Camera Review: Hasselblad H6D-50c
January 18, 2017
The typically staid medium-format market has seen plenty of activity of late, from new entrants to new designs and major product refreshes. Hasselblad’s H6D falls into the latter camp. The new camera is a total overhaul of Hasselblad’s camera system, complete with new electronics, a new processor and increased buffer. It pairs with two new camera backs, the 50-megapixel 50c and the 100-megapixel 100c.
We tested the 50c in collaboration with NJ photographer and director David Patiño.
The H6D-50c employs a 50-megapixel CMOS image sensor capable of 16-bit color and up to 14 stops of dynamic range. The native ISO of the sensor is 100-6400. It’s not a new sensor, but the entire processing and electronic architecture around it has been rebuilt.
The H6D camera supports a shutter speed range from 60 minutes to 1/2000 sec. (depending on lens). The back has dual card slots (SD and CFast), and a 3-inch touch display with a 30 fps live view mode. You can view a histogram readout on both the rear display and the camera’s grip display. The camera has a passive central cross-type AF sensor with instant manual focus override and metering sensitivity to EV 1. There’s Wi-Fi for wireless live view using the Phocus iOS app.
In addition to stills, the 50c records full HD video at 25 fps with mini HDMI output and audio input for any medium format moviemaking you may be interested in. The camera records both H.264 video and a proprietary RAW format that can be converted in Phocus to ProRes for use in editors.
The backs ship with the HVD 90X viewfinder which offers a fill flash and a hot shoe for external flash units.
When you first take hold of the H6D, it feels a bit odd, frankly. The hand grip (which doubles as the battery) is slanted forward. It’s unusual but not uncomfortable. Patiño, who shot it outdoors on location for five hours, said it was “really comfortable to hold” despite the unorthodox ergonomics. The hand grip/battery latches securely to the camera body.
While Hasselblad has created a super slim medium-format camera in the X1D, the H6D-50c is large and bulky, on par with rival backs and bodies from Phase One and Mamiya. The included HVF 90 viewfinder does have a pop-up flash, which Patiño feels is extraneous. We liked that the camera is future-proofed with a USB Type-C connections, though it clocks in with USB 3.0 speeds.
Patiño shot the H6D-50c both in natural light and in the studio, keeping the ISO range between 100-400. He describes the image quality in a single word: “stunning.” The files were incredibly malleable during post-processing, with much more room to push and pull them than the files from the 50-megapixel 5DS, he adds.
The camera did an excellent job of holding details even in extremely dark portions of an image, while skin tones were “flawless,” Patiño says. “I fell in love with the camera” when reviewing his files, he says.
Single-point autofocus proved reliably consistent. Even shooting wide open on the 100mm f/2.2 lens, we found that subjects were always sharply in focus. You’ll enjoy about 2.2-2.5 fps in continuous shooting mode—a bit speedier than the Phase One IQ3 50MP, but slightly slower than Pentax’s 645Z.
The touch screen and menu interface are masterfully done. Granted, there aren’t nearly as many features to comb through as on other cameras, but the user interface is excellent.
The camera wasn’t without its hiccups, though. The battery readout would display a dying battery, and yet Patiño says he was able to shoot through for an hour or more. With the battery fully charged, Patiño says he was able to shoot for five hours and 645 frames without needing a fresh battery.
During tethered shooting, the camera lost connection to his computer (which was running Hasselblad’s Phocus software). While that’s not unusual on its own, he says, it was more persistent than with his 5DS running into Lightroom. Sometimes the camera lost connection to the back, forcing Patiño to power down the camera, disconnect and then reconnect the back to get the two communicating—a process that interrupted a shoot.
Hasselblad fans won’t be disappointed with the 50c—though the 100-megapixel 100c may be even more tempting. The H6D-50c’s price tag is roughly on par with what Phase One’s IQ1 50MP back and new XF camera sells for, but the 50c doesn’t include a lens. The Phase does. The medium-format math is a bit more complicated now that Fuji has thrown its name in the ring with a camera that will be a third of the price of the H6D-50c—with a lens to boot. But that product has yet to hit the market, much less be tested, while the H6D-50c performed excellently in the real world.