The Hasselblad Is Here: First Impressions and Sample Shots

The Hasselblad Is Here: First Impressions and Sample Shots

The Hasselblad H5D40 medium-format digital camera is here, so of course we had to give it a go. We pressed a number of our staffers into service as models, and went through an impromptu portrait session.

Sample images as well as first impressions after the jump.

First, the sample images…

Shooting with the Hasselblad H5D40 was a mixed bag in that it was at once familiar and foreign. I’ve shot medium-format digital and film before, mostly on the Phase (digital) and Hasselblad 500C (film). So I was familiar with the H5D40’s basic operation.

Shooting Jo Deguzman and Courtney Newvine with the Hasselblad

Shooting Jo Deguzman and Courtney Newvine with the Hasselblad

The shoot was set up in our lobby. We used a large Elinchrom 74″ Octa as the light source, with one 500 w/s Elinchrom BXRI monolight in it, plus a second BXRI scraping across the collapsible background for some of the shots. Both were triggered using the Skyport transceiver included with the Elinchrom BXRI kit.

Here are a few initial impressions.

  • Flash sync is up to 1/800th. This is awesome, since it completely eliminates ambient light. 
  • The 120mm f/4 Macro lens I shot with is crazy-sharp.
  • The dynamic range and detail are everything that Hasselblad has promised (more on this in future articles about this new platform).
  • Watch your highlights. There’s a handy histogram in the top LCD that shows you this, so it’s relatively easy.
  • Get a tripod. I shot handheld, but this is a heavy platform. If I was shooting at a lower shutter speed (say, like 1/200th), I’d probably see some camera shake. Since the flash can sync up to 1/800th, it didn’t affect me much, thankfully.
  • The True Focus feature is a blessing. DSLR users stepping up to this platform might not really understand why at first, since we’re used to up to 61 AF points on our cameras. But when you shoot with just one central AF point, having the camera automatically compensate for your motion when you recompose the shot after focusing is a big, big deal.
  • The viewfinder is big and bright.
  • The LCD is nice, but could be a touch higher-res.
  • Did I mention the detail this machine captures is pretty darn amazing?
  • ISO range is limited. You can shoot up to ISO 800, but really, don’t. I prefer not to go above 200.
  • There is some moiré. Like the D800E from Nikon, there’s no OLPF (Optical Low-Pass Filter) in front of the sensor, so there’s nothing to blur out that moiré. That said, it’s not nearly as obvious as I thought it would be.

We’ll be covering the Hasselblad gear and the medium-format platform in some detail over the next few weeks, but you don’t have to wait for that. It’s available for rent now, so have at it! And if you have any questions, please sound off in the comments…

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter or find him at


  1. Blog @ BorrowLenses - [...] haz Medium-Format! If you haven’t seen it yet, we posted sample pictures from our Hasselblad gear on our blog…

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