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Build quality is impressive, and optical performance is outstanding stopped down a bit, so long as field curvature is understood and acceptable for the task (40/4 in particular). These are working pro lenses that should serve for many years of use.
When I started reviewing the Hartblei 40/80/120, I focused on the tilt/shift aspect of performance. With time, I realized that the most appealing aspect (for me) was the outstanding bokeh and color rendition, with the tilt/shift options a very nice option, but a secondary one. In some ways I wish the same optics were available in a standard barrel (non tilt/shift), if that would shrink the size/weight significantly.
Studio photographers will adore these lenses; their technical capabilities along with color rendition and bokeh make them winners for that “medium format look” using a Nikon D3x or similar camera. The way they render sharp/unsharp is truly remarkable, and makes competing designs look flat by comparison.
The tilt mechanism can also be used for creative focus effects with all the lenses, selectively throwing parts of the scene out of focus (opposite of the usual goal).
Given the all manual operation, these lenses can be used on Canon or Nikon equally well. Hartblei offers either mount.
Portrait photographers should look hard at the 80/2.8; it offers a more lively and appealing look (my opinion) than any of the Canon and/or Nikon offerings, albeit with manual focus and manual aperture. Some private family portraits (not shown) confirm the superb applicability of the 80/2.8.
The image quality of the 40/4 is lovely, much nicer than the ultra-compact Voigtlander 40/2. However, the Hartblei 40/4 is also a “beast” and must be handled with some dedication and care. It will feel most at home on the larger body cameras, such as the Nikon D3x.
The 120/4 is unique; there simply is no other option in that focal length, nor any lens except perhaps the Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar that can approach its lovely image rendition.
Though I did not shoot any of the lenses for a night-time cityscape, I suspect that results would be very impressive in terms of out-of-focus rendition and evenness of illumination, diffraction stars, etc.
I’d love to own all three lenses for their unique optical qualities. Of course I had to send them back to Hartblei, not having US$12,500 handy. But I’d encourage any serious photographer looking for something unique to consider at least one of them.
Where to buy
See the flyer. Prices are in Euros with the exchange rate of day of the order, payment to be made prior to shipment. In most cases the lenses will be shipped immediately (in stock), according to Hartblei.
We cover already quite an area and most important countries with very good and knowledgeable dealers, most of them are either Phase One , Leaf, Zeiss or Rodenstock dealers, so we feel very comfortable with them.
Canada and US distribution is:
B3K Digital / Capture-U
1089 Dundas Street East
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4M 1R9
Tel.: +1 416-628-8044
Fax: +1 416-907-4386
Cell: +1 647-407-8194
Skype: wbokiinc, Skype in: 631-458-1094 (US)
Several dealers in US include Jim Taskett of Bear Images, Capture Integration in Atlanta and
some more. Contact Walter Borchenko above for more North american contacts.
Mirex of Germany makes shift and tilt/shift adapters for Hasselblad V and Mamiya medium format lenses, adapted to Canon or Nikon or M42 mount. I haven’t used or seen these adapters and can’t say how well they work. But my experience with heavier Leica lenses used with an adapter on Canon EOS suggest that one has to be on the lookout for the adapter pulling slightly away from the lens mount, inducing less-than-parallel imaging.