Fstoppers Reviews the 100-Megapixel Medium Format Hasselblad H6D-100c Camera

Fstoppers Reviews the 100-Megapixel Medium Format Hasselblad H6D-100c Camera

Just about second to what you can only find at NASA, the Hasselblad H6D-100c represents the pinnacle of digital photography today. Dive into this review to understand where and why this monster system might be worth it.

The H6D-100c is the coupling of Hasselblad’s latest H6D body and its full-frame, medium format, 100-megapixel CMOS sensor. This CMOS technology is relatively new in the medium format world and virtually brand new at the 100-megapixel level. No longer do you have to compromise on resolution in order to maintain flexibility in a natural-light setting at higher ISO values.

Why CMOS Is So Special

In the studio, CMOS sensors don’t matter as much, as most product or fashion photographers are exerting complete control over the lighting with their own setups. But the flexibility of taking that quality out into the field can be hard to beat. Without the need for a two or three-person crew or without alarming those around me in public locations, I could easily take my time shooting a quick set while getting the maximum performance that today’s technology allows.

In this shot, for example, a friend and I went out into Northern California’s Santa Cruz mountains  and shot before sunrise to get that perfect one-sided glow without the need for an assistant.

Thanks to our own Quentin Decaillet for the quick turnaround on an edit for this shot that involved combining the bottom half of the flowing dress with the top half of the look we were going for. (100mm at 1/160, f/2.5, ISO 400)

While having an assistant wouldn’t have been a major issue here, keeping a lower profile without gear and having the freedom to move about unobstructed and uninterrupted by the first passes of the park rangers in the area has its advantages. This would carry through to any shoot on any location. In many cases, access to a particular shot depends on permission to be there — not even necessarily because it’s illegal to shoot in that place, but because putting together photography shoots in public always seems to draw someone that feels they're in a position of power and need to exert it. It's just something you have to plan for these days.

Image Quality

Needless to say, the image quality is superb. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not there’s a medium-format “look.” But as far as the image quality goes, this beats nearly anything else out there. It makes the Nikon D850 and Canon 5DS R look soft. The combination of resolution and pixel size helps the H6D-100c create stunningly sharp images in nearly any conditions.

At 4.6 square microns, the pixels in the 100c back are larger than those in the Nikon D850, yet still count up to more than twice the resolution. Full 16-bit color output helps edge out the lower-end competition that tries to compete for a spot as well. Below, you get a good idea for the cropping potential at full-frame, half-crop, and 12-percent crops, the latter of which is a 100-percent crop fit for an Instagram post.

Shadow areas recover just as well as you might be used to with a full-frame DSLR, if not better. But again, it’s the color that’s the incredible part. This shot, taken in the middle of the night in Griffith Park, was already taken with at a darker exposure to reproduce a relatively accurate version of the actual scene at the time. And yet, as we bring up the shadows, the shade of green in the grass in the image looks as though these blades are reflecting daylight.

The special part for 35mm full-frame shooters comes when you realize you can recover highlights from these files with similar ease. The 15-stop dynamic range claim for this sensor is no joke. It’s absolutely incredible. I won’t say you should lean on it as a crutch for any shoot with imperfect lighting, but I mean you completely could.

Lenses

Hasselblad has an excellent lens lineup, but it has historically been held back by its 1/800 s maximum shutter speed across the entire range. Its newer "orange dot" lenses, however, offer shutters that step this up to 1/2000 s. Of course, thanks to the leaf shutters within these lenses, flash sync works at all speeds. But this is especially important for location shooters that don't want to add ND filters to shoot wide open, which reduce the available light too.

100mm at 1/2000, f/4, ISO 100

This also allows for greater flexibility overall. A project I'm currently working on requires shooting crashing waves for prints that eventually extend to nearly 70 inches. With a requirement for fast lenses, fast shutter speeds, and extreme resolution, I quickly found the 100c back to be about the only tool I can use to accomplish this. While 1/2000 s isn't quite enough to perfectly freeze the splashing water (freezing this with a short flash duration would be ideal, but I don't have the luxury of working outside the constraints of available light), combined with the extreme 100-megapixel resolution and 16-bit files, I can get enough detail out of the file across the entire highlight range to create stunning 60-to-70-inch prints. I also want to thank Digital Fusion in Los Angeles, who really came through on more than one occasion at the last minute to offer the newer orange-dot version of the HC 100mm f/2.2 lens for this project. They didn't even hesitate in loaning me some dongles to offload cards when I was working on a borrowed, newer MacBook Pro while mine was in the shop, which saved my life that week.

100mm at 1/2000, f/4, ISO 100

Handling

The body itself is largely unchanged since Hasselblad first released the popular H-series platform. There have been improvements such as True Focus, which helps calculate the difference in camera-to-subject distance when grabbing focus and recomposing, enabling accurate, critical focus from shot to shot. The system has worked well for Hasselblad as its form continues to serve photographers’ needs well, as with the bodies that came before it.

Still, coming from a DSLR, anyone would be disappointed with the slower functions of the system. Focus is not Nikon-fast, nor does it feature anything like Sony’s eye-tracking. While that would be nice, this is just the way it’s been for some time. Short of having these DSLR-like features, the simplicity of the single, central focus point is hard to beat. And for medium format, Hasselblad’s lenses still do focus remarkably quickly. It’s only with larger portrait lenses that you might start to really notice the difference in speed.

Without stopping down to improve the depth of field, I still found it difficult to shoot models walking toward or away from the camera. Tracking subjects with side-to-side motion, however, wasn’t as much of an issue. But having a model at hand that knows how to move his or her body to get the shot without having to walk for the photographer to do a “spray and pray” is more than a help, it’s almost essential. And all of a sudden, it becomes clear how, as with a good film, it takes an entire team to pull off the highest level of work. Just because you have the most impressive technology in your hands doesn’t mean it will do everything for you. On the contrary, knowing your gear (and its limitations) is even more crucial. But the results that come from a good collaboration between a photographer, their tool, and their team are well worth the effort.

The previous example of the friend I shot before sunrise in the hills makes this clear. While there was no team involved (one photographer, one model, one camera, and one source of ambient light), we were still able to pull off this shot. But it didn’t happen without merging two files together: one file had the proper head or “look” we were going for while the other had a great flare-up to the dress. But in the original of the latter image, the model was mid-blink. The flare in the image where the model’s look was also perfect was not bad, but it didn’t have that extra oomph that the other image had. Similar issues happened when focus would just miss. But you just shoot a bit more to make sure you have it, especially when you’re not tethering to verify critical focus on set.

Needing to combine two shots to get the overall look you’re going for should never be a deterrent to using a particular camera system if that system is making up for it in massive improvements in image quality. Combining just two images is just where it starts. Any work at the highest end is going to reflect the need for this in the project budget.

Value

At $32,995, this system can't be reviewed without talking about price. Sure, you pay to get a 100-megapixel medium-format sensor. And it’s not cheap. Nor is an investment like this recommended unless your work can support it (and demands it). But if your work is at or ready for the next level, there is something to having the best gear that will ultimately help take it there. You need to be ready for it. But for the money, the H6D-100c is at least an investment that will last. This isn’t something that will be obsolete in four years. It’s going to easily last you a decade.

Still, that doesn’t mean the speed of the system (or lack thereof) is particularly easy to get over if it’s something you rely on today. Every job has a tool (or handful) that is right for getting that job done. It’s up to you to decide if this is what you need to take your project to the next level.

What I Liked

  • Best in class image quality
  • Extremely high resolution
  • Excellent for fine art prints and other large reproductions
  • Great lens system, now with up to 1/2000 s shutter speeds (with syncing at all speeds)
  • Fast for a medium format system
  • Excellent support

What I Didn’t Like

  • Expensive
  • Slower than non-medium format cameras
  • Focus is my biggest gripe. I wish there was a solution to make it at least 30 percent faster, especially now in 2018.
  • Still much heavier and larger than smaller/cheaper systems
  • Battery life could improve, but much better than older generations

At the end of the day, getting something like the Hasselblad H6D-100c is something that will come down to how it will add value for your business, and you're the only one that can figure that out. But for those needing absolute quality, this is where it is. As much as you might want to wish it not to be true, the other 35mm bodies with near half the resolution and a quarter of the area simply don't compare. This camera is in a league of its own.

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28 Comments

Johnny Rico's picture

That color noise in the shadow @ iso 400 is pretty damn bad for a 2018 CMOS MF. Is Hasselblad that far behind Phase1 these days? or was there some massive lift in post.

Edit: Also was there some kind of grain thrown on in post?

Fritz John Asuro's picture

Though both brands are “good”. I always see them as:

Hasselblad = Name
Phase One = Technology

Adam Ottke's picture

It was definitely brought up a bit in post, too. I mean, it was pretty dark out (pre-sunrise). So the shadow areas especially under the eyes were not as good (although some noise reduction would help, at least with the color noise). Also, this is 100 MP on that back instead of 50 for the other CMOS back option, so the low-light capabilities aren't going to be quite as good there. But still insanely good compared to previous CCD options.

Percy Ortiz's picture

Adam what was used to process the raw file? My biggest let down is Hasselblad's software. Even tho Phocus is a purpose orientated software for Hassy still years behind lets say Capture One. Having said that Phocus can and will make the most of that raw file so I'm surprised to see that much noise and grain in the shadows of that image. The only time i have a problem like that is when I'm using a Hasselblad with the old CCD sensor

The is no difference in image quality btwn the H6D-100c and the IQ3-100 with identical images processes in LR. I prefer the Hassy colors, some prefer the P1 colors, noise is comparable. C1 Pro helps the IQ get a tiny lead perhaps, but it IMHO is far from justifying the significant higher price of the P1.

Tamas Nemeth's picture

That is not even remotely true.
They share the same sensor? YES.
Do they have the same spectral sensitivity: NO.
(It is because the bayer filter and the UV/IR cut filter attached onto the sensors are different.)
Therefore they do have difference between how pixel data is translated into color information - which will interfere with color noise for example.

There are indeed minor differences, but they don’t translate in measurable differences in noise levels everything else being equal.

Tamas Nemeth's picture

They do translate to color noise.
Check out Doug's comparison between the Trichromatic and the original IQ3 100MP at Digital Transition's page
https://digitaltransitions.com/phase-one-trichromatic-part-2-results/
The interesting image is at 'What About the ISO Range?' section

Most P1 owners I know are unimpressed by the minor gains displayed by the Trichromatic back.

It is good to have, but the main role of the back really appears to be to announce something new to occupy marketing space somewhat and not let Fuji and Hasselblad run ahead with their continous release of new lenses for their mirrorless systems.

Sorry didn't understand why you need leaf shutter lens for that wave shots. Are you using flash? Even if you were, you are limited by that 1/2000. If you need with strobes outside and need to shoot at say f2/f2.8, you going to need ND filters even with 1/2000. Not to mention that you need strobes which have fast enough flash duration when shooting at 1/2000. And I agree with the other poster, the image doesn't look that good in the crop. I would have expected more from $30k 100MP camera. Which lens? I just say this as a lowly Fuji GFX user where 110mm f2 gives super sharp images.

Adam Ottke's picture

Unfortunately, it is hard to tell online and with jpeg compression, etc. But it's clearly an insane improvement over any 50 MP medium-format or 35mm sensor when looking at prints, etc. But I understand that might be hard to register here. This is the 100mm f/2.2, which is really an incredible lens, actually. But again, hard to tell online.

As for the shutter speed, I'm definitely limited; and 1/4000 or 1/8000 would also be considered limiting. But here, it just barely works at 1/2000 enough to get what I need. I could maybe get a 10-20% larger enlargement in the final print if it were a tad sharper and still have mostly excellent detail, but then you'd notice the falloff in depth of field at the corners anyway. It's a strange project that pushes every limit (need fastest shutter speed, but limited by project and inability to use strobes; need wide lens, but limited by falloff of DOF and need to stop down slightly for the light anyway, etc.). Strobes would be ideal, but it's not really possible to arrange them in a way where I'm shooting here (maybe one day in the future with 3-5 jet-ski-operated strobes!). In any case, this is the only thing to get me close enough so far. And it works! That's the incredible part.

Best in class Image quality, really? The lens lineup is more than 10 years old and the wider
ones are total crap compared to the new Blue Rings from Phase.

The 35mm is poor, the 28mm I own is totally outstanding on the H6D-100c. It is miles better than the 28mm from P1 that I have used also.

The current 28mm from Phase is indeed old and crap too, but a new one
is on it´s way and it will be the new benchmark.

Tamas Nemeth's picture

Someone is pretty well informed. Or not?

I think they will show it at Photokina, very big and very expensive, over 8000 €.

Right, P1 may release more of those super bulky and crazy expensive blue ring lenses and they will be excellent, but odds are that Hassy is working on a mirrorless H7D with matched lenses using the same tech as the X1D lenses and I’ll take those any time. Investing such amounts in the XF system today would be highly misguided in my view. This system, although it offers excellent image quality, is just behind its time and P1 hasn’t shown anything leading us to think they have the capability to catch up with Hasselblad in terms of mirrorless technology.

Lenses for a mirrorless H7D will never be as small as those for
the cropped X1D, it´s just physics. The current 101 Mp sensor
is too slow but the next generation 150 Mp BSI sensor can
deliver 4 pics/s and should be fast enough for autofocus-tech
on chip, so Phase could just replace the bulky and heavy
viewfinder with a nice ELV and done. Hassi can´t do that
because their body is too old so yes, wait for a new body and then wait another 5 years for a complete lens lineup, and then wait another 2 years for them to get the firmware done.
Good luck.

The electronics of the H6D are brand new and the platform is the same as that of the X1D.

So it is in fact newer than the XF one and is natively mirrorless ready already.

The firmware is already done.

The only thing it may take to package this as an H7D is an improved connectivity between the body and the new EVF prism, which would not be a problem in a H7D. This is a trivial development since this is already done inside the X1D. I would say a one month development at most for a skilled team.

Considering the price gap btwn the Hassy and the P1, incluing a new body with updated connectors to prism will still be cheaper than getting an IQ4.

Tamas Nemeth's picture

Can you show me a 100% crop from a corner of the 100c with that? I've never tried the hcd 4/28, so I'm curious.
Also it is interesting that Hasselblad states that it is designed for the crop sensor. And the data sheet at their site doesn't seem to say anything good about the corners...

True, you need to crop a bit but corners are excellent up to very close to corners, a non issue.

Phase One XF with IQ3 100 is better than these. I compared and bought the Phase One. the Blue ring lenses are also a big factor since Hassy users will use their old glass and it isn't up to snuff.

This simply isn’t true. I own the 28mm, 50mm II, 100mm, 210mm and 300mm. Among these the only one that isn’t 150mp ready is the 100mm but then again it was designed as a look lens and is very good at that. The othe 4 lenses listed are outstanding. My basis for comparison are the Otus on D850 and the Rodenstock 90mm HR on Arca.

The blue ring may be a bit better still, but they offer a far worse price/bulk/performance ratio than the Hasselblad lenses.

One would think that if the sample images were from a 100MP Medium Format Hasselblad, then most of the images following every FS article, titled "Featured Photos & Videos," were all shot using a 500MP digital camera with a 4" x 5" sensor.

Suggest offering up a few raw files and then we can see what this beast can do.

Ed Sanford's picture

Excellent idea because these pictures really didn’t show anything impressive.

Blake Aghili's picture

Love it...
I used to have the X1D system, that one was great too but not modular so I sold it, hopefully one day I can afford a real Medium format system like this one or the Phase XF Chromatic ...

Rob Watts's picture

I'm going to be that guy, only because I'm from NorCal -- Santa Cruz is NOT Northern California dude. =) Bay area at best.

Medium format is not 35mm and to expect it to operate the way 35 does is a bit extreme for me. Back in the good old days when we used to focus manually, certain subjects were shot with the format appropriate for the end use. We never expected the feature set of one format to be applicable or required for/by the other.

Having to merge two different images to get a 'whole' photo is not acceptable for me. I think as digital photographers we may have become a tad complacent thinking because we have the tools to do so, that it can act as a substitute for incomplete 'seeing'.

Blaming the model's eyes or the movement of the dress on slow focusing is sloppy -- but forgivable (in this instance) since the photographer was not completely familiar with the camera.

If you are familiar with the work of Richard Avedon (and if you are not, you should be ashamed of yourself). you may know the photo of the model with the two live elephants. That, friends, was done with an 8 X 10 view camera on a single sheet of film.

If you can't strive to approach that level of mastery of your technique, you may want to examine why you are doing this in the first place. Nothing good is easy. Try harder.