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Comments on the newly-announced Hasselblad H2D

Yesterday, Hasselblad/Imacon announced three variants of its 39-megapixel back: the CFH-39 digital back for the H1/H2, the standalone CF-39 and CF-39MS digital backs for other platforms, and the H2D-39 fully-integrated camera system.  The (“MS” variant is a multi-shot back for studio work).  See this URL for a “docs” folder:

Sensor size

The sensor used is 36.7 X 49.0mm in size, thus making it 2.08 times as large as a full-frame “35mm” sensor.  But full-frame film (56 X 42mm) is still 31% larger than this sensor, so the sensor is still somewhat smaller than full-frame medium format film.  The “field of view crop” factor is thus 1.14, making the H System’s widest lens, the HC-35/f3.5, equivalent to a 40mm lens, or roughly equivalent to a 26mm lens for a 35mm camera.  Hasselblad needs to introduce something wider to account for this—anyone coming from a full-frame digital SLR is going to miss that 17-25mm range.


A very interesting aspect of this new announcement is Hasselblad’s claim that their new “Digital APO Correction(DAC) occurs in-camera (!), the implication being that once the raw file is created, all correctable color aberrations have been eliminated.  The statement is that each H System lens has been carefully mapped to allow this computation to occur in-camera (back).  Kudos to Hasselblad for implementing such a ground-breaking feature.   It remains to be seen how effective this feature is, but based on Nikon Capture’s performance, and the mathematical basis for it, I suspect it might be very effective indeed.   It also remains to be seen whether Hasselblad extends this feature to its line of C-type lenses, which can be mounted on the H2 via an adapter.

Hasselblad also groundbreaking color management via the use of its new 3FR raw format and “Hasselblad RBG” [sic] color space.  This, like the DAC feature, remains to be proven, but it sounds promising.  Hasselblad also claims “Color Definition” of 16 bits.  Whether the back actually produces 16-bit tonality, or whether it’s just scaling 12 or 14-bit output into 16 bits of storage remains to be seen.  The 16-bit issue really does matter for fine-art photography, where very dark tones can become posterized.

Also of note, and also worthy of praise, is that the new back supports lossless compression in the 3FR format, averaging (according to Hasselblad) a 36% reduction in stored file size.   The value of such a feature is not to be understimated when shooting in the field—an uncompressed 39-megapixel image is 78 megabytes!  The compressed image is thus 50MB—still huge, but whose size allows storage of 56% more images in the same space, a substantial improvement. A 4GB card would be able to store 78 fifty-megabyte images (3800MB used for calculation; 4GB cards are really about 3.8 GB cards).  The 3FR format is apparently proprietary, but can later be converted to Adobe’s DNG format.  Diglloyd will gladly take the reduced file size in lieu of DNG.


There is apparently no downsized capture mode where the 39-megapixel capture could be downsampled or cropped in-camera.  Such a feature would greatly extend the flexibility of the camera by offering smaller files for those jobs that don’t need the ultimate resolution, as well as improved speed and/or field-of-view crop a la Nikon D2x.

The LCD screen on the back is comparatively tiny, being only 2.2 inches. Compare that to the 2.5 inch screen on the Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D2X.  A back this expensive deserves a 3.5-inch screen.  However, the screen is an OLED display, which may be more usable in bright sunlight.

Price.  Diglloyd won’t be affording the new H2D anytime soon.  Perhaps the price will drop substantially in a year or two, as competition intensifies, and sensor prices drop.

Infrared-shooting fans will be disappointed to hear that the IR-blocking filter is integral to the CCD, thus making IR photography a non-starter. Point of interest : diglloyd has since learned that a competing product, the PhaseOne P45 back, based on the same Kodak sensor, is available with or without an IR filter.  Whether the H2D variants are also available this way is unclear.

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