Hasselblad H6D-100c Comparison Review - Full Frame Out-Performs Medium Format

Hasselblad H6D-100c Comparison Review - Full Frame Out-Performs Medium Format

Hasselblad holds a special place in the photography community and is well known for making some of the best cameras currently available. I have been using the H6D-100c camera system for more than a year, and I wanted to see if it holds up to the perception. With its huge 100-megapixel sensor, this camera does produce some very detailed and beautiful images. The latest "orange dot" lenses from Hasselblad have all been rated up to and potentially even beyond 100 megapixels, making them very effective. With that in mind, it would seem nonsensical to compare this camera to a full-frame system, however after seeing some of the results, the opposite is true.

Medium Format Look

For the first comparison below I used the 100mm Macro from Canon on a Sony a7R II versus the 100mm f/2.2 on the H6D-100c. The immediate difference you'll be able to see is the wider angle of view from the Hasselblad due to the much bigger sensor. This is quite essentially the "medium format look," the wider angle of view but with the same shallow depth of field of a telephoto lens. The colors are also far more vibrant in the Hasselblad image with the yellows in the background and skin tones showing noticeably more detail. The Sony, on the other hand, has a much closer crop due to the smaller sensor and the colors are muted with less detail in the skin tones. Expressions aside, the image from the Hasselblad is more pleasing and interesting. Looking at this comparison, one could almost justify the massive price difference between both cameras and lenses.

It is important to note however that this above comparison is mostly demonstrating the difference in the angle of view only when using the same focal length. If a more equivalent lens is used against the 100mm f/2.2, such as the Otus 85mm or the Sigma 85mm Art, then the advantage would quite clearly be with full frame. A good 85mm lens will produce shallower depth of field and have more compression due to needing to stand further back to match the framing. Not to mention the fact that the full-frame 85mm lenses will be noticeably sharper than the 100mm f/2.2. 

Colors

The 16-bit color depth that many medium-format cameras possess gives a very compelling and great reason to upgrade. This is especially useful for portraits and the extra colors really do allow for better editing. Even when straight out of the camera, one can leave the vibrance and saturation sliders well alone and the images still look great. Having said that, if you don't mind spending a tiny amount of time on your images, you can very easily match the colors from the Hasselblad. Canon is known for having really good color science, and due to that, adding the tiniest amount of vibrance to your images can shrink the gap significantly to a point where they are difficult to tell apart. The Canon 5DS R is one of those cameras that produces incredibly accurate colors and if you use a ColorChecker Passport (which has not been used in these images), this is further amplified. In the examples below, you'll be able to see the differences in the colors between the Canon, Sony, and Hasselblad. Notice the yellows and oranges that are present in the Sony image, are not as well pronounced and somewhat muddy compared to the Canon and Hasselblad. Also, in the background, the greens and purples are far more pronounced in the Hasselblad and Canon images.

Canon 5DS R

Sony a7R II

Hasselblad H6D-100c

Even without the extra vibrance, Canon produces some incredible colors when coupled with lenses like the Zeiss 135mm f2 and even Otus lenses. This is because they have been designed to capture the most amount of detail without any compromises.

The Lenses

Unfortunately, when it comes to detail and sharpness the Hasselblad lenses really fall short and are incapable of producing the high level that they are presumed to be able to do. In every test completed, lenses like Zeiss, Sigma Art, and even some well-known Canon lenses out performed the Hasselblad lenses in sharpness and detail. Even with the extra megapixels, Hasselblad lenses simply can't render all of the resolution available to them. This came as a huge surprise to me and I'm certain many will doubt the results, however I can assure you very confidently that there isn't a single lens from Hasselblad that can outperform any of the best from full frame. These tests and comparisons were done in a studio with controlled lighting, using a tripod, and tethered shooting. Every image was double checked multiple times for focus and a large number of images were taken with only the best selected to prevent any faults and the full-frame lenses won every time. In the examples below the lenses used are the 150mm f/3.2 N and 120mm f/4 II versus the Canon 100mm f/2.8L and the Zeiss 135mm. No sharpening has been applied to any of the images and you'll notice a clear difference.

Canon 5DS, Zeiss 135mm f/2

Hasselblad H6D-100c, HC 150mm f/3.2 N

Not only is the Zeiss less than a third of the price but is it significantly sharper and the Hasselblad suffers from more chromatic aberrations. Chromatic abberation was a major problem for the first version of this lens however it hasn't been fully corrected in the latest version. The Zeiss will also have shallower depth of field compared to the Hasselblad due to the focal length and wider aperture. Also, the Zeiss was shot on a Canon 5DS meaning that if it were on the 5DS R, the Canon image would be even sharper. 

The second set of images below are comparing the two macro lenses on the Hasselblad and the Sony a7R II. The macro from Hasselblad was the best performing from lens from Hasselblad, but even with that, it wasn't able to produce more detail compared to the Canon. The differences between the two are negligible with neither demonstrating better performance. This also means that if you were to use the Zeiss Milvus or even the 90mm from Sony the results would be much better for full frame.

Hasselblad H6D-100c, 120mm Macro

Sony a7R II, Canon 100mm Macro

The worst performing lens from Hasselblad was by far the 24mm f/4.8 N, this lens even when stopped down to f/14 is incredibly soft, especially in the corners. In fact the performance is so bad that even the telephoto lens from the iPhone 7 Plus is much sharper in the corner versus the Hasselblad. You'll be able to see the difference below. 

Hasselblad H6D-100c, 24mm

iPhone 7 Plus

Ultimately, Hasselblad lenses are by far some of the worst lenses available on the market and do not perform at the level they are stated. This is especially true when you consider the price difference between each of the lenses and the fact that an iPhone can produce sharper results in certain areas is very disappointing. The lenses from Hasselblad have been rated up to 100 megapixels, but based on the results that rating can be put to question.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is often discussed as being a major advantage for medium format, however in my testing with various medium-format cameras I have not found this to be completely true. For the most part current medium-format cameras tend to be better at recovering highlights, yet when it comes to recovering shadows they produce noticeably noisier images even when shot at their respective base ISO. With the example below, you can see the difference between the Hasselblad and the Sony a7R II. The images were properly exposed and then over exposed in post to exaggerate the shadows. The Hasselblad is demonstrating more noise in the shadows compared to the a7R II. If the Hasselblad was compared to a camera such as the Nikon D810, this difference would be more pronounced. 

The difference may not seem significant, but when you consider the price it becomes significant enough. For dynamic range, medium format is not automatically better. It depends entirely on which camera it is being compared to because there are several full-frame cameras that perform better. It may also be worth mentioning that the Phase One produces cleaner images compared to the Hasselblad due to it being able to shoot at ISO 50.

Camera Features and Performance

The camera itself does have some very redeeming features. True Focus is a great addition, and although it's not a perfect implementation of a focusing system it does allow for very quick and accurate focus. The menu system in the camera is quite possibly the best menu system I have ever used. The touchscreen is very intuitive and allows for seamless and effective navigation throughout the camera. Changing settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO can be done very quickly reducing the amount of time fiddling through menus. Wi-Fi is also a huge advantage in this camera and being able to tether to a mobile device means that you may not always need to tether to a laptop. This makes the camera far more effective if you are to use it outside and away from a studio environment. The most useful feature I enjoyed with this system was the leaf shutter in all the new Hasselblad N lenses. The sync speed has been increased by double to 1/2,000 s allowing far greater control of lighting and shooting conditions. High-speed sync isn't necessarily required due to this and this expands the kind of flashes and studio heads that you can use for your shoots.

The viewfinder in this camera is also incredible and looking through gives you this massive and very comfortable view of the world. Hasselblad is known for making some amazing viewfinders and this one does not disappoint. 

The most surprising feature in this camera is the ability to shoot 4K raw using the full width of the sensor. The fact that it does not crop the width of the sensor means you can use the medium format lenses to their full capabilities and getting the right composition is made much easier for video. That unique look is a very interesting and compelling feature for this camera. Lastly, having dual storage card slots gives this camera a major advantage over its main competitor, Phase One. 

Although True Focus is a great feature, the camera does struggle quite badly to gain focus in many scenarios. In general, shooting away from a studio environment, I found myself switching to manual focus far too often due to the camera failing to find focus. This isn't a major issue but does need to be noted. The menu system is fantastic, but the camera does suffer quite consistently from bugs and glitches. After having several discussions with other Hasselblad shooters it would seem that this is quite a prominent thing across the board for Hasselblad and not discussed very often. A camera of this value should not require regular shutdowns just to make it work even in less challenging environments.

Build Quality

The build of this camera is a real let down. For a camera that costs almost $33,000 to have such shockingly bad build quality is unacceptable. The camera feels like it's mostly built out of a cheap creaking plastic that in no way represents the high-end camera it's supposed to be. The top LCD screen feels like plastic too and unlike the Phase One, it's still the old Casio watch type screen which makes it difficult to see in bright light. What's worse are the buttons on the top screen which include the much-used power button. These buttons remind me of a cheap remote control where if you press the buttons too much, eventually they get stuck in. In fact, the camera I had actually did have the power button slightly pressed in due to regular use. To have this kind of a build on a $3,000 camera is unacceptable and I can't think of a reason as to why they would assume this would be sufficient. It feels as though this is simply a rehash of the old H5D without many (if any) updates. This is quite possibly the worst built camera I have used in a very long time.

What I Liked

  • The colors this camera produces are beautiful 
  • 4K raw recording
  • The perception this camera gives
  • Hasselblad customer service
  • The leaf shutter
  • Wi-Fi features 
  • Touchscreen and menu layout
  • Cheaper than the Phase One

What I Disliked

  • Poor performing lenses
  • Terrible build quality
  • Consistent bugs and glitches
  • Slow and lacking focusing system
  • The price in no way reflects the performance

Final Thoughts

It seems the perception and brand of Hasselblad are keeping them afloat within the market and users still presume this system to be the best available. It's a shame that Hasselblad hasn't been able to create a fully developed system with properly updated lenses, instead of rehashes of old hardware. Due to its bugs, glitches, and poor performing lenses, it's difficult to consider this a professional system. Hasselblad has been going through some problems with managing their finances and this could be the reason behind their under develops systems. Their initial agreement with DJI turned sour which resulted in their CEO being forced from the company and Hasselblad being bought out by DJI. Even the X1D, which was poised to be a great leap into the future, was reviewed as being an under developed system. The H6D is supposed to be their flagship, however the performance is mediocre at best. It's disappointing, to say the least. Hasselblad is in dire need of a proper update, because this does not feel like the same company that went to the moon.

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86 Comments

Wow, pretty interesting results

As an actual medium format user and commercial photographer...

The generalization in your article title is misleading. Hasselblad has been struggling and their lens development has been lagging. That's been obvious for a while and this has not been the case with Phase One.

You fail to mention what f stop you shot your studio tests at. The majority of medium format lenses go from very weak wide open to strong when stopped down. Especially if they're an older optical design. It matters for practical comparison because these lenses are typically used stopped down to f/8 or so for actual commercial use.

The 24mm Hasselblad is designed for 1.3x crop sensors like the 50mp back. Why are you using it on a full frame camera?

Michael Aubrey's picture

Which means using the 24mm on the 100c is = ~15mm FF lens. I'd say that's suprisingly impressive performance for 100MP's in the corner of an ultrawide like this on a sensor much larger than it's designed for!

And it makes the comparison to the iphone 7 that much more weird.

P.s. I WANT you to tell me that full frame is better than medium format. I want to stop spending system level money for every single lens I buy and car money on every new back I need. I'm not loyal to Phase or medium format but as a practical user I'm looking at this review thinking. That's not how I use my camera... why is he trying for a headshot at the ff equivalent of 65mm? Why is he shooting wide open like that? Why are there so few examples and why are there no landscape shots? Were these scenarios hand picked so that the title could be written the way it was?

Now that I think about it my story of moving to medium format was a story of utter annihilation. I literally put my 5DSR and 1DX both down and never used them again because I couldn't justify the image quality loss. I literally developed new ways of working and I changed out my flash gear so I wouldn't have to lose the image quality that my medium format system brought to the table even for something as simple as a corporate event.

As a medium format user... as a commercial photographer dedicated to the obsessive improvement of his craft... as a user who could literally have any camera... this article feels off.

Jared Wolfe's picture

Yep. When you shoot medium format to maximize image quality it really will blow 35mm out of the water. Better color separation, beautiful gradation, clearer finer detail and very clean images. These examples are just odd. Several of these examples gave the Hasselblad 1-2 stops DOF disadvantage. Shooting all the lenses wide open is really just comparing lens qualities wide open. Shoot to maximize image quality and you will quickly start to see the difference each format provides.

Usman Dawood's picture

Lens design accounts for allot and comparing lenses stopped down is never really a fair test. Optics however are still optics. Testing lenses wide open demonstrates a lenses maximum optical performance allowing the light to pass through without any interruptions.

Also if you shoot at equivalent apertures between the two systems 24mm FF = 40mm MF then you need to stop down far more for medium format than you do for full frame to get the same depth of field. F10 full frame vs F16 MF.

With the headshot I was actually pointing out a positive for the Hasselblad that you could get so much more in the frame against the same FF focal length. The scenarios were done, and once results were seen then the title was picked.

Also if you're shooting with Phase One then the results will be very different compared to Hasselblad, the lenses from Phase One are in fact better.

Having said that, there still isn't a single lens from Phase one that can beat the best lenses from
Full frame. Consider Otus, top end Milvus, Batis, sigma art and even some of the latest Canon and Nikon primes.

The sensor on the Phase One however has been implemented better and the images do have more accurate colours with less noise compared to the Hasselblad.

In short if you use Phase One, your experience of medium format will be different and not like Hasselblad.

I would argue that testing equipment in the ways they're likely to be used is a fair test. You might fairly comment that in your article medium format lenses are weak wide open but only using them wide open which is a rare thing indeed for that kind of kind of equipment then declaring the system effectively worthless is mis-leading. Wouldn't you agree?

Focal length is useful for calculating depth of field and field of view. There is nothing magical about that number not even on medium format. It's part of why f/stops are more useful to us photographers than t/stops. You have to understand simply because it is effectively wider does not make make it immune to field of view problems and it doesn't simply add space to the sides without consequence. If you're going to compare two systems then use similar fields of view. A good example of all of this is simply comparing a full frame 135 system to an aps-c one. It's about the same difference from ff645 to 135.

Phase one is better at the moment but that doesn't excuse grossly misusing the system. You effectively took a Ferrari on a dirt road and then wrote this article... Ferrari Enzo Comparison review - SUV's Outperform Sports Cars. The title is so clearly misleading its simply shocking.

Usman Dawood's picture

Your Ferrari analogy would be accurate if I took the Hasselblad outside handheld and in lowlight but I didn't. It was shot in a studio environment with controlled situations based on Hasselblads advice and guidance and it still couldn't perform.

If you can prove your claims then I'd be open to that.

My point about wider lenses was to point out the fact that wider lenses produce deeper depths of field. Based on that you never need to stop down equivalent full frame lenses as much to get the same depth of field. 100mm at f10 will grant similar depth of field compared to the 150mm at f16 and both will have similar angles of view due to difference in sensor size.

This has also shown that many medium format lenses at equivalent apertures will suffer from more diffraction because you need to stop them down far more to get enough DOF. This can be proven through demonstrations.

Also one last point, full frame lenses are also weaker wide open vs stopping down, this is not unique to medium format.

So hassleblad told you to shoot wide open...? You needed advice on setting up a testing scenario?

You might want to check your figures. Diffraction is a mathematical wash across formats because you have to take into account photosite density. Larger formats have larger photosites for a given resolution which means that the deleterious effects of diffraction caused by airy disks comes into play later.

The fact that diffraction comes into play on the hasselblad at the same rate that it does for a much lower resolution 135 camera is because they have almost the same photosite density. If you had a 100mp 135 camera diffraction would come into play... oh just over one stop sooner... exactly the same amount you'd need to stop down to get the same depth of field oddly enough.

I know you want me to prove it but will you really take my word for it? I doubt it so I invite you to google diffraction calculator and find it out for yourself.

Usman Dawood's picture

The image below has been shot at f/16 on the Rodenstock 40mm vs f/10 on the Canon 24mm. The medium format camera has 100mp so it has the advantage in resolution but at equivalent apertures, the Rodenstock is suffering from more diffraction compared to the Canon. The canon will also have a tiny bit more DOF at this aperture in comparison. You're seeing the middle of the image for both systems zoomed in at 200%.

Your statement is only somewhat true as there are many different variables that determine diffraction.

Also Hasselblad discussed that their lenses have been really well designed to shoot wide open and the bokeh you get from the 150mm is unrivaled. This conversation occurred because I asked about the performance difference between the old 150 and the new. In short yes they did advise shooting wide open especially for portraits to get that beautiful medium format bokeh.

Lastly, I see no shame in asking for advice to try and get the best out of a camera, I asked when it was my first shooting with this kind of modular medium format camera.

Doug Peterson's picture

"Having said that, there still isn't a single lens from Phase one that can beat the best lenses from
Full frame." Would love you to show me the small-format lens that outperforms the Schneider 35LS Blue Ring, 45LS Blue Ring, 150LS/2.8 Blue Ring or 240LS Blue Ring for Phase One. My day job is at Digital Transitions and I've not seen any Otus lenses or otherwise that would outperform them, but if you'd like to come to the office in NY and LA and try to beat it I'll wager you a beer :).

Frank Withers's picture

I second that. The Schneiders are almost painfully sharp. As a kit lens the Schneider 80 F/2.8 LS is ridiculously sharp, although my personal fav is the Schneier 150 LS. I have a great copy of the older Mamiya 35 F/3.5 and Mamiya 120 Macro, the latter of which is sharper than all of my 35mm Zeiss and Contax Zeiss lenses...

Usman Dawood's picture

I'll provide evidence to that effect soon.

Ariel Martini's picture

the first hassel duck closeup seems a bit out of focus

Jared Wolfe's picture

And has about a stop less DOF so its focus plane is dropping off far more rapidly.

NVM - DOF should be about the same between those two lenses. I thought it was 150mm 3.2 VS 100mm 2.8

Usman Dawood's picture

The Zeiss will produce shallower DOF compared to the 150mm from Hasselblad. The Hasselblad has a deeper depth of field in comparison.

Usman Dawood's picture

You can see the plain of focus on the beak is the same as the zeiss. That out of focus look is exactly how bad the Hasselblad is when in focus.

As photographer who owns / uses Canon, Sony, and Hasselblad regularly I would recommend any reader take the authors interpretation with a grain of salt. I came across a video some time ago he made poo pooing MF before as well. I get the impression that this is a cause he likes to write about. But it is cherry picking. If you use all the systems mentioned regularly I think you will find that each has its strengths and weaknesses. Personally I find the H system challenging to maximize - it's a lot easier to shoot with a Canon or Sony. But, when you are dialed in and you are shooting the right subject the Hasselblad is just the best tool for the job. There is no one camera system to rule them all. The H takes some practice (even at the most basic level of understanding exposure with a leaf shutter - there is a different kind of exposure compensation available). So, take it with a grain of salt - in my opinion the Hasselblad when used to its full advantage is just a better image. But, I don't think it is something you are going to get in an online article - you have to put in the hours and understand why you want to shoot with it in the first place.

Usman Dawood's picture

I will take your points on board about and agree there isn't one camera to rule all (unless the D850 turns out to be incredible). Having said that it's easier to simply say that Hasselblad is better in the perfect environment than to actually demonstrate that.

Also if it requires the perfect environment to finally shine then that makes the camera ineffective and my post is an accurate representation for real world use.

Also to clarify, these tests were done on a tripod, tethered and critical focus was gained. Studio lighting was used and all shot at base ISO of 64.

That would be described as ideal circumstances based on Hasselblads advice.

Not perfect - just taking advantage of what the camera does better. The first two jobs I shot with the hasselblad (side by side with Canon as a safety) I received direct feedback from an art director I've worked with for a while and a new agency art buyer (and their client). I never spoke to the art director about the equipment but received unsolicited feedback praising the colors of the set (never received that kind of feedback before from her). As for the other job - the new client decided to buy out an image because of what they were seeing. Would they have bought out a Canon image? I don't know. but they were looking at the two cameras images intermingled and they bought the Hassy image. I had no part in the review / purchasing process. But, it emphasized to me that people can see the difference.

Usman Dawood's picture

That implies that your work was only liked because of the camera you used.

I doubt that's the case and it's probably because you are in fact a very good photographer.

I think you're giving too much credit to your tools.

With all due respect, this article is horribly biased. You took a couple photos of a stuffed duck and an out of focus headshot and came to an inaccurate conclusion. I use an old phase one IQ140 on a regular basis, and I know several photogs that even insist on shooting with old P series phase backs (that are almost 10 years old now), and the files still blow 35mm out of the water when using in an accurate comparison. There are also way too many inconsistent variables here to believe you; different apertures for different shots, what software was used to edit the files, etc.

Usman Dawood's picture

Perception is a thing but I'd love to test and compare the Phase system you're using and compare it to full frame.

In my testing not even Phase ones latest lenses could out perform the best full frame lenses.

Also my article isn't biased I present my points and back it up with evidence. I discuss what I liked and disliked and praise the Hasselblad where I thought they did really well and pointed out where they fail.

No... What you've done here is fabricated a scenario. You've provided evidence that in this limited situation your full frame cameras out performed a medium format camera in order to create a click-bait article.

Usman Dawood's picture

Your belief or disbelief doesn't change reality.

Obviously. I mean I can't believe this article was allowed to be published by a site as reputable as fstoppers. My disbelief hasn't caused that to somehow not be the case so therefore... obviously.

Doug Peterson's picture

"In my testing not even Phase ones latest lenses could out perform the best full frame lenses." - please link to these tests. My day job is with Digital Transitions (Phase One dealer) and there's no way you'll beat a Schneider 35LS, 45Ls, 150LS/2.8 or 240LS. I'll wager you a beer and provide the gear to do the testing in either our LA or NYC offices.

Nico Socha's picture

I remember some years ago when hasselblad started to sell sony cameras in a hasselblad body for a lot more money but with exactly the same performance as the models from sony. That was the confirmation that hasselblad charge you for their name and not because of its technology.

dale clark's picture

And as late as last year the HB Version was selling on clearance Cheaper than the current ( at the time) A99. Complete with fancy box and everything. I almost picked one up since I have a large collection of Minolta a mount glass. I believe they were trying to sell the HB a99 for around 8k originally

dale clark's picture

Just curious, has anyone compared the Pentax or newer Fuji Medium Format cameras to HB or P1? Back before I was using the 5Dsr and now A7rii, I would rent the Pentax system for clients that required high MP files. I do not have to any more.