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Hasselblad XCD 35-75 Lens Review

The Glass is always Greener

in Product reviews , Tuesday, August 16, 2022

I’ve always tended to avoid writing explicit gear reviews, for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m not really enough of a gear head or authority to write them, second, because it isn’t really about the gear, and third, because it’s too much like hard work. But on the other hand, reviews drive traffic, and finally what’s the point of running a web site if I don’t try at least a little bit to drive traffic?

I’m fully aware that me reviewing a high end object such as the Hasselblad XCD 35-75 zoom lens is faintly ridiculous. Even more ridiculous, not to say foolhardy, is me actually owning one. Well, I’ve gone into my reasons for the extravagance of buying into Hasselblad medium format elsewhere, and my ownership of the 35-75 zoom came about by chance. I actually had no hope or even really desire to buy this lens, but earlier this year I stumbled across an almost unbelievable offer. Coming from a very reputable dealer, it was advertised as secondhand, without packaging, and nearly half retail price. But when it turned up it was boxed, still with protective foils, and indistinguishable from new - I decided not to quibble. But I still had a touch of buyer’s remorse. It’s big, heavy, and has very limited range compared to the Micro Four Thirds zooms I’m used to. But then I used it…

The other reason for writing this review is that as far as I can see there are no user reviews whatsoever online, apart from Vieri Bottazinni’s very thorough and detailed treatment, and a number of HeyGuysWassup YouTubes from talking heads who had the lens on loan for 3 days. What I want to try to cover is what it is like to use the lens day to day.

So, on with it.

This lens is the first and so far only zoom for the Hasselblad X system. Hasselblad claim it to be “the best lens we ever designed”, and various people with far more expertise and experience than me seem to think that this claim is justified. Using “full frame” as a benchmark, the range of the lens is equivalent to 28-59mm, which is a bit short, or very short when compared to the Micro Four Thirds zooms I’m used to using. This rather dampened my desire for it for a while. The aperture is not fixed, but the f/3.5-4.5 is perfectly fine for me. I’m not a narrow depth of field shooter, quite the opposite, and comparing again with Micro Four Thirds zooms, f/4 on that system is fine for me. So f/4.5 on the X system is easily enough. At 1115g, there is no getting around the fact that the lens is big and heavy, but it is surprisingly comfortable to hand hold, thanks to the superb ergonomics of the X1D body, along with the internal zooming mechanism.

Several reviews comment on the fact that the performance of the lens matches or exceeds that of XCD primes. This may well be the case, certainly I have no cause for complaint, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that the 35-75 range overlaps only with two XCD prime focal lengths, at 45mm and 65mm, so in terms of replacing a bag full of primes, it doesn’t do all that well. Nevertheless, considering it on its own terms rather than as a prime replacement, it is surprisingly useful. [as I write this, it becomes out of date. Hasselblad have now added new 35 and 55mm lenses to the XCD range]

Earlier this year I wandered around Venice for a couple of days. I took the zoom, the XCD 21 and the XCD 90 with me. Initially the 21 and 90 ended up staying in my bag. Later they ended up staying in the hotel. Of course, there is a degree of reluctance to change lenses on the X1D, partly due to the risk of getting dust on the sensor, and partly due to the relatively clumsy process of changing large heavy lenses.  But actually, even in some quite constrained spaces, the range of the 35-75 was not particularly limiting.

Here are a few examples taken with the Hasselblad XCD 35-75 zoom lens in Venice, all handheld except the night shot:

1/160 at f/8, 35mm

1/640 at f/8, 65mm

1/180 at f/11, 35mm

1/160 at f/12, 35mm

1/160 at f/11, 35mm

1/250 at f/8, 70mm

1/180 at f/7.1, 55mm

1/400 at f/8, 75mm

32s at f/8, 35mm

Beyond Venice, here are a few other sample photos. The lens was also a good companion for wandering around Tuscany earlier this year, and on short photo-outings close to home.

San Quirico d’Orcia, handheld, 1/125 at f/16, 40mm

That cypress grove…, handheld, 1/320 at f/16, 75mm

Below Pienza, handheld, 1/500 at f/22, 75mm

Val Redorta, tripod, 3.2s at f/16, 45mm

It is interesting to note from the above samples that I have a tendency to go full wide (35mm) or full zoom (75mm), which does rather indicate that the range is a bit limiting. Nevertheless in the field it really hasn’t felt particularly so. I would not have any reason to not recommend this lens, apart of course from the price, which at full retail is really crippling, at least for a non-ultra-wealthy amateur. There is also the issue of the weight and size, which, again, let’s not overstate, but for which Hasselblad’s announcement on 7th September 2022 of three new faster and (much) lighter primes raises some questions.  It seems they’ve worked out how to very significantly slim down XCD lenses while increasing features and maintaining the same superb optical quality. Perhaps they can do the same for zooms.

But anyway, setting aside these minor reservations, I find the Hasselblad XCD 3,5-4,5/35-75 Zoom Lens a real pleasure to use. I live in hope that one day I’ll produce a photo that goes someway to fulfilling its potential. So, I very much recommend it. Sadly, I don’t have an affiliate link that I can push you to buy it from to make me some quick cash…

 

Posted in Product reviews on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at 01:04 PM • PermalinkComments (0)

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Metallic

pedal to the metal

in Product reviews , Monday, August 08, 2022

Although printing is a major part of photography for me, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything much about it. Still less about print papers. One can find interminable articles online about printing with this or that paper, along with intensely scientific charts and endless technicalese and associated geekery, usually authored by retired male rocket scientists with a talent for taking the most godawful dull photos known to mankind.

Well, I’m no rocket scientist, and I don’t understand charts, but I was sufficiently delighted by a few recent prints to try my hand at “reviewing” a type of print paper. 

Some time ago in a minor fit of retail therapy I ordered a box of Hahnemühle Photo Rag Metallic paper, a “silvery-shimmering FineArt inkjet paper with a specially formulated inkjet coating for FineArt use”. I’m pretty conservative with printing, and although I have have experimented wildly with stuff like Bamboo paper, I’ve never pushed it this far. The retail therapy having done its job, the box stayed on the shelf until very recently, when finally I decided to give it a go. Having offloaded all the technical stuff about colour profiles, print settings, etc, to Colorbyte Software ImagePrint, all I needed to do was select the photos, load the paper into the printer and press “print”.

The results were very pleasing. It’s very difficult to convey anything through a photo of a print, especially when the key characteristic of that print is a silvery reflectivity, but I’ll try anyway:

A Hasselblad X1DII shot from some months ago. Local creepy abandoned graveyard.

The bullring at Les-Saintes-Marie-De-La-Mer, Camargue, France. Ricoh GRIII, a few weeks ago.

A shot of the dunes at L’Espiguette, Camargue, France. Olympus E-M1 MkIII, a few weeks ago.

The paper can be interesting for colour photos as well. Hasselblad X1DII, at home

At 340 gsm, Hahnemühle Photo Rag Metallic is I think the heaviest paper I’ve ever printed on. It has a very marked texture enhancing the silvery finish. Obviously, it doesn’t suit all subjects, but when it works, it works really well, and everybody who has seen my sample prints has been very enthusiastic about them (mainly about the paper, not the photos).

If you’re into printing, it’s worth trying out this paper. It isn’t as radical or gimmicky as it sounds, and is a really nice alternative to have to hand.

Posted in Product reviews on Monday, August 08, 2022 at 04:50 PM • PermalinkComments (0)

Luca Campigotto’s Venice

a belated discovery

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Venice is a recurring theme on this blog, and always will be. I’m hardly the first person to be fascinated by the place, but it can become a borderline obsession at times. It is of course a subject for photography, but for me it is much more than that. What fascinates me is the essential unreality of the place, and what it must mean to belong to and live in such an unlikely city. I can quite happily wander around the streets and canals without a camera, and even with a camera, by and large the photographs I come back with are not going to interest many people.

I also have a habit of acquiring vast numbers of books about Venice, photographic and other. Venice photobooks have a very strong tendency the feature the obvious: the Rialto bridge, the Grand Canal (and the Grand Canal from the Rialto bridge), the Piazza, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs. Toss in a few gondolas and carnival masks and you’re done. Not that the photography in these cases is necessarily bad, far from it. But it represents the monumental and symbolic Venice, and to me that’s really not so interesting.

Somehow in all these years I’ve managed to miss the work of Luca Campigotto. Luca is both a high level professional photographer and a native Venetian, and has published a series of photobooks on Venice (amongst other themes). I happened to discover one of these, “Venezia, Storie d’acqua” in probably the last remaining genuine bookshop in Venice, Libreria Studium. Based on what I wrote above, the cover of Storie d’aqua, featuring a shot of the Bridge of Sighs, gave me reason to pause, but after a few seconds of flicking through the pages I was sold - big time. There is certainly a significant number of photos the standard scenes in the book, but these sit alongside some almost unbearably atmospheric shots of truly vernacular Venice, a lot from my favourite area of Castello. Throughout the photography is of an extremely high standard, both in composition and execution. This is without a doubt, for me, the best Venice photobook I have seen to date.

But wait - there’s more. This is not Luca Campigotti’s only Venice photobook, and of the others, one is an absolute must. “L’Arsenale di Venezia” takes us inside the largely inaccessible, forbidden zone of the Venice Arsenal. Even today the Arsenale is a military zone, and can at best be glimpsed and not visited. So apart from the high standard of photography in “L’Arsenale di Venezia”, it also reveals facets of Venice which are completely inaccessible to most. What does get revealed is a landscape of largely industrial decay. The book was published in June 2000, and if I understand correctly, access was in part possible due to a temporary opening of some areas to house Biennale installations. The photographic medium would appear to be medium and/or large format film, and it shows in some high contrast shots, although not to any detrimental effect. “L’Arsenale di Venezia” is more specialised than “Venezia, Storie d’acqua”, but it is equally beautiful, absolutely fascinating and I strongly recommend it to fellow Venice obsessives.

The third book I have is also the oldest (the price on the dustjacket is in in Lire!). “Venetia Obscura” was published in 1995, and is a book of nighttime black and white photography. Actually both black and white and nighttime are two more of the standard tropes around Venice photography, but “Venetia Obscura” again, rises above these. The content of the book soon shows that “obscura” can be interpreted in more than one way, dark, certainly, but also obscure, shadowy, hidden. At the extremes the photography verges on the eerie, but always atmospheric, and never forced. It’s another beautiful collection, and again if some better known locations are thrown into the mix, these are counterbalanced by some much less travelled areas, in this case including the Lido and even Marghera.

It seems to me that Luca Campigotti pretty much owns Venetian photography. I’m not sure why he doesn’t have a higher profile, especially in the city itself. Maybe he does, and I’ve been too blind to see. The depth and breadth, but most essentially the soul in his work goes way beyond the surface scratching that most accomplish. A lot of photographers use Venice as a means to show their skill. Luca Campigotti instead puts his skill at the service of Venice. For me his photography acts as some kind of validation - while my own accomplishments are way inferior, at least somehow I feel the direction I’ve been trying to go in is justified.

Unfortunately these books are not that easy to find. While I bought “Venezia, Storie d’acqua” from Libreria Studium (who are yet to discover the Internet), the other two I obtained directly from Luca. If you’re interested, the best place to start is his website, www.lucacampigotto.com.

Posted in Book Reviews on Wednesday, August 03, 2022 at 04:19 PM • PermalinkComments (0)

Website Update

Plus ça change…

in Site Admin , Friday, July 29, 2022

If you visit here frequently, first, thanks a lot, and second, you may notice some changes.

Following various comments and a lot of procrastination, I have completely rebuilt the back end of this website to prepare for it being adaptive to different devices.  The actual full adaptation will be Phase 2, but already the strict fixed width design is gone.  I’ve also tried to fix, streamline and improve various other things, including the comment system. That was also the subject of some criticism, so I removed the old Disqus implementation a while back.  Of course having done that my already meagre comment stream dried up altogether.  My spam count however went through the roof.  So, I have tried to tune the native Expression Engine comment system a bit, but it does have limitations.  It’s on the list for future improvements.  There are probably still quite a lot of glitches here, and there are a few areas where things are not quite finished, but I decided to push it out there as-is and fix stuff on the fly.

I actually started all this nearly a year ago, with a trial shift to Squarespace. That really didn’t work out. Squarespace is probably ideal for most people, especially if you’re starting out, but it doesn’t really lend itself to any kind of complexity or true customisation. And it really is very expensive. So I had to roll my sleeves up, get into old dog / new tricks mode, and modernise my CSS and backend code. Hopefully I’ve now got a solid base for the future, and I can get back t spending my meagre spare time on adding hopefully interesting content.

I’d be delighted to get any feedback, positive or negative. Via the comments system, of course.

Posted in Site Admin on Friday, July 29, 2022 at 12:35 PM • PermalinkComments (2)

Summertime

...and the living is easy

in Photography , Friday, June 24, 2022

It’s been a very long time since I posted anything new here. Despite that I’m still getting more than 0 visitors, so thanks for that. I have very limited time to devote to this, and recently what time I have has been fully dedicated to maintenance and redevelopment.

Drm 20220617 B0001262 ip

Over time I’ve received feedback on various points, such as the difficulty of leaving comments, overall design and adaptability to non-desktop devices. So, I invested a lot of time and indeed money into a project to transfer everything to a Squarespace site, where all these issues are taken care of. Actually the Squarespace migration is almost completed, but I’ve decided not to go ahead with it. Although there are a lot of positive points, and while it does offer a certain level of flexibility, finally it is all “cookie cutter” and I’m having to compromise far too much on how I want to present myself and my photography. Not to mention my opinions. And Squarespace is expensive.

So I went back to the drawing board, and now I’m actually well advanced in completely reworking my existing hosted site to use modern adaptive methods, as well as making use of some more advanced features of Expression Engine. It won’t look all that different, but behind the scenes it will be almost all new.

As for when it will be done, who knows. Now, it’s summertime, and tomorrow I’m off on vacation. Real vacation, not photography hell. It will be done when it’s done.  Thanks for watching.

Posted in Photography on Friday, June 24, 2022 at 04:09 PM • PermalinkComments (0)
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