Ahead of our Photographica sale on Monday 28 February, we pitch the Hasselblad H6D-100C against our Photography team's standard Canon 5Ds. How did the two compare? Does size matter?
In a world where the latest smartphones continue to amaze with their useability, capability and size, is there really any requirement for a photographer to covet a high end Medium Format Digital camera? Chiswick Auctions latest Photographica sale features the overlord of image quality and the king of the billboard: the Hasselblad H6D-100C (Lot 51, estimate £6k to £8k). We’ve tested this digital Behemoth against our humble Canon 5Ds here at Headquarters and we’re now ready to share our findings with you.
The first thing we notice is the physical camera size. The Hasselblad is big in every sense of the word. However, where this size is most notable is in terms of the Camera’s sensor. A full frame digital camera’s sensor is typically 35mm x 24mm. The H6D-100C sensor is a whopping 53mm x 40mm. This doesn’t mean very much to most of us, so we will attempt to go easy on the specification top trumps, in favour of a holistic approach favouring side by side image comparison and tangible differences in the two-camera systems image output.
LIGHT CAPTURING ABILITY AND DYNAMIC RANGE
The first advantage of an increase in sensor size is in terms of light capturing ability. The increase in sensor size or surface area results in the pixels on a medium format sensor being less tightly packed together than in a smaller format sensor of the same resolution. The larger sensor also affords an increase in dynamic range: up to 15 stops of dynamic range on the Hasselblad, compared to an industry standard full frame of 10 – 12 stops.
We took some test photographs to illustrate this question of dynamic range. When comparing the shadows and highlights of these images (or the darkest and lightest areas), we notice a far higher level of structure, detail and sharpness in the Hasselblad Raw images. This not only enriches the images that come straight out of the camera but gives the photographer so much more post-processing capability. Where detail lacks in the full frame, or even smaller sensored smartphone cameras, the image processor will just blur and fill areas lacking detail. The Hasselblad sensor, teamed with Hasselblad’s industry leading lenses portfolio, creates rich and detailed image files that record reality better than one’s eye often can.
TONAL ACCURACY AND COLOUR FIDELITY
Another positive of this increased dynamic range can be seen in the smooth transition of tonality across the portrait & still life images, with far better tonal accuracy and colour fidelity coming from the Hasselblad, especially within skin tones. Hasselblad calibrates every single sensor that comes out of their factory (less than 10,000 per year) by hand and in house, against a group of ‘golden backs’ or perfectly calibrated sensors that they keep at the factory, that have a ‘Holy Grail’ calibration according to the Hasselblad technicians. This attention to detail and artisanal approach to modern camera manufacture sets the Hasselblad system apart from other mass produced cameras like the Fuji GFX100 that share the same sensor.
So what did we conclude overall? It’s big to carry and will slow your computer, but the Hasselblad’s image quality really impressed us.
Let’s get back to the original question. Does one really need a camera of this specification and does size really matter? Those who already participate in our Camera & Equipment Auctions are enthusiasts, often with a strong lean toward analogue processes, techniques and cameras. For those buyers who are image maker’s as well as collectors, this tendency toward physical image making can often be understood as a pursuit of ‘real’ images, like those created on nitro cellulose sheet film, regardless of the time, effort or cost associated with their production. The Hasselblad H6D-100C, although a very large, and sometimes inconvenient camera to carry, which will certainly slow your computer down unless you’re Bill Gates, is for those pursuing image excellence or even image perfection. In a world populated ever increasingly by mass generated, AI enhanced fake imagery, the combination of digital convenience, film-like sharpness and detail, teamed with true colour rendition is an enticing proposition to the professional and amateur image maker alike, and a breath of fresh air for the rest of us.
The Hasselblad H6D-100C is up for auction on Monday 28th February at 11.30am. This live auction will be broadcast on our website where you are welcome to bid.
If you have any questions about the auction or require any additional information, please contact Austin Farahar, Head of Photographics who will be happy to assist.