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What (Else) to Know When Renting the Hasselblad H4X Medium Format Camera w/ 80MP IQ280 Digital Back

Gear Talk

A while back, we did a piece on what to know when renting Hasselblad H4X Medium Format Camera w/ 80MP IQ280 Digital Back. Medium format gear is a pretty different creature from your standard DSLR, even your high-end Canon 1Dx and Nikon D4’s. Like my colleague Alex Huff pointed out, it can be “perhaps a little scary.”

Here are a few more things you should keep in mind when shooting with the Medium Format gear, especially with the 80MP IQ280 Phase One back.

  • As Alex mentioned, you will need Capture One to read and work with Phase One’s IQF files. While Capture One is available for free for 60 days, here’s something even better – it’s available for free for an unlimited amount of time in “DB” mode. DB mode restricts you to using Capture One with files from Phase, Mamiya, and Leaf digital backs only, but has the full feature set of Capture One Pro.
  • Alex also mentioned the reverse crop-factor for lenses when you use them with this back. That difference is ridiculously stark when compared to APS-C or even full-frame sensors, let alone Micro 4/3 or smaller. Here’s a shot taken with a 24mm lens.
    Tree shot taken with a Hasselblad 24mm lens and Phase One IQ280 back.

    Tree shot taken with a Hasselblad 24mm lens and Phase One IQ280 back.

    As an image, it’s not particularly remarkable – till you realize that I was standing almost under the tree itself. The reverse crop factor gives you some seriously wide angles.

  • The lenses made by Hasselblad are amazing as far as image quality goes. What they are not, is weather-sealed. I can’t stress this enough, folks – do NOT take these out to Burning Man. Or the beach. I did, and we had to send a 100mm and a 24mm lens out to Hasselblad for cleaning. I barely had the lens out on the coast for five minutes and dust managed to get into them. The bill was, well, not small.
  • The Phase One IQ280 back has tremendous dynamic range. Here’s a side-by-side of an image before and after shadow enhancement.
    The PhaseOne IQ280 has tremendous dynamic range.

    The PhaseOne IQ280 has tremendous dynamic range.


  • When you take this kit out for a shoot, remember that there are two power sources you need to be aware of. The first is for the body, which is a CR123 battery. Keep a spare around; these aren’t rechargeable. The second is for the pack itself, and is a proprietary rechargeable. These are monster machines, and battery consumption is commensurate with that kind of draw. Bear that in mind.
  • The mirror on this unit is huge, and slaps around quite a bit. If you can, use a tripod and look for the mirror lockup button on the front of the camera, just inside the grip. Pushing that will lock the mirror up, blocking the viewfinder, so make sure you compose your shot first. Then, when you press the shutter, all you might hear is a tiny, almost inaudible click. That’s the leaf shutter at play. Your image is now done.
  • Lastly, here’s a unique feature about the Phase One IQ280. Most digital backs are best shot at their lowest ISO’s; in the case of the Phase, it’s ISO 35. But if you need to shoot at higher ISO’s, there’s a few ISO settings with an “S+” in front of them. Using these will give you a much smaller image (around 20MP), but it’ll keep your noise under far better control than shooting at “normal” ISO’s.
    The Sensor+ ISO settings on a Phase One IQ280 back.

    The Sensor+ ISO settings on a Phase One IQ280 back.



We’ve got a lot more to share about the medium-format systems, and we’ll be doing so over the next few weeks as well. Check back with us soon to learn what it’s like to shoot tethered with the Hasselblad H5D40 – with an iPad, no less.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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