What Is Happening Over at Hasselblad?

Hasselblad has had a storied history in the camera business. Even today, they’re making some impressive cameras, such as the medium-format X1D II.

And then there’s the Hasselblad cell phone camera? Well, not quite. It’s the soon-to-released OnePlus 9, which has a camera that has been “co-developed” by Hasselblad. But what does that actually mean?

Tech YouTuber Dave Lee breaks down what that really means in a video that takes a hard look at the hardware and software powering the new camera in the phone.

At its core, the sensor is actually manufactured by Sony, and while the lens does a really good job of fixing distortion, especially at the wide angles, according to Lee, where the Hasselblad name really comes in is the “color science.” And that seems to be about it.

At the sound of that, this $150 million partnership between the two companies starts to sound like that time Hasselblad rebranded some Sony cameras by slapping some wood on them and calling them silly names such as “Stellar” and “Lunar.”

The press release from OnePlus doesn’t state much more either. It talks about a “Hasselblad Pro Mode” that lets you control things such as ISO, focus, exposure, white balance, and other settings, but that’s not a feature unique to OnePlus. Many Android phones have this feature built-in, and it’s a cheap app away on an iPhone.

Beyond that, the partnership will call for “color tuning” and “sensor calibration” over the next three years that will benefit all OnePlus phones going forward. That’s great and all, but I’m not sure that anyone really had any problems with the colors of existing iPhones and Pixels, but I suppose that since JPEG files are the primary mode of shooting on phones, this could be a benefit.

It’s sad to see Hasselblad lose their way a bit here. Putting the historic name on a camera phone without any real hardware from the company in there to speak of seems disingenuous. It’s like the way Polaroid or Kodak seems to slap their names on any product that a company will pay them for.

What do you think of a Hasselblad in a smartphone? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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Hasselblad is owned by DJI. DJI is wielding the Hasselblad name. DJI is also reducing R&D staff in the US 0- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-tech-dji-insight-idUSKBN2AZ0PV

Hasselblad does not appear to be the bellwether in photography that it once was.

I think it is a perfectly ok thing to do, owning an X1d myself I am happy with the engineering effort Hasselblad techs put in there. No the sensor is not hasselblad, hasselblad does not have an aluminium smelting business for the body. The processor is not built by hasselblad, even the lenses for the XCD series arent manufactured by hasselblad themselves, it is the tuning that goes into that makes it so that my wife on seeing the first shots of people that she saw on screen to exclaim that these were the most correct and nicest skin tones that she ever saw from any camera. Hasselblad is in the business of making money, not in the business of keeping a business afloat on ancient principles in this changed world.

Hasselblad has no privilege to not be called a sell out. I don't see the point in this "joint venture" either. It's nothing more than selling a license to use the name on a smartphone combined with fooling the buyers it's a Hasselblad camera. I don't see why this is something that Hasselblad really needed in their portfolio - especially being a company that works with high end, high image quality. If they needed the money, it's not a good message either.

Comparing this to putting a whole medium format system together is a couple of bridges too far.

What’s happening? Hasselblad is cheapening their brand in pursuit of short term gains.

Cashflow burn rate is high. I am anxious to get an update to the H6, like an H7D, but i am not optimistic current ownership has any plans.

This is not the first time Hasselblad selling its good name. About 5 or more years ago, there was a Hasselblad True Zoom, a lens/sensor attachment to several Lenovo/Motorola smartphones. The $250 attachment was not very well received mainly because it didn't make the image quality any better than the phone's native camera except at the long end of the zoom (compared to camera's digital zoom).

This seems to be a trend now. Huawei uses Leica on selected models, and my $199 Nokia phone has a "Zeiss" camera.

Will "Rolls Royce" appear on some riding lawn mowers because the seat uses leather selected by Rolls Royce?

Camera companies are doing whatever they can to generate enough revenue to prevent having Venture Capital take over their companies.
It's a tough time for the industry. Not all of them are going to survive.

Having used a Huawei P20 Pro for the last three years, which incorporates a Leica camera, I say go for it. The Leica module on my phone is an excellent camera.

I was personally extremely disappointed when Hasselblad did not go with 60 x 60, 1:1 when they started making digital sensors.

Don't you think that this has a link with the fact that Hasselblad is now owned by DJI ... ?