Product Review: Hasselblad H4D-40

Sept 7, 2010
By Dan Havlik

PRod Review HD40

Do you want a medium-format camera or a less expensive digital SLR? The 40-megapixel Hasselblad H4D-40 with its $17,995 (body only) price tag offers a compelling argument to upgrade.
The continuing popularity of high-resolution digital SLRs designed for the studio has really rattled the medium-format camera market in the last few years and with good reason.

When photographers can get a very nice 24.5-megapixel digital SLR, such as the Nikon D3x or the 21.1-megapixel Canon 1Ds Mark III, for around $7,000, why on earth would they want to spend at least three times that much to buy a medium-format digital camera? It's a good question and one that's been further clouded by the Leica S2, a category-defying "bridge" camera designed like a digital SLR but equipped with a medium-format-sized 37.5-megapixel sensor.

Hasselblad is not alone in arguing that "true" medium-format cameras offer better image quality, sharper lenses, greater depth of field and superior color. While those are all compelling reasons to consider medium-format, they don't directly address the photography community's continued obsession with digital SLRs: "DSLRs are cheaper! They're faster! They shoot HD video! You don't have to worry about shooting with them outdoors!" and on and on.

So when Hasselblad was gearing up to launch the 40-megapixel H4D-40, rumors began to circulate that the company would release a hybrid-type camera that would directly challenge the Leica S2. While this was generated, in part, by some of Hasselblad's marketing efforts, it was mostly the result of wishful thinking by bloggers. When the H4D-40 did officially arrive, it looked exactly like Hasselblad's other H4D cameras, i.e. not much like a DSLR.

The H4D-40's $19,995 price tag as a kit—which includes an 80mm f/2.8 lens—puts it in line with the Leica S2 but still far above top-of-the-line DSLRs. In the end, despite Hasselblad's desire, according to its press release, "to bring the advantages of medium-format DSLRs to high-end 35mm photographers," the H4D-40 looks remarkably similar to the original H3D medium-format digital series announced way back in 2006.

Is that such a bad thing? Not if you're already a fan of Hasselblad's cameras. But if you're looking for something revolutionary to further break down the walls between medium-format and 35mm-style DSLRs, the H4D-40 isn't it.

It does, however, feature some interesting technology, including its new TrueFocus AF system. More importantly, it produces fantastic image quality that will blow most DSLRs away. Let's take a look.

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