H6D-100c and the HCD lenses

It has now been a little more than a month since I received my new Hasselblad H6D-100c and I have got to test it out properly, at least in the field. One of the things I was most curious about was how my lenses performed on this new, physically larger sensor.

Most H-system lenses (denoted HC) were designed for full frame medium-format which corresponds to medium format 120 film. Often called 645, referring to the full size of the film of 6×4.5 cm, the true image area of the film most often is around 42x55mm. Thus, the HC-lenses image circle covers this area and are designed to be sharp in the edges and don’t make too much vignetting even on a sensor this size. However, more recent H-series lenses were made to work optimally for a slightly smaller sensor (37x49mm) that was widely used in the early days of digital medium format. These lenses, (denoted HCD), makes a slightly smaller image-circle than the HC-lenses and are the 24mm, 28mm and the 35-90 zoom. I own, and have grown to be very fond of, the hcd 28 and the hcd 35-90. Little has been known about how these HCD-lenses performed on the new full-frame sensor, and concerns have been raised regarding both sharpness and vignetting.

So, I have now tested my new full-frame H6D-100c with the HCD 28 and the HCD35-90. Basically I am happy with the results. The short message is that the there is no real cut-off of the corners. The vignetting is pretty significant, but easily corrected in both Phocus and Lightroom. Sharpness is good but not excellent in extreme corners, but very good in corners. As a landscape-photographer, the sharpness and vignetting does not represent any problem at all in most real-life situations as long as software profile-correction is used. However, this is just my opinion. You can have a look at the images below and judge for yourself.

All images are taken from a tripod, mirror lock-up, manual focus in live-view. Iso 64. Daylight temperature. Aperture as denoted and shutter-times from approximately 0.5-2 sec. Images are processed in Lightroom, raw-conversion only, no raw-sharpening, no other corrections. Standard lightroom lens-profile correction  where this is noted. Images are not cropped and are all 11600×8700 pixels. Exported as 3000×3000 max quality jpgs with medium output-sharpening for screen. The lightsource is a huge window with slightly overcast daylight from the left. I wish I could have found a scene more evenly lit by daylight, but that is not very easy in Norway this time of year…

1.Vignetting

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HCD 28, f4. Uncorrected. Rather heavy vignetting fully open, but no real cut-off of corners.

 

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HCD 28 f4, profile corrected in Lightroom. Vignetting is well handeled.

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HCD 28, f8. Uncorrected. Much less vignetting compared to uncorrected f4.

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HCD 28 f8. Profile corrected in Lightroom with an excellent result.

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HCD 35-90 @35mm, f 4. Wide open, there is rather heavy vignetting on the zoom without correction.

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HCD 35-90 @35mm f4. Same image as above but with Lighrooms profile correction yields almost no trace of vignetting.

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HCD 35-90 @ 35mm f8. Uncorrected

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HCD 35-90 @35mm f8, profile corrected in Lightroom.

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To compare to my HCD zoom, I took this image with my HC 35mm @f8. Uncorrected. Less vignetting compared to the zoom uncorrected, two images up.

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HC 35 @ f8, corrected.

 

2. Sharpness

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HCD 28 @f8. 100% crop from extreme upper left corner. Notice how small this area really is by comparing to the two first images. 100mpx is really quite stunning. Profile-corrected but no raw-sharpening was employed.

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HCD 35-90 @ 35mm f8. 100% crop of extreme upper left corner. Profile-corrected but no raw-sharpening. Sharpness is compromised in the very extreme corner. As I knew my zoom had a slight issue in the upper left corner used at 35 mm f4-f8 on close distance i made another 100% crop a little bit more centrally in the left corner, see next image.

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HCD 35-90 @ 35mm f8. More central left corner. Profile-corrected but no raw-sharpening.

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HCD 35-90 @ 35mm f 8. Extreme upper right corner is sharper than extreme upper left at this aperture, but still not perfect.

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HC 35mm @ f8. 100% crop of extreme upper left corner using my HC-35mm lens to compare it with the zoom @35mm (see two images up). Sharpness is significantly better in extreme corners with this lens compared to the zoom.

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HCD 35-90 @50mm f8. Extreme upper left corner is better @50mm compared to 35mm on this lens.

To summarize, I would say that vignetting is not a significant problem as long as you use profile correction. I have tried out both Phocus and Lightroom. Phocus does a slightly better job, with a little bit more evened-out result after my taste, but nothing that will make me change my standard workflow from Ligthroom. The only concern is on severly underexposed images (more than 2-3 stops) at iso 1600 and upwards, where I have found that the vignette correction may give some slight color noise (not shown here). This is not unexpected at all, but should be known when shooting with these lenses on very high iso. Regarding sharpness, I am happy with the HCD 28, at least from f8 and upwards where I usually shoot (f 11 – 16 is my go-to aperture on these lenses). The sharpness in extreme corners using the HCD 35-90 @35 is somewhat compromised at f8. It is better at longer focal lenghts and good in the not-so-very extreme corners. I know my lens has a slight issue from f8 and wider on close distance of the upper left, but this is very rarely a concern as I mostly shoot landscapes on longer distances and wider apertures.

I have also done some testing using filters, both a regular UV-filter that I use for my Lee 100mm push-on holder and a slim polarizer from Nisi. I will try to process and post these images sometime during next week.

Hope you found this helpful. Let me know if there are any specific tests you want me to do, and I will try to make room for it within a week or two.

Lofoten road-trip

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Sunset from Flakstadøy (Nappstraumen). Looking north, you can see the iconic profile of the mountains near Utakleiv and Haukland beach in the distance.

Some of you may know that I was born and raised in the northern parts of Norway. Although I have relocated and currently live a little bit to the south, in Trondheim, I often visit “home” up north.

Every time I visit, I plan for some landscape photography. North-Norway has a very dramatic landscape, fabulous light and very unpredictable weather. All essential elements of a good landscape-image.

I spent one week in North-Norway this summer, and planned a road-trip to the Lofoten island well ahead. An old friend of mine and I were to take the ferry from the mainland (Skutvik) and over to the biggest city in Lofoten, Svolvær. Weather has been extremely wet and grey this summer, but as we sat in out car on the way to the ferry, skies started to clear. We had planned 2 days and nights of intensive shooting, mostly without sleep. We arrived in Svolvær late in the afternoon. The most photographed areas in Lofoten lies in the southern parts, where the mountains are most spectacular. This time we decided to head north from Svolvær and cover the island of Austvågøy the first night. Although the landscape is a little less dramatic here, It is still spectacular by most standards. And it is less covered by other photographers! We were mostly alone on the road this first night. We drove all around Austvåg and had a great time with a beautiful misty sunset and sunrise just a couple of hours later. After less that two hours sleep and a huuuuge breakfast we drove south to Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy. We had clear skies and the bright sunlight didn’t give us anything photographically, so we spent the day scouting for locations, eating and relaxing. When the loooong golden hour set in at around 7-8 in the evening we had found some great places and spent a few hours there. Coffee and redbull kept us going. Some skies emerged and promised for a beautiful sunset. We photographed the most iconic locations (Unstadvik, Utakleiv, Flakstad, Reine etc.) and a few lesser know all through the night. As morning arrived we were pretty much exhausted. As we waited for the mornings first ferry from Moskenes to Bodø, skies were all overcast and the magic was gone. Luckily enough we seemed to have hit the two only days in July with nice weather. Here are a few of the results from the trip. Visit my gallery on nordhaugphotography.com for more Lofoten images.

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The sun was setting, close to midnight, when we arrived in this location just north of Flakstad.

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A couple of hours later, the sun emerged from the ocean again and colored the landscape and the mist in a wonderful, warm hue.

First report from my recent Lofoten-trip

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Unstad, Lofoten, Norway. Feb 2015

 

 

It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from the Lofoten island where I spent 4-5 days (and nights) photographing. I have been busy going through the 2000+ files, sorting and editing. The weather was very unpredictable (as usual) in Lofoten, and I had everything from freezing low temperatures to snow, rain showers and epic sunsets. The dramatic mountains coming straight out of the sea give amazing possibilities for some good landscape shots, If your lucky with the light… Hope you like these two, more will follow in the weeks to come. I will also disclose a little bit about my favourite locations in the Lofoten islands, so stay tuned!

Both these images are now released and available as prints in my gallery nordhaugphotography.com.

 

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Utakleiv, Lofoten, Norway. February 2015.

 

2015 – more forests and B&W!

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Beams. Yosemite Valley, june 2014.

Now, I’m not really a guy for making new-years resolutions. However, every now and then I scrutinize my own images and adjust my direction somewhat to have the right all-over balance in my work. I have decided that I will try to work a little bit more with forests and trees and more in black and white this year. Ok, now I’ve said it. Hope I can live up to that. I will start with preferring forest-destinations when I have no specific other plans, and also plan to submit a few more images to dedicated B&W competitions.

This image is from Yosemite Valley an early morning in june 2014. I was driving into the valley and saw some light mist covering El Capitan Meadow. I stopped my car there and walked into the forest of giant trees by the foot of El Capitan. A truly magical morning! Hope you like it, have a super weekend!

Dag Ole

Wallpaper, anyone?

Morning shores

 

This image was captured the same morning as the image in a previous posting, “perspectives”. I specifically composed this image for wallpaper-use on my new iPhone 6. The wallpaper-version is cropped slightly different from the image above, and optimized for the iPhone 6 screen-resolution, but is otherwise basically identical. In my humble opinion, it worked out quite well on the phone. So now I’m considering making a gallery on my homepage with this one and a few other images that I think could work well as wallpapers. For a limited time, I’m planning to give them away as free downloads. What do you think? Is this a good idea, would you consider downloading this? I’ll give it a thought for a few days, then we’ll see. In the meantime, I hope you like my image, have a splendid weekend! I will soon be back with more posts, so stay tuned!

 

Dag Ole

Landscapephotography with the “nifty-fifty”

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Evening light, Riessersee. An example of my “straight” style. Shot from eye-level at a “normal-range” focal length.

As I described in my last posting, I tend to compose most of my images “straight” without a deep dominant foreground or other striking perspectives. When I am at a location, I like to use long time to study the subject and investigate different angles and views, as well as light and other elements, but I most often find myself composing the image straight forward without any awkward perspective. Furthermore, I have turned more and more towards shooting in the “normal range” of focal lengths, from 35-ish to about 70mm.

The lens I use most for my landscape-work is the Nikkor 24-70 f.2.8. Big and heavy, yes, but very solid. It is also very sharp compared to most other normal-zooms. However, when I sometimes have photographed the same subject with one of my other favorite lenses, either the Nikkor 14-24 or the Nikkor 70-200, I just can’t help myself in thinking that these two latter lenses give an image that is just a tad crisper. At least when pixel-peeping. Now – for most pictures this is not a problem, but since 80 % of my work is done with the 24-70, I started to look for an alternative that was even sharper. I used to have some primes that were nice and crisp, but as the hikes got longer and longer, I  switched to zooms some time ago to minimize the gear. Primes does however almost always have an advantage over zooms when it comes to resolution, so I decided to investigate some primes further. For my shooting style a 50mm would be ideal. There are lots of primes in the marked in this range, mostly lightweight and good, but most have a flaw in some feature. When the first rumors about the Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4 started about a year ago, I thought that I had found my holy grail. I was about to pull the trigger on the Otus this spring when I first heard about the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. As the reviews of the Sigma 35mm Art had been fantastic, especially for resolution, I decided to wait and see what the reviews said about the 50mm Art. It turned out that most reviews were extremely positive, and of course at less than one-third of the price of the Otus ($950 vs $3000), this was a lens to seriously consider. After all, one can have a lot of fun for the $2000 difference…. Also, the Sigma has autofocus, the Otus doesn’t. Maybe not very important for landscape-work, but nice to have.

I bought the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art a couple of months ago and have used it a lot. The first thing that struck me was how solid it is built. It gives a real heavy-duty impression and is on par with my professional-grade nikkors. However, it is not weather-sealed, a definite disadvantage for me. Furthermore, it is very big and heavy, at least for a 50 mm prime, but it is a little smaller than the Zeiss Otus.  But the sharpness….wow. A photography buddy of mine stated that the images were so crisp that it almost hurt his eyes! And I will not argue. Even wide open, the sharpness, both centre and corner, is extremely good. From f4 it is amazing. I think this is the first lens I have had that really takes out the full potential of the 36mp sensor in my d800’s. Bokeh is smooth and nice for landscape work, vignetting and distortion negligible. Fringing is less of a problem than with my zooms, and is easily removed in postprocessing. I have not tried the Otus, but I doubt that I will look any further for a go-to normal prime. For landscape-work (at least in dry conditions, and if you like to shoot “straight”) this lens comes highly recommended from me! By the way, I have no affiliation with Sigma.

Thanks for visiting and reading, have a nice week!

Dag Ole

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At 8.5 x 10 cm and 815g the SIgma 50mm 1.4 Art is a real chunk of gear. But it gives amazingly crisp images!