PMA 2010: Shooting with the Hasselblad H4D-40 (Sample Images)

Feb 25, 2010
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Editor

Hasseblad H4D-40

Hasselblad was showing off its brand new 40-megapixel H4D-40 medium-format digital camera at an off-site event during PMA 2010 this week and gave PDN Gear Guide some hands-on time with the camera.

Because of a tight PMA schedule, we were only able to briefly and casually shoot with the H4D in the conference room before motoring off to another appointment. However, fellow writer and photographer Lorraine Darconte stuck around after the briefing and shot with the camera in a studio-lit set-up with a professional model provided by Hasselblad. She has generously shared the below images from the H4D shoot with us.

A quick note about the photos: clicking on them will expand the shots to higher resolution images. However, since we don't yet have Hasselblad's most updated Phocus 2.0 software these are not full-resolution RAW images from the H4D-40 but merely marker JPEGs that allow the shots to be quickly previewed in software such as Adobe Bridge.

It is, however, a testament to the resolving power of this camera that some of these "thumbnails" are over 4MB in size and of a high image quality. They certainly shouldn't be taken as final images from the H4D-40 though. Also, as you'll notice, Lorraine has added a border to one of the shots. The images have also had some minor software enhancements.

Working with True Focus Technology
While our testing time with the H4D-40 was brief, the camera seems to be another significant addition to Hasselblad's digital line, even if it looks essentially the same as the H3D.

The two most important features are the camera's price, $19,995, which is less expensive than Leica's well-received 37.5MP S2 ($22,995) hybrid camera; and the H4D's True Focus technology which lets you lock in on a part of an image and then recompose by tilting the camera without losing the initial focus.

In brief, the True Focus system uses a combination of 3D gyro sensors and a new Absolute Lock Position processor to help the photographer recompose while keeping the original focus point sharp. The sensors are designed to communicate the camera's movement to the processor which, in turn, sends the information to the lens' focus motor to create accurate autofocus.

See the diagram to the right for a visual explanation.

This was somewhat tricky stuff to get the hang of in ten minutes of testing with the H4D-40 but we could see the benefits when it worked. Darconte was impressed with the potential of True Focus she saw during her shoot.

"It was comfortable to work with and any photographer could probably 'master it' in a short period of time," she told us.

Though Leica's digital SLR-style S2 has grabbed most of the headlines in the medium-format market in the last six months, Hasselblad seemed confident that its H4D line and the H4D-40, in particular, will offer a high-quality yet less expensive camera to compete with the S2.

The H4D's image sensor (33.1 x 44.2mm) is slightly larger than S2's sensor (30 x 45mm) and nearly twice the size of what's in full-frame (i.e. 35mm) digital SLRs.

"We're of the opinion that people should talk about image quality first," Hasselblad USA president Tom Olesen told us after the press conference. "(Leica) comes from the 35mm world so they had to have a sensor to fit the camera and the lenses.  We're using big files with lots of detail and data and have designed the H4D system specifically for that. You cannot have your cake and eat it too."

To see more of Darconte's work, visit

F/5; 1/125th; ISO 100; 50mm (click to enlarge image)

F/5; 1/125th; ISO 100; 50mm (click to enlarge image)

F/5; 1/125th; ISO 100; 50mm (click to enlarge image)

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