Hartblei Super-Rotator 80mm f/2.8 MC - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2005

Special thanks to Markus Stamm for providing this lens!


Occasionally we all want to try something very different - a macro or fisheye lens for instance or a tilt-shift lens. Nonetheless most us don´t really want to invest a fortune for a specialty task and this is the point where we can look to the east - not to the far east but to Russia, Belarus or Ukraine where we can find a couple of manufacturers offering exotic lens designs. They also offer "normal" lenses but here the involved compromises, specifically the lack of AF and aperture coupling, are usually unacceptable for mainstream lenses. But for rarely used, specialty items these compromises are viable. So let´s have a look at the Hartblei Super-Rotator 80mm f/2.8 MC - a tilt-shift lens (also available as 65mm and 120mm variant). The first odd thing is the name which sounds distinctively German but it is indeed a lens from Ukraine. Most Hartblei lenses are in medium format but some are available for 35mm SLRs/DSLRs like the sample in Canon EOS fit used for testing on a Canon EOS 350D / Digital RebelXT. On such an APS-C DSLR the field-of-view is equivalent to 128mm on full frame cameras.

The optical design is made of just 6 elements in 5 groups without any special elements. The filter size is 62mm. As mentioned it is a tilt-shift lens with a tilt movement range of 0-8 degrees and a shift movement of 0-12mm. The rather fat lens has a weight of 800g. The minimum focus distance is 0.6m.

Unlike e.g. Canon TS-E lenses the Hartblei is more flexible because the tilt-shift function is not limited to a one axis. The tilt feature allows you to change the focus plane either to produce more or less depth-of-field than conventional lenses at the same aperture setting. The shift function can be used to correct a distorted perspective by producing a trapezoid image thus counteracting the distortion effect when using the lens off a strictly horizontal composition. Both features can be controlled via dedicated handles (sticks) which can be rotated (thus the name Super-Rotator) to the desired effect. Depending on the specific camera model the rear control stick can sometimes collide with the (camera build-in) flash housing (e.g. on the Canon EOS 10D) but you can remove the sticks and control the tilt/shift function directly via the underlying control rings (a little less convenient).

As mentioned above the lens doesn't provide AF (not unusual - it´s the same with Canon TS-E lenses) nor any aperture coupling - in fact the camera isn´t even aware that the lens is mounted. Therefore you have to the the camera to either manual or aperture-priority mode. It´s a little cumbersome at first but get used to it after a while. The build quality of the lens is pretty good which is typical for many russian made lenses. The focus ring operates very smooth and well damped and the aperture and tilt/shift ring offer discrete steps with pronounced "clicks".

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