Hasselblad H4D-40 Stainless Steel 40Mp camera
Shiny special edition for the pros
Review When Hasselblad launched its 40Mp H4D model at Photokina, it was presented stripped of any coating, with just the bare bones of a stainless steel body on show. The idea was to illustrate the core strength of the HD4 series, but this denuded look was so striking – contemporary, yet oddly retro – that the Swedish company immediately started to receive requests from photographers wanting one.
One hundred of a kind: Hasselblad's H4D-40 Stainless Steel
Hasselblad seized the opportunity and in November announced it would produce a limited run of 100 Stainless Steel H4D-40 cameras. For a collectors' item, the price tag of £16,794 with the 80mm lens or £15,594 body-only isn't an excessive mark-up on the standard model. You can still buy one too, apparently, and recently had the chance to try one of these rarities out. If nothing else, its cool metal exterior emphasises just how hardy it is. And if you leave practicalities aside, its alluring aesthetics and uniqueness combine to make just taking it out of the box a rather special user experience. And that’s all before you even get to take a picture.
By contrast, the standard edition H4D-40 is available at £14,634 body-only or £15,834 with the standard HC 80mm lens. This has a vaguely institutional paint job, reminiscent of scientific instruments and wartime memorabilia. Apart from appearances, these models are the same, but if you need to be noticed – as if owning a Hasselblad wasn’t enough – the company also makes a Ferrari H4D-40, with a shiny and bold red body with the iconic rampant horse logo. No doubt Stainless Steel owners will look upon the Ferrari edition as a little common, with its production of 499 units even if it does cost a good deal more at £22,800 including 80mm lens.
Even in the digital domain Hasselblad maintains its modular approach to camera construction that has made its film models, such as the V-series, so enduring. Part of the H-system of cameras, the H4D-40 is a step up from the entry-level H4D-31. The body is essentially a cube with a slightly protruding detachable digital back with a 3in, 230,400 pixels resolution, display, optics at the front and viewfinder options on top. You can even kit out the H-series for film using the HM 16-32 magazine that takes 120/220 roll film or the HMi 100 for instant film.
The H4D-40 is built around a 40Mp Kodak 33 x 44mm CCD sensor, with 1.3x crop factor. Capture rate is 1.1secs per frame and produces 3FR RAW files, Hasselblad’s own lossless compression format. Handling these files is Phocus, Hasselblad’s imaging software. A powerful and constantly updated workflow processing application, Phocus also has a sister app, Phocus mobile, that runs on iOS devices and allows wireless connection to the main software for browsing, zooming, rating and remote capture.
If you like special editions, then the Ferrari H4D-40 even comes in a special box
With a standard HC80 mm lens attached the H4D-40 measures 153 x 131 x 213 mm (WxHxD) and weighs 2290 g (including battery and card). It is a big and heavy affair but thanks to a large, rubberised grip, housing the battery pack, and ergonomically designed, well-placed controls the H4D-40 feels extremely comfortable in the hand and it is a piece of cake to operate.
Next page: Test tones
Looking for noise in all the wrong places
This isn't a phtojournalist's camera, therefore, higher ISO is there more or less for show. Camera manufacturers do have e-pen0rz as well, and must wave them mightily in order to attract those who buy it for prestige alone.
Compare the Hassy to the Nikon D3s. The Nikon has absolutely SUPERB noise performance, but compare the tonalities of the two at base ISO, and it'll be like comparing a 1990's MIDI file to a live performance.
Basically, you buy the Hassy for its ability to capture really bloody minute tonal nuances at a staggeringly high resolution under very good lighting, and you buy the Nikon for its ability to focus on and capture a berserk black cat in a coal mine with almost no visible noise.
Therefore, the only noise that matters in the Hasselhoff is that at base ISO - and there's precious little of it.
Testing high-res sensors like these is far more difficult to quantify, therefore, most measurebating sites tend to avoid them. Or penalize them for having loads of noise at high ISO, which is much like penalizing cars for their inability to float across the English channel.
That's perfectly true. But sometimes the clients want a higher MP count. Do they need it? Probably not. But they pays their money, they makes their choice.
These MF cameras are really pro - their primary purpose is to generate income for the photographer, and if they generate it by allowing the photographer to say to the client: "40 Megapickles? I can do that," then they do their job perfectly.
Out of context quote of the day
"...I split the rubber..."
"Shiny special edition for the pros"
If there is a pro who needs one of these cameras they will be buying the basic model. They are in business to make a profit if possible. The SS and Ferrari models are for posers with more money than sense but good on you Hasselblad if there are people who will chuck money your way.
Hasselblad are Chinese owned now. A lot of development of this camera was contracted to Fujifilm.