GEAR & TECHNIQUES PRODUCT REVIEWS BY DAN HAVLIK
Hasselblad looks to the future with
its new CMOS sensor-based medium-
The Hasselblad H5D-50c is one of three recent
medium-format camera systems equipped
with a game-changing new CMOS sensor
from Sony that’s designed to capture lower-noise images even when shooting at high
ISOs. I reviewed the first of these models, the
Phase One IQ250 medium-format camera
back, when it launched in early 2014, and was
impressed with its image quality, particularly
the crisp photos we captured at up to ISO
6400. For photographers who like to shoot in
available light, and I’m one of them, the IQ250
was something of a revelation.
Even though it’s slightly smaller than
most medium-format sensors,
Sony’s 50-megapixel, 44 x
33mm CMOS chip means we
could use the IQ250 without
a strobe in the same low light
conditions as a 35mm full-frame digital SLR and achieve
excellent results. That would
have been impossible with
older digital backs and their
noise-prone CCD sensors.
Another benefit of the
CMOS sensor is that it allows
camera systems to shoot faster.
In the case of the IQ250, it can
shoot at two frames per second,
while the H5D-50c has a 1. 5
fps capture speed. The Pentax
645Z, which is the third new
medium-format system to use
the Sony CMOS chip, can shoot
at 3fps and record full HD video, which is a
first for a medium-format model.
While all three models use the same 50MP
sensor, they’re designed differently and vary
dramatically in price. The IQ250 is the top tier
system, retailing for $34,990 for the digital
back alone with the 645DF+ camera body
adding an extra $5,990 to the bill. Ouch.
The H5D-50c sells for $27,500 for the
system, which integrates the digital back with
the camera body. And lastly, the Pentax 645Z
is something of a “bargain basement” medium-format model—all irony intended—with a list
price of $8,499 for the camera system. (Lenses
for these three models cost extra.)
I got my hands on a Hasselblad H5D-50c for
a few weeks this spring and put it through its
paces with photographer Jordan Matter, who
helped me test the Phase One IQ250 in January.
Here’s what we thought of this intriguing new
medium-format camera from one of the most
venerable brands in the business.
The gray-and-black Hasselblad H5D-50c
has a similar design to its similarly named
stablemate, the H5D- 50, which we reviewed
in the February 2014 issue of PDN. While
both cameras feature 50MP sensors, the older
H5D- 50 model uses a CCD chip that is slightly
bigger: 49 x 37mm.
We gave a fairly positive review to the H5D-
50 but noted that, like many CCD-equipped
medium-format cameras, it produced noisy
images even at ISO 400. The H5D-50c, with
its vaunted CMOS chip, promised to be a vast
improvement (more about this in the Image
Otherwise, the two cameras are virtually
identical, with the same dimensions— 6 x 5 x
8 inches—and the same weight— 5. 5 pounds—
with the standard 80mm f/2.8 lens attached.
This is a good thing because, while some
previous Hasselblad digital medium-format
models left a lot to be desired from a design
standpoint, the Swedish company’s H5D
series really gets it right.
In particular, the new H5D line has a
denser, more robust build, where previous
models felt hollow and slightly plastic-y. The
H5D-50c is built with an aluminum inner core
surrounded by a stainless steel housing that’s
brushed down to a matte-like finish. With
its familiar pistol grip, which doubles as the
battery, the H5D-50c is hefty but ergonomic
and comfortable even during long shoots.
“I like a heavy camera, but it’s not too
heavy,” Matter said of the H5D-50c. “I could
handhold it without an issue. I love the way
it feels, I love the way it looks, I love that I’m
holding a Hasselblad. It’s a serious camera.”
Hasselblad’s added some other nice touches
to the H5D line to make them more rugged.
There’s new sealing between the back and the
camera body, and lining the viewfinder and the
CompactFlash (CF) door to prevent moisture
from seeping in. No one would mistake the
H5D-50c for a fully weatherized pro DSLR, but
it’s fine for shooting outdoors in moderately
inclement weather, if not a soaking downpour.
Other upgrades to the H5D-50c, which
were the same on the H5D- 50, include a
3-inch, TFT type, 24-bit color LCD screen
(with 460,320 pixels of resolution) on the
back which, while being an improvement
over previous displays on Hasselblads, does
not provide enough detail for judging the
sharpness of images.
“The playback screen on the
camera is mediocre,” Matter
reported. “It’s so high-contrast
that it’s hard to tell what you’re
even looking at on the screen.”
This was disappointing because
the H5D-50c and its nifty
low-noise chip is designed for
shooting in the field rather
than in your studio, where you
could tether the camera to a
computer to review images.
Despite that frustration,
the H5D-50c is an impressive-looking camera that is not
only fun to shoot with but will
likely impress clients who
are already familiar with the
legendary Hasselblad name.
For a camera system that sells
in the neighborhood of $30K,
this is no small point.
Overall, the Hasselblad H5D-50c felt a step
slower than the Phase One IQ250, which
isn’t exactly a speed demon itself. This was
frustrating but that’s partly due to high
With improvements to the H5D-50c’s
sensor that put its low-light shooting skills
on par with some professional DSLRs and
help ramp up the camera system’s burst speed
(slightly) to 1.5fps, it’s natural to think these
medium-format monsters can compete with
DSLRs when it comes to performance. They
The H5D-50c and its 50MP back take about
10 to 15 seconds to power on and be ready for
the first shot. That’s slightly faster than the
The new Hasselblad H5D line has a denser, more robust build, where previous models
felt hollow and slightly plastic-y.