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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.