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Last updated 2010-09-10 - Send Feedback
Related: bokeh, depth of field, Hartblei

All images from the Nikon D3x unless noted. Click to view larger images.

Large versions of the examples are shown for the first image only; subscribe to DAP to access the review with all large image examples.

Leaves and bug

No tilt was used here, such close-ups having very little depth of field. This image shows how sharpness falls off very gracefully. Background blur is very pleasing.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/4



At full shift. Results are excellent at f/11. The distortion-free and lifelike rendition is compelling.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/11

Water bottles

Backup water from a trip to Death Valley, at $1.29 or so (less on sale), the best way to carry extra water. Cheaper than gasoline at least.

Sharpness is outstanding here, as is bokeh.

Hartblei 120/4 @ ~f/11

Metal rack

Alignment was almost certainly imperfect here, but the results are nonetheless superb,with crisp detail and high contrast rendering the power-coated metal true-to-life.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/5.6


No tilt was used here, such close-ups having very little depth of field. This image shows how sharpness falls off very gracefully.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/8


A lingering layer of more durable caprock makes a small waterfall.

Tilt was used here, perhaps not exactly the best plane of focus, but nonetheless achieving far greater depth of field than would otherwise be possible with a 120mm lens. Focus was at the right side of the waterfall.

Hartblei 120/4 @ ~f/11

Mosaic close-up

This shot looks normal enough, but it’s not!

The Hartblei 120/4 was fully shifted to minimize converging verticals. Even so, the camera was angled up to capture the desired area, and tilt was used to capture a sharp image over most of the frame (I didn’t spend the time to get tilt exactly right). Such a usage is exactly the sort of technical challenge at which the Hartblei design excels.

No other lens goes that “long” (120mm) and has either tilt or shift. Nikon and Canon have 85/90mm offerings, but 120mm is a very useful focal length. This image could not have been taken with an 85mm lens without pointing the camera much more vertically, and indeed would be quite difficult due to positioning.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/8, fully shifted with tilt

Without tilt, there is precious little depth of field, an effect which can be exploited for artistic purposes, but the rest of the time it’s just blur.

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/8, fully shifted

Bramble flower

With things waving slightly in the wind, sharpness is not super high here, but the pleasing background blur is plain to see.

Hartblei 120/4 @ ~f/5.6

Bramble in creek

Depth of field is a challenge here, and f/11 - f/16 was used, dropping contrast and sharpness. The result still have a very nice “presence” and convincing detail.

Hartblei 120/4 @ ~f/11 - f/16

Color bokeh

Like every non-APO lens, there are color aberrations on out of focus areas. This is the norm, but it’s worth understanding that it happens even to the best lenses, except for exceptionally well corrected ones (true apochromatic designs).

Hartblei 120/4 @ f/4, correct focus, or nearly so. Some traces of magenta
Hartblei 120/4 @ f/4, focused in front of subject: traces of green
Hartblei 120/4 @ f/4, focused to rear of subject , traces of magenta


Image quality of the Hartblei 120/4 is beautiful.

The main technical trick, as with any long focal length lens, is nailing the focus. Provided that is done (and tilt used where feasible), exceptional quality results are obtainable. When combined with the smooth bokeh, the “look” is surely one that is unique.

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