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H4D-40 (H4D-50) and custom white balance

Kevin Briggs , Jun 24, 2010; 12:27 a.m.

In considering the possibility of purchasing the Hasselblad H4D-40, I was surprised to learn (by downloading the manual) that it is NOT possible to create a custom white balance setting by taking a test exposure (by using a third-party white balance device such as the ExpoDisc).

For those out there who do have this H4D-40 model, I just wanted to confirm that this was indeed the reality of the situation...?

I certainly understand that when shooting in RAW mode (as I always do), the custom white balance setting does not affect the underlying RAW digital data of the photo file.

However, as a landscape photographer, I find it invaluable to have the "perfectly calibrated," if you will, color temperature by using the ExpoDisc because of what it will display (in each photo) on the digital back. As I take each shot and look at what is produced by such a perfectly calibrated color temperature setting -- by viewing each individual photo on the digital back -- it is much easier to gauge what I need to do with each individual photo file in relation to the subtle tones and hues of each landscape photograph.

Or stated more succinctly, when I drop the photo into Photoshop, I don't want to have to guess at the color temperature at the time I took the shot (maybe several days previously). I absolutely love the ExpoDisc's ability to gauge/calibrate the color temperature for me respective to each individual RAW photo file.

I'm just sorry to learn (possibly) that if I did indeed end up purchasing the H4D-40, I would not be able to rely upon the ExpoDisc method.


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Q.G. de Bakker , Jun 24, 2010; 01:34 a.m.

You're right.

Kevin Briggs , Jun 24, 2010; 02:05 a.m.

Why is Hasselblad so far behind the curve on the technology (at least seemingly)...?

Michael Pichmann , Jun 24, 2010; 07:58 a.m.

You're NOT right.
Have a look at the manual on page 62 'To make a manual white balance setting'.

Q.G. de Bakker , Jun 24, 2010; 11:52 a.m.

You can select a colour temperature, either out of a limited choice of pre-selects, or (and that's the "manual" bit) by setting whatever one you want.
But neither method will work like Kevin likes it to work.
And that, because of the thing Kevin mentioned: it doesn't affect the raw files anyway. The raw files contain all data and all opportunity to set and reset white and grey balance in post processing.

Leigh B. , Jun 24, 2010; 10:29 p.m.

Hi Kevin,

The Hasselblad backs record raw data from the sensor array. There is no concept of "white balance" in that data. I expect the H4D works the same way since it works with the same computer program.

All color manipulation is done in the computer program called Phocus, which is downloadable for free for both windoze and Mac computers. Color adjustment is more than "white balance", which only involves the red and blue channels. Full adjustment also controls the green channel.

It certainly IS possible to do custom white balance in Phocus. In fact it's trivially easy.

There's a tool with an icon that resembles a fountain pen. You enable that, place the cursor over an area which is supposed to be gray (your gray card), and click the mouse button. The red, green, and blue channels are all adjusted such that you get a neutral gray.

In addition to that one-click automation, Phocus has a full set of manual color controls. You can enter color temperature in degrees Kelvin, or you can use a slider for setting red/blue balance. There's an additional slider for the green/magenta channel.

All you have to do is put a gray card in one image frame, then shoot as many images as you want. Download the data into the computer and adjust the settings in Phocus as described above. As long as the lighting is unchanged you can use that one gray setting for all frames.

- Leigh

You can download Phocus 2.5 (the current release) for windoze or Mac here:
The Phocus 2.5 User's Manual can be downloaded here as a PDF:

Leigh B. , Jun 24, 2010; 11:05 p.m.

It occurs to me that it may be possible to enter color balance information in the camera itself.

If so, that information is included in the raw data file and used to preset the controls in Phocus.

Seems like a reasonable thing to do, but I don't have an H*D camera to try it.

- Leigh

Michael Pichmann , Jun 25, 2010; 03:06 p.m.

In another forum you can read a post http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?p=204607 from the long time Hasselblad shooter Marc Williams.
He wrote:
"I have the much used Manual White Balance function assigned to the stop-down button on the grip (I rarely use stop down). It is very fast to just click off a MWB shot of the Bride's dress and get to shooting. No menu stuff to deal with at all."
It seems to me, that this is the Manual White Balance function, Kevin is looking for.
I own a H3DII-31 and it works well.

Kevin Briggs , Jun 28, 2010; 01:34 a.m.

I decided to finally contact the company directly; here's the response I got yesterday:

Hi Kevin:

In fact that is not true....

You are able to either set a manual color temperature or manually adjust to a grey card (or ExpoDisk).

Are you ever in the Seattle area? We might be able to arrange a demonstration.

He, of course, just doesn't how this is accomplished with either of these models. It will be interesting to learn how this is done.

Leigh B. , Jun 28, 2010; 04:58 a.m.

I'm sure there's a good reason why you didn't just read the manual, instead of bothering us with this question.

There are appropriate instructions in the manual for making this setting.

However, the camera's White Balance setting only affects the camera's display. It has nothing to do with the scene rendered by the computer software.

This is exactly the same as the operation of my CFV-39, as I expected.

- Leigh

ref: H4D 40 & 50 manual, particularly the note at the bottom of page 37.

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