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Hasselblad H1

by Michael Reichmann, November, 2002


Hasselblad is one of the most venerable names in photography. For more than 50 years it has designed and manufactured a series of 6X6cm (2 ¼ inches square) cameras that have essentially defined the format. From fashion photographers to astronauts, a Hasselblad camera has been a professional tool of the first caliber.

Why have Hasselblads developed such a firm foothold in the minds and camera bags of so many professionals? Certainly they are not without problems. Hasselblads break about as often as other cameras, given the use and abuse of many pros.

One reason has been marketing. Hasselblad, especially in the US market, has done an excellent job of positioning its products. How many other cameras have gone to the moon? Another reason has been the lenses. Zeiss optics have a reputation second to none, and those for the Hasselblad series of cameras are exemplary.

But as Dylan reminds us, thetimes they are a changing. With the exception of the Hasselblad XPan, which is designed and built by Fuji and marketed by Hasselblad everywhere in the world except Japan (more on this in a while), two things have defined Hasselblad and its products: the cameras are designed primarily for 2 ¼ square format and feature manual focus. While every other maker of 35mm and medium format cameras has embraced autofocus (even Contax), Hasselblad alone has resisted the siren call.

Hasselblad’s First 645

Figure 1.

Even with the hefty HC 50-110mm f/3.5-f/4.5 zoom the H1 handles well.

This has now changed forever. At Photokina in September 2002 Hasselblad announced the H1, the first in a new series of medium format cameras. The H1 is unique in several important regards. The main ones are that it is Hasselblad’s first 645 format camera, and it features autofocus lenses. In addition it is in large part manufactured by Fuji and it features Fuji made lenses. All of these will be controversial to many of the faithful.

I was very intrigued when the H1 was announced. The 645 format autofocus market already has some strong contenders; Contax, Pentax and Mamiya being the other players. How would the H1 stack up?

At the PhotoPlus Expo show in New York, just a month after Photokina, Hasselblad held a press event to introduce the new camera system to photographic journalists. This would be the first opportunity that anyone has had to work with this new camera. I was asked to report on this by photo.net, and since I was already going to be in New York for the show I enthusiastically accepted the invitation.

The Press Event

The venue for the event was the New York Botanical Gardens. About a dozen photographic industry journalists were invited and participated in one of two sessions that day. Attending as well were a large number of Hasselblad’s senior executives from both Sweden and the U.S., and several engineers and designers from the factory.

Other than the formal and social aspects of the event about which I’ll only say that Hasselblad is a class-act there was a brief introduction and overview, followed by a one-on-one half hour session with a factory representative, during which I was given an introduction to the camera’s controls, film loading etc. Since there were no manuals available, and time was short, this was an excellent opportunity to become familiar with operational issues and to ask a few questions.

We were then turned loose inside and outside the gardens (the inside part was welcome because it was a blustery N.Y. Fall day). Several attractive models were provided. A Fuji rep was also on hand and everyone was given as much film of whatever type was desired.

First Impressions

Figure 2.

The following are my impressions of the Hasselblad H1, based on about 2 hours of concentrated shooting and examination. There was an assortment of lenses available. I worked mainly with the HC 50-110mm f/3.5 – f.4.5 zoom, though for a while I also used the standard HC 80mm f/2.8. I shot with Fuji Provia 100F, Provia 400F and Astia.

When you first pick up the H1, your first impression is that the handling is going to be great, and two hours of almost constant use showed this to be true. The ergonomics are first-rate. The design is in the current idiom, with a right-handed grip on which is the majority of the controls as well as a large monochrome LCD display.

When I first brought the camera up to my eye I was immediately taken with how bright and clear the viewfinder is. Up until now my gold standard for camera viewfinders has been the current Pentax 645 NII. I didn’t have one available for a side-by-side comparison, but my impression is that the H1’s viewfinder is at least as large and bright as the Pentax, and certainly among the best that I’ve ever used.

I’ll have more to say about various aspects of handling in a while, but let’s look at some of the camera’s more interesting features and capabilities.

The Feel

Since the camera is a hand tool, along with its ergonomics (how its various function fall to hand and are used) the actual “feel” of a camera is critical. For a working professional a camera will be in his or her hands for many hours a day, day in and day out.

While the H1’s body has an aluminum core with stainless steel housing, the external surface has some sort of plastic coating. This will be a bit of a shift for anyone used to the traditional metal and textured leatherette finish of traditional Hasselblads. But, it makes the camera very comfortable to hold. It won’t become as hot in the summer or as cold in the winter. Let’s face it: as much as traditionalists enjoy the beautiful machined finish of camera designs from the 1960’s, plastic camera body finishes are what we get today, saving both weight and manufacturing costs.

Autofocus

With the H1 as Hasselblad’s first autofocus camera, users are bound to wonder what compromises, if any, have had to be made over the feel of traditional manual focus lenses. I’m pleased to say very few. Incidentally, with the exception of Leica (which will probably get around to it in 2023), Hasselblad is the last major camera manufacturer to make the move to autofocus.

The autofocus works well, and quickly. I was told that it can track from closest focusing distance to infinity in 400 milliseconds. The single large focus point is at center screen, but as with most autofocus cameras a light press on the shutter release will hold focus while the frame is recomposed. Focusing in low light appears to be good, with little hunting, and while the number of sensors and absolute focus speed are not on a par with the top 35mm cameras, it’s as good if not better than any other medium format camera that I’ve used. The lenses have a very large rubber-textured focusing ring, and manual focusing always overrides autofocus. Manual focus feel is excellent, with none of the looseness that is found in some other similar lens systems.

Lenses

Speaking of lenses, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The H1’s new HC series lenses, while specified by Hasselblad, are designed and built by Fuji. While this is no bad thing (Fuji’s medium and large format lenses carry truly excellent reputations), there are some who will bemoan the departure of Zeiss glass -- a hallmark of Hasselblad cameras since the 1950’s. My response to anyone that expresses such concerns is Get over it! Based on both reputation and the results from my initial tests, H1 users will find this lens family to be absolutely first rate.

At launch, in late November, 2002, there are four lenses in the line up:

  • HC 35mm f/3.5
  • HC 80mm f/2.8
  • HC150mm f/3.2
  • HC 50-110mm f/3.5-f/4.5 zoom
  • And a 1.7X extender

In mid-2003 there will be three more lenses added:

  • HC 50mm f/3.5
  • HC 120mm f/4
  • HC 210mm f/4

This is a quite comprehensive line-up. Even the initial four lenses will likely satisfy most users, especially those in the wedding / portrait / commercial photography world that Hasselblad expects to make up the majority of purchasers. The next three lenses nicely round out the line. The only hole that I see is at the long end. I would have expected a 300mm, or a 400mm. I for one would find the absence of such a lens to be a serious impediment, since I use long lenses extensively for environmental wildlife and some landscape work.

There is a partial solution on the way, and this will also make owners of current Hasselblad lens systems happy. There will be an adapter made available that allows earlier Hasselblad “V” system lenses to be mounted on H1 bodies. Exactly which features will and won’t work is currently uncertain. The company is still designing this device, and one factory engineer confided that it was not going to be an easy task. Imagine what must be involved in taking purely mechanical (and some hybrid) lenses and allowing them to work on a totally electronic lens mount body. Apparently Hasselblad hopes to have this adapter available by mid-2003. I was told that we can expect the camera to provide focus confirmation with all earlier lenses.

Figure 3.

This frame was taken with the 80mm f/2.8 lens. The scan represents about 50% of the full frame. Film used was Provia 400F.

Film Backs

Backs are of course removable. Instead of a removable dark slide (I have either lost or sat on dozens of Hasselblad dark slides over the years), the H1’s backs feature a fold-out lever that opens and closes an internal dark slide for back removal. It takes 3 full turns of this lever and I found this to be somewhat slow in operation. I much prefer the rapid-acting laminar dark slide of the Rollei 6008.

Film inserts may be inserted and removed while the back is on the camera. Unlike with previous generation film inserts, there is no need to match inserts and backs. Any insert will work with any back. Also, and this is quite elegantly designed, the backs and inserts can accept both 120 and 220 film without any need for the user to set or indicate which is being loaded. The back senses the type of film being used and automatically changes the pressure plate position. Very neat. To my knowledge not only is this is a world first, but also a real boon to busy photographers who work with both film types.

Each back has a small LCD screen that allows you to set the film’s ISO. There is also automatic ISO sensing if you use Fuji encoded film, not surprising given the involvement of Fuji in this project. There is more than a passing resemblance in this regard to the windows found on the Fuji GX680iii film backs.

When film is loaded there is no need to line up arrows on the paper backing with a mark on the insert. Simply attach the paper leader to the take up spool and place the insert in the back. Film advance to frame one is automatic, as is film wind at the end of the roll. There is a recessed quick wind-off button on the camera body for emptying a back before the roll is finished.

This brings me to two of the only quibbles that I have with the H1’s design. The first is that the backs don’t have a manual film wind knob. This means that if a back has a partially completed roll and you want to remove it, you need to attach it to an H1 body and either fire off the remaining frames or press the “rewind” button. Not a show-stopper, but I can see times when this will be annoying or problematic -- such as when driving to the lab with a rush job.

The second concern that I have is that there is no interlock to prevent removing a film insert while film is loaded. Of course you can tell if it’s loaded by checking either the camera’s main LCD screen or the back’s smaller one, but I can imagine situations where this could happen. Earlier Hasselblads had a small crescent-shaped window that indicated by showing red whether film was loaded or not, but other manufacturers (Rollei for example) have designs that prevent such accidents, and I’m surprised that Hasselblad hasn’t addressed this in their new design.

About Digital

In addition to 120 and 220 film the H1 can take both instant film (Polaroid & Fuji) and digital backs. I didn’t bother testing the Polaroid back since I normally don’t use one, but other journalists did, and from what I saw operation was straightforward.

What did interest me though was the use of the H1 with digital backs. In a conversation with one of the Hasselblad engineers (and as is clear from the camera’s product literature), Hasselblad saw as vital the need for the H1 to have comprehensive integration with digital backs. As the industry makes its inexorable transition to digital this makes the H1 the first medium format camera of the 21st century.

Yes, digital backs can be placed on some earlier Hasselblads. But it’s a klugey solution at best. The H1, on the other hand, was designed from the start to have a comprehensive digital back interface. There will be two digital backs available as the H1 starts to ship; the 16MP Kodak DCS pro back and an 11MP Phase One back.

Unfortunately neither back was available at the press briefing, but to give you an idea of the level of integration that is possible, as soon as a shot is taken, a histogram is displayed on the camera grip’s monochrome LCD. Not the back’s LCD — the camera’s. Clearly, the communication bus between the back and the camera can convey a broad range of information, and consequently we can expect that the H1 will offer a level of handling integration when using digital backs that approaches that of all-in-one 35mm digital SLRs.

One thing that disappointed me was that as I walked around the PhotoPlus Expo trade show floor the day after the press preview I went to various digital back manufacturers and asked them about their plans for the H1. The story I heard was the same — that Hasselblad is choosing to only work with certain back manufacturers and that the H1’s databus specification is not being made generally available. In my opinion this is a mistake on Hasselblad’s part, and will hinder the growth of this otherwise exemplary camera. Closed systems benefit no one. Open systems engender broad acceptance. Enough said.

Menus -- We’ve got Menus

After the first few moments of holding an H1, feeling its handling and heft and looking through the viewfinder, the top panel of the camera’s right-hand grip catches your attention. It contains a large illuminated LCD panel, six button and two control wheels; one wheel next to the shutter release, where it can be controlled with your index finger, and the second on the back of the grip where it falls under your thumb. This combination of controls provides the photographer with comprehensive and easy to access control of virtually all of the camera’s features.

I won’t bore you with a recitation of what all the buttons and wheels do. What I will say is that I found the user interface of the menu design to be quick and intuitive. There are three buttons on the top panel control for Flash, Auto Focus and Drive modes which allow you to change these settings quickly But I particularly like the fact that when you enter “Menu” mode (by pressing the menu button of course), these three buttons become “soft keys”, changing their function depending on the functions being changed. It sounds complicated, but in reality it speeds up adjustments and minimizes the number of buttons needed.

Though I didn’t have time to explore them fully, the H1 allows the setting of a number of “profiles” which let the photographer customize the camera in various ways to their style of shooting.

Figure 4.

Photographed with the HC 50-110mm f/3.5-f/4.5 zoom at approximately 55mm. Film used was Provia 400F.

Date Imprinting

Like other recent 645 cameras, the H1 permits data imprinting on the film margins. This shows the usual information such as shutter speed, F stop, time / date and even the photographer’s name!

Batteries

The battery compartment takes a small insert, which holds 3 CR-123 lithium batteries. There is an optional holder available that will take 8 AAA rechargeable NiMh batteries. At this point it’s too early to tell what battery life will be like, though Hasselblad claims 2,000 shutter releases on a set of batteries. Where autofocus and film advance fit into this equation remains to be seen.

Shutters

The H1 uses a totally new electronic shutter of Hasselblad’s own design. These are leaf shutters in each lens and offer timing from an impressive 1/800 seconds down to 18 hours! Flash sync is available at all speeds.

Flash

Surprisingly the camera has a built-in pop-up flash located in the meter prism. It has a Guide Number of 12. Just the thing for creating a catch light in the subject’s eye or filling in the shadows on close-ups! The meter prism also has a hot shoe and can take Metz SCA 3002 system flashes using the new SCA 3902 adapter. Of course there’s a PC socket as well for attaching studio flash units.

Other Items

Of course there’s motorized film advance, at 2 FPS. Not quite in 35mm SLR territory, but just fine for fashion and wedding work.

The camera has a built-in intervalometer, which lets you set the number of frames shot from 2 to 32, and at intervals from 1 second to 24 hours. There is also auto bracketing available with 2, 3 or 5 exposures in ½, 1/3rd ,  or full stop increments

Weight

The H1 body is of moderate weight at 800 grams. Add a film back, meter prism, film, batteries and the 80mm lens and you end up with a total weight in hand of just over 2 kilograms.

So Who Makes The H1?

A lot has been made by some people about the fact that H1 is the result of a joint venture between Hasselblad and Fuji. I asked one of the Hasselblad reps about the details of this partnership. Hasselblad conceived the H1 camera system and lenses and was responsible for their design, including the specification of the lenses. The unique new shutters that are in the lenses, and the camera body itself are also built by Hasselblad in Sweden, while the lenses, meter prism and film backs are built by Fuji.

The project began in 1997, and was committed by 1999, with a projected late 2002 launch date. The entire project has cost Hasselblad approximately $35 million, which must represent a major component of the company’s anticipated sales and revenues.

In this era of the globalization, an arrangement where a company designs a product and then finds the best engineering and manufacturing resources, regardless of where in the world they may be located, makes perfect sense. Many companies market products that have components made in one country, designed in a second, and assembled in a third. So why not Hasselblad? As long as the design (the gestalt) of the camera remains true to form, I see no harm, and in fact there are many potential benefits from bringing more fertile minds to bear than can be found in one company. My brief time with the H1 shows it to have the full Hasselblad DNA and to be a worthy member of the Hasselblad family.

Price

The price of the H1 has been announced at about U.S. $6,000 with 80mm lens, one film back and metering prism. Add a digital Kodak DCS Pro back and the tab comes to about $18,000. Second mortgage anyone?

I have no doubt, though, that Hasselblad will sell as many as it can make, and that professional photographers around the world will embrace the H1. Just as they did with the 500C almost a half-century ago, many professional photographers will regard the H1 as a standard tool for the industry.

Text and Photographs © 2002 Michael H. Reichmann
Michael Reichmann is a fine-art landscape and wildlife photographer located in Toronto, Canada. His work is widely published and collected by galleries and private collectors worldwide. Michael is the publisher of both The Luminous Landscape web site ( www.luminous-landscape.com) and The Video Journal, a quarterly DVD-video based magazine about photography. Michael is also a Contributing Editor to Photo Techniques magazine.

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Laurie Young , November 02, 2002; 08:44 P.M.

I was lucky enough to have a breif play with the H1 today at a Hasselblad promotion today. My first impression was that it is a stunningly beautiful camera. I felt totally at home with it within a few seconds.

I do have a few concerns though, the rep told me that they think the Fuji glass is the best there currently is, but I take that with a pinch of salt and would like to see some side by side comparisons with Zeiss glass.

The (Minolta made) autofocus seemed fast and accurate, quickly locking onto the subject and the time for the lens to focus was very impressive. But again I wonder how it would cope in low contrast or low light situations.

Despite thses concerns, I have to agree I think the H1 is very impressive, and worthy of the reputation it has inheritted with the Hasselblad name.

Austin Franklin , November 02, 2002; 09:21 P.M.

Regarding this comment:

"there are some who will bemoan the departure of Zeiss glass -- a hallmark of Hasselblad cameras since the 1950’s. My response to anyone that expresses such concerns is “Get over it!”--Michael Reichmann"

There has been a huge difference between Fuji MF glass and Zeiss glass, as far as out of focus rendering is concerned...which is also called "bokeh". I have used a lot of Fuji MF glass in the past, and it's bokeh is horrible. Zeiss glass tends to render bokeh very pleasantly, as does Leitz glass (Leica). So, given your example "Figure 3", it confirms my concern, that switching to Fuji glass would lead to "bad bokeh".

Now, some people may not be concerned with that, and that's fine. Obviously, the reviewer is not either aware of the use of bokeh as a photographic aspect, or simply is not concerned with it. Well, the fact is, some people are concerned with this particular aspect of an image. One can't "get over it" if "it" simply is bad, and makes for "bad" images. The author's comment, in my opinion, comes across as rather arrogant and quite out of line.

henry c , November 02, 2002; 09:29 P.M.

I just handled it in photo expo, must say I am impressed. I hated the old hassy (the way it handles is just plain awful), but this one is actually made for human hand! The controls are second nature for those who have used an AF camera.

The rep said that the fujinon lenses are the same, and sometimes better, than their zeiss, I asked "why?" and she said "because we designed it." To me that's just arrogant. Seems like they embrace the zeiss name just because they are making lenses for hassy, now Fujinon makes the lenses, they are embracing it as if its the best in town. The film back is also done by Fuji (checked the bottom).

AF speed is very impressive, felt better than the Mamiya AF camera.

T T , November 02, 2002; 09:57 P.M.

The choice of 6x4.5 seems odd to me. 6x6 would be in line with Hasselblad's lineup, and I could maybe even understand 6x7, but why go with 6x4.5?

With regards to bokeh, I agree, Zeiss (and Leica) bokeh is just beautifully smooth. Fuji bokeh is ugly to the point that I can envision professional photographers rejecting this camera based solely upon this factor.

In thinking about this camera, it just does not make sense to me-I'm perplexed. It would seem to make more sense to me if it was a pure digital camera. Or if it was a 6x6 camera. Given that it is neither of these, it seems that Hasselblad is aiming this camera at a totally new audience-not their existing customer base.

Michael Reichmann , November 02, 2002; 10:21 P.M.

Judging these lens' bokeh based on one photograph taken at an unknown aperture seems somewhat premature. I wasn't looking to test for this, and wouldn't have had the time in any event.

These lenses were designed by Hasselblad and are built to their specifications by Fuji. The concern about bokeh may be correct but I don't think we can draw that conclusion yet.

Michael

Zibadun -- , November 02, 2002; 11:01 P.M.

$6000 price tag doesn't make a lot of sense to me given that AF Contax (with Zeiss glass) list price is $4000 with even lower street price. The bokeh on that particular picture is very ugly indeed.

henry c , November 02, 2002; 11:20 P.M.

It's hard to judge from two pics. we'll just give a new product sometime and see how it ges. Afterall, it's a hassy. I applaud them for their brave new move (instead of waiting for all their market share to be taken by others).

The odd format is so that it will fit Kodak and Phase One's digital back (very very understandable). With this in mind, it's not hard to understand why. Also, Hassy had been praising the "square" format for composition for the last few decades, now it's gone.

Mark Tucker , November 03, 2002; 01:40 A.M.

I am a dedicated Hasselblad 202 user.

I held the new Hassie in my hands yesterday at PhotoEast. I immediately missed a second shutter release button when the camera is held in the vertical position; there is none.

I bemoaned the death of the square format to the rep. He implied that "market demand" killed the square.

At six grand, I'd be hard pressed to dump all my lenses and bodies, to spring for this new camera. But I applaud them to trying to stay in the race; maybe if I was fifteen years younger, and I'd never owned Hasselblad, it might interest me.

But right now, I'd be hard pressed to justify any camera being better than the 200-series.

Tim Schooler , November 03, 2002; 03:05 A.M.

>These lenses were designed by Hasselblad and are built to their specifications by Fuji.

Hasselblad has had zero experience in designing lenses. Zeiss has designed all of their lenses for their medium format systems. I have to agree with the other comments, Fuji may make a decent lens, but its kind of duplicitous for Hasselblad to suddenly say Fujinon lenses are the best after years of selling their systems on the merits of Zeiss lenses.

Andrew Booth , November 03, 2002; 05:16 A.M.

On the subject of Hasselblad's choice of Fuji lenses - bear in mind that the Xpan is also Fuji co-designed/manufactured with Fuji lenses.

As a Hasselblad 503CW and Fuji GW670III owner, I really appreciate Fujis sharpness, but agree to an extent about the bokeh. On my rangefinder the aparture has 5 blades though - which is an important contributor to bokeh. I'm wondering whether the use of a Hasselblad shutter/aparture unit will make a difference in these new lenses.

Hasselblad is not the last of the major MF manufacturers to switch to autofocus - Bronica is still holding out.

Pitched against its 645 autofocus competitors - Mamiya, Contax, Pentax, the Hasselblad is compelling. Of these cameras Hasselblad is the only one to have entirely leaf shutter lenses, with associated high flash sync speeds. I'm sure this will give them a big competative advantage - I would certainly go for the Hasselblad for this feature alone.

Tom Just Olsen , November 03, 2002; 05:19 A.M.

Michael H. Reichman can impossibly have some 30 - 40 years of experience with using Hasselblads:

"Hasselblads break about as often as other cameras, given the use and abuse of many pros."

Sorry, butt his is utterly false!

The reliability of the Hasselblad surpasses just anything on the market. Not to say it's closest competitors in the Medium Format Market. The original 6x6 camera, now called the V-series, is close to hand made. It's simplicity, solidity and reliability has saved many a photographer from making the 'great distaster' be it at royal weddings or shooting pictures from the moon's surface.

stephen jones , November 03, 2002; 06:16 A.M.

I think this new camera represents a major error of judgement on the part of Hasselblad. The cachet they have enjoyed (which allows them to charge high prices) is primarily based on the appeal of Carl Zeiss lenses. There is an old joke that you need 3 'blads - one for use, one as spare and one in the repairers - I don't think for a moment that professionals use Hasselblads for their reliability - although you can at least buy an "unjamming key" now from some tool manufacturers. In short, people buy V series Hasselblads for the lenses. These same people may be persuaded to buy the new camera (the very ugly sample pictures above notwithstanding) but they'd better make sure that the camera is the same price as the Mamiya - which judging by those pictures has better lenses.

Craig Lamson , November 03, 2002; 10:43 A.M.

I have spent the last 25 years producing advertising photography both in and out of the studio. My mainstay has always been Hassy cameras and 4x5. I love the Hasseys and they are workhorses. My current bodies, a 500c and a 500cm have had cases of film through them. Never a body, back or finder related failure. The Ziess lenses are another case. I have had them repaired countless times. Is the glass good? Yes. The best in the world...thats debatable. With all of that said I find the H1 interesting. I have used all of the 645's on the market today and while they are nice cameras I just dont like them. Personal preference to be sure. I have not put my hands on the H1 yet and until then I will reserve judgement. But here is what interests me and why. The world is going digital like it or not. While I love film ALL of my images end up digital during the reproduction process. Creating them that way just makes sense. I have found the medium format digital solutions to date to be somewhat of a kludge. I want a seamless system and it looks like the H1 will provide that. I have made my first step into digital with the D100. it has REPLACED the hassy and film in about 75% of the hasseys uses, that is images reproduced in 4x5 or smaller size. I love it, my clients love it and their clients can't see a difference. Even though the D100 feels like a toy it works great. I love the autofocus (at 50 my eyes are not what they used to be), and the easy to use controls, but I miss the big viewfinder. At $2000 I can throw it away if it breaks since it had paid for itself in only a few months of service. I dont think that will happen any time soon :). When the new Kodak 14mp camera hits it will make my purchasing decision even tougher. What I am waiting for is the H1 with a full frame digital back.

In the end I see the H1 as a digital solution, not a film solution. If I want film I will stay with the 500cm and the Sinar. There is a place for this new camera and I think that place will be digital.

Craig Lamson

nikolaos tsiouris , November 03, 2002; 11:08 A.M.

6000$ seems a bit too much for a plastic camera with Fuji lenses doesnt it?

Lakhinder Walia , November 03, 2002; 11:49 A.M.

I am glad that Hasselblad had the sense to design a 645 system, and not redo the 6x6 or go into 6x7 or 6x8 etc.

Reasons are simple. The market for 645 format is on the rise. If in medium format there is akin to 35mm automation, then it is 645 cameras. There are macro lenses going to 1:1. Dedicated flashes. Zooms etc etc, just like 35mm. Yes some of these things are available in square format now, but my point is: it is the 645 system which are begining to have the features and convenience ever more of a 35mm system. With a digital back, hearing all those stories of resolution etc, I suppose the bigger formats: 6x6 and 6x7 will slowly die. I hope the camera has the build quality of an Xpan (or even better). Fuji build quality in my mind is not great on their own brand. But I won't say that for Xpan. I am not talking of their lens quality here.

However, I love the square format. I hope Rollei is there for a long time.

Chris Henry , November 03, 2002; 11:59 A.M.

Nice as this camera may be, there is a real problem here: $6,000 for a Hasselblad camera with a lens designed by Fuji, equal of Zeiss or not vs. $3,600 for a Contax system camera with lenses designed by Zeiss vs. about $3,500 for an equally good system by Mamiya (OK, AF not USM-type) and all adaptable to digital with interchangable backs. Unless you believe there is some value inherent to the Hasselblad brand, or that the Hasselblad service network justifies this pricing difference, what is the appeal to the cost-sensitive professional? If you want a 6x6, there is a Rollei "USM" autofocus system with Zeiss and Schneider lenses and digital adaptability, and backwards-compatability with existing non-autofocus Zeiss and Schneider lenses, again for the same or less than $6,000.

Todd Phillips , November 03, 2002; 05:57 P.M.

Michael's review is most comprehensive. Fuji makes excellent glass ( as does Zeiss....I'm a Hassy user) and I look forward to trying this camera.Bokeh....my 180 Sonnar has horrible bokeh (five aperture blades). I wish it had more so OOF highlights blend together. But, it is a spectacular lens in regard to sharpness!The price IS high....but watch for it to drop. Leica brought out the M6 and for a long time (when sales dropped off) it was $1995 or more. Then the rebates started...or like Hasselbad, the "buy this and we'll give you this" came into play.I think this may be a great camera (right now, I'd LOVE a 55-110 leaf shutter zoom!!!) and I'm looking forward to trying it!

A. Scott Bourne , November 03, 2002; 09:52 P.M.

Michael's review is based on his opinion. And it is one that many people value, including me. He has written for highly technical magazines like "Photo Techniques" and always does a good and thoughtful job. If people are offended by his style, they can choose to read someone else's work. But his opinions are usually right-on. I agree that the entire "bokeh" thread borders on the rediculous. I also agree that there is a near religious zealotry that surrounds Hassey lenses and accordingly, understand why Michael made the vodoo comment.

I believe that complete and unbiased reviews of the Fuji glass will show that it is every bit as good as anything that Ziess puts out. In fact, in blind tests, I have seen people pick images made with Fuji glass over Ziess.

Maybe Fuji doesn't have the curb appeal of Zeiss, but for me, how a lens works matters more than who makes it. Of course, some people have to drive a BMW to establish their cool factor.

Fazal Majid , November 03, 2002; 10:22 P.M.

It seems the main impetus for the H1 system, apart from autofocus, is the ability to add a fully integrated digital back. The Kodak digital back has a 36x36mm sensor. The Phase 1 H10 is 36.9mm x 24.6mm. These sensor sizes are not much larger than a full-frame 35mm sensor.

I find it hard to believe anybody would rather pay $6000 + $6000-12000 for a H1 with digital back over a Kodak 14n for $4000 with Nikkor ED lenses or $8000 for a Canon EOS 1Ds with Canon L lenses. The 35mm systems are much more versatile and have arguably superior lenses.

The Zeiss mystique might have made people overpay for Hasselblads in the past, but Fuji will certainly not have the same draw (even though they are certainly fine lenses in their own right). I guess Hasselblad has decided to sell their brand out to Fuji the way Zeiss did with Sony or Leica with Panasonic.

John McGraw , November 03, 2002; 11:57 P.M.

The leaf shutters with their 1/800 maximum speed for flash sync may be a great advantage, but the fact that this is the camera's maximum shutter speed does not seem to compare very favorably with contax's 1/4000 maximum speed on the focal plane shutter of their 645.

Sam Trenholme , November 04, 2002; 06:13 A.M.


Bokeh of old M42 SMC Takumar 50/1.4

There is an excellent article about Bokeh over here

I can see why some people do not like the bokeh in the shot of the model (who seems to be wearing too much lipstick, but this appearance could be a consequence of color-correcting for bad lighting); it appears that there are noticable, if not great, "rings" around the edges of the spots in the bokeh.

It also appears that the bokeh does not smooth out; I blame this on the fact that the background is reflected water (observe the reflection of the bush in the upper left hand corner) with a lot of points of light.

I have a picture which reflects how bokeh becomes a lot less smooth around point sources of light; this picture was taken with a SMC Takumar M42 (screw mount) 50/1.4 lens wide open. Look especially in the upper right hand corner of my image; the rest of my image's bokeh is far "smoother" looking.

- Sam

Gary Voth , November 04, 2002; 09:21 A.M.

"I bemoaned the death of the square format to the rep. He implied that "market demand" killed the square... -Mark Tucker, http://www.marktucker.com/"

Like Mark, I think this is the most significant shift in direction for Hasselblad. Autofocus and digital integration were givens at some point, but the shift to 645 (to compete with Contax, Mamiya, et al) portends the biggest change. I for one like the square format for aesthetic reasons.

BTW, I highly recommned Mark Tucker's web site for anyone interested in seeing how well the square format can be used to produce quality photography.

Yongfei Lin , November 04, 2002; 01:33 P.M.

I also went to Photo Expo and handled H1. When I focused the grey exhibition wall area into the center focus screen, the shutter couldn't be fired. So autofocus is still not everything.

Also, the pictures in H1 catalog look like some snapshots. And the picture quality doesn't look good either. Even I can take them,,,

Talking about digital imaging, most exhibitors look more like car saleman during their demos. Most of the portrait pictures they displayed are just snapshots: lightings are harsh, and all the facial pores, wrinkles are too obvious and very disgusting. Contaxt 645 portraits look beautiful on the other hand. They did their home work in Photoshop...

By the way, I don't know what Wildi will say about Hassblad's new 645 format. He may have to retire now...

Kristian Olson , November 04, 2002; 01:35 P.M.

I for one am very impressed with everything that I have heard. I have played around with different medium format cameras in the last few years and am planning on investing in a system sometime in the next year and Hasselblad's new H1 seems like a very viable choice. The fact is, 6x4.5 is a very nice format for enlargements and much more enlargement friendly than 6x6 (though I understand that 6x6 can be considered more versatile). I hear a lot of people complaining about price and this to me is rather silly. If you're looking to get into a medium format and you're already putting down some serious bank, the pricing they've set out is certainly not out of reason. Let us remember that $6000 is around list price and I'm sure that not too long after you'll probably be able to find a set for considerably less, probably between $4000-5000, just like you can get a new Contax 645AF kit for about $2500. After doing a bit of comparing and hearing what is out there, I'm most impressed with the Contax and the new Hasselblad. Hasselblad has the really nice leaf shutter for fast flash syncs, while the Contax doesn't, but can shoot up to 1/4000 sec. Pretty darn fast.

I'll have to wait a little while to see how things turn out but I think that Hasselblad has a bonified winner on their hands and it will only be a matter of time before we see this camera system (and other cameras to follow the H1 like the H2, H3, etc.) to really explode and take over a big portion of the AF 645 segment.

I honestly think that the H1's closest competitor is the Contax 645AF. Does anyone have any good comments or criticisms on comparing the two?

Austin Franklin , November 04, 2002; 02:14 P.M.

I find the lack of a waist level finder on this, as well as the Contax, a detraction...though I understand the manufacturers reasons. Personally, I prefer the WLF on my 205, though I have a 45 degree prism, and did use the prism for years. I never liked the 90 degree prisms, like the H1 and the Contax have, except on 35mm.

Also, the glass they have and have proposed is quite slow, which surprises me. The Rollei 600x has some fast glass and uses a leaf shutter in the lense, so technically, it obviously is possible...though the 600x cameras are beasts. I don't believe that Fuji has really made any fast MF glass in the past, like Zeiss has.

David H. Hartman , November 04, 2002; 02:51 P.M.

If the performance of the new Fuji/Hasselblad lenses are inferior to Zeiss lenses this is valid point and a serious detraction form the new camera. It does not a matter who manufactures the lenses but how they are designed and to what standard they are manufactured. In a system with few lenses, if you don’t care for one two there is little choice but to not buy the camera. I’m dubious about the change to Fuji glass.

I do not think the photograph of the model is the best for judging the defocused image as it is a poor scan, heavily JPG(ed) or both. Note the unpleasant skin rendition. The photo of the photographer however is a better scan and shows some annoying defocused image characteristics in the lower left. Notice the out of focus green shrubs have a double image effect.

As to whether "bokeh" is important or not, years before I ever heard the word I was about to take a photograph of a juvenile katydid. There was dry grass in the out of focus background that formed bright lines, brighter at the edges than in the centers. It was so annoying that I coaxed the katydid to another location before taking its picture. This shows one does not need to be taught or sensitized to see harsh bokeh.

I am also disappointed with the change from square format to 645. I prefer 45° prisms in medium format which are useless with 645. I hope Hasselblad does well but this isn’t the camera for me.

Regards,

Roger Urban , November 04, 2002; 04:06 P.M.

A quip from the camera store salesman when discussing the new Hasselblad 645:

Salesman: When it comes out, it means we'll be selling a lot more Contax 645s! Hahahahahah! Though joking, he meant it, as when the consumer does a comparison of feature for feature and sees the price difference, then Contax is favored.

hiflex | , November 04, 2002; 04:46 P.M.

I have to add that although I have not had the chance to try the H1 I think this camera will be very successful in the market it is designed for; fashion, wedding and portrait. As for bokeh, the jpeg image of the woman is too degraded by compression to judge well. The background highlights could very well be of moving leaves etc. BTW I have shots from my Carl Zeiss 80mm CB lens that have similar out of focus highlights under similar shooting conditions. From my experience the bokeh of CZ lenses is not always great. It seems a lot depends on the subject, lighting conditions and aperture used. But. I'm not an expert I can only describe my photos. It's interesting that I have heard so many world renowned fine art photographers speak about their work and none of them ever mentioned the term "bokeh". Maybe all the great ones are using CZ or Leica lenses ;)

The image of the man with the H1 does not specify that it was shot with the H1. It looks like it was shot with a 35mm camera. I think the Contax 645 is a nice camera but it's not for me. Maybe the H1 is.

Cory Parris , November 04, 2002; 06:25 P.M.

If the Hasselblad H1 had come out a few years ago, I would have been very excited. Now, I don't think that it is a relavant response to my future needs.

I am a portrait and wedding photographer. I currently own Bronica ETRSi and Canon equipment. I started out by buying a Hasselblad, but it didn't fit with my photojournalistic training. I then switched to Pentax Medium format gear, but really missed the leaf shutter. I now shoot with Bronica and I am very happy with the quality of images and handling style it provides.

I believe my next major system purchase will be in a couple of years when Canon comes out with a 15-20 megapixel camera. Canon provides excellent L series lenses (with good bokeh), is far less expensive than Hassy, handles better, handles quicker, is lighter, and will have a 1/250 or higher flash sync.

I don't see the H1 as a long-term hit with the portrait and wedding crowd, though it might do quite well for a couple of years. I believe that most portrait and wedding photographers such as myself, will be drooling over the new Kodak & Canon 11-14 megapixel cameras, followed by the 15-20 mp, followed by the 20-25 mp, etc.

One more item that I'd like to point out. Michael had the camera in his hands less than two hours. The photos in the article are just to illustrate the article, not show the best quality that the system is capable of achieving. I think his insight into the handling and feel of the system should be appreciated rather than using one photo that someone termed as having "incredibly ugly bokeh" as the reason not to buy a camera with a Fuji lens. That seems like a very silly way to make a decision on a camera system. Wait until the H1 comes out, rent it, and see what kind of quality and bokeh you can achieve with it yourself! I hope my opinions are useful to someone!

Doug Dolde , November 04, 2002; 06:29 P.M.

The Contax 645 does, by the way have a waist level finder available as well as a great selection of Zeiss T* lenses. And there's a Kodak DCS back for it as well. The basic kit is going for $2800 (new, gray market) on Ebay. Exactly half the price of the H1. Draw your own conclusion.

Steven Palow , November 04, 2002; 07:57 P.M.

im must confess that im a bit of an equiptment junky. i hate it too. so when i heard about the new h1 i started getting really nervous. i was hoping and praying that it wouldnt be something that would make me look at my contax setup in a lesser light. with all due respect to the h1 (which im sure is a fine camera) my prayers have been answered. i feel very confident that my contax has and will continue to fit my needs perfectly. only the rollei autofocus has looked remotely appealling to me and that is mainly because of the option of the square format and being able to shoot 645 vertical without tilting the camera. it seems that the rollei would be an excellent alternative to the h1 and im surprised more people havent mentioned it here. leaf shutter lenses, 645 and the square, multiple viewfinders. i havent followed the rollei very closely at all so i could be wrong on somethings but if i were buying all over again i honestly dont think the h1 would be in the running (regardless of price). i think it would be bt the contax and the new AF rollei, and i wouldnt be surprised if i ended up with my current contax system.

Alex Jones , November 04, 2002; 09:38 P.M.

Thanks for the review. It looks like image #3 has a problem rendering out of focus shapes? Shouldn't they be round, instead of multi-gon?

Gyula Hunyor , November 05, 2002; 02:29 A.M.

It has been written that both digital backs available for H1 has significantly smaller image sensor area than 6x4.5. If that is true then shouldn't we consider also the growth of the effective focal length of lenses just as well as with most consumer grade digital cameras? And probably the optical viewfinder is not corrected according to the different digital backs, so should the shooter rely on the LCD displays on the backs? Or did I miss something? Sorry if my questions are too trivial.

Happy shooting. Gyula

Daniel Taylor , November 05, 2002; 09:48 A.M.

thank you for the review. my impression is that when the next version of the Contax 645 is released, the Hasselblad H1 might not fare too well comparatively. with a few tweaks, the Contax 645 rises to the top as a superbly engineered (and affordable) camera system.

we shall see ...

Steve Foster , November 06, 2002; 12:55 A.M.

Looking into the not too distant future it certainly appears that much of the market is going to digital. When one looks at the Kodak or the new Canon (who knows what Nikon is going to come up with) and considers quality of print vs expenditure and availability of cameras and lenses it doesn't look rosy for medium format cameras. Not to mention the shorter, more convenient workflow advantages for many professionals offered by digital. I personally dislike the idea of having to go digital but it seems unrealistic to fight the technology. I think the impact on medium format only manufacturers is going to be very signifigant and soon. I wish it weren't so.

zuck kovak , November 06, 2002; 07:50 A.M.

I have to join the crowd who is not too happy about the H1. More automation, more metering options, digital compatibility, auto focus etc. is nice and was an inevitable move to keep up with the competition and which is probably welcomed by mostly everyone.

But why ditch the square format and Zeiss? I simply don't understand.

I am absolutely sure that this camera is going to be a great camera. Seriously good equipment. (Although a vacum back, a little faster shutter speed, and a little faster lenses would be nice).

However without the square format and Zeiss it's not the real thing.

Some people agree with the comment "get over it" and I am sure many people will get over it in an instinct as digital, auto focus etc. offers them so much more convienence.

The only irony is that some of the finest photographers who have greatly added to Hasselblad's reputation will have the hardest time to get over it. These photographers have used the square format most of their professional life and belive in the strenth of the square format. (Just like Gary I also recommend everyone to look at Mark Tucker's website to see one example of the stregth of the square.)

But who cares about such things these days anymore? Hasselblad did. Looks like not anymore. A little scare in the sales figures of 6x6 cameras and Hasselblad decided to ditch it. The problem wasn't with the format but with Hasselblad responding too late to the competition.

Hasselblad could save face with improving their 6X6 lineup but I doubt it after the H1.

The problem for me and I am sure for many who like the square is that you can't have one system. The H1 is not a replacement only an addition. You need to have the H1 if you want convinience (digital, auto focus etc.) But you also need to have the old system if you want the square. You end up with two systems for zillions of $ and still you don't have it all. (for example square with auto focus,digital etc.)

The solution would have been an H1 with square format and Zeiss glass just like the new Rollei AF. Then you could have it all in one camera. 6x6 6x4.5, digital, auto focus, auto metering, weist level viewfinder etc. in one camera. Now this Hasselblad package would be the ultimate.

Rollei did it. I don't think Hasselblad wasn't capable of doing it. They just made a different decision.

Although I have all the respect for Hasselblad I simply regret this particular decision.

Ilkka , November 06, 2002; 10:14 P.M.

First of all, thank you Michael for an excellent review. As usual, your review is the most informative and thorough I have seen to date, even though it was based on just a short excursion with the camera.

For those who complain about bokeh, I am fully behind Michael in this one, especially knowing about his use of Leica for several decades. It is too early to say from a couple of sample pictures.

Larger format is always better than smaller. That is true both on film and on digital. Michael has been telling us for couple of years now how the small image sensors in 2-4 megapixel consumer cameras are not nearly as good as the 2-4 megapixel sensors in pro SLRs even though the number of pixels is the same. Canon and Fuji have now, finally, come up with full frame 24x36mm digital cameras and the results are very probably better than medium format film. So MF cameras like the H1 must be dead, right? For one thing, the Canon model costs more than this new 'terribly expensive' H1. For this reason alone, for some, using film is still the better option. What is more, when the full frame 6x4.5 cm sensors start coming, they must be much better than a full frame 24x36 mm sensor, and should deliver quality that is not only equal or better than MF but actually equal to large format. With the current pace of development, I can see reasonably priced versions coming in about 5 years or so. Until then, we can use our MF systems with film, or smaller digital sensors, while being reasonably comfortable that the same lenses can eventaully be used on full frame digital.

Finally, the square format. It was very good when the cameras, whether Rolleiflex TLRs or old Hasselblads, came with a waist level finder. Turning those on their side to shoot a portrait orientation picture was difficult if not impossible. So the obvious solution was to use a square piece of film which can later be cropped to either portait or landscape rectangle. (And the vast majority of pictures used in this world are rectangles.) Now just about all cameras use prism finders which make it easy to turn the camera on its side so we can make the right cropping while taking the photo. This saves on film, giving 16 images instead of 12 on a roll of 120. And for a digital back, it is a lot cheaper to make a 24x36 or 42x56mm sensor than a square 36x36 or 56x56mm one. So in today's world, rectangle is better in all counts and I am glad Hasselblad realised it.

David Mantripp , November 07, 2002; 08:03 A.M.

I don't know why everybody is going on about the Contax 645. Some people seem to think that it is a German camera, and hence it supposed to be overpriced and heavy. But of course it is a Japanese camera with a bought in vanity label. The professional reviews I have seen rate it poorly due to poor autofocus, price and limited range of overpriced optics. Some if not all lenses are "badge engineered" - made by Kyocera, with, so we're told Zeiss design input. Note that this matters a jot if they're great lenses, but it puts the Fuji bigotry into perspective. If anybody doubts that Fuji can't make good lenses, try the Xpan range. Anyway, the Contax loses out compared to the Pentax 645 (which has got some of the best lenses ever made) and it is difficult to see the economic argument in favour of the H1...

Whatever, it puts an interesting spin on the question of "do I buy a 35mm DSLR" or wait!

zuck kovak , November 07, 2002; 08:48 A.M.

Ilkka,

Your view is very well noted. I agree with you that many people including yourself don't care about the square.

However what my point was that you can turn a 6x6 camera into a 6x4.5 Just put a 6x4.5 back on the camera and a prism finder and there you go you have a convienent 6x4.5 camera that you wish. However you can't make a 6x4.5 into a 6x6 camera.

So what I was trying to say is that many people won't mind this because they don't care for the square format (like you) however there are many who are used to the square and prefer it because of aestetics reasons.

So if this camera would have been designed square both groups could have been happy. This way one group is left out in the cold. Maybe this is the smaller group but still it is a significant group in my opinion.

This is also the case about the waist level viewfinder issue. Not everyone uses it. Maybe more people use prism finders but there are many people who prefer the waist level finders at least in some situations depending on their type of photography. Obviously the 90 degree prism finder is quick and convienent and used maybe most of the time. But what is also without a question true that there are situations where the waist level finder is a better alternative. The possibility to use the waist level viewfinder simply should have been kept for those who use it frequently or for those who don't use it frequently but sometimes run into situations where they would like to use it. Contax 645 has it. the H1 should too.

This way you could have a single camera that pleases both shooting styles. a 6x6 with waist level viewing if needed and a fast covienent 6x4.5 with a prismfinder if needed.

Hasselblad easily could have done it but decided to go the other way maybe because they want people to buy the H1 on top of their existing system instead of switching to a new system that does it all and dump the old one. Maybe business wise it was a good decision but maybe it wasn't. We'll see how people will react.

I wish Hasselblad a bright future but I am pretty sure a lot of people do not agree with this particular decision including myself.

Other then what I just said it is probably a darn good camera.

Witold Grabiec , November 07, 2002; 02:49 P.M.

My 2 cents are as follows:

Hassy has had great following in the pro market and never paid much attention to the amateurs. I wanted one for many years until I realized that ONLY the pros can get the 0% 12 month lease. This along with reliability issues killed the Hassy for me. I got my Pentax and couldn't be happier.

1. Hassy's have indeed been at least as unreliable as anything else on the market. The lucky ones have never experienced it, the unlucky got rid of it quick or struggled if they chose that route.

2. I agree with those who disagree with Hassy's departure from Zeiss glass, not that I agree with "bokeh" crowd, but I think it grossly undermines Hassy's integrity given their advertising history solely based on Zeiss' reputation

3. Hassy's departure from "square" is yet another mistake and as with the lenses, it hurts their integrity. The digital back idea makes zero sens, they can be made in ANY format.

4. The price will likely kill the H1, why would ANYone find a reason to spend twice on something that, at best, is just a match to what's already been available for a while. All 3 AF645's available to date are superior cameras (I will personally stick with the Pentax) and Hassy's can only be as good.

All in all, this may be the begining of a new company, a company called Hasselblad that will get some sales going because of it, but unless they change their marketing and pricing ideas for the H1 it may not last too long. This seems like another "Leica M7" mistake.

Ilkka , November 07, 2002; 09:03 P.M.

One more point regarding the square vs 645 issue. Since a completely new lens series, with AF, needed to be designed anyway, it does make some sense to make it smaller, lighter and allow the use of smaller shutters that can provide faster speeds by covering only 6x4.5 cm format instead of 6x6. Some people have asked for faster speeds. Others have asked for faster lenses (wider apertures). Both of these are harder to do if the format and required coverage is bigger. The leaf shutters in square Hasselblads only go to 1/500 and those on most 6x7 cameras go only to 1/400 because of the bigger size.

I do like the option of using waist level hood even on 6x4.5 or 6x7 cameras. Big prism finders are heavy and for some travel use, for example, it would be very useful to be able to use a waist level finder even if taking occasional portait format pictures is a major hassle. But I still think that rectangular format is the way to go. And in those instances when square works better, it can always be cropped from the rectangle.

seb seb , November 08, 2002; 06:03 A.M.

Just my to cents :

- Choosing square format vs rectangular format is an aestetic issue. And only an aestetic issue, as many things in photography. Therefore, I do not understand Ilkka who states "that rectangular format is th way to go."

- The argument of saying that you can crop a rectangle to get a square seems not relevant to me. First If you want square it is easier to compose on a square viewscreen. Second some are not interested in cropping and want to compose when shooting (I had read somewhere that HCB never crops his photos.) (Question : Do you crop slides ?).

- If you like rectangle some would say that you always can crop a square to get a rectangle. (joke)

- Saying that 645 is cheaper than 6x6 because you can shoot more photo (16 vs 12) on a 120 roll is strange. Do you care about this when you're able to spend $8000 on photo equipment ?

- Waist level viewfinder : I love that. And since I have discovered this I can not part with it. I wear eyeglasses and it makes a BIG difference in comfort compared to using a prism.

- Concerning the future of the newly-called V series : I am not really affraid of its future. Keep in mind that it is widely used all over the world by numerous professional and amateurs alike. A lot of equipment is available and Hasselblad is still issuing new equipment for the V series (All the CFi lens should be replaced by CFE, shouldn't they ?). This series will not die soon.

BTW, I've had a look at the 3 last issues of Forum. The vast majority of photo published inside this magazine are taken with old 500 C or CM (on film support, by the way). This means these talented photographers are using Hasselblad gear which is out of production for a few years now. Why ? Just because they had it and it fits their need.

Should you by H1 ? Should you go to numeric ? It just depends if you need it. 645 is the way to go if you want to shoot 645. 6x6 is the way to go if you want to shoot square.

S.

Audun Sjoeseth , November 08, 2002; 07:18 A.M.

Some new lenses for Rollei 6000 (6x6) have a shortest shutter speed of 1/1000s, so why not for a new Hasselblad 6x6 camera?

I wish Hasselblad best luck with H1, but it is nothing for me. I like classical equipment and have just bougt a new mecanical :-) 501 kit.

I too think the V serie will live for many years (like Harly Davidson), and should be further developed. CFi should be replaced by CFE, and a new 200 camera with the best from 203 and 205 and winder from 503 would be fine.

Axel Farr , November 08, 2002; 08:18 A.M.

Hello,

since summer of last year, I am taking photos in medium format with a Pentasix 636, which is a variation of a Kiew 88 manufactured by Foto Wiese in Hamburg, Germany. I found it quite good to take photos by a completely manual camera. Besides it is more work to do, you are more able to concentrate on photographing as an event, not only as taking some snap-shots on film like I often do with my Canon EOS cameras.

I find it interesting that Hasselblad finally started to follow other manufacturers in building AF-cameras which ca do everything automated. For me, in some way it is a breaking with tradition: Hasselblad did see "oh, there are others manufacturing 6x4.5 AF cameras, they are earning a lot of money, so let us do the same!". Noting fits with the old system (not even the film format).

To my opinion, Hasselblad has worked a lot too long on this project as to gain a part of the market which is big enough for the system to survive. The 6x6 cameras will survive the H1.

It will probably take some 2 to 3 years until most commercial photographers who still use medium format for quality reason will switch either to digital on 35mm full-frame cameras such as the EOS 1Ds for speed reasons or will use larger formats than 6x4,5 for quality reasons, doing their work with manual focussing 6x6, 6x7 or even large format cameras. Hasselblad will need theses 2 to 3 years for establishing their system on a shrinking market.

A last word to the lenses: I can not understand why Hasselblad was not able to have the "traditional" 50-75-150mm combination ready for the presentation of the new system. And: The bokeh of the 2.8/80mm lens is so ugly, it can only be compared within my equipment with the bokeh of the ukrainian Volna (also an 2.8/80mm) or that of my canon's EF 50mm 1/1.8 - both lenses for some 150-300$. Even the Bokeh of the old east-german Biometars (80 and 120mm) is much better. I can not understand why Fuji is not able to design something better. For a camera manufacturer, the switching from one lens supplier to an other is nearly the same as closing the old label and creating a new one. Remember what would be the reaction if Contax woul anounce: Ok, we stop selling Zeiss lenses with our medium format cameras, they are now designed and made by our own label Tamron.

Greetings, Axel

Talbert McMullin , November 11, 2002; 03:38 A.M.

I never used a Hassy I didn't like. The H2 is no doubt the flagship, though massive. Now, wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

Mani Sitaraman , November 11, 2002; 08:59 A.M.

Has this reviewer and the entire world gotten so lovesick of Hasselblad that they can't see what's going on around them? This is a Fuji lens camera.

The Rollei 6008AF is a 6x6 AF professional camera folks, with full reverse compatibility and AF indicator compatibility with existing non-AF lenses and they maintain a full range of both Zeiss and Schneider lenses that is broader than Hasselblad's 6x6 range. And as anyone who has used one knows, the AF automation, layout and ergonomics are simply brilliant and obvious.

Oh, did I mention it costs less than the "Hassy" AF? About 40% less?

So why is everyone in a tizzy about a faux Hasselblad with a smaller negative that is much more expensive?

Howard Cubell , November 13, 2002; 06:30 P.M.

If the new wave of digital SLRs like the Kodak 14N will have fulll frame sensors and 14 mp and cost $4500, is there any reason to buy a medium format camera like the Contax, Mamiya or Hasselblad H1 and a Kodak 16 mp digital back for $15,000(before lenses!). In fact, by the time you crop the 16 mp back down to the 6x4.5 format, the digital back is down to 12 mp or so. Is there a medium format advantage in the digital realm any longer? Is the quality or size of 35 mm lenses a limiting factor? Is it possible that med. format can again surpass a d-SLR by having a bigger full frame sensor than the 24x36mm sensor that can be used in a d-SLR? As Michael Reichmann has succesfully demonstrated, there are good pixels and less good pixels, so perhaps that's part of the answer. I suppose no one has yet done a comparative test of medium format film, med. format digital backs, and a camera like the new Canon or Kodak, where the focus is on large inkjet print output(e.g., 24x30 prints), but I sure hope someone intends to. Howard Cubell

Bashir Lunat , November 13, 2002; 10:01 P.M.

I agree with all those who expressed their "disappointment" about departure of Ziess glass.I am surprised to know that its price is into a several thousands,I wonder how much would it cost it it was manufactured in Sweden or say Germany.They should have gone to Taiwan for the body and Cosina for the glass.And lets not forget Hongkong for the digital chip.I am sure it would have been a less than a half price combination with equal performace as Fuji glass.I havent said Zeiss glass!

H.D. Shin , November 14, 2002; 08:53 P.M.

The H1 will also be sold by Fuji under a different name. See the following link:

http://www.fujifilm.co.jp/news_r/nrj1000.html

Gary Voth , November 16, 2002; 10:13 A.M.

Trevor, thanks for posting the letter from Hasselblad re. the future of the "V System" (still can't get used to saying that).

I am quite sure he is sincere, though as someone with a product management background, I can tell you that this will be true only as long as the market demand for the 6x6 system remains at least steady, if not strong. If photographers abandon the classic 6x6 system for autofocus 645 alternatives, then Hasselblad will cease developing new 6x6 products.

I, for one, do not plan to switch from my the V System anytime soon. I get all the automation and fast handling I need from my EOS gear; when I shoot Hasselblad it is because I am making an aesthetic decision re. the square and certain Zeiss lenses.

In fact, if Hasselblad would build a new 200-series winder with the same ergonomics of the Winder CW, I would likely be buying a new 203FE (or perhaps its replacement) in the future.

Todd Adams , November 16, 2002; 03:15 P.M.

This is an interesting thread and sure demonstrates the passion resident within photographers. I'll throw in my 2 cents.

As much as some people love Hassy tradition, I don't think this is a bad move on their part. For one, the Fuji lenses are top notch. I have two Fujis (6x9 and 645) and would defy anyone to distinguish the difference between Zeiss and Fuji lenses on a light table. I still gasp at the sharpness when I get slides back from the lab. Does anyone think Hassy would throw away their decades old reputation by employing an inferior lens? Face it, Fuji lenses are on par with Zeiss.

Anyone who says they've never had reliability problems with Hassy is either lovesick in denial or extremely lucky. I've used a Hassy for about 10 years. With light to moderate use (about 2500 frames per year), I've come to expect about two failures per year.

Gary Ferguson , November 16, 2002; 03:21 P.M.

In all the commentary about the H1 one point seems to be ignored, Photographers are by definition aesthetically driven creatures who derive satisfaction from owning and using equipment that addresses their visual sensibilities. The Hasselblad 500 series is a beautiful art deco sculpture, a defining icon of industrial design that rivals even the Leica M3 in its exquisite form and functionality.

The H1 by comparison looks like a novelty ice-cream tub.

Regards, Gary

Hon K. Siu , November 24, 2002; 08:00 A.M.

It would be nice if the H1 is designed to accept the existing V lenses.

(Maybe in future someone will design an adaptor for this purpose.)

With so many C, CF, CFI, CFE, etc. lenses out there, Hasselblad should be in a position to sell a lot of their H1 bodies on this alone.

Also Hassy photographers would have the option to have their CZ optics they love on the H1.

Bashir Lunat , November 25, 2002; 07:43 P.M.

Hon K Siu......I think you are a good lad for raising the compatibily of "V" lenses on H1,nobody thought about it!Full marks to you.

Larry H Shone , November 26, 2002; 08:15 A.M.

I can't honestly see the point of AF in a camera like a blad, i mean theyre more likely to be used in a studio for portraiture where the user's control is paramount, not some acition scene, for that you'd use 35mm. I'd like one for my nature work but would go for a 500 series, if I could afford it. I like the idea of a digital back tho.

Kelvin Lee , November 29, 2002; 12:03 A.M.

I had a quick browse through the thread.

Just to take away some of the mystique of the Zeiss lenses used in Hassys .... I have a friend, a pro. photographer at that time, who shot photos for the annual report of the Avimo company here in Singapore. Avimo makes optics for the US military and does contract work in fabricating optics for others.

Lo and behold, ... he saw optics in the factory at various stages of manufacture which were marked " for Zeiss Distagon 50/4 for hassleblad", " for Zeiss Sonnnar 150/4 for hassleblad" etc. etc. He then learnt that the finished glass was shipped off to Germany and put in barrels stamped with " Made in Germany".

That said, I have a theory. Most premium 35mm lenses today have resolving power above what most film can handle. This is already way above the resolving power of even good medium format lenses. As Kodak, canon & co. increase the pixel count into the 25-30+ mp range ... there is less and less need for a bigger format.

If we think laterally, instead of increasing the format size as we have traditionally done, we increase the format density.

For some time to come, I think there will still be a market for medium format, possibly up to the 6x45 size. Couple that with increasing density, the possibilities are many. Even today, most of the digital filmbacks are not the full 6x45 frame size as yet. Often, they are actually about 24x36 size. There is still room for growth up to 6x45.

This could mean that format sizes above 6x45 i.e. 6x7, 6x9 become unnecessary, since it's easy to crop with digital in photoshop.

If we look at history, this is in some ways how film format popularity has evolved. From the myriad number of formats available, the most common today are 135 format, 6x45, 6x6 (because of the square), some 6x7 and 4x5. Gone are the in-between are most film sizes such as 110, 127 and formats such as 2x3, or larger formats such as 8x10, 11x14 etc.

there may still be a limited market for panorama i.e 6x12 , and possibly a larger format like 4x5 ... as the LF cameras have more tilt/shift options necessary for commercial work. This may mean that digital backs for large formats will still be available.

I forsee that in a digital age, the 645 format will continue on for some time (perhaps this is why hassblad chose to go 6x45, amongst other reasons like handling?) .... and then perhaps there will be a vaccum, up until you reach the 4x5 format.

Now, I wonder why Hassleblad didn't talk to Leitz. I'm sure it would continue to give them the branding ... with volume perhaps the prices could be reasonable, and Leitz could surely do with the business. They're even working with Panasonic in digital cams. Or for that matter, Schneider (which for a time made lenses for Bronica).

Derek Stanton , December 07, 2002; 10:54 P.M.

Well, i would disagree that the H1 looks like "an ice cream tub." I think it's rather beautiful, in a modern way. And, this is coming from someone who also appreciates the design of a Rollei TLR....

And, to the guy who thinks that discussion of "bokeh" is ridiculous: Personally, i don't shoot everything (anything?) at f22. And, i tend not to fill the frame with the subject matter. Hence, there's a lot in my image that isn't going to be in focus. I consider those areas to be just as important as what's IN focus. How anyone can say that those areas aren't worthy of aesthetic consideration amazes me. Surely the term "bokeh" may be one that is only recently fashionable to discuss, but the effect has been in existence since the existence of vision. How it's become characterized is a different matter, and you need not participate in the discourse, but it's still valid.

Regarding that, though, it is indeed too early to know if the ugliness in that sample photo is characteristic of THIS camera's Fuji-designed lenses. Wait and see, can't we.

Regarding the designer/maker of the lenses: what difference does it make? If HASBRO designed the lenses and they outperformed the competition shouldn't they be as highly regarded as those names we (you) hold as venerable? After all, it's only TIME that makes a lensmaker "classic." Even Zeiss was a newbie at some point. Leitz had to start somewhere.

It will be interpreted that i am somehow afiliated with Hasselblad. Actually, i own a Mamiya 645, Mamiya 6MF, and Rollei TLR. I've got no stake in the matter. Just wanted to add a bit of objectivity.

Russ Nowlin , December 10, 2002; 01:02 A.M.

I wonder if 10 or 20 years from now, when there are GigaPixel CCD/CMOS sensors the size of a pinhead and cameras have 10 TeraBytes of onboard memory, if anyone will remember this camera with the same fondness they remember their Hasselblads from years past. Will it become just another disposable product like your PC from 5 years ago?

It seems now that only lenses are the permanent part of a photographic system. Lenses have always been the difference in great photography. Now that even lenses are becoming computerized, what else is there, just the glass? If that's so, I want the best glass, no matter who makes it. A Hasselblad/Leica partnership on this project would have been met with excitement by the entire photographic world. Dumping Zeiss for Fuji wasn't a good idea. Fuji WHO?...the FILM people? Corning I could even buy...at least they are known for glass...but Fuji?...Don't get me wrong, they are very knowledgeable about how to make a whole lot of a standardized medium end product. But, I wouldn't want them making my telescope. Why would I want their lenses in my camera?

As for the suggestion that everyone sends sends parts of a large project like this out to vendors, I agree. But, there is much to be said for the long term relationship which is built between businesses over time. Zeiss knows Hasselblad. They know the people, they know the expectations. This wreaks of "lowest bidder" to me.

Gary Livingston , December 12, 2002; 03:09 A.M.

I recently attended a H1 demo session in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Hasselblad rep announced the camera as a 'world camera', made for a world market and with parts from all over the world. He claimed the joint venture with Fuji was not only for some aspects of autofocus technology, but because in Asia there is a huge market for this format that Fuji has access to. They estimate this will be a big seller in the Pacific rim. Also, he said the autofocus technology was from Minolta.

The H1 demo unit had a very impressive feel and bright viewfinder. The lens looked cheap. That is not to say they do not have good imaging quality. The plastic body, silver coated, looked cheap. In fact the demo unit was already showing black scratches. For 6 grand it should look great and have some durability.

The unit I saw had a very quick and impressive auto focus, but it often fired when the auto focus was pressed. So it seemed like this camera might have been in need for some adjustment.

Traditional Hasselblad owners will definitely find that without Zeiss lens, this camera is not up to par with their current offerings. You might say the "fit" on this camera was fine, but the finish was lacking. In cameras, if you're paying for a Lexus, you should get a Lexus.

Also, this camera is designed for the future where digital will be the king. However, as others have said, if that's the case then lens become the major differentiator. So why abandon Zeiss for Fuji. So if the design of the camera is Hasselblad and the body Hasselblad, but the rest made all over the world, what do you have?

What you have is a high priced camera designed to get market share for Hasselbald and Fuji. The image of a premium quality professional tool is lacking here. It takes time and big bucks to develop that, and in todays marketplace, marketshare, profits and taking advantage of windows of opportunity are a first priority.

The Hasselbald rep stated the case well, "Hassleblad is a small quality oriented company. Fuji is a big company with many resources and markets." Guess who is driving the car?

Hasselbald is a great company. We all can thank them for their dedication and hard work. In a world economy and with the world in resession, we can also understand that some of their first principles have been sacrificed to stay a float, but they should look at Harley Davidson as an example of a comapny that got mixed up with so called 'big money' at AMF and saw their product line, quality standards and image go downhill.

It wasn't until the founders of Harley who understood the company's original mission and vision were back in charge, that then the company got back on track and became what it is today.

So, Hasselblad pursue excellence. A good name and quality are worth it's weight in gold. So too are those of us who have invested in Hasselblad equipment over the years and kept you in business.

David Blair , December 13, 2002; 07:26 P.M.

As far as I'm concerned, a camera body holds film, lets light hit the film and thats about it. Everything else is convenience. The only thing that will make an image stand out is the quality of the optics controlling the light. If I could get zeiss lenses for my box brownie, I would consider the images to be as good as your $6000 hasselblad. Depends on whether you want to snap photos, or create images.

Alex P. Schorsch , December 16, 2002; 06:06 P.M.

I think that it is obvious that 35mm technology is always quicker to react to new technology than medium format due to a wider customer and financial base. When the full sized 36 x 24 sensors have reached their maximum pixel configuration which will probably be around 16 megapixels, the 35mm digital cameras will stop improving. That's when medium format will start benefitting from 35mm technology and the digital back on a Hassy H1 will get up to around 50 megapixels. I think that its only a matter of time when photographers will again benefit from the larger size of medium format. That's when I'll be buying an H1, maybe five years from now.

John Jennings , December 19, 2002; 06:09 P.M.

I work in advertising, and I am flabbergasted that the two major lynchpins Of Hasselblad's brand identification; Zeiss optics and 6 x 6 format, can be dismissed with a casual "just get over it".

This looks like an excellent camera, but with this marketing approach, you gotta wonder; is there is a coupon for two liter Diet Pepsi and 10 piece bucket of Extra Crispy KFC ?

John Jennings , December 19, 2002; 06:11 P.M.

I may seem mean-spirited, I don't mean to. But all my photographic life, I have been intimidated by the Hasselblad mystique. And NOW they are blithely saying, "Well, Brand X is just as good, cuz we say so, and we're in a joint venture with Brand X."

It's like suddenly discovering an old tape recording of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saying, "You know, Commies really ain't a bad sort, I wish one had married my sister".

I mean, this is really liberating. I am left feeling very warm and fuzzy about that Mamiya 645E I got with 80mm lens for 700 bucks on the rebate deal. Nice to know there ain’t nothing better. And it’s got great bokeh! Viva Mamiya!

(I've only heard of "bokeh" recently, but one of the first pix I took for high school photo class was of my cat. I used a TLR Yashicamat and set it on the ground shooting up at Tiger. There were some REALLY NEAT circles of confusion from the tree leaves above. I really loved the photo for that effect. So I guess I was "bokeh when bokeh wasn't cool".)

G Nauman , December 19, 2002; 06:11 P.M.

Comments, comments. First of all, the "zeiss glass" vs. "fuji glass" issue is a non-issue. "Get over it"! These lenses are not designed by elves; they're designed by highly experienced engineers using computers. Can anyone imagine, seriously, the Hasselblad/Fuji cranking out anything but top-notch equipment? Of course not. As for manufacturing, Fuji makes and has historically made wonderful gear -- ask any professional (or serious amateur) who has used the 680, the fine, goofy rangefinders and their incredible assortment of fine large format lenses. EVERY brand -- these are brands, not religions -- has its ups and downs (personally, I've always thought the Zeiss 150 was a turkey).

As for "Bokeh," well...1) what can you judge from a WEB resolution image, especially with no exposure information? Not much. If you're judging images by what you see on the web, there's a problem. 2) diaphragm construction has an awful lot to do with this -- and we don't seem to know much, yet, about this aspect of these lenses.

As for speed...well, yes, there are some awfully fast lenses for Rollei. And Hasselblad. I've used all and have owned most (for the 6000 series and hassy 200 series). Great stuff, to be sure, but BIG. HEAVY. The beauty of a 645 is that one can shoot hand-held without developing a hernie, move around freely, etc. etc. Oh, and the format is good for magazine publication and generic prints...which is the BULK of the market for these things.

Anyway, I say kudos to Hassy to poo-poo to the naysayers. Having said that, I'm not personally interested, being set in my ways as I am...

John Jennings , December 19, 2002; 09:00 P.M.

I have the greatest respect for Fuji, I've only heard good things about their products. (Though I am totally bewildered by those little built in flash units on some of their 645's.)

But a brand image is a brand image. Diluting it is a dangerous step. I am in advertising. Trust me on this.

The heart and soul of a film camera is the lens. And the heart and soul of a Hasselblad is Zeiss glass. Take that away, and what is the selling point? Leaf shutter? Bronica got leaf shutter.

"Just get over it"? Arrogance against a loyal customer base is not good. I am in advertising. Trust me on this.

I'm not even a Hasselblad owner, and it ticks me off. Now I have to confront the fact that the equipment I already own is as good as anything out there. If I take a bad photo, it's MY FAULT!

I sincerely hope that this camera is a success. But I no longer see any rationale for paying a premium to run Blad gear.

I don't want to get into an extensive discussion on this, but regard some truths as self-evident.

Vijay Nebhrajani , December 19, 2002; 11:15 P.M.

First, let me say that while it is hard to judge the color balance or the sharpness of a lens from a smallish JPEG, it is quite easy to judge its bokeh. In the image of the girl above, the bokeh is harsh. Unfortunately, bokeh cannot be blamed on the film, the lighting or whatever. It is a characteristic of the lens design itself. Thus, we can conclude from that picture is that that particular lens has bad bokeh. Without doubt.

Second, to respond to the question "Can anyone imagine, seriously, the Hasselblad/Fuji cranking out anything but top-notch equipment?", my answer is "Yes." If the economics dictates it. Merely having a brand badge is no guarantor of quality these days.

Third, there is significant difference in the signatures of different lenses, both within a single brand and across brands. This makes different people like or dislike different lenses. Zeiss seems to have a higher percentage of likeable lenses.

Finally, the H1 may be a capable camera but it remains to be seen if it will succeed in the marketplace, especially with the offerings from Contax, Mamiya, Pentax, and most significantly Rollei, which has AF and the square format.

John Urtis , December 28, 2002; 03:04 P.M.

I am looking for a Medium Format system with a digital option.

First the H1 ....... personal opinion ........ I would not purchase one.

1. If it were made by Hassey with Zeiss - the price would be tolerable. But this is to much money to pay for a Fuji based product. 2. 645 Digital format - A Cannon D1s with image stabilization and "L" lenses is more practical, easier to use, and renders similar digital results compared to a 645 digital format. I produce large lithographs for the wholesale market and this is what we found. I see little or no advantge with a 645 digital/film format. 3. The H1 I played with was not user friendly - even the Hassey rep was confused - that says something. 4. Other 645 auto focus systems offer a much better value. For my needs a 6X6 is ideal and affords more format options to justify the expense. The camera will be used for outdoor work and mounted on a tripod to create fine art original prints that are not possible with 35mm. I am considering the Rollei 6008AF with Zeiss and Schnieder lenses - anything larger is just to much to haul around. I am new to Medium Format and would like to hear your advice regarding Hassey 200/500/905swc or the Rollei 6008AF. Thanks,

Johnny U.

David Haardt , December 29, 2002; 04:18 P.M.

As opposed to most readers of the H1 review, my judgement is a better one:

Mr Sitaraman complains that "[t]his is a Fuji lens camera" - well, Fuji has already made the Hasselblad 60-120. Furthermore, Fuji is one of the few manufacturers producing large format lenses. Moreover, Fuji has a strong range of unique medium format cameras - from AF compacts over a 6x17cm panoramic camera to three rangefinder cameras and a sophisticated studio system. Of course it is revealing that Hasselblad now switches from Zeiss to Fuji - could it be that Zeiss glass has been overly hyped in the past, and thus overpaid? Could it be that it's exactly for this reason, why incumbent Hasselblad users get angry over the H1? The same answer applies to Mr "Fuji WHO?...the FILM people?" Nowlin.

Mr Sitaraman also emphasises Rollei's "full reverse compatibility" - but he should not forget that this only holds true for the 600x series, which is quite a new one. Taking a look at the older SLX and SL66 series will show that system compatibility hasn't really been Rollei's strength.

Back to the H1. In my opinion, the 6x6 format is a declining one. Autofocus and automation is so much easier and more useful with the handier 6x4.5 format, which has the potential to become tomorrow's 35mm. I like the square format very much, but am convinced that most photographers don't share my opinion. Only the future will be able to show whether Hasselblad are able to live from their fame, i.e. to attract buyers for their new system. The division into two medium format systems is indeed problematic, and one might conclude that 6x6 will be eventually dropped. On the other hand, it is also possible that they go the Leica (M, R) route.

Best,

Richard Fenn , December 31, 2002; 08:24 A.M.

It is clear from Hasselblad choices of late, that the marketing department is concerned with rising costs and decreasing sales. Zeiss optics are at the top of the class, right beside Leitz glass. Which is better is a matter of personal option. But if the use of Zeiss lens drives the camera system costs through the roof and prevents prospective purchasers from considering this system, has Hasselblad succeeded?

Looking to the future, it would appear that Hasselblad recognizes the digital revolution. I beleive it has correctly recognized that the market will divided into silver halide and digital market places. Too maintain itself as a viable photographic solution, it must consider the future. Digital imaging CCD's and CMOS sensors will increase in size and decrease in cost. The digital market place will diverge offering full frame 35mm and medium format solutions. The 35 mm market place is there now and the medium format arena should be there in another 24 months. It would appear Hasselblad recognizes that it can get there faster and expand their product life by choosing the 645 format. This not only offers a format not currently offered but 645 format sensors be offered sooner and at a lower price point. It is important to remember that you can have a great product, but if very few a afford it, the product with not endure. As a case in point, look at the Contax 645 system. Have you priced out a lens lately? Or perhaps the Zeiss optics of the Rollei 6008 system.

Both Hasselblad and Rollei have recognized these cost issues in the past by offering no frills lens in an effort to reduce costs to the consumer. Perhaps it all comes down to the Zeiss, like Leitz, has priced itself out of the market.

It is clear that Hasselblad is fighting for its life. During tough times, tough choices have to be made. I personally hope they succeed

Colin Bradbury , February 06, 2003; 11:38 A.M.

Just looking at pricing for the H1 (in the UK) and the unavoidable conclusion is that it's just too damn expensive. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that it would be possible to buy 2 entire Mamiya 645AF outfits with 4 lenses for the price of one equivalent H1 kit. I know all the arguments about Hasselblad quality - I've used a 501CM for years - but as somebody looking to equip a new studio, the H1 just doesn't make financial sense. Even if the H1 is more reliable than the Mamiya, I would still want to have a full back-up kit and the thought of the cost of that with the 'blad makes me want to lie down in a dark room. And I'm not even sure that paying the extra for the H1 would guarantee a trouble free life. I know of a studio that has a couple of Contax 645AFs (not exactly cheap kit) and they have had lots of problems - mainly with the shutters - so that at any one time one of the cameras is usually out for repair. Seems like paying the exra $$$$s doesn't always buy reliability.

Greg Yoo , May 19, 2003; 01:26 A.M.

I wonder if this Fuji version will produce same quality of shots as the H1? Since both Fuji GX645AF & Hassey's H1 appear so similar, and both use Fuji's lenses.

If you can read Japanese go here

http://www.fujifilm.co.jp/gx645af/index.html

I'm guessing that Fuji's GX645AF will be priced lower than Hasselblad's H1.

I'll wait for further comprehensive review(s) of the H1, then decide if I will have my buddy staying in Japan ship a Fuji GX645AF for me.

Guess we'll all wait and see.

Thomas Brummett , June 20, 2003; 01:26 P.M.

Hello,

Warning: H1 is not for the studio photographer!

Below is a Copy of my email to Hasslebald:

I am in the process of returning an H1 which I just purchased. It is a very difficult camera to work with in the studio ( I have been using your other cameras for 20 years). The bracketing function does not recognize a flash sync cord in the camera. Therefore the camera in (manual setting) brackets via the shutter and not the aperture! ( brilliant) The aperture lock does not work properly. ( in does not stay locked!) In your zeal for a new technological camera you forgot to give us a true manual camera!!! You have forgotten basic design principles of the camera. Your camera can now only be as good as the software and the software is very bad... Basic functions that are needed by the studio pro have basically been ignored. Why??? If the basic camera functions ( accessing aperture and shutter controls, bracketing) , are impossible to use (and no where near as easy to use as your other line of cameras) why bother wasting every ones time and money?

Also the Polaroid back does not fit properly and covers main command functions of the camera. You have to remove the back to access the main controls! So I was either struggling with the Polaroid back, constantly re-setting the aperature lock, trying to get the camera to bracket properly in manual mode which is impossible. The shoot was a disaster. Your camera is a disaster... I am very upset. I trusted your company and now it is clear you guys have put a camera on the market that is not usable in the studio.

Thomas

Bernhard Steiert , November 17, 2003; 09:06 A.M.

To all of you concerned with the reliability of this Video cam... sorry – Medium Format Pro Camera. (Several people actually thought I was filming at the location and walked of disappointed because the camera did not say something like JVC or Panasonic). I had the opportunity to use this H1 Set (with 80mm 2.8 lens only) for one whole weekend. Nice feel, fast focus, winder fast and silent. I even felt comfortable with the software and button handling.
What I did not appreciate - and this for me was an eye-opener - I ran out of battery power. When I picked up the camera at the shop, the salesman was convinced that these expensive Lithium batteries (3x 3V) will last much longer than what I will need them to. I exposed 2,5 rolls of film, using fill flash only on 5-6 shots. (o.k. the camera had been tried out by others) After replacing the batteries with new ones it took another 2 rolls of film to read "low battery". This time - very bad timing. After warming the battery pack in my (pants) pocket for a few minutes I was able to take plenty more rolls. The camera had been outside in the car at btw. 4-6° Celsius (still above freezing). There was no way of shooting with cold batteries. At another location outside I experienced more electronic failure when the display read “no lens”. I could swear it was mounted. After an - o so familiar - “reset” the lens was back on.

Is this what experienced pro- photographers have been asking for? I don’t think so! I have to admit, I am not fond of AF and even prefer manual exposure setup (usually I use Mamiya RZ 67 pro and Nikon FE2 / FM2 as well as a manual Pentax KM). It is a mystery to me, how this could be the camera of choice for the average photographer who has to earn his living with this investment. – and all this after earlier comments concerning the switch to Fuji lenses.
One last comment on the “bokeh“ discussion. I earn the larger part of my income with pre print digital work (photoshop… fashion and so on).
It does not make sense to judge the quality of the lens on the basis of one web- picture. There are far too many variables. “What you see is NEVER what you had!”


Bernhard

SteiertEBV@gmx.de

Josef Tornick , March 30, 2004; 12:18 A.M.

Hi:

I was looking carefully at the various systems to not only shoot an important historical photography project this summer, but to be my main system for a long time to come. For the money, the Rollei 6008AF won out in every way, great Zeiss or Schneider lenses, built in automation, (metering, winder), and ease of handling. It is amazing that this camera is overlooked. I found a good dealer at ctrades.com, and looking at my contact sheets, I am well pleased.

MARK ANDERSON , April 01, 2004; 05:08 P.M.

Hi,

I couldn't agree more. Hasselblad is not what it used to be. ROLLEI's are a far better investment for me. I get to enjoy a square format that can slip on a 645 back at the blink of an eye not to mention German Schneider & Zeiss Optics. PLUS, you can get digital backs for them. Honestly, I bang those things around like crazy and they are never a problem. I've known people with the new Blads that have had problems already. For me it's a NO BRAINER. Of course, Ctrades deal with all my ROLLEI supplies and that only helps to make it run smoother, fantastic service.

Mark.

Talbert McMullin , September 02, 2004; 03:20 P.M.

Ok, I have just looked at the latest Hasselblad: It is not worth the money. It just isn't. This new Hassy has had several years to prove itself and/or improve, and it just has not done either, at least to my satisfaction. Since my last comment in this thread, I have gone nearly 90% digital. I may sell my Nikon and my old 501c, with some heartbreak.

The world of professional photography has become one of hyper-competition and changing technology. I have to keep my prices low and still make a profit. The very price of any Hasselblad cuts into my profit while no longer giving me a competative edge over anyone else. If I did buy into the Hasselblad, the technology would change/improve in less than 90 days. So much for keeping up with my competition.

Foveon, although not in cahoots with Hasselblad, concerns me. Foveon is definately THE superior technology and will eventually spread to other makers besides Sigma. This will change,no, revolutionize photography in the future.

A lot of old companies have gone "belly-up" in the last few years. Alas, Hasselblad may soon be added to the list.

hernest ernesti luchino , December 07, 2004; 04:05 A.M.

I have this camera from two months. It was a damned mistake have bought it. The lens is sharp, but this is all. Error lens often, and is necessary to stop of working: the viewfinder with error signals, and you have to stop and put down the viewfinder. After this, THIS camera have not far the quality of a hasselblad lens. NOT FAR, and this is not only for speaking nonsense;is not far. I bought this for having an hasselblad, but the way for buyng a digital back and, after having cropped the frame, to have the same sensor size of a camera which cost a half or a third part of the h1,this way is a nonsense. I made an error and now i come bach to 503 cw and perhaps a digital back. DON'T BUY IT.Is a nonsense. Sorry for my pedestrian english.

Robert Young , February 07, 2005; 10:31 P.M.

I just purchased a vendor's Demo H1 for $3500 (complete with 80mm lens, back and 90 degree viewfinder) vs a "new" price of over $5000. So far, it has functioned quite well (body firmware is 8.1.9, but current level is 9.0.0 so i will be getting it updated soon). AF has some problems with "night" scenes, but that is to be expected. Battery life has not yet been an issue (they warn that it can depend greatly on your choice of system 'timeout' from inactivity). The C/CF/CFi adapter has been anounced, so that will open the door to all my other Hassy lenses (in non-AF mode), but I doubt one will routinely need AF with very long lenses (they'll be on a tripod anyway), or very wide ones (due to greater DOF). There were issues with the zoom lens initially, but I believe an earlier firmware update fixed much of that ( remember that you need to keep the firmware in sync with your attachments/lenses to avoid problems...a point that many forget to follow religiously).

michael ginex , May 05, 2006; 01:32 P.M.

"Zeiss optics have a reputation second to none, and those for the Hasselblad series of cameras are exemplary." ......ummmm..excuse me....what about Leica? "While every other maker of 35mm and medium format cameras has embraced autofocus (even Contax), Hasselblad alone has resisted the siren call." .........ummmm...hey...what about Leica? I agree that Hasselblad gear is great. But I also think Leica is comparable if not better, especially in their rugged camera design and "truly" incomparable optics. I have both. The Hassie's I reserve for studio work. The Leica's when I want to record the eyelashes of a yellow crown heron at 50 yards. And I'm using the "old" Leica glass, not the new Telyt Modular System which supercedes everything else on the planet.

Douglas Boyd , October 04, 2007; 05:14 P.M.

I just purchased the H1 with Kodak Pro back used for $7000 at Keeble and Shuchat in Palo Alto. When the original review was written in 2002, there were a lot of objections that do not apply today at the price on the used market. The cost is now reasonable for a medium format camera with digital and film back. Less than the cost of Canon 1Ds MkIII for example. But why would you buy it? For me, I was blown away by the shallow depth of field of the normal 80mm lens at f2.8 to f4.0. With the Kodak Pro, this lens has a crop factor between 1.1 and 1.4 depending on whether you shoot in square, or 4:5 format. The short DOF produces the subject isolation from background that I was looking for in the photos I like to take. I can not get this effect with my Nikon D2X unless a really long lens and step back 30 to 50 ft. from the subject. I can do this with my various 6x6 and 6x7 film scanners, but scanning is a pain, and the quality from a film scan is far less than from the 4000x4000x12-bit Kodak Pro back.

One thing that isn't mentioned in the reviews is the amazing integration with Photoshop CS2 and CS3 of the Kodak raw files. Not mentioned becaue this wasn't available in 2002 and 2003. The Kodak raw files are only about 17 megs and process very quickly in Camera Raw-- actually much faster than Nikon D2X raw files. This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. The Kodak raw image processing in 2007 is a pleasure to use.

Anyway, in short, the image quality of this camera is amazing, and better than I get with Nikon D2X.

The deficiencies are as mentioned, the camera is somewhat big and heavy, and the lenses have a limited focal length range (and are expensive). Therefore I plan to use only 80mm and 35mm lenses with the Hasselblad, and to cover the wide end, and the long end, I will always bring along my D2X with the 11-18mm Tamron, and the 50-500mm Sigma ("Bigma") lenses. This will give me a full range of options and is a reasonably affordable kit for a casual photographer, like myself.

==Doug

Marc Byram , December 20, 2008; 07:22 P.M.

It is great to read this topic started back in 2002 about the H1.
I recalled reading about this cameras launch back then and also viewing it with a little scepticism partly because the design seemed to deviate so much from what I thought a Hass should look like.


I haven't really given this camera much thought until the beginning of this year almost 6 years after it's launch, but after shooting exclusively Canon digital DSLR since early 2004 at the beginning of this year (2008) I realised I had allowed my style of shooting to become restricted by the cameras I used, not that they are "bad" cameras just that I had allowed myself to get in "rut" and so decided to take some action to get out of it.


This action meant that outside of my commercial work I would start to shoot film again, my interest quickly grew to include some vintage cameras, and eventually I ended quite quickly at medium format newer film cameras and the Hass 501 CM with the square format I so much love. I found buying good quality second hand camera meant I could try what ever I fancied and if I didn't like them sell on at often at a small profit and seldom at a loss. So whilst looking for my next indulgence around August ... I almost accidentally bought a H series film back for a silly price on eBay planning to simply sell it on at a good profit, but once it arrived I realised I could actually check to see it it worked unlike say the "V" system back ...it appeared to work but I had no way of knowing if it worked fully and not wishing to sell something that I was unsure of decided I therefore needed to test it ...so wasn't long before I got to put it on to a borrowed H1 ...and you guest it ....as soon as I picked the camera up ...I couldn't put it down. As Michael states in his introduction even though this camera is large and bulky it fits to the hand very well and felt like a part of me ....always my first priority with a camera, I found I understood it's controls within seconds and needless to say I ended up buying a H1 to go with the film back with less than 500 actuations another film back and couple of lenses.

Since then my love affair with the camera has increased ten fold I loved my results with film and have gone on to purchasing a Phase One P20 digital back to give me the square format I so much liked with the "V" system and also even a Polaroid back as there are some great Polaroid film out there to stretch my creativity even further.

I have to say Hasselblad did offer me a great deal on a H3D Mk II 39 when I was looking for a second hand H1 or H2 and the difference in cost from my present set up with partly second hand equipment and a factory refurbished 16 MP P20 Phase Back is not massively different, my reason for not going down the new H3 route was very deliberate in that I am less impressed with the H3D due it's restriction on the user and their creativity. I know there is a sound business reason for developments in respect of limiting H3 users to a single digital back manufacturer, but not being able to use any other media (film or Polaroid) coupled with is very poor software (Phocus) for RAW conversion compared to the brilliant software with Phase One's Capture One which I was using before I bought a Phase One back with my Canon files, there is really no contest. I know from reading later comments about this wonderful camera that I am not the only one to look to the H1 to move away from 35 mm DSRLs ...I cannot recommend this camera highly enough ...my wedding work next season will be massively different than what I did this or year the year before. I will still shoot 35 mm for PJ style shots but all portraiture and formal groups will now be shot with Hasselblad H1 or Xpan.

I am really looking forward to doing my job again.

Marc;-)

erich pauchner , July 10, 2009; 04:51 P.M.

Hallo Everyone :

I just inherited a Haselblad 500 c/m from a distant family member and it's in almost mint condition. From the recent knowledge I've gathered this camera could be about 30 yrs old. However after putting through a roll of 120 film it seems fine. The mechanical sound is so cool !

The question is : For the 500 C/M do I need to get a particular digital back ? And do I need an adapter or not ? What are my options ?

The amount of confusing info on the Web has really left me more bewildered than eager to know ! Can you please help me out of this dilemma ?

Kind regards to all.

Marc Byram , July 29, 2010; 04:30 P.M.

In respect to the question about the digital back for the 500 I believe Hass do a back for the "V" range of cameras, but you could also look at  Phase One the P20 is the perfect 6x6 digital back. I shoot with one with a H1 and wouldn't use anything else because I still get that wonderful square format even with a 645 camera.

Marc;-)

 

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