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2010-09-10 - Send Feedback
Related: bokeh, Hartblei, lighting

All images from the Nikon D3x unless noted. Most images were handheld.

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


Processing was fast and basic: no special tweaks, little or no toying with white balance, and nominal time spent on each image; you’re looking at what the lens delivers.

Color rendition

Color rendition in some of these images is best seen on a wide gamut monitor; colors lose some of their richness and go “dead” on an average monitor (like the Apple 30" Cinema Display).

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Bird of Paradise

Like the Hartblei 40/4, the background blur for this image is really lovely, and color are gorgeous. Probably the color could be further improved with a white balance adjustment here; this image was right out of the camera except for a 1.5 stop “push”.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/5.6


At full shift. Results are excellent at f/11 right out to the extreme corners.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/11

Without and with tilt

Click to see the larger images. Both at ~f/8, one without tilt and one with tilt.

The potential is there— no amount of stopping down can produce the depth of field and crisp rendition possible using lens tilt. The Hartblei 80/2.8 and all the SuperRotators allow the plane of focus to be placed just about anywhere.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/8, tilted



Under moderately harsh lighting and with well-defined edges (thorns, etc), the bokeh of the Hartblei 80/2.8 is pleasingly smooth, along with a very nice three-dimensional look.

Invasive thistle

Mid-day haze

The lighting looked awful here, but I was curious about how the optics would handle it. The color rendition and subtle distinctions between tones is remarkably good, especially in the greens. The image comes across as highly believable, in spite of the very challenging lighting and atmospheric haze.

Towards Palo Alto and Stanford


The blur qualities of the Hartblei 80/2.8 are velvety smooth, extremely pleasing, wow! Be sure to view the larger image to see what’s going on here.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/4

Seed husks

Velvety smooth, yet lively.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/5.6

Flowers close-up

Delicate tones and color, pleasing background rendition, this handheld shot shows that close-ups can be rewarding, even though the 80/2.8 is not designed as a macro lens.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/4

Trail signs

Not so great lighting, but pleasing color rendition and 3D separation of foreground from background. Really, the photo looks better than what I expected when seeing it at the time.



Converting to grayscale removes the distraction of color, and lets us see how the background renders. It is both smooth and lively at the same time, an effect sure to please many viewers, and transitions are very smooth, with no harsh edges. Such scenes can be fairly unattractive with some lenses.



The ultra-smooth background rendition lends itself well to “layering” the subject. Here the seed heads were waving about in the wind, and I tried several shots until I got an arrangement that seemed to “work”.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/4


Even at very close range, image quality is very high. I popped the contrast here (crudely) in this shot at dusk. This shot is at the closest possible focus.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6

Seed head

Here I tweaked the color for something inaccurate but interesting. I really like the “motion” of the background, it’s at play, yet smooth.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6

Hummingbird feeder

Be sure to view the larger image here. The background blur quality in the face of very strong backlighting remains extremely pleasing, a very painterly effect. The difference in rendition between the Hartblei 80mm and an older Hasselblad/Zeiss 80/2.8 I once shot is just tremendous, the latter having really ugly bokeh, but the Hartblei 80/2.8 offering just stunning results.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6


Sharpness and blur work together very well in this image.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6

Compost heap

A hopeful squash plant grows in last year’s compost heap.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6


The finest detail is recorded here, showing the outstanding resolving power, along with the lovely bokeh in other areas.

Note: this image is in the AdobeRGB color space, and won’t display properly on “stupid” browsers. Use Apple’s Safari or Firefox with color management.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6


The usual sharpness and its complement work nicely together here. Displayed in AdobeRGB.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ ~f/5.6

Flowering buckeye

This image is really rich, at least on a wide gamut display.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/5.6


Just a puff on these guys is fun to watch the seeds float away. I used Auto Levels to pop the contrast, more care could be taken here.

The way in which the “noisy” background blurs but remains lively is extremely appealing.

Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/5.6
Hartblei 80/2.8 @ f/5.6


Used with shift or tilt, the Hartblei 80/2.8 offers outstanding technical options.

Used normally (without shift or tilt), the Hartblei 80/2.8 offers gorgeous results, including exceptionally transparent color rendition, velvety-smooth bokeh and very “dimensional” separation of the background from in-focus areas. There is something very special about its image rendition, and it maintains high contrast and beautiful color throughout.

While it’s not a macro (close-up) lens, results at close range are terrific with resolving power outstanding even at the closest focusing range.

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