When should one switch to Hasselblad vs. Canon 1DX or high-end Nikon ?

Apart from the number of pixels, what do the cameras from that brand bring?

  • I agree with Erik, it's not a fair comparison. it's like comparing APS-C with FF. although MF digital cameras have some advantages and disadvantages... look at it as a tool, you can cut a tree with a hand saw or you can use a chain saw... – Omne Jan 15 '13 at 20:38
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    I disagree for both, they are fair comparisons. Of course they are products at different levels, but before buying a several thousand dollars MF camera you want to know what you get more and what you get less than FF (the same applies for FF compared to APS-C). Besides, in both these cases (although less so for FF vs APS-C) you don't only gain but also lose things, like (MF vs FF) high-ISO or portability. – Marco Mp Jan 23 '13 at 15:00
  • @MarcoMp: well said. – Skippy Fastol Jan 24 '13 at 1:37
  • @MarcoMp no, it's not a fair comparison. The cameras cover different potential usage patters, different market segments. It's like saying "what benefit does a Ford pickup truck have over a Morris Minor", for many people the answer would be "none". – jwenting Sep 24 '13 at 5:09

Advantages of Hasselblad medium format compared to the best 35mm systems (applies to most medium format systems):

  • Larger lenses means sharper optics (when measured across the whole image circle).

  • Higher resolution sensors currently available.

  • Modularity, backs, viewfinders are interchangeable allowing you to upgrade independently.

Hasselblad offers a few unique technologies, for example an autofocus system that measures and accounts for focus and compose errors.

There is the Hasselblad brand, but that doesn't completely explain the appeal of these cameras given the equally popular alternatives available (Leaf, PhaseOne, Mamiya) which don't have the same brand appeal.

  • +1 Part of its appeal is system integration. Even sticking within PhaseOne, you get the feeling that you're operating three loosely-coupled components (the Mamiya-derived body, the PhaseOne back and the lens); the 'Blad feels more all-of-a-piece. (Which is why it's now a closed system and bodies & backs need to be mated—they can be cross-mated, so anything you may have read that says you can't have backups is wrong—and that has its down side as well.) Oh, and it's the only 645 AF with a waist-level finder (expensive option) which might be important for field shooters. Studio types can tether. – user2719 Jan 15 '13 at 19:08
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    I'm curious about the "Larger sensor leads to sharper optics"...I understand that medium format systems do HAVE some high quality lenses, but is it really the case that a larger sensor naturally leads to sharper optics? From what I understand, it is actually more difficult to correct optical aberrations in lenses intended to be used with larger sensors...so it would seem that while there are great optics for MF, that is more the result of explicit effort to overcome a greater difficulty when using a larger format than a natural consequence. – jrista Jan 15 '13 at 19:08
  • I agree about the rest, though. Modularity with medium format systems is a major selling point, and the sensor resolutions for medium format currently far outpaces DSLR sensors. – jrista Jan 15 '13 at 19:10
  • @jrista If an MF and an FF lens have the same resolution, measured in e.g lp/mm, the MF photo will have higher total resolution because the image is projected over more mm on the sensor. So yes, a larger sensor leads to higher system resolution all else equal. AFAIK, MF tends to sidestep optical aberrations by sticking to relatively simple optics - e.g. no f/1.4 lenses (for MF, f/2.8 is a quite fast normal prime) and no superzooms. – j-g-faustus Jan 16 '13 at 1:46
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    @jrista whenever I talk about lens sharpness it's always in the context of image circle size. Otherwise you have to conclude that all large format lenses are soft and cell phone lenses are the sharpest money can buy. – Matt Grum Jan 23 '13 at 13:54

Prestige, legacy or resolution:

  • To show you can own something so expensive. In some market this will give you an edge to get clients to pay for the prices you ask for.
  • To use your legacy cameras and lenses. This could be for sentimental reasons more than practical, I suspect, since if you can afford a Hasselblad, you can probably afford new gear too.
  • The raw resolution of a medium format back is still unmatched by even the highest resolution DSLR you can buy.

Outside of resolution, these cameras bring very little more. They are always slower, show more noise at high ISO and do not go that high anyway, rarely autofocus and are rarely weather-sealed. DxOMark which measures cameras scientifically according to RAW performance, rates them well but sill lower than the top full-frame Nikon DSLRs or even expensive compact!

Of course there are differences beyond those but they are minor. People familiar with each system and lens can prefer the look or rendition over one camera or lens but this is due to personal preference than a measurable advantage.

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    I would add the thiner depth of field due to sensor size, which can be very useful for studio portrait shot (where medium format are often used). By the way, MF are at the top of the DxO rank "portrait - color depth". – Emile Jan 15 '13 at 16:29
  • Yes, but only if you can get a lens with as wide an aperture. On the Pentax 645D system for example, you can get F/2.8 at most, while they still make F/1.4 lenses for full-frame film cameras. Not sure about the other systems. – Itai Jan 15 '13 at 16:33
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    @SkippyFastol - See this. Sensor size is intrinsic to DOF calculations and the larger the size, the thinner the depth-of-field for a given aperture. – Itai Jan 15 '13 at 16:48
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    Downvoted because of some misleading or untrue statements. 'Outside of resolution, these cameras bring very little more' there are several other important differences as I noted below including bit-depth and AA filter. 'The raw resolution is unmatched' isn't true, the highest end MF bodies have more megapixels but the D800 for example arguably has as much if not more 'resolution' than most MF bodies. Also this post has a lot of emotional response to it as well as opinion, especially the 1st bullet point. – Shizam Jan 15 '13 at 18:19
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    +1 for "bragging rights", which in case of people blindly buying one over a Nikon or Canon without a valid business case is usually the only reason. – jwenting Sep 24 '13 at 5:10

TwoThree Several important things Hasselblad brings vs Canon and Nikon are:

  • Hasselblad uses a CCD sensor (instead of CMOS) which offers several quality improvements
  • 16 bit image files (Canon and Nikon are 14 bit)
  • No anti alias filter, this improves sharpness at the cost of increasing chance of moire (the Nikon D800e now has no AA filter though, so that option exists)
  • There are more megapixels (I realize you aren't concerned with this, I'm just adding it for completion)

In general, Digital MF bodies (and Hasselblad in particular) swing the needle all the way to image quality, everything else is sacrificed (speed, size, high-ISO, features, etc) so in that regard you can't compare them to DSLRs on those fronts very well.

A fringe benefit is the ability to use your MF back well outside of a traditional SLR body like on LF backs. I say 'well' because you can also use DLSRs on LF backs but due to the recess of the sensor you are severely limited.

And finally, as an aside, having shot with the full gamut of Canon gear and recently higher end Nikon gear, when I had the chance to shoot with a Hasselblad for a week, the resulting images (from a quality standpoint) were amazing. There was just something more there FWIW, this probably stems from a combination of the aforementioned image quality improvements.

  • Heck, the Pentax K-5 IIs has no AA filter, nor does any of the Sigma Foveon options out there. So, not really an advantage anymore. Also, the H4D-31 is lower resolution than the Nikon D800, so even that isn't entirely a given now. – John Cavan Jan 16 '13 at 2:41
  • I wouldn't call the lacl of an AA filter a given benefit. There is DEFINITE aliasing and moire on cameras that do not have AA filters. There are options emerging to clean up moire in post, however they are far from perfect, and they add an extra step in post. The moire problems of the D800E have been clearly demonstrated on the net many times. Not having an AA filter can be great for certain types of photography (i.e. landscapes), but it is not ideal for all types of photography, and not necessarily a bonus selling point in all cases. It is more of a 50/50 pros/cons deal. – jrista Jan 16 '13 at 3:48
  • I know I'm very late to the party, but your point about CCD vs CMOS sensors, does that only apply to the situation of MF vs lower? Or can it also be true when you compare sensors of the same size? For example: I've used a Nikon D80 for a long while (crop, CCD sensor) but upgraded to a newer model (also crop, CMOS sensor). It's true that the D80 was able to produce gorgeous images, but it was appaling in low light situations whereas my newer CMOS based body really shines when you up the ISO level. IME: D80@ISO800 equals CMOS@ISO6400 or higher. That isn't reflected by the articles you link to. – klaar Aug 1 '16 at 7:17

You can't disregard the number of pixels when considering Hasselblad, it's one of the main features, and if you need the number of Mpx a Hasselblad can offer, you would know. And then there are very few other cameras that can satisfy your needs.

We're talking about from 60 to 200 Mpx.

Then there's the absolutely huge sensor sizes which gives you a lot of things, but of the most important: more light, more detail.

Of course, the traditional reason for using Hasselblad is that it's a medium format. It's not really a fair comparison, either you need medium format, or you don't.

  • It should be noted that 200 megapixels is a multi-shot mode thing, not the actual resolution of the sensor. I think 60mp is still the maximum for sensors from Hasselblad. – jrista Jan 16 '13 at 3:49

Leaf Shutters are a huge advantage for controlling ambient light and freezing action with flash,and the viewfinders are a lot better than canon or nikon viewfinders..

Another benefit is the reproduction of skin tones.. the 16bit CCD sensor's produce beautiful skin tones,Nikon and Canon's best camera's can also do great portraits but the Hasselblad has an advantage in producing extra tones..


Today medium format cameras are almost exclusively using Sony CMOS sensors which are excellent at high iso (better than what a smaller sensor Nikon, Canon or Sony can manage), generally offer leaf shutter lenses (except Pentax as the time of this writing), and have better characteristics such as out-of-focus area falloff, etc.. the aspect ratio is also different to the liking of many (but not everyone).

... and of course resolution and colour range (dynamic range) is one of the largest benefits of shooting medium format. D/R with todays latest MF cameras are about 15 stops. Even the last generation of MF bodies had a colour range that trounced the smaller sensor'd cameras, making whites blow later and shadow recovery easier.


The MF dslr normally has 9-11 f stops of latitude . This latitude surpasses all and most monitors cannot even view . One could practically miss fire and still get it all back . It is actually a great amateur camera because only we make these mistakes.

16 bit means 64,000 shades of a colour . 14 bit is 16,000 shades . This is alot more .

Even my old 11 million pixel 24x36 Leaf V11 gives more detail and colour depth than a D4 . The pixel depth is also more .

The more one blows up the image the better a MF one looks .

  • Now I wonder why they don't put that kind of sensors on Canon & Cie cameras... – Skippy Fastol Jan 28 '13 at 9:14

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