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.

Intimate landscapes…revisited

So…it’s spring again, and I’ll try to make time to be a little more active here on the blog. My apologies for lack of posting throughout the winter.

Green tranquility

The magic place

 

I have previously written about my love for intimate landscapes. I love a grand vista as much as everyone, and more or less plan my trips around viewpoints and with a more or less grand landscape in mind. But as I previously have stated, throughout the years I have drifted more and more towards photographing more intimate scenes. Not only do that type of landscapes open up for an infinitely larger variation of scenes and are more forgiving wiht respect to light, but I also find it more challenging and rewarding to work around a specific composition. Trying to figure out a small scene is pretty much like solving a puzzle or crossword. I particularly like to work with forest-scenes and although it can be extremely challenging to come up with a composition that conveys the mood or pass on a message of some kind, it is also very rewarding when I feel I achieve that.

I have a few inspirational sources, or favourite photographers if you will, when it comes to this genre. Besides the obvious Eliot Porter who probably first came up with the term “intimate landscape” with respect to photography (major exhibiton at Metropolitan museum of art and printed publication titled “Intimate landscapes” in 1979 – google it!) there are also more contemporary masters of the craft. I could name numerous, but photographers like Serkan Gunes, Hans Strand, G Dan Mitchell and Christioher Burkett stand out, in my opinion.

Misty spring

Misty autumn

Having worked dedicated on intimate landscapes for only a few years, I’m definitely a novice in the genre. But I will continue to focus on the small scenes as I find it extremely rewarding and great fun.

Summer storm, Grand Canyon

Mather Point summer storm.

Mather Point summer storm.

 

The first time I visited the south rim of Grand Canyon, weather was grey and wet. As I checked into a nearby hotel, a summer-storm approached with thunder and lightning. After a quick meal I drove to Mather Point and was totally awestruck by the vastness of this magnificent place. It is true as they say, absolutely nothing can prepare you for Grand Canyon! I walked back and forth between Mather and Yavapai points, searching for a good composition. A light rain in the air blurred out some of the canyon as the storm over north rim faded away. I got a few ok shots, but the conditions were difficult. However, as sunset closed in, a crack in the skies allowed for some direct sunlight in the canyon and a rainbow appeared for a few minutes in the tail-end of the storm. My position wasn’t ideal but I kept running back and forth and photographed frantically. When I came back to the hotel I had over 100 shots, which is very much for me in a little over an hour. When I later started to process them I was somewhat disappointed as most of them were grey and dull, and they have been hidden on one of my hard-drives until now. I sat down and started to process a few of them the other day, and managed to bring forward some of the magic I felt that late june afternoon last year. The image on the top is a composite of several shots, to compensate for the difficult light-conditions and bring forwards the details in my experience.To capture the lightning I used a ND-filter to allow a thirty seconds exposure and increase the chances of getting at least one lightning. However, in this long exposure, the rainbow totally disappeared, so I had to blend 3 images together to make room for the complete experience; One for the sky with the rainbow, one for the canyon and one for the sky with the lightning.

This next image is a single exposure from a slightly different position, allowing a little more foreground. To convey the vastness of Grand Canyon, I included a few people. I don’t know if you can see them, but they are tiny, dots on the mid-portion of the nearby left hand rim. Far below, around 1000m down, you can barely spot a small section of the Colorado River in the lower right corner.

Rainbow, Mather Point.

Rainbow, Mather Point.

 

The last image was captured at Yavapai Point the next morning. I arrived there in pitch darkness an hour before sunrise. I enjoyed the solitude and silence and captured a few images of the starlit canyon. As sunrise closed in, busloads of people arrived, and in a few minutes, thousands of people roamed the brim to see the sunrise. Ten minutes later, I was all by myself again. The world is a strange place.

Sunrise at Yavapai point

 

 

Hope you like my work, feel free to send me a note, visit my online-gallery or follow me on instagram, G+, Facebook or 500px. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Norwegian wood – more than Beatles

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. With all the mountains, fjords, shores, waves, and not least aurora borealis going on up in Lofoten right now, it may be hard to understand, but we have trees in Norway too! Dozens of them 🙂 Actually large parts of Norway is covered with woods, many of them almost untouched. This is from such an area. I set out one very early morning to capture some fall-foliage in a remote location. On my way out, this scene captured my attention. The low, warm autumn-morning light lit up the trail in front of me and even though the scene per-se was somewhat ordinary (in lack of a better word) the light gave away the image. By the way, I didn’t find any fall-foliage to speak of that day, but I actually stumbled upon a dense rainforest-like pocket with the most intense green moss and ferns I have ever seen. But thats a different image and story. Hope you like this one, have a splendid tuesday!

Mosquitoland

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I don’t know if you have ever been to North-Norway, or even are planning a trip there. But in case you are, you should know this: Visiting during the summer months involves a very high risk of being in constant war with the fierce creatures somewhat erroneously called mosquitoes. We are not talking about the small innocent kind that will give you an annoying bite and leave you with that. We are talking about wicked, jumbojet-sized, killing machines. And they come in billions. Armed with all kinds of weapons yet not fully understood by mankind, they will attack you constantly and will not leave you alone until you are all but a pulsating mass of hurt. This early morning in July, a photography buddy and I were driving around Vestvågøy in Lofoten when we saw this beautiful mountain reflecting in a small, mist-covered lake. Like the sirens in the Odyssey we could hear the marshland calling our names. Oh, we were so naïve. Little did we know of the evil that waited. We parked the car and wandered through the dense forest towards the lake. Half-way out on the marsh we understood the lure and the mistake. Armed with only a small innocent Hasselblad (!), a few lenses and a Gitzo series 5, I didn’t stand a chance. No hope for backup either. My buddy was already kicking and screaming in pain from the other side of the marsh. It got messy. For us, not the mosquitos. Miraculously, I managed to set up my tripod and capture a few frames before we fought our way back to the relative safety of our car. Days, even weeks, of pain followed. I haven’t had the courage to sit down and process the images before now, fearing it could wake up the evil again. PTSD I think they call it. When I finally manned myself up and started looking at them the other day, it looked like someone had combed their cat over my sensor. But there was no dust on my sensor. Only clouds of evil in the frame. I stared to use the clone-tool, but soon gave up and just exchanged the blurry mosquitocovered skies with the skies from another image captured later that morning. I think the result came out ok, but as you may understand, I have somewhat ambiguous feelings about it….

Spring sunrise

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Trondheim, Norway, March 2015.

Although we have recently had a few cold days here in Norway, and even some snow last weekend, spring is definitely on its way! Sunrise is starting to be uncomfortable early, making me get up before 5am to catch the good light. This image was captured a week ago. Skies were initially totally clear, but minutes before sunrise, some clouds appeared and, in my opinion, made this image.

Tech details: Hasselblad H5D-50, HC 28mm, lee little stopper + 2 step ND grad, 5 sec exposure, f.16.

Hope you like it, have a super wednesday!

Dag Ole

Monochrome trees

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Evolution and improvement always originate in altered given conditions or challenges. As creative beings we need inspiration, but we also need to get out of our comfort-zones (cliché alarm!!) and try new things from time to time to avoid stagnation. I find great inspiration in studying other photographers and I have a fair share of people whose work I follow regularly, both on-line, in photography-competitions and on exhibitions. Many of these photographers have a style totally apart from my regular modus operandi, but I find it extremely stimulating to analyze their work, maybe just because it is so different from my regular style (A series about my favourite photographers is on its way here!)

I continuously scrutinize my own work and try to challenge myself to improve. I embark on different projects and set myself clear goals. Most often, I decide to try new things which involve a different approach to the subject matter, the photographic process and the postprocessing I have become accustomed to. This way, I force myself to see the world with new eyes. Although the results may be so-and-so, I always learn something about technical details, composition and my vision.

By the end of last year I decided to commit myself (for a period, at least) to work more with intimate landscapes, monochrome, forests and trees. This was partly due to inspiration from other photographers but mostly because I wanted to expand my vision, improve my compositional skills and learn to apply new methods in capturing and postprocessing. More about this process later, but for now I just wanted to share some of the results so far. Hope you like them. Have a splendid week!

Dag Ole

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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.

 

Utakleiv

Utakleiv, Lofoten, Norway. February 2015.

 

Full Frame 35mm or Medium Format?

Yes, both, thank you very much!

Winter shores

An image from my first session with the Hasselblad H5D-50. Postprocessing to get the right colors and tonality in both water and sky was a dream!

First of all, for those of you not familiar with these terms: “full frame” refers to a camera sensor-size corresponding to the 35mm film back in the good old days (24 x 36mm). Medium format refers to the larger size film/sensor (6 x 4,5, 6×6 or 6×7 cm in the days of film now 33 x 44 mm and up sensors), wedging itself between 35mm and large format (8×10 inch etc., film only). Today, there is a number of high quality 35mm full-frame bodies both from Nikon, Canon and Sony. And Pentax is in the pipeline. I currently use full frame Nikon d800e bodies sporting 36 mpx.

However, as a photographer always striving for perfection and that little “extra” I have been struggling with the question in the headline for at least a couple of years now. Larger sensors have basically meant more resolution, bigger pixels and larger dynamic range. Furthermore, all medium format camera makers have amazing lenses, which is paramount for taking advantage of large high-resolution sensors. The depth-of-field is also more shallow on a larger sensor, making focus control somewhat different from standard DSLR’s. However, with todays amazing high-resolution CMOS 35mm full format sensors, the gap up to medium format is closing in with respect to technical quality. And when images are viewed on-screen or as small to medium-sized prints, there is basically no difference in technical quality.  Although I have been extremely happy with my Nikon d800e’s there has been a curiosity “could there be something even better out there”?

The drawbacks of Medium Format systems are obvious for anyone having looked into it. First of all there is the price. A complete medium format system with camera, digital back, viewfinder and a set of lenses will easily set you back more than a decent brand new car would. $ 40 000 will bring you a long way, but maybe not all the way…. Second, medium format systems are very much bigger and heavier than standard DSLR’s. They are (mostly) not as good weather sealed and are in many ways a little more complicated to use. The lenses also have to be bigger and heavier, not only to achieve optimal quality, but simply because they have to make a larger light-cone due to a larger receiver/sensor. And again, the lenses are ridiculously expensive too.

So, this is what I have been considering the last couple of years. A (very) slight, but definitely present increase in technical quality (at least in large prints) at a very high price and different workflow. At the end of last year I decided I had to give medium format a go and see if this was something for me. Would it be expensive? Yes. Would it alter my workflow? Yes. Would it be heavier to carry around? Yes. Would I make technically better images? Maybe. Would I take “better” pictures? Probably not.

What eventually made me go for medium format was not the technical considerations. It was the curiosity for the workflow. To get the little extra out of medium format, I had to be even more meticulous with exposure, focus etc on location, and it would be more demanding in post-processing (especially noise-reduction). I could probably snap away with a medium format system and take the same pictures as I did with my full-frame bodies and achieve the same results. However, if you put some extra work into the capturing and post-processing, there is a potential to lift the quality somewhat and make images sing even louder. E.g there are very few zooms available and working with primes is the norm. I don’t say that is necessary to produce fine images, but it alters the workflow. For me, probably in a positive, slower way. Of course I could have done all this also with my full frame systems, but modern DSLRs are so easy to use…. 🙂

Anyway, I decided to invest in a medium format system. Basically there are 4-5 systems available. There is Phase One, Mamiya Leaf (owned by Phase), Pentax 645, Hasselblad H-system and the Leica S. The Pentax is the outsider here. It comes at a price less than half of the other systems, is very well weather sealed and sports a 33x44mm 50mpx CMOS sensor. The same (Sony-made) sensor can also be found in other systems, but at a higher price. However, CCD-sensors have a particular charm to them and are larger in physical size. Something to consider when judging the assortment of lenses you need (larger sensor means that e.g. a 28 mm is somewhat wider compared to on a smaller sensor). Although less capable in low-light situations, images from CCD-sensors do have a certain quality to them that is hard to define. And I very seldom use ISO above 100… Well, long story short – I decided to go for Hasselblad H5D-50. Due to several reasons, sentimentality being only one. One of the most important considerations was a very serious dealer/service department (Interfoto in Oslo) and short way to Hasselblad’s main facilities (for service etc.) in Gothenburg, Sweden. Also, I felt very much at home with the Hasselblad body. Although having been criticised for lacking some functions (Woha- there is no video!!) I felt that this system had exactly the controls and functions that I wanted and needed, and it was to a large degree customizable to my needs. This is no bells-and whistles camera, it only carries the functions serious professionals need to do their job. Also, it is has a 16-bit color output which sets Hasselblad apart from all other currently available systems. And the lenses are amazing.

The last few weeks I have learned my new Hasselblad system and invested in a few lenses and other accessories. My accountant may disagree, but my personal experience so far is very, very positive. The more laborious way of working has brought me so much joy the last days. Will I keep my Nikons? Definitely. For low light work and long hikes.

If you have any questions or comments regarding DSLR’s vs. medium format, feel free to ask or comment! Have a splendid week!

Dag Ole

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A more than 100% crop of a dark portion of the scene showed in the image on top of the page. After lots of work in postprocessing, a totally crisp and noiseless image is slowly revealed, even when viewed on a very large screen (well, at least in 16 bit TIFF, maybe not the low-res .jpg here :).

Exposure blending

Christmas crescent

Christmas crescent

 

 

This image was captured on last christmas eve while visiting friends and family in North Norway. Long story short: On our way to christmas dinner, the light was wonderful, the moon emerged and the icy cold temperatures froze the shores and gave a dense fog over the sea. I couldn’t help myself. I changed outfit and ran down to the shore and worked there all the way into pitch darkness and well into christmas dinner. My very kind and understanding wife actually approved this stunt, but I got a suspicion that not everybody else was very happy… But at least I got a few nice images! 🙂

When I started to photograph, it was rather dark but the disappearing aurora of the sun lit up the scene in a wonderful red-pinkish hue. As it got darker and darker, the aurora weakened and stars started to appear. At the same time, the foreground was becoming very very dark (I could hardly see my hands..), and the moon very bright compared to the landscape. I knew that even the very high dynamic range sensor in my d800 would not be able to capture both landscape, moon, stars and the color of the disappearing sun in one single exposure. So, I composed this image with the camera on my tripod and took numerous exposures at different iso’s and exposure times to capture all the elements in the scene as I saw it. The next day, I sat down and inspected all the different files. The aurora and the moon matched perfectly in  some of the exposures, and to my surprise, earthshine lit up the shadowed part of the moon perfectly. The foreground however, was too dark on these exposures and the sky too bright to show any stars. My original plan was to follow my regular HDR workflow and blend the exposures in HDR efex pro but the result was far from satisfying. It lacked the contrast and crispness I wanted. I tried to increase clarity and contrast but by then things started to look really weird. Since I had three exposures from three different regions of the scene I decided to blend them manually. I used the image where the moon and the sunglow was perfect as my base. I then took one exposure of the starry sky and blended it into the top of the first image using the masking bug in the layers module of the wonderful OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 9. In exactly the same manner, I blended a lighter foreground exposure into the lower part of the image. The resulting image was then imported back into Lightroom and after slight adjustment of temperature, color, clarity and sharpness, the image came out very close to how I experienced the scene. The masking bug has a gradient which give soft and natural transitions and I found it amazing how naturally the different exposures blended with a broad gradient.

Hope you like my image, have a splendid weekend!

Dag Ole