First Impressions, Hasselblad H4D-40

The Hasselblad H4D-40, First Impressions

This is not an impressive photo, especially not as an opener for a series of entries on an impressive a camera.  What is impressive is that this is not a photo at all, but a 100% crop from a capture with this new beast-of-a-camera from Hasselblad.  To the proven controls, ergonomics, and lenses of the established H series, the H4D-40 adds an impressive new auto focus system and a new sensor.

I look forward to spending good time with the camera and sharing my experience, including a couple upcoming editorial portrait shoots.  This is an impressive camera.

Here’s the photo from which the above has been cropped:

[more after the jump..]


New “True Focus” autofocus system is an innovation that works well, adjusting for recomposition after focus lock.

The H4D auto focus is noticeably faster than previous generations.  With this camera, the gap between 645 and 35mm formats is a bit narrower.

A 40 MP sensor.

And, like the H3DII before it (reviewed here) the H4D offers:

Awesome digital back/camera/lens integration including a shared battery and shared controls and menus

DSLR-like handling, especially compared to previous generations of digital backs and medium format cameras

A stunning viewfinder that can be detached and substituted with a waist level finder

ISO range of 100-1600

Flash sync up to 1/800 s

Compact Flash or tethered shooting

Tight integration with Hasselblad’s very usable (and free) Phocus software

etc. etc..

Quick Introduction

This is Hasselblad’s fifth generation of H series camera (counting both the H3D and H3DII generations).  It follows the traditional 645 format, with a slight crop factor.  A few years ago, with the H3D, Hasselblad went with an all-proprietary system, including integrated and partnered camera/back combinations and a complete line of auto focus lenses.  The assembled company includes input from both the Imacon company (paired with Hasselblad by a common parent company) and Fuji, who have contributed optical technology to the Swedish camera manufacturer.

The system’s only real competition is a more open, but less integrated line of products from the partnership of Phase One, Mamiya, Leaf, and Schneider-Kreuznach.  The two camps, Hasselblad and PH/M/L/SK have both shrewdly survived the digital revolution that forced from the market historic competition like Contax and Rolei.  There are two new and untested forces entering the medium format market, Leica’s new “S” system and Pentax’s newly digitized 645D.

When compared to the very best of 35mm DSLRs, the H4D-40 offers some compelling advantages.  Its detachable back can be used with technical cameras, its viewfinder can be swapped with a waist level attachment, Hasselblad offers a tilt/shift attachment that can be used in conjunction with a number of H lenses, the camera can be completely operated via firewire tether, and the standard viewfinder offers a huge, brilliant view.  The comparitively enormous sensor and 16-bit capture provides an awesome increase in detail and dynamic range, as well as an aesthetic increase in selective focus.  I would also consider close integration with Hasselblad’s Lightroom-like Phocus software to be an advantage, offering easy and brilliant lens correction.

I look forward to sharing images and experiences with the big gun over the coming weeks.  My initial impressions are very positive.  It is comfortable and straight-forward to use and, when used carefully, can generate awesome images.

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H4D-40 at B&H

H4D-40 with the standard 80mm f2.8 at B&H

Entry-Level Digital Medium Format and the $10k H3DII-31

One Response to “First Impressions, Hasselblad H4D-40”
  1. Tim Layton says:

    Matt, can’t wait to see more on this because as you know I am trying to decide between the H3DII-31 and the H4D-40. Since the 4D is twice the price I want to really make sure the value is there for my work. A couple of quick questions: a.) You briefly mentioned a new sensor, can you elaborate? b.) The current price is $17,995 for the body and $19,995 for the body + 80mm kit. Is this pricing the original pricing or has it been reduced? c.) Do you know the official release date of the H4D-40? Thanks and I really look forward to seeing what you do with the big H4D.


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