Hasselblad H4D-50 Medium Format Digital Camera Photo Shoot Experience Review

Hasselblad H4D-50

Hasselblad H4D-50 Hand Held and Tethered Review

I rarely use Medium Format Digital Camera’s when I shoot, as I find them overkill for most of what I do. That is fashion spreads in magazines like Harper’s BAZAAR, VOGUE etc. Generally 10-16 megapixel are more than enough. However, as I was asked to shoot images that would be used for large billboards etc. I decided that I would like to try out the Hasselblad H4D-50.

As you all know and if you don’t, I hate using tripods and for this shoot it was no exception. I was tethered to a Mac Pro and a couple of 24″ screens, one for the operator of the workstation and the other just in front of me and to my left, so I could monitor every image I shot in real time. I decided to use the Hasselblad HC 50-110 Zoom f/3.5-4.5 Lens for H Series Camera Bodies for the whole shoot, giving me maximum latitude for movement. I would hand hold the camera for the whole shoot which went till 7:00 PM.

Hasselblad HC 50-110 Zoom Lens

Although a rather heavy beast, I found the experience a lot more pleasant than I would have imagined. I did have a tendency of resting it on my lap between lengthy takes or when I wanted to study the images more closely. I did have a special work table next  to me to place the camera when breaks were required.

Although only center focus auto focus capable, I had no problem focusing on the eyes and then recomposing. Although I would have preferred at least 5 focus points, in a star shaped configuration. But then again, I was using “True Focus” and probably did not need a select focus option.  In fact I didn’t realize I was using true focus until about half way through the shoot, when my assistant informed me of the fact.

Hasselblad H4D-50

I found using the zoom lens a real pleasure and could not imagine getting stuck with a fixed focal length lens for this shoot, as that would require my moving away from the monitor, which I didn’t wish to do. The zoom lens mechanism was incredibly smooth and the auto focus worked surprisingly fast, faster than I expected, thus a very pleasant surprise to say the least.

I shot at 100 iso for the whole shoot at between f /11 and f/16 at a shutter speed of 1/15th to 1/30th of a second, as I mixed HMI cinema lights and flash and wanted to blend the two in my special way.

Hasselblad H4D-50

The quality of the images were exceptional. The skin tones were nicely rendered. I found the zoom lens to be extremely sharp and with 50 megapixels to play with, there was a lot a room for the Art Director to crop in if need be, in case the client decided that they wanted a completely different layout a month or so in to their usage. One good reason to use lots of pixels. For my magazine spreads, as I do all of the cropping, I am not confronted with that issue.

Each image was huge and if you don’t have a really powerful computer with tons of hard drive space, stay away from this beast, as it eats Hard Drives for Breakfast.

Hasselblad HD4-50

As to the ergonomics of the Blad, it has sure come long way since the 500 series, which for me is all that matters, as I found the 500 series cumbersome and totally user unfriendly. I found the layout intuitive and simple, as it should be. Everything was where you would expect it to be. It was sparse, utilitarian and workman like. In other words, a camera that you don’t have to think about when using it. Transparent and discreet are the words I would choose to describe the Hasselblad H4D-50 camera.

Hasselblad H4D-50

So, would I recommend the Hasselblad H4D series of camera’s? An unequivocal YES. Would I buy one? NO, as I would use this beast so infrequently, that it wouldn’t make any financial sense to me, unless of course Hasselblad decided to give me one and a few of their lenses, I would have to relent.

At around $29,000 for the body only, it is a very pricey toy indeed. But if money is not a concern go for it.

My Rating… Geez, I never do ratings! Oh well, I will this time:

It gets 5 Stars

5 Stars for the Hasselblad H3Dll-50

Hasselblad H4D-50 Overview

The Hasselblad H4D-50 Digital SLR Camera offers the ultimate in digital medium-format image capture to professional commercial, studio, and fine art photographers. Built around a 50 megapixel, 36.7 x 49.1mm CCD image sensor with 16-bit color, the H4D-50 captures the subtle nuances and fine details of any subject. The chip provides the basis for optimal lens performance with a lens factor of 1.0, with both HC and HCD lenses. From high-profile portraiture and fashion to international travel photography, the H4D-50 provides image professionals with the superior handling and high image quality synonymous with the Hasselblad brand.

The H4D-50 allows you to choose between working tethered to a computer, or untethered and storing your images on a compact flash card. A 4GB card will store about 60 images. You can view your captured images on the 3″ double-res (460.320 pixels) TFT 24bit color LCD display. The H4D-50 features True Focus with APL (Absolute Position Lock), making auto-focus substantially easier and more accurate. The camera has a wide ISO flexibility (ISO 100-800), and a flash sync of up to 1/800th of a second.

Options including GPS and Perspective Control modules, a choice of eye-level or waist-level finders, and optics from 28mm wide angle to 300mm telephoto, support the H-system philosophy of full user customization with uncompromising quality. Paired with Hasselblad Phocus software, the H4D-50 represents a complete, digital image solution for all of your professional needs.

Built around a 50 megapixel, 36.7 x 49.1mm CCD image sensor with 16-bit color. The chip provides the basis for optimal lens performance with a lens factor of 1.0, with both HC and HCD lenses.

Ultra-fast auto focus with True Focus with Absolute Position Lock allows true, accurate focusing throughout the image field. Camera also features AF Assist Illumination for working in dark environments.

 

Hasselblad H4D-50

90 MB/sec read-write performance on Extreme Pro cards from Sandisk

Rear uni-body housing for improved local servicing

Choose between working tethered to a computer or untethered storing your images on a compact flash card. This allows you to get the most of your camera system both on location and in the studio.

A large 3″ double-res (460.320 pixels) TFT 24 bit color display with a wide viewing angle allows you to view your images comfortably under most conditions.

Capable of flash sync speeds up to 1/800th of a second, the camera opens the door to powerful, action-stopping studio and location photography. From models in motion to powerful athletic portraits, Hasselblad’s central lens shutters lead the industry in speed, consistency, and reliability.

Process your RAW images in Hasselblad’s Phocus imaging toolbox, or work with your RAW images directly in Apple or Adobe imaging environments.

Hasselblad’s Phocus Software brings powerful capture, processing, and archiving capabilities to the H system. Using a FireWire 800 connection, Phocus can control all shooting functions of the camera including ISO, shutter speed, aperture value, and fine autofocus. Processing capabilities go beyond simple RAW conversion, with adjustments for distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration. Powerful archiving functions such as keyword generation, GPS tagging, and folder creation bring professional image organization to your Mac or PC system.

Hasselblad’s optional Global Image Locator (GIL) tags GPS coordinates, altitude, and time to all of your images files. This data is highly useful for location-specific applications and follow-up assignments. Using the included Phocus software, image mapping can be made directly to Google Earth.

About Benjamin Kanarek
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Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…

  • frank donato

    easiest way to get one of these is to get a large credit line then buy the camera and declare bankruptcy and move out of the country you live in. WORKS EVERY TIME.
    or you can give your fist born to RUMBLESTILTSKIN

  • Doug Barrow

    An interesting review. I wondered if you ever used a medium format digital camera for your shoots before. I could never get a digital medium format camera but I am fascinated by them. Their complexity, huge images and depth of field just amaze me.

    Maybe you should, given the chance, try the new Pentax 645D. I would be curious to see what you thought of it in one of your fashion shoots. I understand it is easier to handle as it is more like a large DSLR.

  • Joseph Graf

    Hand held at 1/15-1/30 and HMI lights? How sharp were the shots? I am imagining a lot of ghosting and/or soft focus images. How did you get around that?

    • I used a mix of HMI and flash for the back drop and flash on the model. Thus very little if any ghosting.

  • Anthony M.

    Nice! May I ask what your default cropped image ratio is? Thanks. 🙂

    • As in the sensor.

      • Anthony M.

        You don’t crop then? What about the images that you want to have in your portfolio? Do you crop those?