The Pentacon Six System
by TRA
Lens Data Summary

Hartblei 45mm shift-only lens test

The Hartblei 45mm f/3.5 shift lens

It is reported that the 45mm and 65mm Hartblei shift lenses use the optical elements of the Arsenal Mir-26B and Mir-38B, respectively.  Hartblei adds an excellent multi-coating that looks far superior to that on the original Arsenal lenses.

One of the best ways to test a lens in real-life situations is to take it on a trip and leave behind any lens with the same focal length at one would normally take.  This is what I did for a visit to Germany in September 2016.  I left behind my normal wide-angle lens, the 45mm Mir 69 (see it here), and instead took the Hartblei 45mm shift lens.  How did I get on?  How did the lens perform?  Here is my report.

As well as providing information, this website also provides some helpful instruction on how to use the items shown here.
There are some important techniques that help to ensure success when using shift lenses, and some of these techniques are explained on this page.
We can also often learn from other people’s mistakes (in this case, mine!).
I hope that the following pictures and tips will do more than just give information on the Hartblei 45mm shift lens,
but will also inspire readers to buy a shift lens, and help them to achieve success with it.

I did consider taking the “Wiese Technoplan-T” 45mm shift and tilt down (only) lens, which is illustrated here.  This appears to be a rebadged version of the Hartblei shift and tilt down lens.  However, the lens was going to travel in my backpack, and I was worried that – even protected in its soft pouch – in the crush of luggage in the overhead locker in the aeroplane, the spindle that controls the tilt could be damaged, so I took the shift-only lens (illustrated above) instead.  For architecture, which was my intended subject on this trip, shift is important, and tilt is rarely needed.

The following picture will remind you of the shape of the three Hartblei 45mm shift and shift/tilt lenses.

From L to R: shift only, shift (in any direction) & tilt down, shift & tilt in any direction (“Super-Rotator”)
(Illustration from a Hartblei lens manual)

The same three lenses “in the flesh”
(The middle one here is the rebadged version bearing the name “Wiese”.)

Visitors to this website will probably recall that all three of these lenses (and the Arsenal equivalent of the shift-only version) will shift up to a maximum of 12mm, but that users are advised not to shift the lenses more than 10mm if shooting on the full 6×6 format, which I was of course doing, on my usual Pentacon Six camera.

It is important to remind readers that “6×6” is only the nominal frame size.  This designation was made popular in the 1930s and continues in use up to the present day.  However, no “6×6” camera from any manufacturer actually delivers a usable image that is 6 centimetres wide by 6 centimetres high.  Hasselblad specified the frame size for its “6×6” cameras as being 54mm wide × 54mm high.  The film gate in the Pentacon Six that I took with me (and no doubt all other Pentacon Sixes!) is approximately 55.43mm wide and 55.39mm high.  However, as the film is set back from the gate, pressed on the guide rails above and below it, and since the image-forming rays spread out from the lens to the film, the actual image on the film is in fact fractionally larger than the camera’s film gate itself, being approximately 55.5mm wide and 55.5mm high. The very edges of this frame will not be printed in any enlarger with a nominally “6×6” gate, nor will they be visible if a reversal film is used and mounted in standard Medium Format slide mounts.

If you examine a film exposed in a Pentacon Six (or almost certainly with any other medium format camera), you will see an image that is larger than 54mm × 54mm.  However, only the image area that is 54mm square is intended to be used.  It is important to say this for two reasons:

  • some modern film scanners enable us to scan an area of the film that is substantially larger than this 54mm square area – even right into the film rebates at the top and the bottom of the film;
  • with shift lenses, we must not expect coverage to extend to a full 60mm wide and high, nor even the actual full width and height of the image recorded on the film.  Therefore, at extreme shift positions, we may observe vignetting (darkening of the some of the corners of the image on the film), but this may be in an area of the frame that is beyond the intended 54mm × 54mm coverage.

To start with, let us compare the non-shifted and shifted results with this lens.

A street in Leipzig
Both of these pictures were taken with the Hartblei 45mm shift-only lens on a Pentacon Six, using Fuji PRO400H film.  Exposure for both was 1/500 sec at f/11, hand-held.

With the lens set at zero shift

With the lens shifted 10mm up

Alignment of the camera is clearly wrong with both of these photographs.  I aligned the camera carefully with the side of the building in the foreground on the right-hand edge of the frame, so that feature and the buiding in the distance behind it are parallel to the right-hand edge of the frame.  I should instead have made sure that the centre of the image was parallel with the sides of the frame (i.e., truly vertical).  That way, keystoning would have been less obvious, whereas in these images it is quite pronounced on the opposite (left-hand) side of each image.  Here I also ignored three other basic principles of architectural photography:

  • Use a tripod  (In these two pictures, this would have avoided the slight framing difference between the shots, the second of which shows less of the left of the scene and more of the right.)
  • When using a wide-angle lens, mount a bubble level on the camera  (Two-way bubble levels are easy to find, and one should have been mounted on an accessory shoe on the prism, as here and here – scroll down for clearer images of this.)
  • Work slowly and methodically.

So, if we disregard these errors, we observe that when the lens is not shifted up, a lot of the paved street surface is seen and the top of the main building is cut off.  With the lens shifted up the maximum amount recommended for 6×6 cameras, a lot of the unwanted street surface is eliminated, and the top of the building is included within the frame.  However, even with a wide-angle lens and essentially full shift, it has still been necessary to tilt the camera up a little in order to include the top of the building and any such tilt becomes extremely obvious when a wide-angle lens is used.

Even more of interest is the darkening of the top, left-hand corner of the frame when the lens is shifted.  However, I must point out that the person who sold this shift lens to me kindly (??!) supplied it with a lovely Hoya Super HMC PRO1 UV filter mounted on it.  I believe that it is the mount of the UV filter that is causing the vignetting.  I have therefore now removed the filter and put it on one of the non-shift 45mm Mir-26B lenses from which all these shift versions are derived.

And so we learn another rule to apply when using these extremely wide-angle shift and shift/tilt lenses:
  • Do not put a filter on the lens.
For the same reason, it is generally unwise to put a lens hood or shade on a shift lens – even though the Super-Rotator was supplied with one.  (This lens hood can be seen in the last photograph on this page.)

We must also bear in mind that for this test I have been quite unforgiving and, except where indicated, have not cropped the images.

Let us now look at some further images shot with the Hartblei 45mm shift-only lens (all of them, still with the filter fitted to the lens!).

This is the filter that was on the lens

Lutherstadt Wittenberg Pentacon Six with 45mm Hartblei shift only lens and Fuji PRO400H film

9mm shift up 1/500 f/22

In this shot (also hand-held), the camera has been aligned more accurately.
The lens has been shifted up slightly less and while some vignetting is present, it is not particularly obvious.

10mm shift up 1/1000 sec f/11
Luther Denkmal (Martin Luther Memorial)
It was not possible to avoid tilting the camera up here, but by using a 10mm upward shift on the lens I have been able to reduce the amount of tilt and so minimise the keystoning effect.

In both images, some vignetting is observable in the top corners, but it is not excessively obtrusive.

We will look at three further pictures from “Luther city Wittenberg”, which in 2016 was preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.  All three are cropped out of the full frame.

45mm Hartblei shift only lens 9mm shift up 1/1000 f/11
This image shows the full width of the 6×6 frame, but has been cropped top and bottom to improve the composition.
There is no vignetting, but I do detect a slight amount of the barrel distortion for which the Mir-26B is well-known (see here).
It could easily be corrected in software, but here we are looking at the image as it was recorded by the Hartblei 45mm shift lens.
The image to the right is a very small portion of the total frame, which can be seen immediately above it on this page.

It shows the excellent resolution of the Hartblei 45mm shift lens, as well as the total absence of chromatic aberrations (colour fringeing) and also the effectiveness of Hartblei’s Multi Coating, which has totally prevented reflections from the bright building degrading the quality of the shadow areas of the image.

A further crop of the same image, reproduced below this text, this time being a tiny portion of the original image, shows the capabilities of this lens and of the 6×6 format of the Pentacon Six.

I can definitely read some of the text on the right-hand page, which says, “Das Neue Testament verdeutscht von Doktor Martin Luther” (“The New Testament translated into German by Doctor Martin Luther”).  If I had used the slower Fuji160 film, the resolution would have been better and the text easier to read.


We go to the famous, historic, university city of Halle for the next shot.  Halle now calls itself “Händelstadt Halle”, in honour of its famous son Georg Friedrich Händel, known in English as “Handel”, the composer of the music for the world-famous “Handel’s Messiah”.  (We also note in passing, however, that Halle University now styles itself  “Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg”.)

This is a “grab shot” of the tourist information office and the first picture shows the whole of the frame.  Again, I am shooting with Fuji PRO400H.  Here I shifted up by just 6mm to reduce the intrusion into the shot of the parked bicycles – a common feature of German cities!  The exposure was 1/250 sec at f/16

I obviously was not square on to the building, nor was the camera horizontal.
We notice that there is no vignetting, but the infamous barrel distortion is very obvious with the window near the top of the frame.

Straightening the image and cropping it results in a much more satisfactory composition in which the barrel distortion is not obvious.  However, the angle of the bottom of the door reveals that the back of the camera was not parallel with the building.
In spite of this, we have a satisfactory picture that has benefitted from the shift capacity of this Hartblei lens.

We will end this review of the Hartblei 45mm shift-only lens with three more pictures, this time from the city of Leipzig, which is in eastern Germany.  Again, we are shooting with Fuji PRO400H – we should have had more confidence that the fine weather was going to last, and have loaded the 160 film!

Shift is 10mm up, exposure is 1/500 sec at f/11
Exposure was difficult, and the left-hand side of the image, which was in shadow, is under-exposed.
This has made more obvious the vignetting in the top left-hand corner, which is, however, somewhat camuflaged by the tree.

45mm Hartblei shift only lens, 0mm shift. exposure: 1/500 sec f/14
Just because the lens has the capacity to shift, one doesn’t have to shift it,
if no shift is needed!

45mm Hartblei shift only lens 10mm shift up, exposure: 1/500 sec at f/11
This shows the full width of the frame.  It has been cropped top and bottom, to suit the composition, but no perspective correction or rotating was needed.
This was clearly a case where the shift facility enable me to avoid converging verticals, and also to reduce the impact of the traffic on the image.
The wall shows slogans that were used in the mass demonstrations on the streets in the last days of the GDR dictatorship in Autumn 1989.  Photos must be greatly reduced before they can be uploaded and displayed on this website, but in the original, full-resolution image it is easily possible to read slogans of the time such as “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”), “Keine Gewalt” (“No use of force”), “Die Mauer muss weg” (“The Wall must go”), “Freiheit” (“Freedom”), “Frei Wahlen” (“Free elections”) and “Demokratie” (“Deomocracy”).


I enjoyed taking this lens with me on my trip to Germany, and when, on my next trip, I took the much smaller Mir-69 non-shift lens, I really missed the shift function.  I found that metering with this lens was fast, using my usual, stop-down metering mode:

  1. Set suitable shutter speed on camera and meter
  2. Set lens to full aperture, focus and compose (in this case, shifting the lens, if desired)
  3. Switch on the meter
  4. Turn the aperture ring until the needle in the viewfinder aligns with the index mark.
  5. Fire!

I found this very fast and easy to operate – although perhaps I should sometimes have taken a little more time composing some images more carefully!

There is a report on the Hartblei 45mm “Super-Rotator” version of this lens here.

If you are working through the lens data section, to go on to the next section, the Hartblei 150mm lens, click here.

If you are working through the lens tests section, to go to the next section, further advantages of shift lenses, click here.

To go back to the beginning of the Lens Data section, click below and then choose the range of lenses that you want to read about.

Back to beginning of the Lens Data section


© TRA 17 August 2017, Revised 4 September 2017