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In studio test:

Hasselblad H3D-31 v.s Canon 1Ds Mark III mounted on large format camera

I had an opportunity ( many thanks to John Williams from Hotwire Digital) to play with this beast, Hasselblad H3D -31 few month ago, eventually got time to write this short review.

The intention was to compare Hasselblad with tilt shift adapter  with my Tilt-shift adapter system for Canon EOS I am currently using.

In studio test Hasseblad H3D-31


Unfortunately, we did not have a macro lens for Hasselblad and used non-macro 80mm f 2.8 H lens. I am not going to write a technical review, as there are so many on the web, as I did not have enough time to test every aspect of the camera. Instead, I am going to tell what I liked and what I did not about this Hasselblad, compared to my Canon 1Ds Mark III.

Do Not like:

The camera is big and slow. Slow- meaning it is slower that my Canon 1Ds Mark III. Slower focus, slower operations.
Only one focusing point (center),  which sometime forces you to use manual focus for a product shots. Not a big deal though.

Do Like:

Bright, big viewfinder. Very good for low light work. Very good and precise matte focusing screen.
Good use of “live view” feature (which I’ve never used with my Canon), as it let me precisely adjust focus by looking at the monitor. Focusing can be controlled  from a computer, wile working tethered. However, for some reason we couldn’t get good focus using this feature, but i do not blame the camera, rather my limited experience working with hassel 🙂
The most I like in Hasseblad, (true for any digital medium format) is: resolution, color depth (16 bit v.s 14 bit per channel)  and .. removable back! Yes, ability to take back out and clean sensor is what I am ready to pay for! DSLR’s deep hidden sensor gets so dirty when I change lens a lot, or even more dirty if I attach the camera body to a large format system bellows. And it is so hard for me to clean DSLR sensor! Sounds familiar? You clean it with wet swab, than wipe,  wipe, … close a shutter, mount a lens just to find few leftovers on the sensor. With medium format digi back tt should be much easier to detach back, wipe it and put it back again.

Ok, back to the test. I can’t get close enough to the bracelet  to match the same magnification ratio as I had with my Mark mounted on modified Cambo MAster PC rails, but I think extra resolution of the 31 Mpx sensor will help to minimize the difference. Below is the full uncropped image from Hasselblad  with it’s own tilt-shift adapter HTS 1.5 and 80mm F2.8 lens set at F16,  no sharpening or any other adjustments were applied:

Jewelry shoot with Hasselblad H3D-31, 80mm non-maco lens, F16

100% crop:

Hasselblad with HTS 1.5 jewelry example 100% crop

Now the same setup with Canon 1Ds Mark III mounted on Cambo Master PC rails with Rodenstock 80mm f/4 APO-Rodagon N Enlarging Lens set at F16:

Canon mounted on large format (Cambo PC) jewelry, F16

100% crop:

100% crop Canon with Rodagon 80mm lens

I clearly see that Haselblad’s  HTS 1.5 tilt-shift adapter has more limitation on it’s tilt angle, which makes impossible to get all object into the focus, even when aperture was closed to F16  (maximum useful number due to a diffraction). Large format camera allows much more  movement to tilt a lens, providing a real advantage when shooting object at such low angle. ( One more example of what it is capable is here). The overall details and clarity seems to be even. I guess if I would use   Hasselblad with true macro lens it will beat my little $900 enlarging lens by amount of details, but  couldn’t do anything with  the distant part of the object I shoot: it just can’t tilt  enough to get focus there..

I know Hasselblad with it’s 31 Mpx 16 bit color depth sensor will outperform small Canon’s 14 bit   sensor, but in a studio, where I have all lighting under full control, dynamic range is not that critical like on location, where you fight against sun, bright sky, etc. However, everything has it’s price, and 3 years ago I did not see any reason to invest 3 times more to a digital medium format system (comparing to high-end Canon). My client’s simply did not need that extra details and dynamic range for the price. Now, when  medium format systems with 30+ Megapixel back’s being sold below $20K , the gap is closing.
Next year I’ll have a medium format monster in my garage:-) Not sure if it will be a hassel, as by nature I never liked closed architecture, always prefer more freedom of choice:-)
And it will be really cool to have digital back mounted on a large format camera, tilting and shifting it to any usable angle while using any large or medium or even enlargement lens with it! Must work perfect for product and food photography.

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