Hasselblad H3DII-39 Review

Photographic equipment for Strucural Divinity project:

Hasselblad H3DII-39

Hasselblad HCD 28mm

Hasselblad HCD 80mm

Hasselblad HTS 1.5 Tilt / Shift Adaptor

Canon 5DII & 5D

Canon 24-105mm F4L IS USM

Canon T/S-E 24mm lens

Manfrotto tripod 055CXPR04

Gitzo Ball Head 2780 QR

Velborn Tripod, Sherpa Model CF541EL

Lowepro Trekker Compu Pro

Lowepro Minitrekker

A considerable amount of time was invested in assessing the viability of this equipment prior to purchase. The Hasselblad was a recent addition to my equipment line, largely driven by the desire to return to medium format for creative control.

Having worked on 5×4 and 6×7 formats prior to the digital revolution, I never found the 35mm format satisfying the spatial construction of my images. I often resorted to cropping. This involved composing images in a wider frame with a view to resizing in post-production. In practice this is fine when the time constraints of a commercial job are not present, but I always felt like I was cheating myself.

After considering a range of alternative top end 35mm, medium and large format solutions from –

Canon / Nikon / Phase One / Mamiya / Alpa / Sinar / Arca Swiss

I invested in the Hasselblad H System. As an integrated digital solution it offers unparalleled flexibility. The H3 is certainly not the lightest or cheapest option on the market, but I find it to be the most portable and flexible outfit.

Whilst architectural imagery will be the primary focus of this trip I also want to shoot portraiture and landscapes during an average day meandering through Africa.

Many will argue that the 5DII will satisfy these requirements admirably…and they are correct, but sometimes only the highest quality will suffice. Even if it does lead to bankruptcy!

How is the equipment performing?

The Hasselblad is a joy to use, with a bright crisp viewfinder, ergonomic design and intuitive customizable buttons I found it very easy to operate at speed from the outset.

The ability to use the HTS 1.5 Adaptor in combination with both the 28mm and 80mm lenses was a critical creative factor. With just two lenses and the HTS I have 28mm / 42mm / 80mm / 120mm focal lengths available. The 42mm and 120mm being under the fine 0.1mm Rise / Fall / Tilt / Shift control of the HTS. This set up provides all of the key tools for interacting with built environment.

The subtlety of tone and shadow detail has both impressed and surprised thus far. Shooting during the midday sun in Africa is never a good idea but sometimes you find yourself in a situation that just won’t wait for the light to improve. The dynamic range of the Hasselblad H3 dramatically outperforms the Canon 5DII.  It allows continued shooting during high contrasts periods when I would normal pack the camera away. This of course is no excuse for not being patient and waiting for softer light.

What are the drawbacks of the Hasselblad H System?

I relation to 35mm the main problem is the power hungry digital back and physical weight. I have 2 of the rechargeable batteries and approximately shoot 250 images per battery before recharge is required (including previewing and exposure checks). I suspect all medium format digital equipment has a similarly short life when compared to 35mm.


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