Medium Format

What It’s Like to Shoot a 400-Megapixel Camera

March 13, 2018

By Greg Scoblete

In January, Hasselblad unveiled the H6D-400c, a medium format camera that uses a sensor-shifting Multi-Shot mode to create a 400-megapixel photograph.

We had an opportunity to see the H6D-400c in the field, doing its multi-capture thing at DJI’s New York City headquarters (DJI owns Hasselblad).

Spoiler alert: 400-megapixels is utterly unforgiving.

As Hasselblad’s product manager Dan Wang explained, when using Multi-Shot technology, camera shake is a mortal enemy. In fact, despite the camera being locked down on a very large stand, vibration from a construction site over a block away plus street traffic rumbling over NY potholes introduced enough shake to ruin the Multi-Shot.

It’s not just environmental shake that can blur a 400-megapixel image. The puff of atmosphere released from the flash can displace hairs or tiny elements in the photo that will appear blurred at 400-megapixels. (Speaking of flash, Wang says that only strobes with incredibly fast recycle times are viable for Multi-Shot captures.)

Wang says that institutions like museums that have purchased or tested the 400c have had to isolate the camera from environmental shake–one such institution in the Ukraine placed it in a Cold War-era bunker.

Despite moving a huge amount of data back-and-forth, the Multi-Shot process doesn’t take all that long (as you’ll see in the video demo below). Tethered using USB-C, the 2.6GB image files (not a typo) populated into Phocus after several seconds.

Wang says that in the company’s testing to date, Apple’s iMac Pro has been the best platform for running the Multi-Shot mode through Hasselblad’s Phocus software. Windows platforms have proven laggier, at least for now.

Despite (or rather, because of) its extreme sensitivity, the resulting images from the camera have an incredible level of detail. The files are too large to share on a website, but Hasselblad has posted some representative samples here.

The H6D-400c sells for $47,995.

The most relevant customers for the 400c are museums and other cultural institutions who are digitizing their collections using drum scanners or other, lower-resolution medium format cameras. But variants of Multi-Shot technology are penetrating lower-cost, smaller format cameras from the likes of Ricoh, Sony, Panasonic and Olympus. The megapixel wars, it seems, are far from over.