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Hasselblad Promises Sony Rebranding Rampage Is Over, and We Now Know Why It Began

Hasselblad's controversial partnership and reskinning of Sony's consumer and prosumer digital cameras that led to Frankenstein creations such as the Stellar and Lunar cameras also got some of its models on a number of "worst camera of the year" lists. While that was certainly out of the ordinary for a brand that prides itself on being on the exact opposite lists, an interview with DP Review gives insight as to why this all began in the first place. And when you think about it, you can't blame them.

In an interview with Hasselblad CEO Perry Oosting, DPReview uncovered that the real market for the Hasselblad-Sony cameras was based in Asia. That market specifically requested the products, and Hasselblad delivered after promising to fulfill that desire. It turns out that the Stellar was actually quite a profitable camera for Hasselblad (no surprise) and sold very well in Asia (big surprise... or is it?).

The lack of mentioning a selling record of the other camera lines from the Sony venture doesn't necessarily mean the others did poorly, but it is certainly a curious omission from the interview. Nevertheless, forgoing any further possible speculation on that front, there is a very good reason that Hasselblad caved into its Asian market's desires.

Oosting didn't come out and say it directly (nor did he even remotely dance on the topic), but for one reason or another, it is culturally important to the Asian market to be able to display their wealth when possible. The same could be said for any culture — especially Western and/or American cultures with Hollywood's egregious desire for "bling" and fast cars. But it is the Asian market that pushed Apple to create the wildly popular gold-colored models of its iPhones, new MacBooks, and even the Apple Watch (to be fair, there's ever-so-slightly more to be said about the history and beauty of gold in a watch as a jewelry item, though that is beside the point). And of course, it's the same market that pushed for Hasselblad's Lunar, Stellar, HV, Stellar II, and now, the Lusso (based on the Sony NEX-7, RX100, a99, RX100 Mark 2, and the a7R, respectively).

For many, the Hasselblad Lunar marked the beginning of a long and grueling road with an ill-conceived idea to gouge ignorant consumers' wallets. But history has taught us that perhaps some of those people weren't so ignorant and instead had their needs met.

The Lusso, limited to fewer than 100 units, will be the last of the bunch. But it is, apparently, a desired model for the Asian market to which it is also limited. Oosting left room to speculate that new formats of Hasselblad cameras will see the light of day, but not in the same way as in the past (likely referring to completely in-house solutions), as indicated in the DP Review article: “He hints that the idea of Hasselblad DSLRs, compacts and mirrorless bodies wasn't wrong in itself, rather it was the way those products came about that created the issues.” Note that he admits there were issues — issues that I imagine went beyond just a public outcry.

Hasselblad is not a complete stranger to formats apart from its 6x6 and 645 film and digital cameras. Its past ventures do include the Hasselblad XPAN. Although that, too, was very matter-of-factly a Fuji-built, reskinned XT-1. But few people would question Hasselblad's abilities to make a smaller-format camera nevertheless.

The "three-year plan" alluded to in the interview also gives insight into a timeline that might usher in a new dawn of products for Hasselblad. Competitively, this makes sense, given PhaseOne's recent announcement of their new XF platform. And historically, this makes sense as well. A major shift toward new products (both in more affordable medium format and more capable "smaller" format technologies) is long overdue.

For now, I'm just happy my cringing at the thought of people throwing their money away will soon cease to exist. Maybe Hasselblad's explanation of the existence of these rebranded cameras can even retroactively assuage some of my heartache. But until these (hopefully) new products see the light of day, my chest will remain just a little tight.

The DP Review article is definitely worth a read for anyone interested.

[via DP Review]

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9 Comments
Michael Comeau's picture

I never understood why photographers got so bent out of shape over these cameras.

It was always obvious that those cameras were very clearly aimed at people for whom money is no object - NOT photographers weighing cost vs. benefits.

Sean Shimmel's picture

While I'm not quite bent out of shape, I'm embarrassed for those who were never embarassed enough themselves to avoid buying one of these shiny klunkers. :)

Ariel Martini's picture

I think the worst is hasselblad, who we all know makes quality medium format stuff, having it's name dirty by this. Dior Lunar would be best.

Jason Vinson's picture

fingers crossed for a mirrorless medium format camera like the Fuji X100!

Justin Haugen's picture

I also heard from someone at Hassleblad that they were a big hit in golf pro shops.

Spy Black's picture

I think the truth is they were embarrassed by the general photographic public and saw their reputation being professionally tarnished, possibly detrimentally. Time to bail while they still had a glimmer of hope for redemption.

Anthony Cayetano's picture

I could smell something with that excuse from a mile away.

Brian Dowling's picture

If you think that's bad, Rollei makes selfie sticks here in Germany.

B Jones's picture

Will that work on my 4.0 FW TLR? :-)