#847. Hasselblad XCD 3.5/45mm review. The best all rounder ?

By pascaljappy | Review

Apr 20

Here is a second Hasselblad X1D lens reviews. My intention isn’t to bore anyone but to provide some sort of repository for the information I wish I’d had access to before deciding to jump in.


Also, in those reviews, I mostly try to give you a feel of what the lens is like to live with and what the photographs look like, rather than bore you with irrelevant technical detail. While the XCD range has a very consistent look and rendering, there are some subtle differences that justify the multiple reviews for someone wanting to decide which lens will best suit needs.


And on that, let me sum up what I feel the XCD 45 is like to use. In a sentence, it’s a tad softer than the XCD 30. Not any less sharp, as those crazy good MTF curves show, but it does render a tad more gently, as if a tiny amount of residual spherical aberration rounded off the angles (which I am sure is NOT the case 😉 ). It feels a tiny bit more rounded and warmer.


Coupled with a longer focal length, this makes for an easy going lens that never gets you into trouble in hard light or stark compositions. It always remains crystal transparent and super clean but never strays towards the clinical. With the XCD 30, I’m always tempted to dial down the automatic lens corrections performed by Phocus or Lightroom. With this lens, the balance seems perfect.



The MTF curves are here. And below is a full size jpg that will let you see just how well this lens captures detail and atmosphere. There is some loss in the jpg export but it’s still pretty good. There’s not much more I can add, except that this was made at f/6.3 but there’s very little, if any, difference in performance between f/3.5 and f/8, even at 100%. Those lenses are not fast and they are not cheap. And this is why.

Click for 100% (warning, 40Mb file)

Flare and glare

Just as on the XCD30, strong lights just outside the frame create very visible flare and the sunshade is advisable when shooting in those conditions. However, the effects seem less ugly than on the XCD30. In fact, this can soften the image and produce a lovely glow that fits some subjects very well. For others, just block out the light with your hand or the shade.



Bokeh is superb on this lens. The lens has a fairly short focal length and a fairly small maximum aperture so the amount of blur is only big if you are photographing close up. But when you do, it really is beautiful. Particularly noteworthy is the shape of out of focus lights. Those are morphed into soft balls with soft edges, which is quite rare. No onion rings, no hard edge, just a flat, colourful disk of light with gentle fading at the edges. Nice.



As on the CXD30, 8 branches for a traditional look. Not much more to report here 😉

ISO 12800 !

Chromatic aberration

In focus, everything largely seems under control. Closed-down, as below, there isn’t a trace of chromatic aberration to be found in the frame, even on those violent specular highlights where the sun reflects on the water.


At full aperture, I was able to find a trace of purple friging on a very slightly out of focus black-white edge (see against singer’s skirt, at right).


In out of focus highlights, you can find some green fringing if you’re looking for it. See the light bulb at top-center in the photograph below, at f/3.5. That’s about as far as it goes in my experience.


3D pop

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this XCD 45 feels extremely realistic, rather than full of pop. Unlike some lenses, which play geometric jedi mind tricks (probably) through a variation in rendering of in-focus and out-of-focus areas, this maintains an extremely consistent look throughout the frame and depth of the field.


In the photograph above, you wouldn’t say the fountain stands out spectacularly from the background, for example. But the whole photograph, through very accurate rendering of colour and tone, screams of realistic 3D. The fountain is well separated, but no more, the balcony railings are clearly separated from the walls, and the various chimneys and extensions on the roofs display a very clear 3D pattern. If anything is spectacular in this photograph, it’s the absence of anything flawed or gimmicky that would destroy the sense of space. But I don’t feel the XCD is a spectacukar 3D pop master other than in its realism.


So whenever there’s (no) good light, there’s (no) good 3D, even for flat subjects. Of the 5 next photographs, made at various apertures, the first is the least impressive, probably because of the very flat light (though it is much better if you click on it and view it without all of the wordpress compression).


Black and white

Love it, love it love it 🙂 From very basic greyscale conversions to much more extreme ‘interpretations’, this lens has a clarity always makes it shine in the sort of contrasty b&w photographs I like best.


So that’s it. A superb lens that adds to its impressive list of qualities a small size (by Hasselblad standards) and a very lovely shutter noise. This is definitely a keeper for my style of shooting. It will complement the C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM very nicely, and vice versa. What do you think ?


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  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Any lens that brings you this much satisfaction is a definite keeper. Nuff said.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Like most MF shots, the detail in the shadows and highlights sets these images apart. That alone is reason enough to lust after one of these beasts. Unfortunately it will never happen for me, so I am left to admire other people’s shots. Which isn’t a bad place to be – I’ve spent a lifetime admiring works of art by my favourite artists, in the full knowledge that I don’t have 50 or 100 million bucks to buy one of their works, and I’d jave nowhere to put it anyway. That is the thing about art – only dumbfucks think it’s necessary to own a Van Gogh or a Picasso, to be able to appreciate it! If that’s how small their minds are, they’ll never be able to appreciate such works anyway.

    This is going to be scrambled & out of sequence – never mind – no worse than my usual.

    One that made me stop dead was the wooden sculpture.

    One I particularly loved – all the more so, when I took your suggestion and enlarged it – was the balloon flight, because it really does demonstrate the power of MF in highlights and shadows. We had a storm coming in, yesterday evening, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty in the cloud formations in the storm front, as the front started to form and the clouds started merging. It would have been an ideal subject for a ‘blad to capture. And today you post an equally compelling image of the sky. Co-incidence? – I don’t believe in such things – I believe they are simply unexplained phenomena.

    Green fringing? – to the extent there is any, it enhances that image.

    For most of the rest, much of those comments applies to all of them.

    As to the choice of lens, to work this camera, à chacun son goût. Hopefully, each of us chooses the gear that works best for us. Speaking of which – I have been making more use of Affinity Photo lately – and as a direct consequence, less use of Lightroom or PhotoShop. It isn’t as simple to get started – well, not properly anyway – anyone can “start” it! – but as you learn more about what it can do, the results become more and more pleasing. And I’ve already found things it can do, that proved to be quite impossible in Lightroom OR PhotoShop, simply because Adobe’s algorithms are stale and way outside their “use by” date.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Aha, let us know how you get along with Affinity photo. Sounds like very promising software. What are the features you find better than Adobbe’s?

      As for lenses, as you say: à chacun son goût (to each his own) and I’m trying to convey the look and feel of images rather than dwell on technical aspect that are difficult to relate to. Cheers.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ROTFLMHAO – Cliff will be much relieved to hear that!
        SOOC (AKA “off the cuff”) (just as well I’m not dyslectic!) Affinity:
        – import/export, opening & closing files – MUCH quicker and more convenient
        – (you already know this) creating panoramas – here, Adobe is very weak – clumsy – time consuming – and frankly obsolete. Affinity actually works! And produces the finished panorama in a fraction of the time!

        Right now, I’m starting to delve more deeply. In some ways, it’s a bit like Capture One – hard to get started, but once you get into the scheme of things, OMG!

        I bought it expressly to do panoramas, because I’d already found Adobe’s Lightroom AND Photoshop were useless – they simply could not create the panorama I was working on. And at the time, they had a special offer, so it was as cheap a chips.

        Now – every time I open it I try something else – and every time I do, I love it.

        Grab it on a 30 day free trial, or something!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hmmm, that sounds intriguing. Time for a revisit of Affintiy? I bought an earlier version, maybe upgrades are cheap. Thank you for the tip. Cheers

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            If you haven’t bought for a while, there’s probably a free trial available on their current version. I can’t say it solves everything – but then as far as I can see, NONE of them do, any more.

            • pascaljappy says:

              In an ideal world Capture One would have a great panorama feature and would work with Hasselblad files … 😉

              • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

                Now there’s a thought! I wonder what Phase One might say about that? But since they promote CO1 on the basis it works on over 500 different cameras, why should that matter?

  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, I’m very happy to provide a 2nd opinion. The only issue is you will need to lend your kit for a little while so I can give a full evaluation. In all seriousness the X1D deliverers great images ender varying testing conditions.These results certainly confirms it was an excellent purchase.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Dallas 😉 If we lived closer, we could swap the Z7 and the X1D for a week. I must say the viewfinder was very impressive on the Z7 when you let me try yours. And your Milvi are really lovely lenses. A rather brilliant kit as well ! See you soon 🙂

  • brian nicol says:

    Hi Pascal, I agree with your “review”. I also found it very hard to find a competent review of Hasselblad and the glass rendering specifically. I pulled the trigger on the X1D after Ming said he was happy with it (if it is good enough for him it will be more than adequate for me ). My biggest issue was getting a feeling for the glass. I have had the 30mm, 45mm, 90mm and now the incredible 80/1.9. I am rationalizing my system as I have a Panasonic G9 with fabulous primes and zooms but it does not handle high dynamic range images well but one picks your tool for its application and most of the time my G9 is more than adequate. I have decided to sell my xcd 45mm a normal range lens is my preferred focal length and the 80/1.9 is incredible from 1.9 onwards with a non-nervous bokeh. I would like to keep the xcd 45mm because of its gentle rendering and it is so compact but I have other system choices and it is too close to the 80/1.9 for my usage and to carry. I used it a lot until I got the 80.
    A great article showing how it renders under various circumstances.
    Unfortunately I have to fund another paint brush (lens) so it is going but it was a joy. However, I feel that the 30mm and 80mm are a step above as incredible glass in the system.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Brian, Thank you for the kind words. Yes, qualitative (rather than purely quantitative) reviews are hard to come by. But we know these lenses are quantitatively excellent and it’s the other aspects we’re interested in.

      Objectively, I think the 45 is probably the least excellent of the lot and the 90/120 are probably the best. But it’s so lovely, I can’t bare to part with it … That 80/1.9 sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to try on for myself or to see your pictures with it.

      30/80 does seem like a very good 2-lens system. My question now is how to choose between 30 – 80 (Otus) and 21 – 45 – 120. Ugh … 😉


      • Brian Nicol says:

        Hi Pascal, my current planned X1D system is 21(need to buy), 30, 80. I may consider 135 at some point but big and I have lovely 0ly 45/1.2. I also have a Voightlander Heliar 50/3.5 that is ultra compact and amazing rendering that needs to be cropped but it is truly lovely and did I say ultra compact and did I mention lovely rendition.
        The X1D has been a revelation for my photography and I wish I had not hemmed and hawed for 3 years but W have it now and will not be tempted to part with Max for the forseable future. Enjoy the ride!

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