What's It Like to Shoot a $30,000 100-Megapixel Camera?

In my ramblings as a photographer over the last decade and a half, I've shot with almost every brand of commercial digital camera out there. However, most of my experience has been in the realm of common crop-sensor and full-frame cameras. I've always seen the more exotic offerings in medium format digital as beyond my reach and therefore, not worth thinking about. 

Still, I've always been curious about what it would be like to shoot with a camera well beyond my means. Thanks to Dan at Hasselblad, I was given the opportunity to finally test out one of these behemoths: an H6D-100C full-frame medium format camera with an HC 100mm f/2.2 lens.

In the accompanying video, I go over my experience with the camera. What is it like to shoot? How is the autofocus? Color? Is it worth the cost? And most importantly, who is this kind of camera for?

To be clear, this is in no way a review of the camera. There are many more qualified people out there to do technical reviews than myself. However, I thought it would be fun to give you my thoughts on the handling and experience of shooting something that the vast majority of photographers will never touch (myself included). Spoiler alert: It's a fantastic camera, but with some major caveats. 

I even had the opportunity to put the camera up against a Sony a7R IV for a few shots. Let's just say the results surprised me. Now, to get my hands on a Fuji GFX 100! Christopher Malcolm, are you renting yours out? Let's put it up against an 8x10 camera!

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13 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

Great info. I think you are spot on about the value. I wish I could get my hands on one, but I’ll just keep clicking away with my 500c

Mike Yamin's picture

Now that we have the Pentax and Fujifilm medium format cameras, it's hard to wrap my head around the Hasselblad and Phase One stuff. I still think they're great and I was drooling when I got to shoot a 100MP Phase a few years ago, but aside from renting one, I can't see how they make that much sense anymore, even in my dream world (almost).

Charlie Ewing's picture

https://petapixel.com/2016/09/21/fujis-new-medium-format-sensor-size-sta...

Fuji is Medium Format in that it is > 35mm, but not the same physical size as the Phase One and Hassy. The real benefits I'm seeing on MF is the bit depth though, 16 bit color isn't super available on Full frames or APSCs yet. Sony and Nikon are rumored to drop one in 2020 (ish) but we haven't had it yet.

Mike Yamin's picture

I agree about the physical sensor size, but I'm not entirely convinced about the 16-bit color thing. A lot of people seem to attribute some of the image quality to that, but I've read a bit about it over the years and it seems that while it's a 16-bit pipeline, only 14-bits of data are running through it. Admittedly, I'm not an expert, but I do wonder if it's something of a gimmick. Still, no doubt that the quality is through the roof!

Mike Leland's picture

There are some "MF" cameras/backs that aren't a true 16 bit. I can tell you for certain that the Phase One IQ backs that are 16 bit are true 16 bit color and it's definitely not a gimmick. It makes an enormous difference. I shoot with one every day. There is a 14 bit mode that allows for faster capture, but I've never used it.

Matt Williams's picture

Well, assuming we compare cameras with the same size sensor (44x33) - Hassy and Phase One have the leaf shutter advantage. That's not insignificant for certain photographers.

Hasselblad also has, in my opinion, the best color of any camera I've used (never used a Phase One). They calibrate each of their cameras individually - the X1D's have like a gigabyte of calibration data in them. Their colors are easily the most natural, accurate, pleasing (to me) of anyone (again, no idea about P1).

I don't think Pentax has the same support of the others and the future of that line isn't exactly a sure thing. And not sure how well Fuji does with tethering, because that's often a big thing for MF shooters.

Hasselblad has also dropped their prices a lot now to compete with Fuji and Pentax, so I'd pick up an X1D II in a heartbeat over a GFX. I can't see why I'd ever pay for a Phase One.

Johnny Rico's picture

Crop medium format vs 645mf, and then x-sync speed without leaf shutters. Also P1 through C1 Pro has such file density/color science, not sure how the others fair.

Mike Leland's picture

The hardware-software symbiosis with Phase One IQ backs and Capture One is remarkable. There are so many little things that aren't even talked about in marketing materials that make things easier and that can be attributed to that relationship. It's a pretty cool thing. The leaf shutter lenses are the other big selling point for me. I use big light on location and not having to deal with any voodoo to sync my strobes is nice. I still use 10+ year old packs for the most part.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Hell yeah. Would love to have one but......I also love my arm and leg so I'll keep them and pass on this. I will continue using my 500CM and GX680. I can always put a digital back on if I choose to. I do love this camera though.

Matt Williams's picture

Man, GX680... that camera is a big ole beast. I thought the RB/RZ67 Mamiya's were heavy... until I held one of those.

That's a lot of money to spend on your camera. I would rather invest it to play online here https://rocketpayz.com/fr/machines-a-sous-gratuites/ and maybe, just maybe I'll win some or just enjoy myself.

Paul Sokal's picture

Try the GFX 100. You'll become a believer.

Try the phase too :-)