Hasselblad 907X & X1D: XCD vs HC Lenses
Something has been bugging me lately, and that is this seemingly prevailing assumption that newer generation lenses are the bomb, and the previous lenses just aren’t worth diddly. And why this bugs me is because I think many assume this, but have not even compared or tested them. We of course have the advantage of having lenses from many different systems in our inventory that we maintain. We still have systems from Mamiya RZ, Fuji GX680, Rollei Hy6, Contax 645, Hasselblad V, Hasselblad H, Mamiya 645, Phase One 645, etc. – bodies and lenses – sitting on our shelf. So we can test and compare.
A few years back, one of our clients wanted to trade us a Schneider 120mm Super Symmar HM lens as part of a large purchase (and which included other trade in items). I agreed to accept it for a nominal trade value, since he was making an extensively large purchase. I did not hold out much hope for what we would do with the lens, but upon testing it was surprised to see that it was not just a good lens, it outperformed many well regarded 120mm lenses newer than this edition.
So I have always held to the notion that you disregard legacy lenses to your potential detriment.
In This Corner …..
Now – with all that said, there are two Hasselblad systems that can accept the same lenses. The X1D-II and 907X/50C-II can both accept the native XCD lenses, but also via adaptation can accept Hasselblad HC/HCD lenses, Hasselblad V series lenses, and Hasselblad Xpan lenses. Today we are just going to focus on a few lenses in the XCD and HC/HCD families, namely the 80mm/1.9 XCD vs the 80mm/2.8 HC, and the 21mm/4 XCD vs the 24mm/4.8 HCD lenses.
These 2 lenses were relatively close. But there’s a slight edge to the 21mm XCD lens. It also produces a bit warmer image. The corners and edges also appeared comparatively similar.
This result surprised me a bit with the degree of improvement with the 80mm/1.9 XCD lens over the 80mm/2.8 HC lens at f/2.8. That slightly warmer tone seems to come though again with the XCD lens, or perhaps there’s a hair more saturation – something, but the XCD lens seems to produce a bit more green color from this leaf, which almost appears neutral with the HC lens, on this very overcast day.
But really, when it comes to the 80mm/1.9 XCD lens, what we really want to see is how does that compare to the 80mm/2.8 HC lens at f/2.8? And I believe even at f/1.9, the XCD lens out-resolves the 80mm/2.8 HC lens. So you really have a faster lens, and even sharper results with more brokay.
While the day outside was ultra still, photographing leaves or branches for a lens test has potential for error. I did take multilpe captures to reduce that possibility, but also photographed a test chart inside for some additional evidence. And the results again show the 80mm/1.9 XCD lens outresolving the 80mm/2.8 HC lens.
First, let’s accept that apples to apples lens testing is extremely challenging. As a result, many captures were recorded to remove as much as possible evidence for faulty conclusions. I also considered sample variation with the HC/HCD lenses, since the lenses tested have been in our demo/rental inventory for some years. In the case of the 80mm HC lens, I tested multiple copies with similar results and shortcomings. All the files for this test were captured on the Hasselblad X1D-II camera body. The scenes were manually focuses via live view at the widest apertures (and then stopped down for files displaying smaller apertures). The settings were via the default settings in Hasselblad Phocus software. It’s important to understand that the treatment from Phocus at defaults is very tempered, contrast and sharpening settings are moderate. I did reduce the luminance noise slider to zero on some files, but could not see any difference (some software programs employ a default luminance noise setting that has a slight softening effect, even at base ISO (Capture One being one such example).
** Note that Hasselblad HC/HCD lenses are compatible with the X1D and X1D-II system, as well as the 908X/50C-II kit with the Hasselblad XH Lens Adapter. There is full functionality as long as your HC/HCD lens is at firmware 18.0.0 or later. And if so, it then requires firmware 19.3.0 to be compatible. If your lens has older firmare than 18.0.0, it will still work, and allow for control of aperture and shutter, but auto focus will not be possible.
The CI Take
There are many more lenses that could be compared between the lineups of the XCD and HC/HCD lenses. In this case, I feel that the 24mm/4.8 HCD lens acquitted itself reasonably well against the 21mm/4 XCD lens. It’s noteworthy that the 24mm/4.8 HCD lens was the most recent lens produced for the Hasselblad H system, while the 80mm/2.8 HC lens is the oldest. But in comparison to the 80mm/1.9 XCD lens, there is a clear winner, and it is the 80mm/1.9 XCD. Sharper and faster. The 80mm/1.9 XCD is one of the more expensive XCD lenses, and the 80mm/2.8 HC lens is the least expensive lens in the HC/HCD lineup, so these results are not too surprising. But the 80mm/1.9 XCD lens is impressive and is completely viable shot wide open @f1.9.
Some of the HC/HCD lenses may be worth adapting to an X1D or 907X/50C kit if you already own them. But there has clearly been an advancement with the XCD lenses that may be very apparent. Let’s keep in mind also, that 100mp versions of the X1D and 907X models will likely arrive in the future. I would bet most Hasselblad H owners have thought that their HC/HCD lenses were good and sharp. And they were … er, are. But the XCD lenses are sharper. At some point in the future, years from now, a new generation of lenses may emerge which make the XCD lenses seem not as impressive as they are today. But when it comes to lenses, carpe diem.
If you would like raw files from this test, please contact email@example.com.
Oh, Just One More Thing …..
As I was finishing up this article, there was some breaking news …