Hands On: Hasselblad H4D-40

Today, Fotocare in NYC allowed us to have some personal fondling time with the newly announced Hasselblad H4D-40. It’s quite the camera and in some ways even rivals the Phase One cameras that I’ve handled before. As a guy more familiar with Hasselblad and with the True Focus feature, I can tell you that I am truly stunned by the potential. With an 80mm lens, the camera is $19,955.

Edit: As time went on, this posting received many hits. Because of that, B&H offers the camera with the 35-90mm F4.5 lens, body only, and as a complete kit.

First off, the new Hasselblad H4D-40 has a 33 x 44 CCD sensor made by Kodak. As stated earlier, it also has the True Focus feature that was standard on their higher end models. The camera includes the Phocus software when purchased.

Something that really surprised me was that this camera has a pop-up flash. It’s best used perhaps outside instead of inside though as all pictures we tried to take with it resulted in many parts of the photos being underexposed due to the lens or even the lens hood.

The camera feels a lot like a DSLR. You’ll be comfortable shooting this if you don’t mind shooting a Canon 1D Mk IV or a Nikon D3s. Shooting vertically is quite a pleasure and possibly the most comfortable experience I’ve had shooting a camera vertically. I wish my 5D Mk II was this comfortable when I used to shoot celebrities.

I got the opportunity to test the camera with a variety of lenses and they all felt very good. Manually focusing was easy to do and allowed for tack sharp focusing (a problem for me as my eyes are getting worse.) However, True Focus was really the dealbreaker dealmaker here (Thanks Stephen for the catch!)

True Focus works by using the center focusing point to acquire focusing by pressing the button on the back. Once that happens, you can recompose your shot and the camera will focus the lens to ensure that spot is sharp depending on where you move the camera to. This includes all angles and various positions.

It also has various profiles that can be assigned; kind of like custom settings that are available for other cameras.

The camera feels solid as well, so you know that you’re really getting your money’s worth when you drop the equivalent of one semester’s college tuition on it. The top LCD screen that you see above delivers shooting information and even histograms. There could be more, but that’s all I got to see.

The H4D-40 can be hooked up (tethered) to your computer via a Firewire cable while shooting so that you (or an assistant) can immediately start editing the photos when you’ve shot them. Other ports include those for a flash cable, etc.

The screen on the back (keep in mind that on medium format cameras that the backs are detachable and include the sensor and “brains”.) is actually relatively high resolution. I do not know the exact specs but I do remember that this camera’s screen had better resolution than the Phase One backs. Zooming in on a photo allowed for the photographer to see incredible detail: something that I wasn’t pleased with on the Phase Ones.

I can only imagine shooting out in Asia, Death Valley, weddings or studio with this camera. I know quite a bit of photographers that already shoot with high end Canons and Nikons. However, the H4D-40 is beautiful in every way, shape and form. It’s big and you know it’s big. It isn’t intimidating though and the learning curve doesn’t take very long but it does take some memorization and muscle-memory in addition to paying attention to the details in your viewfinder.

The one photo that I took with me on a flash drive was corrupted, so I can’t share it with you at the moment. A posting will be done when I can share it.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.