Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC Lens Review

Originally published: July 3, 2011

Review of the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens with the PhaseOne P65+ mounted on a Hasselblad H1 and Haselblad H3Dii-39ms

The 300mm focal length is common place in 35mm DSLR’s however it is an atypical and unique lens in Medium Format Photography. 35mm DSLR’s have come to have super telephoto lenses with focal lengths of production lenses commonly reaching 800mm with a few rarities like the Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 which using the coupled teleconverter becomes a 400-1000mm f/5.6 lens which is the same speed (aperture) as Canon’s super telephoto 800mm f/5.6. Medium format on the other hand is typically used for different kinds of work where telephoto capabilities are not often needed. There are rare examples of lenses exceeding the 300mm standard for medium format camera systems. Notable examples of these are the Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 C (Manual Focus0 the Hasselblad / Ziess 300mm  f/2.8 Tele-Superachromat TPP (Tele Power Pack) and Pentax FA SMC 400mm 5.6 ED. The current surviving medium format leaders (Hasseblad and Mamiya/Leaf/PhaseOne) each have their own 300mm f/4.5 autofocus lens in the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC and Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 IF APO lenses. I have not had any experience with the Mamiya version of this focal length however I have heard that it is a very good lens. -
The Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC Lens was one of the lenses that I rented along with the PhaseOne P65+ (mounted on Hasselblad H2 Body) for my spring break trip to Costa Rica from K&M Camera in NYC. This lens was the stand out for me because I found it very useful and the lens that allowed me to take the best images. The Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens has an equivalent focal length of 182mm on a 35mm format camera. This means it is a short to medium telephoto lens by 35mm format standards however it is quite long for medium format. -
This lens is superb in every way. Contrary to my comments on about the Hasselblad H system bodies the lenses are built like tanks. They are not built on the same optical level as a Leica lens, however they are superb and built to last. They are all metal and very heavy. You know that your holding a serious lens when you hold it. When I used the 300mm lens I had absolutely no complaints about it. For the shots I will showcase below they were all taken on a tripod. It is possible to utilize this lens off of a tripod, it will have to be done at fast shutter speeds. However as with any lens in the telephoto category it can be better utilized from a stabilization device like a tripod or monopod. This lens is sturdy and it is absolutely everything that you expect from a lens of this calibre.
The following are two of my favorite pictures from this trip and they were both taken with this lens. They were both taken on the Hasselbald H2 with a PhaseOne P65+ digital back which was rented from K&M Camera in NYC for the time that I was away. I used this lens mounted to my Gitzo Series 5 carbon fiber tripod.

1. THE LIZARD

Cropped, Black Spiny Tail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) taken with the PhaseOne P65+ and Hasselblad H1 with Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens review

Cropped, Black Spany Tail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis), Guanacaste National Park, Costa Rica, PhaseOne P65+ on Hasselblad H2 Body 1/350s f/4.5 ISO100 300mm

While not a particularly dangerous journey to get to Gaunacaste National Park, it did take a lot of time and multiple forms of transportation. First we woke up early and left the hotel with a driver for a multiple hour journey to the national park. Then to get to where this particular picture was taken involved a riverboat. Now the boat and driver were both private so it wasn’t an uncomfortable journey by any sense of the imagination but it was a long one. This picture was taken from the boat. I had set up my Gitzo 5 series tripod on the deck of the boat and left the 300mm lens attached. At certain times I took the Hasselblad H2 and PhaseOne off of of the lens (which was still mounted to the tripod) to use it with other lenses like the Hasselblad HC 120mm f/4  macro lens. I had the Luxury of also having my Hasselblad H3Dii-39ms which worked with the Hasselblad HCD 35-90 f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens allowing me to use the PhaseOne P65+ digital back with the 300mm telephoto lens. When I saw this shot, I knew it would be good, or at least I hopped it would. The original picture looked like this:

Black Spiny Tail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) taken with the PhaseOne P65+ and Hasselblad H1 with Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens Original un-cropped image

Here is where the magic of the PhaseOne P65+ comes into play. This digital back of course has a 60mp sensor which up until very recently was the largest in the world (Leaf and

PhaseOne have recently started producing 80mp digital backs). It’s versatility can be greatly appreciated with this photograph. The 300mm lens first allowed me to get this close to the Iguana. However it was not nearly close enough to make a powerful image. If I had been using a lesser camera this would not have been possible. By lesser camera I mean one with a lower mega-pixel count. Even if I had used my Hasselblad H3dii-39ms digital back I would not have been able to create the crop required to make this a powerful image. I had to create approximately a 275% crop to make the final image that you see above. The end result yielded me an image with roughly 15mp theoretically. However since this was taken with an almost full frame medium format camera the detail and color renditions far exceed that of a simple 15mp 35mm DSLR. Initially when I had sat down to edit these images I was disappointed by the lackluster appearance, however I soon realized the versatility that a 60mp file gives you. Of course, Ideally it would’ve been ideal to frame the image the way i had wanted it without a crop, but this wasn’t an option. This is where the versatility of the PhaseOne can be appreciated. If the final image had been framed and taken sans cropping in post it would have yielded an unbelievably detailed result. That said the end result that was created is still very sharp and with great detail. When i had this image printed at 40×24 inches I was amazed at how great it still was even though it was a very heavily cropped image. I should also mention that I used Perfect Resize 7 (formerly genuine fractals) to increase the size of the image to allow me to be able to print it at 40×24 inches. I was also very impressed by this softwares ability to do this. I had heart great things about its abilities however I had never experienced them mostly because I had never really had a reason to use it for anything. Once I was home and I was looking at this image I knew I would finally have an opportunity to justify purchasing this software. Thanks to the wonders of the internet this process was completed in under 30 minutes and I had the full capability of this software at my disposal. Anyway the software worked perfectly and allowed me to resize the image so that I could have it printed large. This was the way that I knew I wanted to showcase this image. All of the stars were in alignment technologically in this image. I had the right camera equipment and and the right post processing abilities to yield a very good result. It all started with the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens. Everything else would not have been possible if I had not had the longer telephoto length of this lens. Using any of the other lenses that I had had with me in Costa Rica whether it was my 80mm f/2.8 lens or the rented 120mm f/4 macro or the 35-90mm f/4.0-5.6  this shot would not have been possible. Even with the amazing versatility that the PhaseOne P65+ allows and the wonders of modern digital imaging processing any of these other tools would not have allowed me to be able yield a result anything near what this lens let me. This is the final printed image:

40x24" Print of the crop of the Spiny Tail Iguana from Miller Photographic taken using the Hasselblad H1 camera body with the PhaseOne P65+ and Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC

The final print of this image was done by Miller Photographic. I have used them for a couple of years now and they have been very good and consistent in their results. When they have made mistakes they have quickly fixed them. Although this may be something peculiar to me, It is very difficult for me to have a print on regular paper and not bend or dent it in some way. For this reason the finishing options that Miller’s offers have given me the ability to make this a non issues. They offer a number of different finishing options ranging from foam to harder materials like styrene. The latter is the option that I choose for most of my images. It is strong and firm and easy to carry without the risk of bending or ripping in any way. First I ordered  two prints one from Photoshop’s internal resizing software and one from Perfect Resize 7′s processing of the enlargement. I had ordered them as simple paper prints figuring that the one I didn’t like I could throw away while I would still have one I liked to keep and then order a final one that I would mount on styrene. However when they came they were both oddly bent and one of them had a rather significant tear in the upper right hand corner of it. I called Millers Photographic and they were very helpful and gave me a refund no questions asked and I was able to re-order the print that I liked which was the styrene version mounted. This shows that you get what you pay for from a professional photographic printing service. This print is perfect in every way and I could not be happier with it. After minimal other post processing like simple sharpening and levels work this image was ready to print. It again shows that you get what you pay for in terms of a digital back. The dynamic range and other technical attributes of the large medium format digital sensor are astounding and the advantages are clearly visible in this image.

2. WAVES

Wave, 30x40" Print from Millers Photographic, Taken using the PhaseOne P65+ with a Hasselblad H2 and the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens

Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica, PhaseOne P65+ on Hasselblad H2 Body 4s f/45.0 ISO50 300mm

This image was something completely different for me because I usually do not do long exposure photography. That said this image was only 4 seconds, but it is significantly longer then any other image that I have taken and have liked. This image was also taken at a smaller aperture then any other image I have produced. All and all it came out very well and better then I thought it would. Long exposures are not the PhaseOne P65+’s forte, however it was fully capable of producing low noise results for this long exposure. This image is another one of my favorites form this trip.

This picture is opposite to the lizard picture in almost every way. Opposite to the Lizard picture (shown above) this is a full quality image with no cropping in post. Also opposite to the Lizard image, this image was shot at f/45.0 instead of f/4.5. Here you can appreciate the optical quality of this lens. Although not apparent in the Lizard picture since it is cropped, even though it was shot wide open there was no vignetting and here at the smallest aperture there is no vignetting. I cannot comment on lens diffraction at this small aperture because this image was designed to inherently be blurry although I’m sure it would’ve preformed admirably. This image looks even better in person. Once it was printed by Miller Photographic, the colors of it can be really appreciated. This image was printed very large as a 30×40 print and it looks absolutely amazing. The thing to take away from this image about the PhaseOne P65+ digital back is that is dynamic range exceeds comprehension, just like its megapixel count.

~

The 300mm focal length has become one of my favorites for medium format. I am not completely able to articulate why I think this focal length and this lens are especially good. Some of it comes from intimately using the lens and understanding what it can do in certain situations. This lens handles well and does everything that I would expect it to and more. I preforms well in many conditions. The Hasselblad website says that his lens is applicable for certain Nature and Sports applications. As the Lizard image illustrates in sufficient lighting conditions this lens can preform very well. The autofocus is as fast as you can expect for medium format. Especially in bright lighting conditions it is capable of locking focus very quickly and getting razor sharp results. Certain sports applications might be a stretch because it can’t be used for any of the most popular televised sports because they move to quickly. Something like tennis or golf where there are times that the players are posed might be a time it could be used however why wouldn’t you just use a 35mm system that has a higher FPS then the approximate 1fps that the PhaseOne P65+ has. Despite its obvious inadequacies for fast paced sports it is a very capable lens for its intended applications. Overall I am very pleased with this lens and although I do not plan on continuing with the Hasselblad H system, I do plan on continuing with the 300mm focal length for medium format photography.

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