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Nikon D800E v.s Hasselblad H4D40:

the end of medium format superiority? Round two

Nikon D800E v.s Hasselblad H4D40

Nikon D800E v.s Hasselblad H4D40

This is a second part of the test-review of Nikon D800E and hasselblad H4D40 cameras. Read the first part here: Nikon D800E v.s Hasselblad H4D40:  Round One


Third test, Overexposure and highlights recovery


Here I’ve got an opposite situation with RAW converters: Phocus and ViewNX couldn’t get even closer to Adobe Camera RAW results of pulling overexposed areas. Especially Phocus from hasselblad.  For some reason when I tried to adjust exposure and recover highlights, it brought pink colors on areas with blown pixels (FIY: all the lens corrections were “On”). View NX was not good as well, producing too contrast and low detail images compare to ACR. This time I decided to include both results, from Phocus and ViewNX for you reference.

The situation appeared to be quite unusual, especially for Hassselblad owners: for underexposure recovery it is better to use Phocus than ACR, but it is opposite for overexposure and highlights recovery: Adobe Camera Raw does much better job with Hasslblad RAW files than “native” Phocus.

Lets see ourselves.

Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery test results

Full image:


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by ViewNX


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by Adobe Camera RAW


Quite a difference, isn’t it? Few more:


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by Nikon ViewNX


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by Adobe Camera RAW


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by Nikon ViewNX


Nikon D800E Highlights and overexposure recovery by Adobe Camera RAW

In every area Adobe RAW converter did a better job, delivering less contrast and more detailed image. BTW, quick tip for beginners: if you want to preserve as much as possible details, always create a low contrast image out of RAW converter. Contrast can be easily added later, at final stage of image editing, but you can’t do it in reverse: lost details are not recoverable.

Now, lets see how Hasselblad managed highlights recovery.


Hasselblad H4D40 Highlights and overexposure recovery test results


Highlights Recovery by Phocus:


Highlights Recovery by Adobe Camera RAW:


Quite a difference, isn’t it? Not sure what was goning on with Phocus, as it suppose to do a better job on its “own” raw files. In any case, I have all the RAW files used for this test ready for you to download by the end of this article, so you can check this stuff by yourself.
Lets see the rest of the Hasselblad H4D40 overexposure recovery tests, all done by ACR this time:


Hasselblad H4D40 Highlights Recovered by Adobe Camera RAW:



Basically the situation is the same: there is a visible advantage of Hasselblad over Nikon in resolution and details. However, I do not see any difference on amount of recovered details on both, shadow and highlights recovery. Which means Nikon did a great job with its 14 bit little sensor, as well as Adobe did a great job of pulling pixels from overexposed areas of the image from both camera’s RAW images.


Last test: The Colors

Nikon D800E

Hasselblad H4D40

As expected, Hasselblad delivered better color accuracy with it’s Natural Color Solution (HNCS), which is good.


I was pleased to see the performance of Nikon D800E. Despite the huge difference in a price, D800E was able to deliver the quality comparable to 5+ times more expensive Hasselblad. Great shadow and highlight recovery was actually a big surprise for me, considering 14 Bit small sensor vs 16 bit in Hassy (more bit depth means more colors and wider dynamic range).

Also, we need to keep in mind that it was not a true sensor-to-sensor performance test, as the glass was playing a big part of the resolution and details quality of the shots. Nikon had cheap, and most likely it would deliver even better sharpness and details if I’d use Carl Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar (or similar older Zeiss) lens for Nikon.<\p>

Also, I was using F16 and F11, which is quite  tough for the lens, especially for Nikon’s. Yes, it would give me a better resolution at F6 or F8, but I rarely use such wide open aperture in my studio work, and this is why I’ve used F16 in the test: to see the real-life performance, not the best possible.

Well done Nikon! Cameras like D800 will shake medium format market, and I hope it will drop their pricing even more.

And what about Hasselblad? It is still a choice of hi-end professionals who can spend 5x more time more money to get that last 10% of quality for their images. Ferrari is in business, as well as Subaru, and both are pretty fast and enjoyable cars to drive, isn’t it? 🙂
My personal decision is to stay with Hasselblad and replace H1 P25+ with H3D39 or similar MF camera. Like I’ve mentioned before, I need digital back to be deatachable and mountable on any other rig such as technical camera. Plus, I hate to clean 35mm DSLR sensors, and every time I swipe dust off from my P25+ Phase One digital back i smile: it is so easy!:-)

Hi-res original TIFF and JPEG files (in case you decide to play with them  yourself) are available for download absolutely free, you just need to sign-up for our newsletter.  To sign-up, use the top form on the right sidebar, and link to our special downloads page will be sent to you.

All the best my friends, there is a forum post on photigy if you want to discuss this test even further: Forum Topic


P.S You can also check out DxOMark Nikon D800 review and my other reviews.

Want to hear more options about this test and cameras? Check this out:

There is a great discussion about my test on luminous landscape forum, make sure to check it out: these guys did a great job validation my results, and nothing have escaped!

Another interesting discussion on forum.

Want to learn more about the equipment?

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Nikon D800E v.s Hasselblad H4D40



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