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The Evolution of the Hasselblad H System Digital Strategy

Hasselblad has a simple aim, to produce the best possible camera which can in turn produce the best possible digital files and give the maximum degree of creative freedom to professional photographers.


By integrating all technologies in a DSLR camera instead of trying to continue to build separate cameras and digital back solutions Hasselblad is sure, and the vendors of 35mm DSLRs have proven this, that making fully integrated DSLR cameras is the only way to obtain the highest possible image quality.

Digital technology has, over the past 15 years, radically changed our lives by altering the way we communicate, the way we store information, the way we listen to music and even the way we take photographs. The very nature of digital technology, both the hardware and software behind these various applications, has advanced at a pace that would have been inconceivable in 1948 when Victor Hasselblad began producing his first analogue camera, the 1600F.

This ‘digital’ transformation has been rapid, and in the photographic market has affected different companies, somewhat in relation to the way they have reacted to the changes. Nikon and Canon appear to have thrived – moving all their efforts into the production of digital cameras, whilst brands like Contax and Minolta are no longer produced. New players like Sony have brought out cameras, and the professional photographer is now able to choose from a vast range of DSLR models. Hasselblad launched the H System in 2002 as a platform for digital or analogue capture. Hasselblad sought to provide the best and most versatile medium format system possible, and the H System rapidly became a camera of choice for people buying digital backs. In truth, though, it was a great film camera to which a digital back could be fitted, and, committed to innovation and to offer state of the art products to its customers, Hasselblad started to look at ways that image quality and functionality could be enhanced even more through better integration.

The progression from H1D through H2D through to the family of H3D cameras has, at each step, added to the level of integration. The later models have a single power solution, ever-simpler operation, DAC lens optimisation, flexible storage methods and more. This integration has opened up new possibilities for Hasselblad, enabling them for instance to use design techniques that take in the whole integrated package of lens, camera, viewfinder, digital capture unit and software. The Hasselblad HCD 28mm lens, for instance, has been developed with software correction as part of the design brief, allowing Hasselblad to make a better lens at a lower price. So significant are these new possibilities that the H System has evolved into a fully fledged DSLR; one that offers greater photographic flexibility and image quality than any 35mm DSLR – a DSLR that is state of the art. For this reason, and to reflect that it has been optimised to take full advantage of its 48mm x 36mm digital sensor, we’ve called it ‘the first 48mm full-frame DSLR camera system’.

At the same time the H1 has been replaced by the H2, which still remains a high quality, stand alone platform for digital backs, or for film capture. The H2 camera has not, in any way, been diminished by Hasselblad’s separate development of functions specifically for the integrated H3D. However, lacking the necessary integration of the new camera engine and Hasselblad Flexcolor software, these functions cannot work on the H2 – although the new waist level finder will work well with all H models. With the modular H1/H2 cameras or with the integrated H3D cameras Hasselblad is producing the best possible tools to put into the hands of discerning professional photographers in order that they can take the best possible pictures.

Whilst Hasselblad has been working through this process, other medium format manufacturers have also been realising the benefits of integration; Mamiya with their 22Mpix ZD, and Pentax with their recently announced 31Mpix MF DSLR. Others have joined forces to cooperate in the Franke and Heidecke HY6 project. Hasselblad stands alone by producing a range of products spanning image resolutions from 22Mpix to 39Mpix in a fully integrated system, as well as providing the well-known camera platform H2.