The Hasselblad H4D-40, Medium Format DSLR, Part 2
My first encounter with medium format digital photography was during an MFA class, “Advanced Digital Capture”. The camera, a Hasselblad H1 with a Leaf digital back, was a complex machine, capable of creating big image files, but only with patience, practice, and a bit of professional training. The back operated tethered to a computer and operation was most comfortably a two-person job.
Since those days, much has changed in the digital medium format world. Hasselblad shook up the industry in September 2006 by closing out Leaf and everyone else with the All-Proprietary H3D. Partnered with the scanner & digital back company Imacon, Hasselblad began creating cameras that operated as a unified machine: lens, back, and camera body. The formula has been refined with the H3DII and now the H4D line of camera/back combinations and the current camera is a joy to use, in the studio or on location.
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It’s a big camera, hefty and robust; but with well-placed controls and a comfortable grip, it’s not awkward to shoot. A single rubberized battery pack serves as the right-hand grip when attached and the flat-bottomed body rests comfortably on a photographer’s left hand. Camera controls are all digital, that is to say, the camera has no switches or knobs, nothing that can’t be controlled by computer tether or button press. Many options are called up, adjusted with one of the camera’s two control wheels and activated with a press of the computer-inspired “save” button. It becomes intuitive and straight forward and has a set-it-and-forget-it feel.
When contrasted to most professional 35mm DSLR controls, the Hasselblad feels streamlined and pure, no JPG, auto white balance, HDMI, video mode, or world clock. It has no more buttons or functions than it needs to gemerate large, optimized RAW files. There are no familiar JPG processing options like contrast, saturation, or sharpness, nor any compression or size options. The camera automatically compresses RAW files for Compact Flash storage and leaves them uncompressed for computer tether.
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