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Hasselblad H4x camera hands-on review: back to open architecture!

This past weekend I had a great opportunity to play with newest Hasselblad model, H4x (x for extended) medium format camera. As you know (if not, check here) I own an old PhaseOne P25+ digital back for H mount, and I use it with a H1 Hasselblad.  It works great and I love the system, but I was locked form any camera upgrades as hasselblad had stopped accepting non-Hasselblad digital backs since the H3D camera, when they went from “open” to “closed” architecture.

I’m not sure what made them re-think this, but now (and I can only appreciate such changes) they’ve released the H4x camera (which is almost identical to a latest H4D) which works with non-hasselblad backs. I was one of the first who got to play with this new device:-) Here we go:

Hasselblad H4x camera review

 Many thanks to John Williams from Hotwire-Digital.com as well as to Eric Peterson from Hasselblad USA for the event!

So, what the advantages H4x has over the old H1/2 cameras?

Full list of features can be found on the H4x press release, but I can tell you what’s the most important for me:

The most valuable feature is the True Focus technology. Because Hasselblad cameras only have one center focusing point, in many cases you have to recompose the shot after setting the focus. This inevitably leads to getting your subject slightly out of focus. Here is the illustration from hasselblad.com:

True focus by Hasselblad
True focus by Hasselblad

For the full description of the process: True Focus and Absolute Position Lock. In short, True Focus adjusts the lens when you rotate the camera up and down or sideways. The camera monitors the angle that its being moved at and adjusts the focus accordingly. Sounds easy:-)

 As you’ve seen in the video, I’ve used both cameras with my P25+ back to compose similar shots.  Both sets were done with the HC 80mm lens with a wide open aperture F3.5, 1/800 sec shutter.
If you’ve ever taken a handheld shot with a medium format camera you know how precise you should be able to get the focus after recomposing the shot.

Here are my results:

Hasselblad H4x full shot

hasselblad H4x review by alex koloskov
hasselblad H4x review, re-sized

Hasselblad H4x 100% crop

hasselblad H4x (with true focus), 100% crop  review by alex koloskov
hasselblad H4x (with true focus), 100% crop


 Now a similar shot with my old H1:

Hasselblad H1 100% crop:

hasselblad H1 (without true focus), 100% crop  review by alex koloskov
hasselblad H1 (without true focus), 100% crop

I can say that True Focus definitely helped me in this shot: on about 60% of the H1 shots I’ve managed to get model’s eyes in a precise focus after re-composing the shot, and it was about 90% shots in a focus with H4x camera.

 Upgrade option (with trade-in of your h1/2 camera) will cost somewhere around $5-$6K (my guess), so it is not bad considering prices of  new H4D camera.


9 responses on "Hasselblad H4x camera hands-on review: back to open architecture!"

  1. Great demo.

    Was wondering, did you get your hands on a HTS 1.5?

  2. Great demo of true focus. I’ve rented/borrowed the H4D and always used the true-focus by default since I’m used to having a dedicated button for AF (separate from shutter). I never did exact comparison shots to test true-focus (mainly shooting outdoors, farther distances, no studio strobes) but your pics make the benefit clear.

  3. I used to have one of the scanners which we loved working with and replaced work previously done on drum scanners. But it’s useful life is past too. Anyway just another thanks for all your great reviews, training, and blogs. I truly appreciate your willingness to share so much with us.

  4. As I recall the history, Hasselblad became a closed back vendor when it bought a digital back and scanning company back around 2001 Imacon was the company as I recall. The back was not as popular as the scanners which were great, using technology that let many drum scanner owners or want-to-be owners have access to a much smaller, faster and cheaper scanner that produced similar results.

    However the Imacon at the time was not competing well against the likes of Megavision, PhaseOne, Leaf, and Sinar. Hasselbald started only using the Imacon, now Hasselblad backs to prop up it;s new investment and ensure its future success and development.

    Today few remember Imacon and the digital backs have become accepted by most Hasselblad users who want a modern medium format camera but would not consider a Pentax or Mamiya.

    • @Michael Margolies, H1 and H2 cameras (H2 camera was discontinued in October 2007) was open architecture, as they were accepting Phaseone and Mamiya mounts along with Hasselblad. Only H3 cameras become closed to anything expect hasselblad backs.

      I remember Imacon backs, I was considering buying one few years ago, they are available for very few $$ :-)

  5. Alex, I have a question about this shot. How did you get the background to be grey? You have that rotalux pointed at the subject and then to the background. Wouldn’t that turn the background white? Your a lucky guy to get to be able to check out those high end cams.


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