Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator

I made the switch to medium format late 2007 using a Phase One P30+ digital back attached to a Mamiya AFD camera body.  Among the lenses I was using at the time was a 45mm Hartblei Super-Rotator made in Kiev, Ukraine which taking a huge leap of faith I bought off E-Bay.  After waiting almost 30-days the lens arrived and boy was I impressed.  The lens is heavy and well made with little to no plastic with the setting numbers engraved and painted. 
3-shot image 12mm left/right and center on tripod
f/11 1/320 ISO 64 (full spectrum)
I ended up using the lens in shots in the Redwoods and Sequoia's among other locations with great success.  The Super-Rotator is a unique design that allows a tilt-shift capable of tilting in any axis. That's the good news; the bad is that it is slow to use and requires deliberate thought.  Manual focus and aperture ring allows the lens to be used on multiple camera bodies with the proper adaptor (more on this later).  Set at zero the lens can be shifted 12mm left, then rotating the lens to 180° it shifts 12mm right.  Likewise with the lens set at zero you can tilt the lens upwards then rotating to 270° lower it.  You can also rotate in-between shifting and using tilt to suit your needs.  The best way for me to describe this is to point to the website showing the instructions which are found here.  It can be confusing at first but like anything after a little practice it becomes clear.
Lens attached to the Phase One DF

Adaptor for the Sony

Hartblei attached to the Sony A7r

Sadly I sold the lens shortly after getting my Cambo WRS technical camera as I had (at that time) no need for a tilt/shift lens.  Fast-forward to now.  I've continued using the WRS as my main landscape camera and am using a Phase One DF 645 camera body as well.  I've also added the new Sony A7r after having it converted first to shoot 665nm infrared and just recently having it re-converted to capture full spectrum (more on this later). 


Sunbeam Rest Area I-8 California
Handheld with slight amount of rise
830nm IR

Another example of slight rise (tilt)

Lens centered and handheld
I found that I wanted/needed a lens capable of tilt/shift for the 7r.  I could have added a Canon tilt/shift lens however I wanted a lens that could be used on the 7r or the DF body and instantly thought of the Hartblei.  The added benefit of using the 45mm Hartblei was the ability to use additional filters as well as my placing it on the 7r it captures the "sweet-spot" of the medium format lens as well as making it into a wide 28mm.  Best of both worlds.

Two classic examples of not thinking it thru.  I had originally wanted to see what a square image would look like however instead of shooting the required 9-files I only shot 7.  At least I did get a good pano as evidenced of the first image shows.
Then there's this one.  As I was returning home I came across a small cattle drive.  Not having much time to switch lenses or add filters I made sure the lens was centered and captured this in full spectrum.  The file was later processed using a combination of Capture One 8 and Photoshop CC and Nik Software.
f/11 1/320 ISO 64

Placing any medium format lens on the 7r works well as the 35mm sensor works with the center of the lens which is the sweet spot of just about all lens. I've written about this before and won't go into it again.  Placing a tilt/shift lens on a mirrorless camera is a great idea.  With any lens on a mirrorless camera you are seeing what the sensor sees which aids in shutter speed and aperture.  Adding a tilt/shit lens adds to the experience as you instantly see what the changes are as you make them in live view.  Again, using this or any tilt/shift lens requires deliberate thought as to what effect you are looking for (I'll address more later).  In short, I'm extremely pleased with the lens and look forward to using it for years to come. 

This will become a two-part series addressing/showing how the Hartblie Super-Rotator works first on the Sony A7r then on the Phase One DF with an IQ160 digital. 
As always, let me know if you have any questions that I can answer.




  1. Hi, thanks for posting this! There isn't much info about these lenses on the web, so any user experience is very valuable. BUT, as far as I know the internet site of the Hartblei lens producer is or and NOT! is a sort of a scam, a former employee owns the site you provided the link to ( and he does not produce any lenses, notice that he has never have them in stock. You can contact Stefan Steib at to verify this.

  2. Thank you for the comment. I had written to Stefan off of who told me to get the lens off eBay.

  3. Hi Guys,
    I recently purchased the latest version of this lens to use on my Mamiya 645DF fitted with an IQ260 digital back. However, so far my results from using this lens have been very disappointing. Either using front tilt or not the outer edges of the image are very soft whilst the central portion is tack sharp. Your images seem to be sharp across the whole frame, any ideas where I may be going wrong ?.
    Regards, Chris

    1. Chrissy, thank you for your question. The images posted here where all taken using a Sony A7r using an adaptor to mount the medium format lens to a 35mm body. I have also used the lens on my Phase One DF/IQ180 with great success.

      A couple things of note using this lens. It's a beast no matter what camera you have it mounted on and focusing can be troublesome. The best practice I found in focusing is to open the lens up wide open; the additional light should help in the focusing. Once you have the focus set then stop down to where you want to capture the image. Don

  4. Hi Thanks for this.
    Have bought the lens spurred on by this review. Have a 645DF and Apus 10 MK2 back and a Sony A7r MK2
    Same set as your self. I don't expect it to be at the same level as the Schneider glass I have on the 645 DF ( but hoping to be surprised ) but expecting great things from it on the Sony. Will let you know. I am looking forward to more from you on this. Thanks again.

    1. Lee - It’s a decent enough lens while giving you movements on whatever you mount it on; just don’t expect miracles. Since writing this I’ve gone through a major change up in my gear selling almost all my prime lenses for my MF and scaling back on the IR camera. My major lens for the IR is a super wide 12mm (will be writing about this shortly) while keeping the 24-50 and 50 f/.95.
      The biggest change is what I’m now doing with medium format – again I’ll be writing about this shortly.
      Best of luck


  5. Hi Nice review. Where did you get that adapter as the one I have Fotodiox Pro will not fit

    1. Lee, I got mine from B&H Photo (please use our link to visit)


  6. Hello. I had the version of PhaseOne before and I was really disappointed for the distortion of that lens. I don’t know exactly how the distortion controlled of this version of Hartblei 45/3.5. Any one knows the difference between the Old version of this super-rotator and this new version? There is the difference in the price on their website. Thanks.