I was wrong – Hasselblad seems to be determined to continue its partnership with Sony in ways we find somewhat…questionable. They have recently announced their third rebranded Sony camera, the Hasselblad HV. This time it is not based on Sony’s mirrorless system, however, but is built around their flagship DSLR/SLT camera, the A99. As with Hasselblad Lunar, which we failed to understand, the changes are purely cosmetic – the sensor and all other internal bits are exactly the same between the two. And, as with Lunar, the new HV carries a premium price tag of, wait for it, around $11,500 for the camera body with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Interested?
Overview and Key Specifications
Let’s now forget about the price for a little bit and run through the official specs derived from Sony’s website. At the heart of the camera there is a 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor courtesy of Sony. It is exactly the same as in the SLT-A99, Sony A7 and the RX1, and very similar to that found in the Nikon D600/D610 cameras. This sensor is among the best full-frame units in the industry, so high image quality is a given with the new Hasselblad HV. What is important to mention is that, much like the rest of Sony’s current SLT camera range, the HV is not actually a DSLR. Instead of a traditional DSLR mirror mechanism from manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon, the camera features a translucent mirror (also known as pellicle mirror). Which means part of the light coming through the lens is reflected towards the phase-detect AF module, but the bigger part goes straight through towards the sensor whilst the mirror remains static during exposure. This also means there is no optical viewfinder – an EVF is used instead. The OLED EVF is, no doubt, one of the best units in the industry and is as sharp as you would hope it to be with 2,360k dots. The magnification is 0.71x, so it is not as big as newest EVF cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T1, but still pretty impressive in its own right.
The rest of the specifications are as impressive. You can set the ISO sensitivity from 100 all the way up to 25,600, whilst the shutter speed is as you would expect from a high-end camera – 30s-1/8000s. The camera can fire up to 6 frames per second and the fully articulated 3″, 1,229k dot screen at the back makes reviewing images a pleasure. There is dust and weather protection as well as built-in GPS. Naturally, Hasselblad HV allows you to record 1080p60 videos, but the more important bit is the built-in, sensor shift-based image stabilization that works with all lenses.
Up until now every single detail about the Hassy HV has been identical to the Sony SLT-A99 down to the lens mount. But Hasselblad had to change something, and they have – the materials that you’d end up touching are more premium than A99’s magnesium alloy, like titanium and high-grade aluminium with PVD coatings. Now, presumably and according to Hasselblad’s brochure, the Physical Vapor Deposition coating is supposed to be second to only diamond in its hardness. This should make the Hassy HV somewhat tougher than the “stock” Sony SLT-A99. But, of course, it is not for banging into a wall, rather for admiring the craftsmanship. And, naturally, the design is also somewhat different, although the shape of the camera is much more reminiscent of the one it is based on (unlike the Hasselblad Lunar with its extravagant grip). Whether you like the design or not is a very personal matter, but this time I think they’ve done a much better job. It did not appear to me as ugly as the Lunar when I first saw it.
What We Think
I did my best to keep the irony out of the above paragraphs, but it was a very difficult task, which I do not fear to admit. Perhaps it is only fair if I get a chance to…spill it out. If you’ve watched what Lee has to say about the Nikon Df and how it might become a poser’s camera, Hasselblad might just have taken this to a new level. That is a sad thing because, as with Nikon Df, there is actually some clever technology underneath the fancy body materials and that stupendous price tag. The Hassellblad HV is a good camera if you look at it as if it is a camera. Its biggest problem, apart from the existence of the Sony SLT-A99, is Hasselblad’s press release. I have to say, they’ve made a complete mess out of it. Let me explain.
When most manufacturers announce new cameras, they talk about how they are better at delivering images, at high ISO settings, at autofocus performance. They talk mostly about the performance of the tool you are buying, because that is, first and foremost, the reason for buying it in the first place. If you do not actually need better performance and are happy with your old Canon 5D, why would you buy a new camera? You shouldn’t, unless you’re suffering from the need to buy new gear for the sake of buying it. Hasselblad, on the other hand, only briefly mentions the quality of the images that the HV can deliver, and that is understandable. After all, it is no better than the Sony A7 that costs several times less. What the Swedish manufacturer claims is that the HV is, and I quote, a “brand new ‘elite’ camera”. The first part of the statement is a blatant lie. It is a Sony SLT-A99, it is not brand new. The second part is absolutely puzzling and, combined with the rest of the interesting statements in the press release, makes for a very entertaining image of a person who’d buy the Hasselblad HV according to the manufacturer. As the CEO Ian Rawcliffe said, the HV is for those who “love taking them [pictures] in real style”. At this point I have a very vibrant flashback from Lee’s entertaining video review of the Nikon Df.
But this is not the worst part, it gets “better”. You see, the camera ships in a very durable, high quality case that has dust, water, impact and chemical agent protection. What’s more, it does not fear cold (as in – will not fall to pieces in temperatures ranging from -40°C to 80°C). Alright, nothing wrong with that. The problem is in another part of the following quote, and I am pretty certain you will guess which part exactly in first try: “The HV ships with a specially designed, extremely robust and high performance ‘super resin’ case (like the pros use) guaranteeing extra protection from dust, water, chemical agents and impacts and shocks.” Let me repeat that just to make sure it sounds as silly as it does. “Like the pros use”. Correct me if I am wrong, but that ridiculous statement sounds much like something you would say to an eight year old kid if you were trying to sell him a plastic Ferrari F1 car. “It’s exactly like the one Michael Schumacher used!” That would work for the kid. Me? Sorry, no. So this camera is for those who do not understand photography, but think professionals pay enormous amounts of money for cameras (read – toys) that are built out of exotic materials just because they are built out of exotic materials, and who also want to look somehow stylish with that camera in hand. It’s like an accessory that you boast about in a bar to your friends, because it is similar to those “the pros use”, but also very expensive. Made of titanium, see? You don’t use it, just boast about it.
I love old Hasselblads. They are beautiful. Don’t think I do not appreciate design – I really do. I’ve studied design and find it very intriguing in all its forms. But these new Hasselblads, they are…sad. “Finally, a DSLR with style, spirit and soul”, the brochure says. But you do not start to love a camera because it is built out of nice materials. What makes one love a tool, what gives the tool “soul” is how it becomes a part of your daily life. You can’t craft sentiments – they come with memories. That is why I like my dad’s Zenit E so much. It was never designed to be special. Even as an old film camera it’s not actually very good, certainly not a Leica. But I grew to like it despite all those things, because so many of my childhood photographs were taken with it.
I am sorry, but if you really want style and both spirit and soul in your camera, grab a Leica MP, a Rolleiflex or a Hasselblad 500cm of old. This is just a Sony SLT-A99 in a fancy frock – a good camera, but only as long as it is honest. The HV just isn’t. It is made for posers and mostly because of that terrible press release. What Hasselblad should have done, in my opinion (and if they are so determined to rebrand Sony cameras after all), is be honest about the HV. Say it is for people who like newest technology and enjoy photography, but want a tool that feels a bit more premium, is a bit less bland than the rest. For people who can appreciate daring design and do not much care for the cost. Then the HV would have a niche, or at least be targeted at a reasonable, understandable niche. Now though, it is for someone who likes words such as “elite”, “ultimate”, “premium”, “exclusive photo-icon”, “exceptional” and so on. Someone who wants to use what professionals use for the sake of it. Just a shallow way to show off by flashing the name Hasselblad and not realizing it might just loose its credibility if the Swedish manufacturer is to keep this up at such a pace.
Official Press Release
Here is the official press release by Hasselblad:
Hasselblad makes a brand new style statement with its latest camera for photo-enthusiasts
Hasselblad, the iconic camera-maker favoured by many of the world’s most accomplished professional photographers, has launched a brand new ‘elite’ camera – and this time pointed it at amateur photo-enthusiasts who demand the ultimate in both style and performance.
The sleek new Hasselblad HV, which is available immediately, will retail at € 8500 (excl taxes) and boasts some of the most advanced camera technology ever engineered for the enthusiast marketplace.
Announcing the launch Hasselblad CEO Ian Rawcliffe said: “The new HV is the latest model in our rapidly expanding portfolio of consumer cameras that seamlessly blend beauty and chic with performance. This camera is aimed squarely at people who don’t just love taking pictures – but love taking them in real style. And the HV doesn’t just look good; it feels good to hold too. We maintained a sharp focus on ergonomics and we used only premium materials like titanium, high-grade aluminium and latest ‘tough as nails’ PVD coatings.”
He added: “There are growing numbers of very keen and often extremely talented amateur photographers and photo-enthusiasts all over the world that are willing to invest in the kind of high performance capture products that elite professionals enjoy. Our brand new HV DSLR will completely satisfy all those who wish to not only treat themselves to an exclusive photo-icon but also revel in crafting exceptional pictures and video with an exceptional camera.
The new and easy to use HV has a 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor and comes with a legendary Carl Zeiss 24-70mm lens – for extreme sharpness and outstanding contrast. The camera also has 35mm full-frame HD moviemaking capability for outstanding performance, even in dark conditions.
The HV ships with a specially designed, extremely robust and high performance ‘super resin’ case (like the pros use) guaranteeing extra protection from dust, water, chemical agents and impacts and shocks.
It can also deal with extreme weather conditions (from minus 40°C up to 80° C). This lightweight case doubles as an integrated organiser to hold not just the camera, all cables and chargers, memory cards and photo-literature but also an iPad and a regular size laptop.
For more information visit: www.hasselblad-hv.com