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How I Met My Hasselblad: A story of how I made my dreams come true ;-)

Do you remember a question I asked the Universe a few weeks ago?

Well, Here’s the answer:

Me and Hassy :-)

:-))) I hope you’re smiling now :-)))

The real thing:

Now that I’ve got a Hasselblad H1 camera now and I’m going to be using with with a PhaseOne P25+ back. It’s not going to replace my Canon 5D MKII, as I want to keep both systems; the 35mm and medium format. They’re different animals and I know that both will be necessary in the studio.

You probably think that I’ve got a lot of money to spend on this camera?  No, that was not the case.  Was it a business requirement for me to jump to medium format? Nope. I’m always trying to do things I want instead of the things I have to. So the answer as simple as this, I wanted it :-)

At the beginning of 2011 medium format systems seemed to be completely out of reach for me. I had Canon 1Ds Mk III, an old 5D (12 Mpx) and about $4K-$5K for the equipment upgrades I need for this year.

So, how did I do it?

Nothing special really, just simply buying and selling operation which now seems to be a very obvious solution. Looking back, everything appears logical and so easy to make happen. I can only wish that I can see with such clarity in the future. Usually after I set my goals things start happening here and there, slowly moving me towards the destination. I started to consider things that were not on the surface at the beginning, seeing things that were not as obvious months ago..

First, I replaced my spare camera. Having sold my old Canon 5D  for $1000, I bought a 5D Mark II for $2500. Then I compared the 5D MK II against my 1Ds MK III (Canon 1Ds MK III v.s 5D MK II: is there is any difference in image quality? ) and found that there is nothing that can stop me from replacing the 1Ds MK III with the 5D Mk II. I found that the 5D MK II image quality was the same or even better in some areas over the 1Ds MK III.  I did not care much about poor focus performance on 5D MK II, it’s not enough to prevent me from making the switch.

Net result: $2500 -$1000 = $1500 spent.

The next step was to sell my DIY technical camera rig which I had adapted to work with 35mm DSLR and in order to buy my “dream one” to work with medium format digital back. I was looking for Sinar P3, but I got a good deal for Cambo Ultima D (my second choice), so I bought it. After reading some reviews on Cambo Ultima and Sinar p2/P3 I found that the Cambo might fit my build even better.

Net result: $1200 (Ultima D) – $850 (DIY rig) = $350 spent.

The third step was to sell Canon 1Ds MK III, buy a medium format digital back and then a camera for it.  The 1Ds MK III went for $4250 and I quickly found a replacement for it. The PhaseOne P25+ 22 megapixel MDF for $4550. I started using the P25+ with my Cambo camera and found it to be an amazing tool despite the fact  that the back is few years older than the 1Ds MK III it replaced : Phase One P25+ vs Canon 5D MK II.

About a month later I’ve got a nice deal on slightly used Hasselblad H1 + HC 80mm F2.8 lens kit for $2500.

Net result: $4550+$2500 – $4250 = $2800 spent.

Total cost of the “conversion”: $4650. This is about a half from what I’ve paid for Canon 1Ds MK III in 2008.

Everything I bought was purchased on eBay. I set search alerts so that eBay would send me new items that matched my search criteria. It’s a pretty easy and effective way to find what you need.

In the end I ended up with two new (to me) camera systems, while retaining the full functionality of the Canon gear I already had. I’ve moved up to a different league and now I’ve got tools I want in order to compete. Now it will be much easier (not financially, but mentally :-) to continue moving forward and upgrading to larger sensors and newer cameras as needed.
Please don’t tell me that “a camera doesn’t make a good photographer” thing, It’s never been about this argument.  I needed all of the advantages that medium format cameras provide, as well as I know that I need to use Hasselblad to work with my “dream” clients.

Now my goals need to be adjusted and my vision board redrawn:-) BTW, our next big step is going to be moving to California. In October we are going to take a trip to find a place we like. Traveling from San Francisco to LA in a week. That will be a lot fun for me and my family!

A few words about the Hasselblad h1 and some pictures too:

I’ve had a chance this weekend to enjoy my new Hasselblad and I’ve got some pretty nice images done in the studio. I don’t need to say that I wasn’t thrilled by the quality the H1 + P25+ produced. However, The HC autofocus system is very slow compared to Canon’s L line, but the precision of a single center focusing point is amazing.  X-sync of 1/800 sec is always a good thing as well:-)

Oh, and my  portfolio page on hasselblad.com: Alex Koloskov hasselblad owner’s page. It’s free :-))

Here it is, first set done in studio, 1/800 sec @ F3.5:

Hasselblad H1 test by Alex Koloskov
Hasselblad H1 test by Alex Koloskov
Hasselblad H1 test by koloskov studio photography
Hasselblad H1 test by koloskov studio photography

100% crop from above:

hasselblad H1 test by koloskov 100 percent crop
hasselblad H1 test by koloskov 100% crop

Amazingly shallow DOF and crisp sharpness at F3.5!

The lighting setup:

creative studio portrait-photography lighting setup
Creative studio portrait photography lighting setup

Hope the image of the lighitng setup is self-explainable. By varying ratio between #1 and #2 I’ve got the effect of washing the color from the face. Foamcore was placed under the glass  for a better diffusion. Two little white reflectors on both sides of the table helped to soften the shadows.  #3 is a hairlight, #4 is a gradient creator.

The lighting was really good for the look I wanted to see. The examples above were slightly processed (Genia couldn’t resist to play with the images), but I want to post “As-IS” one directly from a camera RAW, processed in C1.

As-is Hasselblad with P25+ RAW:

As-is example of hasselblad h1 and P25+ digital back
As-is example of Hasselblad h1 and P25+ digital back

All the best for everyone!




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38 responses on "How I Met My Hasselblad: A story of how I made my dreams come true ;-)"

  1. Alex, have you checked the income tax rate in California? Many people are moving in the opposite direction to escape the bad financial situation out there.

  2. Congratulations on your upgrade Alex. You deserve it. Your photography is amazing and the help and instruction you give to other is invaluable.
    I’m actually a jewelry photographer and just like a previous commenter; “Barry Benowitz” was contemplating buying an Arca M-Line II DSlr setup for my Nikon D800E. I currently have an 85mm PC-E TS Lens. I noticed that you don’t really recommend a technical camera for shots of rings that are standing up. The most important shot for me is exactly this shot of a standing ring in 3/4 view.
    What are you currently using for this type of a ring shot right now? Is there a different setup that you would recommend? I would agree with you that the TS lens gets really good DOF when the piece is lying down but I’m still having a hard time getting good DOF when it’s standing up.
    Anyway, thanks again.

  3. Thanks for sharing that. I too have my first f1 and now some strobes. The set up was nice to see. Helps one understand things clearly.

  4. Always inspiring to hear about someone else’s passion. I pretty much went on the same journey video wise. I’m a skateboard Filmer and going from SD to HD has become a costly but rewarding move in this industry. There are only a couple dudes in Skate that use medium format on the streets. One is http://www.atibaphoto.com Check his work. Great timeline and very good move on your part.
    Happy shooting.

  5. Alex I smiled as i read your about upgrade to Hasselblad we all deep down are boys with toys I recently after a couple years of saving treated myself to a H4D40 with a 50-110 lens Having already having a couples of canon MK111 DS’s. Like you Do I need it? probably not but I wanted it. Ok my business is good enough to justify having it but that’s not the reason . After thirty years of photography it is an amazing feeling to be behind such a camera, For me it is the old feeling all those years ago of having the canon A1 for the first time. Without this feeling these are just tools of the trade. Using the Hasselblad is a whole new learning experience and even though you may not use it for every project its the knowing that you have it makes the difference .
    you deserve it alex enjoy keep up the work you are an inspiration to all of us

  6. Nice! I was close to buy one last month too, but though I need to keep a little money left for this winter… So I’m still wanting for one ^^.

  7. I love the luminous photos, but expecially the paint or ink on the subject’s forearms, that’s priceless. Thanks, and have fun with that back.

  8. Just wanted to congratulate you on your purchases! Your work is amazing!

  9. @Tom Bako, Thank you for the compliment and yes, the money can be good at times when it comes to graphic design. I suppose with both graphics & photography, it depends on the type of clients. The reason for moving more into the product photography realm is that as of the last couple of years, I’ve been shooting most of my own product photos for various catalogs/brochures/web. By doing so, I’ve come to enjoy the process and although I do shoot a wide variety of subjects, product photography has been drawing me in more and more. It might not become my primary source of income but rather a compliment to my design business. At the moment I have some decent camera gear and perhaps I can built upon that as business grows.

  10. Alex… I totally appreciate your story and congrats on the H1, but I don’t think you need to explain yourself for owning an H1. Basically, nobodies business. Enjoy the new toy and keep up the great work!


    • Thank you, Eric.
      I love to share my experience, I believe it may help others to find their way or to inspire people to do something new… It makes my own life much happier:-)

    • @ErickP,
      You are right, but so is Alex, I think it shows what a little ingenuity and sound financial management can do, good stuff.

      Best to both of you.


      • @Tom Bako, I agree Tom. You can always learn from others. I suppose, it’s the jaded side in me coming out. Some people tend to just hate the success of others, instead of celebrating it and using as inspiration.

        @Alex Koloskov, You are right as well and it is GREATLY appreciated. You are inspiring and I look forward to attending one of your workshops. I’m tying to break into this area of photography and build up the experience and confidence need to open doors. Thanks again.

        • @ErickP, You are a great graphic designer. ‘Mo money in dat stuff’ Erick. Not to discourage you about shooting but it’s a tough racket for many and great for a chosen few. Where I am located the competition for product photography is heavy and to get any decent assignments you need to work with larger Ad agencies. Goes like this – too many photographers, too few assignments.

          The only business that seems to be reasonably stable is weddings, Like it or leave it though. I shot 20 one year and all the money was upfront, that was when film was alive and doing well, shot everything with a hassy and 3 strobes, elinchrom 500 and metz 45 on bracket with hassy. Good results. Tried it, didn’t like the pressure. Average investment in time from start to finish- initial contact with client to delivery of finished albums 30 hours, divide that by what you charge for the shoot only – excluding the albums.

          Today with digital anybody can shoot a wedding, yea, right! It’s the style that makes you good or bad and knowing how to handle people and the pressure. That year ended it for me and stuck with product and industrial location only, much easier and you deal with upper level clients. You can start with minimal photo equipment for product, so just before you jump from the frying pan into the fire choose your equipment wisely. FWIW. :-))

  11. Congratulation Alex, welcome on the “board”. I’m working with Hasselblad H4-40 from december 2010 and my life “change”. Good luck and don’t forget to be member Hasselblad of owners group. Some pictures done with Hasselblad you can find on my http://www.jaxa.com in section photonotes.

  12. Alex, Old news but maybe of interest to you and your readers – http://photo.net/equipment/hasselblad/h1/

  13. Good Catch Alex – BH has a kit for about 2800. It’s the lenses that will cost you big time though.

    Check out this shutter count http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=12103.0;wap2

    Happy Shooting :-)

  14. I’m sure you read this review


    Thanks by the way for your recent reply to my email question. So since I photograph jewelry and you seem to also do some of that work why wouldn’t I go buy a Arca Swiss M- line 2 and the rodenstock 120 and dump my 1ds3 for a back. Does that sound like a set up to handle Rings, Bracelets, Earring, Necklace and other categories of jewelry? I only ask because you seem to have played with a few set-ups but your not taking the plunge to the high-grade state of the art equipment….so your like me I always did in the past but have learned not to pay for cutting edge hype. Back to your current setup the Cambo Ultima D and the rodenstock 80mm lens (im not sure if you have the 120mm Apo lens)but with this setup can you get the 1:2 magnification with your 80mm and current setup? and can you get at least 35mm or 1.5″ of depth of field?

    • Barry, I’ve seen that page a while ago but still have not managed to read it:-))
      I use 120mm Schneider F5.6 macro HM lens with cambo, that 80mm rodenstock was sold along with the cambo master PC.
      From what I see technical camera works the best for flat jewelry subject: necklace, lying rings, and so on. Meaning if you shoot something flat at sharp angle you can easily have focus on the whole thing, like in this example: http://www.photigy.com/watch-photo-shoot-advantages-of-tilt-shift-camera-adapter/
      However, if you’ll be trying to use large sensor to get in focus something like standing ring with camera on top, it won’t work.. larger sensor has shallow DOF, and you simply will end up doming more images for a focus stacking than with your 35mm camera..
      Technical camera is the best for architecture and food shots, but it has limited use in jewelry photography, IMO.

      Sorry, I can’t give you DOF numbers… But you can try to do a shot with 35mm camera and than divide the DOF you’ve got by 2: this is what you’ll have on MF sensor. Do not mix DOF and tilt/shift, it is not the saem. DOF gets decreased if you tilt or swing the lens.. and it gets reduced dramatically.

      • @Alex Koloskov,
        Yep now you got my question, a smaller sensor should produce more depth of field with the standing rings and bracelets. most of the time i shoot the jewelry suspended in the air. This eliminates the need for wax, and I’m shooting at a fairly flat angle. Your right on that line your going to increase the depth of field however that is for just a few of the shots. Still if you shoot a pendant on a chain suspended on either side and the pendant tilts just slightly from top to bottom forward you will have a different focus plane for the top and the bottom of the pendant. So for ease of shooting this situation and to get better depth of field what if i use the Cambo for a camera with a small sensor than the 1ds3 would I accomplish the goal?

  15. Ehh you lucky man, ohhh you lucky! Well I am not doing so much pro work like you but I would love to get my hands on one of these HD1’s! There will be a time for me to enjoy sitting behind such equipment. Alex all the best m8 have fun as new gear is always extreme excitement! Can’t wait for more stuff with Hassi!

  16. Especially agree with “not a camera”…
    And my best wishes with new camera.

  17. I’m wanting a Hasselblad too! Too rich for me at the moment. Heard great things about it for studio work! Thx for the review!

  18. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for your clear explanation to make your dream come true.
    The results from your new Hasselblad toy look great! You deserve such a camera for the work you make.
    The cropped photo with the eye looks amazing sharp, the others look good too with this lighting setup.

    Lots of fun during your trip finding another place to live in California!

  19. Looks Awesome.

    I’m rocking the 5d2 and 1ds3, but just about to purchase the h1/p25+.
    All my buddies think I”m mad, but now I can show em this.

  20. Awesome upgrades. Those photos look AMAZING!! I’ve always wanted to play around with a hasselblad, but I’m definitely not yet at the point where I have a need (or means) to upgrade. Maybe someday! =)

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