Hasselblad H4 – ‘fit for purpose?’

The new Hasselblad H4D featuring revolutionary True Focus functionality.

Fit for purpose
“As the weeks progress and we edge forward into a new year we are starting to hear more and more about the latest offering from Hasselblad, the H4.
So what’s all the hype about and can things really be that different as it seems only recently that the H3 was launched. Well indeed to understand the H4 in some ways I feel we must look back to the current H3 and the press that it received not only for its quality and accuracy but also for being the turning point where Hasselblad closed the platform and took total control of the system. I purchased my H3 DII in February last year after testing several alternate solutions including Phase One and also Leaf so in some ways my feelings and review of their equipment could be seen to be hopefully quite useful as I’m not a camera journalist who just got one for the afternoon and shot his mates car out of the office window, I’m the end user, the customer, the working photographer! Sure I work at a reasonably high level as a commercial photographer with high end clients such as Aston Martin but at the end of the day nobody would drop thousands on the table without doing their homework first. I give seminars each year and one question that rears its head a lot is whats the best model of camera I can buy, this is of course the million dollar question if you mistakenly perceive that its the camera in your hand that will produce a great photograph and not the correct sequence of firing brain cells behind your eye, also referred to sometimes as ‘your imagination’. Sure a quality camera is important even if like me you believe that you could give Ringo Starr a baked bean tin and he’d still get a decent tune out of it… My point here is that I did then and do now fail to understand why the big uproar about Hasselblad closing their platform from accepting other makers digital backs etc. At the end of the day it would be foolish to invest in a £8k SLR body and then shove a £200 lens on the front and have the brass to complain that image quality was not as good as you expected. I think the point here is that I did not buy a H3 I bought into a system that has excellent support, offers me the backup to continue to work anywhere in the world whenever I need it and indeed one that can actually start to guarantee quality and more importantly constancy through the ‘capture’ element of my work flow. So in a nut shell my thoughts on Hasselblad are that they currently, for me, deliver the best solution for my work, the Hasselblad I shoot on and all the other bits that bolt on including 5 lenses are over the last year faultless and do not have me wondering if they will fail in any given situation, peace of mind you could say, or indeed ‘fit for purpose’ and I work as a photographer because of two basic reasons, first its my passion and second it’s my business, anybody who approaches business with any less of an attitude may indeed think life is great, at least for the first year, but they will soon realise that unless like me your lucky enough to find something that your really passionate about, and also learn to balance that with a hard sense of business and money, you will inevitably fall by the wayside with a nice but useless box marked ‘my favorite prints’. My H3 will inevitably be switching to the new H4 in the coming months as the benefits that the H4 offers me will further allow me to concentrate on the subject in front of me and give me the peace of mind that the only thing I need concern myself with when packing for a shoot is that the batteries are charged up, and that’s the way that I like it. The best camera is the one in your hand and mine just happens to be a Hasselblad through considered choice for my particular role, it is very much fit for my purpose, no voodoo or smoke and mirrors, just a reliable good quality system that helps me create great images and continue a successful business.”
Tim Wallace – Photographer

APL – What’s it all about?
Hasselblad has introduced two new cameras to its H System of medium format cameras. First comes the H4D-60 with a 60MP sensor. It features the ‘True Focus’ AF system that can measure the movement of the camera when recomposing after focusing to ensure that focus remains on the target – a system Hasselblad calls Absolute Position Lock. Along with the H4D-60, the company has also launched the H4D-50 with a 50MP sensor, replacing the H3DII-50. The H4D-60 will start shipping from November 2009 and the H4D-50 will ship in the first quarter of 2010.

With the release of the new H4D-60, the first H4D camera and most recent addition to the Hasselblad H System, Hasselblad marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of medium format DSLRs. The H4D-60 will feature True Focus with APL (Absolute Position Lock), making auto-focus substantially easier and more accurate for photography professionals.

As part of the celebration honoring the first manned lunar landing and the first lunar photography, camera manufacturer Hasselblad is announcing another first, the launch of the H4D camera series. The first model in the new series is the H4D-60, featuring a 60 Megapixel medium format sensor.

“We are thrilled to be able to announce the introduction of the H4D,” says Christian Poulsen, CEO of Hasselblad. “This step represents the natural evolution of our H System and of our photographic strategy in general. As part of our efforts to inspire 35mm photographers to step up to the quality found in high-end DSLRs, the H4D series is built upon the successful H3D platform and features our revolutionary True Focus technology. The H4D also comes bundled with our new Phocus 2.0 imaging software.”

True Focus and Absolute Position Lock
“True Focus helps solve one of the most lingering challenges that faces serious photographers today,” he continues, “true, accurate focusing throughout the image field. Without multi-point auto-focus a typical auto-focus camera can only correctly measure focus on a subject that is in the center of the image. When a photographer wants to focus on a subject outside the center area, they have to lock focus on the subject and then re-compose the image. In short distances especially, this re-composing causes focus error, as the plane of focus sharpness follows the camera’s movement, perpendicular to the axis of the lens.”

The traditional solution for most DSLRs has been to equip the camera with a multi-point AF sensor. These sensors allow the photographer to fix an off-center focus point on an off-center subject, which is then focused correctly. Such multi-point AF solutions are often tedious and inflexible to work with, however, and do not really solve the problem, claims Poulsen.

“Photographers have grown accustomed to using auto-focus systems in their day to day work and we see increasingly higher numbers of focus points advertised in each new wave of AF products. The term ‘multi-point auto-focus’ is a bit misleading, however, for cameras with sensors larger than APS,” claims Poulsen. “Due to the physics of an SLR-camera, the off-center focus points that are offered are all clustered relatively close to the center of the image. To set focus outside of this center area, the photographer is still forced to focus first, and then shift the camera to reframe, with the resulting loss of focus as a result.

To overcome this problem, Hasselblad has used modern yaw rate sensor technology to measure angular velocity in an innovative way. The result is the new Absolute Position Lock (APL) processor, which forms the foundation of Hasselblad’s True Focus feature. The APL processor accurately logs camera movement during any re-composing, then uses these exact measurements to calculate the necessary focus adjustment, and issues the proper commands to the lens’s focus motor so it can compensate. The APL processor computes the advanced positional algorithms and carries out the required focus corrections at such rapid speed that no shutter lag occurs. The H4D’s firmware then further perfects the focus using the precise data retrieval system found on all HC/HCD lenses.

“This technology takes AF to an entirely new level, correcting for the vertical and horizontal focus-shift that results from the rotation of the camera around an axis close to camera,” says Poulsen, “In simple terms, True Focus allows the photographer to concentrate on their composition, to focus on their creativity, while True Focus takes care of the other, more mechanical focus.”

True Focus on the H4D can be set to work at a half press of the camera release button, or via any user button programmed to AF-drive when the camera is in manual focus mode. This, the first release of True Focus, only corrects the horizontal and vertical positioning of the camera, and does not correct for any focus-shift which results from larger lateral movements of the camera during recomposing. The True Focus technology and APL (both patent pending) mark a significant milestone for Hasselblad’s high-end DSLR strategy and represent the result of many years of development work.

Faster Software, Shorter Learning Curve
The new user interface in Phocus 2.0 drastically reduces the learning curve for high-end imaging. The average photographer will be up to speed in less than 15 minutes, claims Hasselblad CEO Christian Poulsen. Functionality has not been lowered, however, with Phocus 2.0 matching or bettering the speed, functions, and usability found in Lightroom, Aperture, and Capture One.

“We’ve increased speed, increased functionality, and dramatically increased the speed at which photographers can learn to use this advanced software,” says Poulsen. “In less than 5 minutes an amateur photographer can learn to work with our images. In less than 10 minutes, learn how to setup for production of high-res files for Photoshop. In less than 20 minutes learn how to shoot tethered as a professional studio photographer. The new version of Phocus is just another step in our efforts to make complex functionality simple to use, allowing photographers to focus on their shooting.”

This philosophy lies behind a range of the features found in the H4D, including Hasselblad Natural Color Solution (HNCS), which achieves consistent color reproduction using a single color profile, and digital lens correction (DAC) which perfects each image captured through the HC/HCD lenses, by removing any trace of distortion, vignetting or chromatic aberrations. It was also the key motivation for what will surely be the most attractive feature in the new H4D, Hasselblad True Focus, explains Poulsen.

Hasselblad H4 Product


2 Responses to “Hasselblad H4 – ‘fit for purpose?’”

  1. 1 gavin
    November 24, 2010 at 11:10

    Great cameras,

    Sadly no longer Swedish made. As far as I can see they are Japanese or Chinese made

    Such a shame

  2. January 25, 2011 at 03:45

    I’ve had a chance to shoot a commercial in my photo studio with it not long ago and I have to say that my heart and my mind were Blown away ! That will definitely be my next purchase !

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Ambient Life Online

A selection of other online sites that offer a look into the work of UK Professional Photographer Tim Wallace.


Photographer Tim Wallace is the driving force and creative thinking behind Ambient Life.
An award winning photographer he is probably best known for his commercial car and advertising work.

Tim works with many well known brands and clients such as Aston Martin, Land Rover and Kenwood in the US, and has recently been named as one of the ten photographers to be selected by Hasselblad for the quality of his work and creative vision to represent their new 'Pro Team' to be launched in 2010.


January 2010
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