Hasselblad H4D-200MS

Specifications: Hasselblad H4D-200MS


Price: £28,000+VAT. H4D-50MS owners have the option of upgrading their systems for £6000 plus VAT

Shutter speed range: 128 seconds to 1/800sec

Flash sync speed: Flash can be used at all shutter speeds

Focusing: Autofocus metering with passive central cross-type sensor. Ultra focus digital feedback

Instant manual focus override. Metering range EV 1 to 19 at ISO 100

Flash control: Automatic TTL centre weighted system. Uses built-in flash or flashes compatible with SCA3002 (Metz™)

Power supply: Rechargeable Li-ion battery (7.2 VDC / 1850 mAh)

Sensor size: 50 MP

Sensor dimensions: 36.7°—49.1 mm

Image size: Raw capture 75/300/1200 MB on average. TIFF 8 bit: 150/150/600 MB (one shot/four shot/six shot)

Shooting mode: Single shot, four shot and six shot

Colour definition: 16 bit

ISO speed range: ISO 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800

Storage options: CF card type U-DMA (eg SanDisk Extreme IV) or tethered to Mac or PC

Storage capacity: 8 GB CF card holds 120 images on average

Capture rate: 1.1 seconds per capture. 33 captures per minute (single-shot)

Colour display: 3in TFT type, 24 bit colour, 230 400 pixels

IR filter: Mounted on CCD sensor

Weight: 2450 g (Complete camera with HC80 mm lens, Li-Ion battery and CF card)

The multi-shot concept, where multiple images are combined to make a final file that’s packed with extra resolution and quality, is one that’s not new to Hasselblad, but it’s been taken to a whole new level with the launch of the H4D-200MS. The ‘200’ part of the name refers to the megapixels that are being offered: that’s right, 200 megapixels, and it’s an output that is set to bring unprecedented detail and resolution within the reach of the high-end professional photographer.

So, who might be sizing up the new camera and contemplating spending nearly £30,000 to add it to their armoury? Well, this is a tool that will deliver more resolution that any other medium-format digital camera out there, so those shooting such things as still life, cars, product shots that are designed for poster use and maybe pictures for museum archives might well be interested. It’s also worth noting that there is an option for those using the existing H4D-50MS to upgrade to the 200 version for just over £6000, so those who are already appreciating the benefit of MS can move up to the latest model for a relatively affordable amount. Hasselblad is keen to stress that while the MS facility is something that defines this camera – and adds greatly to its price tag – this is no single-use speciality camera. The H4D-200MS includes all the functionality of the H4D-50 and H4D-50MS – true focus, ultra focus, digital lens correction plus a range of other top of
the line features – and it provides three distinct capture modes in one ultimate photographic package.

• Normal single-shot capture for 50 megapixel resolution images of live subjects.

• Four shot, 50 megapixel multi-shot capture for high detail images of still subjects.

• Six shot, 200 megapixel multi-shot capture for ultimate resolution.

It all means that the camera should be able to handle everything that a conventional studio photographer might require from a medium-format digital model, but with a stack of extra power under the bonnet for those times when a spot of ultra high resolution might be required.

How does it work?

The H4D-200MS uses a 50 megapixel sensor mounted onto Hasselblad’s patented symmetrical multi-shot frame, which can accurately position the sensor with accuracy, using piezo-electrical actuators. The camera then captures six shots by moving the sensor one-and-a-half pixels at a time, creating 200 megapixel capture.

This process eliminates the issues which single-shot interpolation can sometimes introduce, such as moiré and colour rendering, thereby capturing the red, green and blue information in each individual pixel point and then combining these captures into one huge file.

The real test comes when the camera is put into the hands of a professional who might actually use this kind of camera in anger. We asked studio legend Ray Massey and still life specialist Jonathan Beer to give us their feedback on the camera and to show us some examples of what it can do.

Ray Massey

For anyone who knows anything about professional photography, Ray Massey needs no introduction. For many years he’s been one of the most creative still life photographers around, specialising in photographic trickery and illusion long before digital technology came along to make it all so much simpler.

Ray kindly agreed to set aside a day in his studio to try out one of the very first H4D-200MSs in the country, and to give it a good workout he had arranged a still life featuring a selection of rubber baby’s bottle teats that he was planning to photograph.

The first thing to emerge was that the main USP of this camera – ie the 200 megapixel function – was something that came with a few strings attached that made it less than ideal for much of the work that Ray is known for, namely shots that have movement in them.

Because it needs to fire off six shots and then stitch the results together, the camera and the subject have to be static, and this led immediately to Ray having to ditch one of his shooting options for the day, which was to capture smoke patterns. That being said, Ray was impressed that he could still use the 200MS as a conventional 50 megapixel camera, and obviously for shots where the aim was to work with a subject that didn’t feature movement it was simplicity itself to switch functions and to go for the higher resolution.

“I was very impressed with the camera overall,” he says. “Somehow it felt much more solid and better engineered than other, earlier, Hasselblad digital cameras that I have used – but not owned – on many occasions. I have to say, however, that the option to produce 200 megapixel files is a facility that I would only occasionally use.”

Working with his static set-up Ray did then shoot with the camera set to its maximum resolution, and he pulled up the resulting image to see what the quality was like in a 200 megapixel file. “I didn’t observe any giant leap in resolution from working on a normal 45 megapixel file,” he confessed. “At 50 megapixel resolution we are already exceeding the parameters of quality of our current printing industry. I see many of our outdoor poster sites gradually becoming digital and of an even lower resolution than the printed image. I think the market for a 200 megapixel file will be limited, particularly until such a time as it can be produced in one exposure.

“As a photographer who has spent the majority of his career so far in the analogue era, and who has enjoyed working with large format, I would comment that the biggest impediment to photography using digital technology is the small physical dimension of the digital receptor. Working on 5x4in or 10x8in format, one is able to use limited depth-of-field as an important tool in the creative armoury.

“If I was developing a 200 megapixel digital back for specialist use I would be investing in producing a chip of a much larger physical dimension – maybe 12x8cm if practical? – to use in conjunction with a Linhof or Sinar type view camera. Depth-of-field and camera movements are such essential creative tools, and the photographer has been deprived of them by the digital revolution.”

So, overall impression? “There certainly could be a place for the Hasselblad H4D-200MS in my studio,” says Ray, “although I would be unable to use it to its full potential every day. However, I felt privileged and excited for the opportunity to put the camera through its paces.”


Jonathan Beer

As a still life photographer who regularly works for clients who are demanding the ultimate in quality, Jonathan Beer is ideally placed to deliver some feedback on what the 200MS might offer working high-end pros within his tight area of discipline.

“My overall impression was ‘wow’,” he says. “For me, this could possibly be the ultimate still life capture device. It performed faultlessly, slotting straight into my workflow and existing gear. It is very intuitive to use as well: I didn’t need a technician to set it up for me and as I was working with an early sample I didn’t even have an instruction manual. I was able to connect it with my view camera setup and set it to sync with my Rollei digital shutters without any dramas.”

What about the concept of a multi- shot camera; did Jonathan think that is was something that could be perfectly aligned to someone working in a studio environment? “I think the benefits of multi-shot capture can be a bonus to many types of photographer,” he says, “but in a controlled studio environment all the drawbacks disappear and it becomes very easy to realise the back’s full potential.

“With the 200MS a photographer has a camera that can be used as a 50 megapixel single shot, 50 megapixel four shot or 200 megapixel six shot device. The back can be used with the H system or detached and mounted to a technical or view camera. It is a truly versatile piece of kit.”

Because single- and multi-shot exposures have the same tonality and feel, a photographer can switch between modes during a shoot with no worries about lighting or exposure changes.

“In single-shot mode the camera is identical to an H4D 50, which is much loved by many photographers and can handle all the movement you can throw at it. Move up to four shot mode and it remains a 50 megapixel file but without any colour interpolation, which provides extra depth, finer tonality, increased sharpness and zero moire but without the penalty of increased file size. The only point to remember is that the camera and subject obviously need to be stationary in this mode.

“In six shot mode the camera uses the extra two shots and some clever processing in Phocus to produce a massive 200 megapixel file for those jobs where 50 megapixels just isn’t enough! It’s still the same chip size as the other two modes so there’s no need to re-frame or change lens.

“I would tend to use single-shot mode while I am setting up lighting and building up my shot, switching to four shot mode for a final exposure to gain the extra quality, assuming that nothing is moving in the shot. The six shot mode would only be used when absolutely necessary as there is obviously a penalty to be paid when dealing with an exposure that processes out as a 1.2GB tiff!”

Is there really a requirement from clients for this kind of resolution and do the 200 megapixel files actually look a lot different to conventional files? “I think the number of photographers who really need a 200 megapixel file regularly is very small and this camera would be a disaster if that’s all it could do. But for a photographer to have a regular H4D 50 which can shoot in four shot or six shot mode when required could mean less last minute rental panics when that big file is requested. It’s a great safety net to have I guess.

“As far as quality goes, the Hasselblad 50 megapixel file quality is well known and is absolutely up there with the best, but the jump in quality when looking at a multi-shot file is incredible. It’s a hard thing to describe as the file size is the same, but clarity is the word I always seem to use. The image looks (is) sharper but without an unsharp mask look, textures are more defined and graduations are more subtle and seem to have more depth to them.

“Moving on to the 200 megapixel file, this has the multi-shot ‘clinical’ look but is much bigger obviously. As it is a combination of extra exposure information and interpolation the 200 megapixel file is better than simply scaling up a 50 megapixel file to the same size in Photoshop, which I guess is the point.

“However, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is an extremely expensive piece of kit and a pretty specialist one too. But you’re getting a lot of camera for your money and it will mesh right into view camera setups so an investment in H series lenses isn’t required for a photographer with this kit in their studio already.

“I think most photographers will know if the 200MS is a wise investment for their photography and their clients. It won’t be for everyone, but I’m glad that Hasselblad is still thinking about us still life photographers and designing kit that meets our (sometimes peculiar) needs!”


Taken from the November 2011 issue of Photo Professional magazine