact not improve with stopping down. It is as good as it gets wide open.<br>Not a problem at all, because it really is a very good lens. One of my favourites.
  19. Okay Q.G. the Sonnar is really not a telephoto design and does not act like one, so my comment about the 250 was not accurate. It does not have the spherochromatism problems that typical mid priced conventional glass telephotos have.
  20. Well, Steve... re "not a telephoto design": with the exit pupil sitting at just under half the distance the focal length would suggest... ;-)
  21. QG, I have the cross section of the 250 SA and it is obviously a telephoto design with its positive front group and negative element behind the stop. Do you have the cross section of the regular Sonnar 250?
  22. I spent a few days carefully comparing different long lenses using one of my trusted 503CW, an Hasselblad CFV-50 and a good Gitzo tripod. Although not a scientific comparison, I am relatively confident with my findings as I had more than one sample of most lenses (except the Variogon).
    I compared the 150 CF, 180 CF, 180 CFi, 250 CF, 140-280 Variogon.
    The 180 CF and 180CFi came in first position (best), significantly better than the rest of the crowd. I could not see any difference between the two versions CF and CFi.
    Then, the 150 CF, a very good lens considering its price today.
    Then the 250 CF, also a good lens, however more difficult to focus very precisely.
    Not surprisingly, the Variogon came in last position. The technology of the time was not ready for great zoom lenses.
    Even today, only a very few variable lenses can compete with prime fixed. The Nikon 14-24 is an example.

Share This Page