The Switch

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Advance warning: this post contains nothing but gear p***, since it is an equipment-centric post after all…and I make no apologies whatsoever for that. And that thing isn’t a carrying handle, it’s the HTS.

I suppose many of you will have seen this coming: I have switched primary camera systems from Nikon to Hasselblad. And you’ll also probably know I’ve got extremely good reasons for doing so, even more so since this is a significant commitment by any standards. I’ve also had several conversations with various people in the organisation that have convinced me that their future is also going to be pretty exciting indeed. Judging by the number of people who commented and emailed me after the previous recent posts on medium format (here, here) – there’s quite a lot of curiosity and more medium format shooters here than I previously thought. Today’s post is an explanation of that rationale, and the comments will be an attempt to answer any questions from the curious.

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The generation gap

For the 13 or so years I’ve been shooting seriously, I’ve always maintained one system as the go-to when you Need To Get Something Done – ostensibly, the Nikons. First a D70, then a D2H, D200 (x2), D3, D700 (x2), D800E (x2) and now D810 and various secondary bodies* – there’s always been at least one general purpose Nikon in the fleet. Up to five at one point, if I recall correctly. This has been the case, because even though specific tools may address one very narrow range of tasks better – there are frequently situations in which you simply do not know to such a degree of specificity what you might be expected to shoot. In such situations, a Swiss Army Knife is the only way to go.

*D50, D80, D90, D3100, D5100, D5500, F6, F2T. Probably more, but those are the ones I remember.

When you further take into account the necessity of being intuitively familiar with the way your camera responds to avoid missing images in critical situations, reliability, support, easy replaceability, accessories, special purpose lenses, flash, etc. – you really only have Nikon or Canon as choices in the smaller formats. None of the other small format brands have meaningful perspective control solutions, and these are necessary for my architectural and product work.

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I believe that either choice is equally valid and the ‘best’ tool will come down to your individual preferences for ergonomics and perhaps specific but frequently used lenses. There are other tradeoffs, of course – but over the long run, these average out. Canon’s early superiority for noise control was lost to Nikon from the D3 generation, and Nikon lost the resolution lead last year. No doubt it will swing again in the next cycle – I do not see these as good reasons to switch systems, because they are incremental and cyclical differences. Yes, I did run a 5DSR for a while – that was because I wanted access to specific lenses that could not be mounted on a Nikon. In the long run, it was impractical to carry 1.5 systems and lenses, plus the dynamic range of that sensor and rendition were different enough to give me headaches in postprocessing.

Long time readers will know I also trialled Pentax 645Z and Sony A7RII-based systems. The 645Z ticked most of the boxes, but the lens system turned out to be simply too limiting. I would still have to carry the Nikons for work requiring perspective control. On top of that, whilst the cameras themselves have been extremely reliable both in my own experience and that of others, the limited support in my country (as far as I know, there are fewer than a dozen cameras here in total) is also problematic should something go wrong.

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I think my relationship with the A7RII is sufficiently well documented to avoid having to go into detail. Suffice to say Stockholm syndrome did not set in, and whilst there are tilt shift solutions available via adaptors (Canon, because of electronic control of the diaphragm) a complete system would require the use of quite a lot of adapted lenses – with all of the attendant problems of planarity, skew and decentering which accompany the use of any adaptor. I have a whole shoebox full of adaptors that work well with some lenses but not others, and keeping this straight just turned into a nightmare. Still, there were enough interesting lenses that I was willing to try – the Zeiss Loxias, Batises and older Contax-Yashica Zeisses (2.8/35 PC Distagon, 2.8/85 Sonnar, 100-300 Vario-Sonnar specifically, and also applicable to the Canon). Whilst the setup works well on a tripod, the other limitations were too unpredictable under fast moving situations – and we’re back to carrying extra Nikons again.

But I keep coming back to medium format because it seems as though something in the way it makes me work – or the hardware itself, though the former is more likely – results in a much higher hit rate, more satisfying images and to a somewhat lesser degree, happier clients. Even if most of this is intangible, the difference is there. And once you see it, you can’t un-see it.

I have now owned two medium format digital systems – Hasselblad V (CFV-39 and CFV-50C) and Pentax. I’ve also briefly used the Leica S, Phase One IQ250, and of course the Hasselblad H – in H4 and H5 incarnations. My experience with all of these systems has told me that most have significant compromises, and those are all different – pick whichever one is least of a problem for you. However, a lot of these have gone away with the transition to CMOS – and some other parameters like dynamic range have been improved even further. There was certainly a point where the D800 and co basically invalidated any argument for low end CCD-based (22, 31, 40MP) medium format – it beat them in price, image quality, and left them far behind in versatility and shooting envelope. and not only that, did things those cameras simply could not, like high frame rates, high ISO and focus tracking. However, now that the underlying sensor technology has been equalised, two things have happened: volume has driven price down quite a bit (A H5D-50C is about 40% its original launch price – $14.5k vs $25k or thereabouts) and the shooting envelope has opened up again. In the same generation of technology, bigger is always going to be better.

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My underlying reason for trying any new hardware is always because I have reasonable reason to believe that it will do something my existing kit cannot: that may be resolving power, low light performance, rendition, color accuracy, speed, responsiveness, perspective control, etc. The hardware is always nothing more than a tool which must be subservient to my desire to make a certain idea into visual output. The one exception to this is when I shoot for myself – personal projects or art. Then, the camera must feel right. I have no way to quantify this, other than you will know it when you pick it up – and it varies from person to person. That was, and remains the reason I shoot with the Hasselblad V cameras – despite massive limitations like 1/500s top speed, no wide solutions on digital, and 100% manual operation – plus the newest lenses being old enough to vote. But I’ve always enjoyed the experience, and the simplicity and immediacy that comes from only really having three controls – focus, aperture and shutter – in one place. Not to mention that enormous viewfinder. (The best way to use the digital back is like an endless film back where you can change the sensitivity.)

It was for this reason I purchased a CFV-50C late last year after the price reduction – it had just crossed over the threshold into affordability. The recent garage sale was to cover the cost of acquisition; it is still by no means cheap, but not a decision I regret. The color and tonal output from the CFV-50C was far better than anything I’d used up to this point. It isn’t just the outright color accuracy, but the sensor’s ability to distinguish between very similar hues – the latter is critical in reproduction work and I find tends to be of greater concern for clients. Unusually, almost no calibration was required to achieve extremely high transparency, and the sensor’s response appeared to be similar to that of the D810 (highlight biased, long shoulder) – but with even more dynamic range. The difference between the 645Z (which uses the same sensor) and the Hasselblad versions is much like the difference between the D810 and D800E – less linear, more natural, and qualitatively better in every way. Once you experience the other one, you have a really hard time going back.

Given the limitations of the V system – this is obviously not what I am switching to. I was lent a H5D-50C while my CFV was being repaired**, and used it on several assignments. Firstly, the camera didn’t get in the way; secondly, it did things I could not do with the other hardware at my disposal: mainly to do with color accuracy and tonality/dynamic range, which are things clients can definitely see.  Of course this is not really surprising given the H5D-50C and CFV-50C share the same sensor and image processor – it was just nice to be able to do it at 22mm-e and with the option for autofocus or shift.

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My clients were very happy with the look, too: ‘natural’ was the term that was constantly used. Feeling overconfident, I used it to cover the Thaipusam festival this year, too – the Q that rode shotgun as backup didn’t get used at all, nor did I feel like I missed any shots by not using it. There’s also a unique (to my knowledge) spot metering mode that allows you to select a zone (as in the zone exposure system) and use the spot to define which portion of the image falls in that brightness range. It’s the closest thing we’ve got to ETTR in a camera with an optical finder – just set it to 9 or 9.5. Overall, the results really made me feel as though this might be The One. Thinking it might be my imagination – I shot again with the D810 and Otuses recently to question my objectivity, which only confirmed that the Otuses are still the best glass out there – but the D810 isn’t matching the H5’s (or CFV’s) sensor.

**This is what I mean by professional service: if your camera has a problem, you really get another one until it is fixed. Despite the promises of NPS, I’ve never consistently had this level of service (usually, the cameras seem to be loaned out to the media and you are left hanging or self-insuring) from any other brand, and it really matters when your job and reputation are on the line – not to mention on a camera of this cost.

I began to seriously a) run economics and ROI calculations and b) evaluate the whole system for completeness to the edges of the envelope to see if a switch was feasible. I would not have considered it if the H5D-50C price hadn’t recently been cut significantly; if the MF players want to stay in the game for the long run, drastic action like this might be needed – the number of pros and studios here who’ve gone to FF instead of upgrading their MF systems is legion, at least in my part of the world. But there are also others who are relatively new to the game like myself, who are going the other way. In my experience, Hasselblad’s two strengths over the other MF solutions are the aforementioned color accuracy – which hugely minimises time wasted in PS for critical product work – and a little gadget called the HTS. The HTS goes between body and lens, adds a 1.5x crop factor to expand the lens’ image circle, but gives almost every lens tilt and shift capability. Lenses were designed with this in mind, which means the optics play nice together. In practice, instead of carrying both fast or AF 24/45/85mm lenses and the PCE set (which I frequently do on assignment) – I can now carry one set of lenses and the HTS. There is actually an appreciable weight saving, too.

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After a huge amount of thinking, scouring of historical shoot packing lists, EXIF data and final client deliverables – purchasing mistakes are going to be highly costly – I came to the conclusion I could get away with four lenses: the 24mm, 28mm, 50mm, and 100mm; HTS, 1.7x TC and V-H adaptor. I cover roughly (in 35mm-e terms) – 19, 22, 40, 80, 135mm with AF, and 30, 60, 120 and 200mm with movements, and flash sync to 1/800s. The V adaptor adds 50, 80, 120 macro, 150 and 250mm lenses – again with flash sync to 1/500s. I can even pack the V body as a spare. (There are also various unhealthy combinations involving all three adaptors, but let’s not go there.) If you’re wondering why 24 and 28 – the 24 will pretty much live on the HTS for architectural and interior work, and after combined crop factors is a ~27mm. The 28 is 33mm, which isn’t wide enough most of the time. The 28 is a more friendly focal length for handheld work, and also 2/3 stop faster.

At this point, I also have an announcement to make. For the first time, I have formally tied up with a brand: I have been appointed a global Hasselblad Ambassador for 2016 (official announcement here), for which I have to thank the team at Hasselblad (specifically, William Penrice and Anders Espersen) and Shriro in Hong Kong and Malaysia for their support and for making all of this possible.

I’m excited because I think a) image quality really takes a step up, and b) my clients appreciate the difference. I enjoyed shooting with the CFV-50C, and wanted that image quality all the time – with an even wider envelope. (I still of course enjoy shooting with the CFV, but that’s now my ‘weekend camera’.) The H5D-50C gives me that, and saves my back somewhat. For the curious – one Nikon and the more specialised lenses (Otuses, 20/1.4. 180 APO) will stay for the time being during the transition. I am not suggesting even for a moment that the H system (or even medium format for that matter) is a perfect solution for everybody – far from it, given the frightening cost, limited AF and frame rates and overall size – but I do believe I’ve found a better fit for the way I shoot and my own professional and personal needs. MT

Coda: Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think medium format is dying because of improvements in 35 FF – far from it. If anything, it’s the opposite: as awareness of precisely what improvements can be had at the top end increases, the demands are getting greater, at least on the client side. And it’s important to remember that for a company like Sony that manufactures sensors at all sizes, architecture developed for smaller sensors can easily applied to larger ones – if anything, there are some great economies of scale to be had here since a new sensor does not have to be developed from scratch. Ergo, what we gain from 35 FF and smaller applies to MF, too. Remember, BSI CMOS technology was really driven by camera phone imagers before it becomes mainstream in larger formats…

The equipment mentioned in this post is available here from B&H in the US, or Shriro in Asia. More information is available at www.hasselblad.com
Hasselblad H5D-50C (with wifi)
Hasselblad HCD 4.8/24
Hasselblad HCD 4/28
Hasselblad HC 3.5/50 II
Hasseblad HC 2.2/100
Hasselblad 1.7 TC
Hasselblad HTS 1.5
Hasselblad CFV-50C

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Comments

  1. Ming,
    Great article on the “Switch”, lots of useful information and insights. I too, have been looking for an alternative platform for my landscape work. I currently use Nikon D810’s and a Pentax 645Z. While I really like the 645Z image files, the system has no tilt/shift capability, so 80% of my landscape work is done with the D810 and a 45mm PCE, shooting stitched panoramas (nodal slide, arca swiss cube, & RSS tripod). The Nikon 45mm PCE produces acceptable quality for my commercial work but it is difficult to work with, prone to chromatic aberrations, and cannot match the clarity, color rendition, and local contrast qualities of newer lenses available today.
    I do not expect that Nikon or Pentax will be offering any upgraded or new tilt/shift lenses in the next year or two, so I am searching for other alternatives for shooting large stitched panoramas.
    I am especially intrigued with the new Hasselblad H5D-50C and HTS 1.5 adapter and how well it would perform with a Hasselblad lens when the combination of lens and adapter yields a field of view equivalent to a 40-50mm lens in 35mm format. My concern is that with the 1.5x focal length increase I would have to go to a wide angle lens and run into field curvature/distortion issues when stitching. Images from the Nikon 24mm PCE lens do not stitch well when they are taken by rotating the camera over the lens nodal point, whereas I have no problem in stitching 10-20 images taken with the 45mm PCE lens. Any thoughts you have on this would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards,

    Jorn Olsen

    • You’re looking at the HTS/28 or 35 combination, probably. I’ve not tried anything beyond a few images yet, but didn’t have any issues. It’s worth noting that distortion correction profiles for the H lenses are well mapped by both ACR and Phocus.

  2. nit3640cha says:

    Although I see your site more as an education than gear site , still I will mention it here if no one has in comments that it would be great if the new 100mp sony sensor does not remain exclusive to phase one and lands in your hands, you are one of very few people who would make full use of each and every one of those 100mp.

  3. Haha, the worm turns?
    You condemn CanNikonSony an Otus for being too cumbersome and heavy setups and then you surprisingly ‘move’ to Hasselblad MF?

    • No, you’re taking my comments out of context. Firstly, I said the Otuses were not balanced on small gripped bodies like the Sony. Secondly, the overall weight of my MF kit is lighter than the Nikon setup.

      • I looked up the weights of the Nikon versus the Hasselbald and the difference is a whole 1 lb in favor of the Nikon. I only mention this because I am also looking to expand to MF and have been comparing the differences. After having a trial of the CFV-50c w/Rodenstock glass, I hope to have an H5D for comparison soon against my D810/Zeiss Otus.

        • it’s not quite that straightforward. Add the total system weight for my specific purposes, and it goes the other way. It’s the difference between carrying 3 PCEs plus normal AF lenses and stitching gear vs the HTS, a TC and no need to stitch because I’m already at 50MP native.

  4. calvin yee says:

    Congratulations Ming, what is that fantastic looking camera bracket that that you have on the V? thanks, calvin.

    • Thanks. It’s an arcs-compatible L-bracket I designed myself and had machined from a single piece of aluminium. Then, polished for six hours to match the finish of the V…:P

      • A work of Art! beautiful design. how did you do the bottom and mount? thanks calvin.

      • nit3640cha says:

        Its gorgeous, but beware of grip with sweaty hands

      • Jon Bush says:

        Wow! That grip is beautiful Ming! Nicely done. Maybe a solution to sweaty hands and heat would be to drill a nice pattern of holes on each side…not sure if the aesthetic would be ruined, but I’m sure you could figure that out.

        • I have a simpler solution. Looking for some spare Hasselblad leather 🙂

          • Jon Bush says:

            Ah…the perks of being an ambassador! And congrat’s on that BTW…Hassleblad just took a step up in my book by associating themselves with you, not the other way around. Please help steer them away from future Lunar and Stellar mirrorless cameras. 🙂

  5. Ahhhh! I can see it coming about a year from now. Ming will declare that medium format no longer cuts it for him with respect to resolution, transparency, nor cinematic presentation. From now on only large format digital will do, and the larger, the more glorious! There will be another fire sale where Ming will part with his trusty RRS TVC-24L to purchase the top of the line RRS TVC-45 to ensure ultimate rigidity. The Hasselblads will be sold off to be replaced by some exotic larger format hardware. We all know it’s coming—it’s just a question of when!!! 😉

  6. Hello Ming, Congratulations on partnering with Hasselblad! It is great to see that this iconic company is back on the right track Bizarre World we live in. Judging by some of the negative comments… You are one incredible individual for not just tuning out the bad vibes outright!
    I am looking forward to your new projects and posts with the H5D, not as a reviews, but more of a shooting experiences that you manage to sprinkle with very valuable technical information on the tools you used. I believe, your take on the Hasselblad technology will be quite revealing. And at the present greatly missed.
    I eventually worked my way up to several generations of the 500 series with a number of lenses. Used the system professionally and for personal projects. I was really tempted to re purchase a brand new 503W until I got to the conclusion, that it is just PITA here to even attempting to work with film. As you said it a number of time, once you see it, it is impossible to “un see it”!…
    Seriously though, lusting after an expensive gear, is just that! The reality of it is that it is the least expensive part of kit, or the cost of a project… I felt truly sick at the time when I had to part with my system, until my wife reminded me of the fact that pro work and projects would not have been possible without it! And the equipment made that initial investment back 8-10 fold over a very short period of time.
    On my part at least, there is no thinking required to choose between a new CAR or an H5D …
    During a recent trip to Europe, I was crushed by the sad fact of how far we actually live from “civilization” here:)! as equipment rental and film use is much more viable option there.
    Have a great weekend!
    Tony

    • Thanks Tony. It’s much easier to ignore the trolls when you’ve got that stack of black boxes sitting in front of you 🙂

      I too am looking forward to getting out of the review cycle. It adds no value for me and does nothing for the creation of images…technology is an enabling tool, but limited still by the ability of the operator.

      Rentals are pretty much impossible here too – only thing we can do is make the business case and hope the fates let you see it through!

      • Hello Ming, as one can get lost easily on the NET, I may not have found what I am looking for. A very concise, in situ user experience on the modern MF technology. Very much like your amazing essay on the Thaipusam festival. Just a minor side note to the purpose of the essays, yet very useful hands on experience with the enabling technology’s behaviour under the specific circumstances.
        Ironically, before the NET, there was a lot of printed material easily obtainable from manufacturers, dealers and high grade magazines. So, I hope that you will continue to share your insights and experiences as a side note to your future projects with the Hasselblad solutions.
        Oh my!!! I did look up the cost of the 1.5 HTS and the 24mm! I would love to see the reaction of my account manager:) to that!. You want it for what? A personal project? In your hometown? Where?… LOL.
        For me the tools of photography first receded into the background and had become the enabler, was with a factory refurbished 500 C … over the decades that experience somehow morphed into a Nikon 2Dxs, that still is waiting for a 45mm/2.8 TS…
        All the Best!
        Tony

        • Haha – put it this way; one HTS is cheaper than buying three more hypothetical Hasselblad TS lenses… 🙂

          The Nikon 45 is pretty good. But it was the last PCE I bought because it’s so narrow use – most of the time, the 24 is better for interiors or architecture, and the 85 is better for product. It’s not often you need 45mm and perspective correction.

  7. Congratulations! Waiting impatiently when you’ll meet Superachromats. Now that you have both V series and H series it is a matter of time…

  8. I think I posted here once before? Either way, I’ve found your site and writings enjoyable. Congratulations on your new venture. I passed up something similar with Leica camera years ago and I never looked back as they really lacked direction then. Too, I decided to take my photography to a different direction away from freelancing and strictly more towards ‘project work’.
    It’s interesting to read how you’ve dabbled in so much gear, and I understand it’s part of the business side for you check it out, test, etc. Frankly, I struggled with brand jumping for a decade or so, and finally I realized after looking through my portfolio that each image regardless of how I thought they had a brand ‘signature’, really were mostly indistinguishable except for some transparencies.
    I’ve come to realize too, that nowadays the marketing of equipment brands has really escalated to new heights of promises. That really, a crafted photographer ends up controlling the image now more than ever, especially given the amount of post processing that is possible.
    But, as I still prefer medium format transparency work with it’s disciplined approach that really is almost meditative in it’s focus, I realized that the medium to me still is what is most important and that means for me, less time in any post processing. Kind of like saying, “here it is, it’s the best I was able to get with all my learned and practiced discipline.” This has really allowed me to accept that I may not always be able to capture an image at ISO 10,000 as is possible now digitally. But those images won’t have what I’m after; a perfected transparency that stands out in all it’s purity of exposure, composition, and sense of place. It’s a simplified process, and at times I’ve found that I feel a bit like a photographic dinosaur in an age of digitization – but that even though I do on occasion use various minimized digital kits, those do not yield the same ‘in hand’ catalog, unless they are printed.
    Never mind the advantage of monetary savings that being less equipment-centric provides! Again, it’s great you’ve been given the opportunity and I hope you make the most of it. As I’ve used Hasselblad gear, I am curious just what direction they are headed and I look forward to seeing how you continue on.

    • Thanks. I think these kinds of partnerships can only make sense if you and the company are going in the same direction, and it’s mutually beneficial. I’ve turned down other offers in the past because they didn’t make sense.

      The experimentation on my part isn’t because there’s any commercial reasons for testing or writing reviews. In fact, it’s the opposite: I have to buy (no loaners in this part of the world), take several days away from billable work and then endure unhappy messages with people who disagree with my opinion. This only makes any sense if there is a good creative reason to have the gear at all: I only bother evaluating if it might bring something new to the table. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of time (and the reason there are a lot of things I don’t bother reviewing).

      I also agree that there’s no such thing as a brand signature anymore, though of course there are some properties that cannot be made up for in PS (dynamic range, microcontrast, noise etc.). My preference now is to use whatever gives me the highest quality over the widest shooting envelope – this has been the focus for some time, actually. I want the freedom to craft the image to my vision under as many conditions as possible – not be dictated by the limits of the camera. I actually think this switch allows me to waste a lot less time on gear, because you already know there really isn’t much more to be had without a significant generational change in hardware. Certainly not at the FF/consumer end of the scale, at any rate.

      And yes, I spend far less time in PP now – which means more time shooting 🙂

      • Well, it’s good to read that you are spending less time in PP. I recall taking a few ‘catch-up’ classes in PS and realizing then, that the bigger expense of MF digital may have been wasted as I really wasn’t that interested in the PP side of imaging as I thought I was at the time. Too, I found that I was becoming less interested in the seeming increase in harshness digitally. While I can appreciate the increase in detail, it is the ‘film look’ I still desire, again in transparency form. It is the main ‘tech’ aspect of imaging I wrestle with; if I am out recording in remote locations that has been a long-term film project, I can’t really switch to digital if want to keep the visual signature.
        Then, if I try to justify the costs of upgrading, I realize the amount of remote location travel that can be utilized by keeping with the ‘plan’. As long as the finished work meets the quality demands, digital temptations take a back seat. I notice you didn’t throw any reply as to Hass’s ‘changes’! 🙂

  9. This site is a haven for gear addicts, and I have to admit that posts like these are a bit of a turn off. The rationale is always absolute and the tone sanctimonious. I suppose clicks are clicks, but I respected the content of this blog more when the gear didn’t cost more than a luxury sedan and the reviews were [slightly] more impartial. I assert that these kinds of posts send a message to budding photogs that to be a popular and technically good photographer, you must possess and justify the most expensive cameras. I would hate to go to the website of an artist and see many posts of which paintbrushes or microphones they have switched over to this week.

    Btw I enjoyed the tokyo cinematic posts. I just wish there was as much text as there is here, and that you attempted to create more of a narrative.

    • Sorry you feel that way, but I think you’re missing the point entirely. Photography is not easily separable from its hardware. You can’t make a photograph without a camera, and you can’t translate some ideas without specific tools. Ignoring that makes no sense.

      Haven for gear addicts? Not enough narrative or commentary on photography? If you look through the archives, you’ll see that 50% of posts are photoessays. On top of that, a further 40% are on philosophy and technique. If you choose to only read the 10% that are about gear, I can’t do much about that. Worse still, looking at the comments you’ve made in the past, you specifically choose to pick on only the gear posts. And even that 10% are reluctantly written because you’ll also notice if you read any of the comments that I refuse to review anything that doesn’t make sense as a tool that expands your shooting envelope. It has always been about making images first and foremost, and that still doesn’t change. If anything, my move away from the arms race is a refocusing on that because a) clicks are not clicks, frankly, bad traffic is a waste of my time; b) the audience for specialised tools is very small; c) I don’t particularly want to review gear, either – nor do I have time to.

      Lastly, every time I try to create a narrative in text, I get slammed by the other half of comments complaining about my captions. It seems I cannot please everybody, so at the end of the day, I choose to please myself.

      Comments like this are frankly quite hurtful because they are often made rather offhand without any attempt to understand how many things I have to try and balance to keep this (free, remember) audience happy.

      • No one can deny that gear plays a crucial role in photography. While they are simply tools, it also cannot be denied that some cameras / lenses have a seductive, hypnotic mystique all their own, and it often takes a very insensitive and calloused personality to resist their siren song. IMHO, making great photographs with great gear is one of life’s supreme pleasures, and the hard-earned shekels spent on photo gear often yields returns at the material / emotional levels quite disproportionate to their intrinsic value. Ming is / was an expert corporate financial analyst and even he acknowledges this well known fact. OK. Matisse didn’t fall in love with his paint-brushes, but we are not talking about pig hair, here:we are talking about superbly crafted instruments that are the products of inspired genius (e.g., Victor Hasselblad, Ernst Leitz). There’s no harm in loving the instruments you use to create your photo art, and at the end of the day, if you tend to rhapsodize about them a bit, well, we’re human, after all …aren’t we? 🙂

        On 26 February 2016 at 11:28, Ming Thein | Photographer wrote:

        > Ming Thein commented: “I think you’re missing the point entirely. > Photography is not easily separable from its hardware. You can’t make a > photograph without a camera, and you can’t translate some ideas without > specific tools. Ignoring that makes no sense. Haven for gear addic” >

        • There’s no question those artists had their preferred paints and brushes. You can’t paint oil with watercolors, or sculpt marble with wooden tools. Same goes for photography, but apparently I’m not allowed to. But then again when I dislike something, I also get slammed. Ah well.

          • This HTS gadget is a great idea. I am an amateur and have no intention of getting a camera and lens kit worth more than a car, but it is nice to know about interesting engineering ideas. I find your posts consistently interesting, especially the “philosophical” ones.

            • Thanks. I wonder why there’s no HTS-equivalent in 35mm-land…

              • As far as HTS-equivalents in 35mm-land, there are some options (using the greater lens mount to focal plane distance of medium format lenses instead of 1.5x optics with 35mm lenses to get the needed distance in which to place the tilt-shift hardware): For example, the Mirex Tilt Shift Adapter 105 for Hasselblad Lenses which provides tilt and shift using Hasselblad Zeiss V lenses on Nikon F mount bodies. They also have a variety of other adapters for various other medium format lenses on a variety of 35mm bodies. Kipon also produces a tilt-shift adapter.

                • True, but there are no wide options at all…and the few MF wides that do exist are either horribly expensive or not that great at FF35 pixel densities, or both.

                  • What continues to puzzle is the apparent contradiction in the the widespread beliefs both that, (1) adapters (like for putting a variety of lenses on Sony alpha/nex cameras) are too difficult to machine to sufficient tolerances to avoid tiny tilts and/or shifts causing serious problems; while, (2) deliberately (as advocated by Austrian Army Captain Theodore Scheimpflug) tilting and shifting lenses by orders of magnitude larger amounts works wonderfully. How can both be true?

                    • There’s no contradiction: it’s difficult to machine them to sufficient tolerances at an acceptable cost to most consumers. The HTS is not a cheap part.

              • Jon Bush says:

                I thought Novoflex had some 35mm options, however not quite like the HTS, which seems brilliant (and “brilliant” has it’s price I see). I think the Novoflex is more of a bellows-on-rails contraption…but it may give similar results in terms of tilt and shift. I suspect image circle size of traditional 35mm format lenses are not quite as generous as those in MF land and this would limit 35mm options as well.

                • They do, but requires LF lenses (of which wide options are limited) and two sets of gear if you want AF later. The whole thing isn’t cheap, either.

      • No one can deny that gear plays a crucial role in photography. While they are simply tools, it also cannot be denied that some cameras / lenses have a seductive, hypnotic mystique all their own, and it often takes a very insensitive and calloused personality to resist their siren song. IMHO, making great photographs with great gear is one of life’s supreme pleasures, and the hard-earned shekels spent on photo gear often yields returns at the material / emotional levels quite disproportionate to their intrinsic value. Ming is / was an expert corporate financial analyst and even he acknowledges this well known fact. OK. Matisse didn’t fall in love with his paint-brushes, but we are not talking about pig hair, here:we are talking about superbly crafted instruments that are the products of inspired genius (e.g., Victor Hasselblad, Ernst Leitz). There’s no harm in loving the instruments you use to create your photo art, and at the end of the day, if you tend to rhapsodize about them a bit, well, we’re human, after all …aren’t we? 🙂 Subroto Mukerji, New Delhi, India, signing off…

    • Rather presumptive of “Megatron” to comment on what you feel is the best tool for your photography business, Ming. I can honestly say, after reading most of your blog posts for several years, that I saw this coming. It does not surprise me in the least but then again, I have a pretty good idea as to what you demand from yourself as a professional photographer. I also understand the commitment to your clients. I’ve been there, in business, and pleasing your client beyond their expectations is crucial in today’s cut throat photography business environment. I think you did the right thing, for you. Happy shooting!

    • Larry Cloetta says:

      Megaton says: “This site is a haven for gear addicts, and I have to admit that posts like these are a bit of a turn off. The rationale is always absolute and the tone sanctimonious. I suppose clicks are clicks, but I respected the content of this blog more when the gear didn’t cost more than a luxury sedan and the reviews were [slightly] more impartial.”

      I know my opinion is not worth more than anyone else’s, but these comments seem so wrong to me in so many ways, in content as well as tone.
      “posts like these are a bit of a turnoff”?— How else could a site like this, which teaches and inspires a great many people–for free!–be run? You may not like it for reasons of your own, but “how did he achieve that result?” cannot be separated from “what did he use to achieve that result?” The equipment by itself will not make you a better photographer, but there is no legitimate rationale for pretending that the equipment used, and how it was used, is not relevant to any coherent discussion.

      “The rationale is always absolute and the tone sanctimonious.” Not on this site, it’s not. If this site is a “haven” for anything, it’s a haven for reasonable, well considered, and understated discussion.

      “When the gear didn’t cost more than a luxury sedan and the reviews were (slightly) more impartial.” It costs what it costs. That’s not Ming’s fault. Because it is expensive, talking about it, and clearly explaining what it does, or does not, bring to the table–that’s off limits for polite discussion? Because, thought police? This kind of response to this particular post is hard to fathom, for me, as a person happy to learn something, even if it is about something I can’t personally afford. And, obviously, any claim that Ming is not impartial, would either need to be backed up with some evidence, or left out of the conversation entirely. It’s not even a coherent accusation, as nasty as it is baseless.

      If you are happy with what you own, and want to stop there, fine. If you don’t want to learn about anything else, that’s fine too. Odd, off base criticisms of the genuinely helpful work that Ming does here is not particularly helpful to anyone, however.

      Thanks, Ming for all you do. Non carborundum illigetimi. (Dont let the b…..ds wear you down)

  10. Ming,
    I have followed you for several years and have enjoyed your posts and comments on photography. All I can say is congratulations on being appointed an ambassador. That is a huge honor. You definitely deserve it.

    I wish I had the money to invest in a MF system to “play” with. I know the IQ is superior and something special. Good luck to you. I look forward to many more great posts.

  11. Hi Ming Thein,
    I love your articles and look forward to reading what you are up to. I just wanted to ask a question that makes me nervous to ask. But here goes. Being an ambassador for Hasselblad I was wondering if you paid for the Hasselblad kit or was it given to you. The reason I ask is a lot of ambassadors from all types of companies that are endorsed get it for free even if that person does not like it.
    I’m not saying you are doing it for this reason as your photography speaks for itself, and if I was Hasselblad I would give it to you. FOR FREE.
    The reason why I ask this question is that a few years ago a well respected British wildlife photographer changed from Canon to Nikon and gave the reason that Nikon just WORKED BETER. After about a year he changed back to Canon. I asked him why he changed back to canon. Have a guess what he said……It just WORKS. As I work in the photography trade I found out the real reason. Canon gave him every body and lens he could wish for.. For FREE.
    I hope this does not offend you as I don’t mean it.
    That’s why I asked the question.
    Frank Williams

    • A very fair and valid question. The truth is, neither. The V system was purchased by me (back at full retail) and the rest of the bits and pieces off ebay and various other second hand sources – they don’t make them new anymore. The basic components of the H system are on loan. So it wasn’t given to me for free, but nor did I pay for it. It will have to be returned at the end of my contract, or I’ll have to buy it. Some lenses and accessories I had to buy. The position is of course unpaid. But you didn’t seriously think companies give out $60k worth of kit for free…? 😛

      However, I should add two thoughts at this point: firstly, Hasselblad told me they would not consider anybody who doesn’t already use their gear for reasons you described; nor would I switch to something I haven’t already tested fairly thoroughly. The risk to reputation, professionalism and output is just too great otherwise. (I’ve been a V-system user since 2013, and I’ve now bought two digital backs.) In the particular situation you described – a lateral move – makes no sense from an image quality standpoint, so the only reason somebody might do it is because they’re getting paid to, which brings up other questions – for instance, if the camera companies can either offer that much incentive for promotion of their gear, then that suggests there’s problems selling it: would you want to be using that? Or if that small amount of money is so important, you probably have much bigger business-related problems than which camera to use… 🙂

  12. Dear Mr. Thein,

    Congrats with this decision. I am (also) going back to an CFV 50 because the quality of MF really surpasses the FF output. (It’s the physics behind it!). And the simplicity of shooting the V system is outstanding. And as a backup camera: the H4d40. Or (maybe) a second hand D4, prices are dropping quickly now of these two camera’s. I think that’s all you need for excellent results in all circumstances.
    I had to find out this set up after a lot of trying and (not too costly) mistakes. But there it is, I feel reassured with your decision.

    Regards,
    Peter M. Bakker

    • Thanks Peter. A D810 would probably be a better choice as a backup: not too much of a gulf in image quality, and probably about the same price as a good used D4.

      • Thanks very much for your advice and blog. Currently working and living in Bangkok and I must say the second hand market here is overwhelming. How about a D750 as backup? It’s second hand value here is around €1250 (body). You were also quite positive about this camera. By the way, do you have plans for a workshop over here?
        Regards,
        Peter

        • Still positive on the D750. No workshop in Bangkok planned, though. It’s not a super conducive place for conducting one because it’s simply not an easy city to get around on foot, which precludes a lot of the style of instruction I’d usually do…

  13. This makes sense to me for your professional work Ming, product, architecture, fine art, landscape, cityscape etc. I think a huge advantage of medium format is the ability to change backs also. I think it really is a horses for courses consideration, I shoot a mixture of sport and events, corporate headshots and some street and landscapes, so the versatility of DSLRs (currently D700 and D7100 with grips) works for me. A lens like the 24-70mm F2.8G works as an event, landscape, environmental portrait and indoor sport option, and unless you’re a spray and pray shooter a D810 for example would work extremely well as a sport camera – hopefully my next one.
    That said medium format sets work apart I think for high level professionals, and if you’re printing large ultraprints for clients and gallery display I completely understand wanting that level of excellence.

    • Thanks Jim. I work slower and slower these days, but what’s nice is the ability of the system to handle speed (i.e. fast single shot cycle times and responsive AF) rather than outright fps, so I have the option to deploy it under wider circumstances. In any case, the maximum potential from any system is really only accessed off a tripod and under otherwise optimal conditions – if you’re not able to meet those because of moving subject matter, ambient light or other considerations, then some cameras get closer to delivering their maximum potential more of the time than others (e.g. a D5) – it’s just a matter of picking the right tool for the job 🙂

      • Yeah exactly, and looking at the H5D-50C sensor, 43.8mm x 33.9mm = 1485mm2 versus 36mm x 24mm = 864mm2 for “full frame”, that is a similar jump in sensor size as from APS-C to FF, so it’s going to make a difference for large reproductions.
        It’s also a unique selling point I think. Does make me occasionally wonder about 4 x 5 inch large-format digital ever becoming accessible.

        • Sensor cost goes up exponentially with size because of failure rates – I doubt we’re going to see 4×5″ chips anytime soon, but oh boy can we dream…

          • Ming, not forgetting, of course, the size of the camera body to house it. There are numerous 5×4 film bodies and even portability will need something like the Linhof Technika’s or MPP technical cameras. But this introduces a significant problem: bellows! Focus breathing can be an issue for some, so how they’d react to the massive amount of air moved by bellows, unless the fore and aft movement is severely curtailed, but this somehow defeats having all those movements and flexibility.

            6×6 possibly, but would we really need 5×4? And surely, they’d be as slow as an 18th Century cart horse. We already have excellent film scanners that cover 5×4, so would there be much of an advantage, apart from the usual digital one of convenience?

            Pity that the Hasselblad film scanners are so, so expensive, but I hope one day as an Ambassador, you may get to use and report on these. And this raises what is, for me, and interesting point: How would a 6×6 neg scanned with one of these compare with an image from the digital backs? For the moment, I’m ignoring the extra hassle involved with film development, but I believe it is a fair point given the cost of a digital Hasselblad and one of their scanners.

            • I have used one several years back. Yes, quality was good, but scan time was just far too long. I went back to digitizing with the D800 and a macro lens. I have no doubt the current digital backs will blow a 6×6 scan out of the water.

          • Interestingly … http://www.largesense.com/products/
            Currently looking at 4×5 with lower resolution, such as 7 megapixels, but planning on 100, 200 megapixel options, and even 8×10 digital.

  14. Congratulations Mr. Ambassador! (I had to address you as Ambassador, and I noticed that someone else also did the same yesterday) 🙂
    Now I am on a lookout for a really cheap Lunar to immerse myself in Hassy experience. 😀

    • Haha, thanks Jayant. I would recommend skipping the rebranded stuff and getting yourself a used 501 instead – not only are they cheaper, that’s a real Hasselblad…

  15. Hacked when I treid to leave a message here?!

    • Certainly not by me (I’d be doing something other than photography for a living if my coding skills were that good), and the site is hosted on WordPress, so that would seem to be an unlikely source…

  16. mike gannon says:

    mr thein, I reread you “too little, too late- or rebirth article, now that you are IN so to speak can you get Hasselblad to change there thinking to develop new products to help the v system stay in the game( with the 1000,s + cameras out there). also I have never used a SWC camera, is there a possible fix to be able to use the cfv50c back on that system

    • Actually, I was told it was more like 100,000+ V cameras (!) – but yes, I’m certainly giving them feedback that there’s plenty of demand for the V system still – much like the Leica M.

      Yes, you can use the CFV-50C on the SWC cameras but need the L-plate battery holder.

  17. Dirk De Paepe says:

    Those Hasselblads have been fascinating me for about my whole life, Ming. For their sheer IQ. And the “elimentary” way how to use them. Comparable feeling for Leica M. Elimentary ànd pretty compact. But I didn’t ever own either of them. (The M9, by “accident” for a really short while, when I was already into mirrorless.)
    The fact that I absolutely understand and can get that you are 100% into the Hasselblad proves me how different photographers (you and me, for instance) can differ so much. You working in a hyper pro manner, me trying to be an inspired enthusiast. You being about half my age. Etc… … I can’t imagine using the Hasselblad. Not only because being too expensive, but before all because being much too bulky and heavy. I really woùld use it, if I had somebody to carry my gear. 🙂
    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the great stuff coming from you Hassies. And I join the mindset behind your decision. A phrase that, IMO, stood out in your article is: “The best way to use the digital back is like an endless film back where you can change the sensitivity.” I’ve always tried to use any digital camera in this manner – it’s a question of programming the body and also imaginiation, I guess. That’s why I’m looking forward to a Loxia tele, to get rid of the “autamated” Batis. I hate thinking with every shot “Where will he have put the focus now?!” One body and four Loxias for me, Ming. That’s it. Hasselblads for you. Strange, but in my thinking, their’s a lot in common. Cheers!
    Dirk

    • Thanks Dirk. I hope one day we’ll see a 6×6 or near-6×6 sensor for the V – and then the whole thing becomes light again; a V with just the 80mm and no bulky prism is super-liberating. Oh wait, that’s called film 😛

      I know what you mean about trying to use most cameras like that – but not all of them give optimal results that way; worse, some are modal and lock you out of certain functions in certain settings. Unfortunately the Sony cameras were like that…

      I didn’t understand the Loxias until I used them. But I think they make a LOT of sense and are really the most responsive way to shoot the Sonys.

  18. Steven Smith says:

    Mazeltov Ming! The switch is great news, so is the remarkable Ambassador honour. I spent many years with FCB South Africa as an Art Director and Creative Group Head working with our country’s top photographers. They almost always shot 6×7 and 4×5. The “full frame” DSLR shots seldom excited me or our retouchers. I recently paged through an Australian Woman’s Weekly magazine and the food photography jumped out at me – unusually high quality, detailed and rich. So much so I contacted the photographer (John Paul Urizar) to compliment him and ask if he shoots medium format. He does of course! The question is, how does the switch affect your New Zealand trip?

    • Thanks Steven! New Zealand doesn’t look as though it’s happening because of scheduling issues – the people who want to go can’t make the time, and they all can’t make the same time either 😛 I’m headed to south-west Australia instead on another project. I was planning to bring the V/CFV-50C to Queenstown, but will go with the H system instead this time – and the D810/Otus 28 for astrophotography.

      • Steven Smith says:

        Thanks Ming. I was considering seeing if you could accomodate me for the weekend (22nd April is my birthday). I left South Africa and live a couple of hours from Queenstown in Central Otago. You’re right about this area having a high hit rate. It’s majestic.
        Maybe one day. Take care and enjoy your time in Australia.

  19. Larry Cloetta says:

    Ming, you mentioned the color differences between various cameras/makes in the comments. What I was wondering is, beyond the hue differences, would you have an opinion as to the overall quality of the files from the Leica SL as compared to the CFV-50c back?
    I’ve got a decent selection of Leica R lenses, so I daydream about an SL, but on the other hand I’ve got a very nice 500C/M, so I daydream about getting a CFV-50c back, sometimes, also. I know there are other usability concerns, was just wondering if you had an opinion about the overall nature of the files from those two sensors, since you have recent experience with both.

    • The SL doesn’t even come close. Raw sensor quality from the SL and Q are very similar, and roughly on par with the D750 (though with less accurate color – there are strong magenta shifts under incandescent light).

      • Michiel953 says:

        Do you mean the 750 (similar sensor at least) is more accurate in colour reproduction than the SL/Q? Or the other way ’round?

      • Larry Cloetta says:

        Thank you, I think:) my gear dreams just got even more expensive. Congratulations on your decision to go with Hasselblad. I look forward to learning from your experiences, and that 6 X 6 back. Also, sorry about accidentally posting my comment at the top of the comments thread. I had already read through the prior 221 comments and meant to just add my question on at the end.

  20. Congrats Ming!!! Fantastic achievement. Opens up a new chapter for you. I love and enjoy your work. Looking forward to what the ‘hassy’ will deliver in your hands.

  21. Congratulations, Ming, on both the ambassdorship and on your assignment as press agent for that way cute baby. Hassy and Sophie chose well!

  22. Good to hear you have good news. I didn’t really get the point of what this ambassadorship means for you or your work. But I also want to congratulate you since it seems to be a good thing for you. Well at least I can imagine it will mean a lot more of visibility and reputation for you. Wish you that it will lead to more chances of art exhibitions for you. 🙂

  23. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    Fujifilm makes the lenses for this camera system. Nice!

    • Yes they do. And the original H design, too. So I can no longer be accused of being anti-Fuji! 😉

      • But I bet you still don’t like the X-trans! :D) Just kidding. Fuji made some interesting medium format studio-bound models to compete with the Mamiya RB/RZ range. And they were pricey, too.

        I didn’t know that Fuji make the current range of lenses for them. With your use of Hasselblad to-date, and out of curiosity, how do the modern Fuji’s compare with the older Zeiss optics? Would it be fair to do this comparison on a digital body, or film, as that is the heyday of the Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad and we know of all the problems using even great legacy lenses can have on a FF sensor?

        • I still think the Zeiss lenses have better microcontrast – more refined, shall we say – but the Fuji optics are much better suited to digital especially with chromatic aberration control.

      • L. Ron Hubbard says:

        Yes, you have caught a lot of flack from the rabid Fujifilm fan boys in the past. I dont know if they will cut you some slack though….if you are arent heaping praise on the X Trans “sensor” then you are a misguided soul in their eyes.

        Looking forward to more posts from your Hassy experience!

        • One of the refreshing things when I alighted upon Ming’s site was discovering the lack of trolling and fanboyism so prevalent on some other sites. But it wasn’ only this, the quality of the writing and images was altogether of a much higher standard (you can stop blushing now, Ming. :D) ) But one doesn’t have to be a fanboy to be very appreciative of a product; I’m a recent adoptee of the Fuji X-trans (the older X-Pro 1) as a secondary camera and it does have the superb f1.4/35mm lens. My main reason for getting the Pro 1 was being able to use a proper optical v/f and I then very much warmed to the very simple control layout, no delving into menus to set PASM, all controlled by just two controls – the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed dial. Either one will like this or not, but I’ve never had a digital camera that so approached my analogue M6 in handling and feels so un-like digital in this respect.

          The Fuji won’t be my prime system, but I use it when I know I want good skin tones. A Fanboy? No. But do I love it? Yes.

          • Michiel953 says:

            Hi Terry! I’ve actually been looking at the X-Pro1 (eur 900 bundled with the 18 and the 27, plus LC-1 bag; a steal even if for a quick resale), for some (most?) of my photography. What’s so bad about it?

            • Hi, Michiel.

              It was the bargain offers here in the UK last year coming no doubt because of the soon to be released X-Pro 2 that tempted me, although I’d always fancied the camera because it was, as many commented, a Leica M digital with autofocus and could also use zoom lenses with either the LCD or the optical finder in electronic mode. And some of the optics are superb. However, the original prices were somewhat eyeballing, though not approaching anywhere near Leica, that had for long dissuaded me. I regret now in waiting so long and buying some other APS-C kit instead along the way.

              Knowing you have twins that tax your photographic skills, AF will be too slow to grab them, otherwise if your requirements are not speed related, AF is more than satisfactory. It will focus faster than R/f on a Leica, a lot faster, and will hit the mark too. In fact for my more leisurely photographic pursuits (I am likely to be able to out-run any building or field, despite my approaching 71) AF is more than adequate. It is all a question of degree.

              There were early problems when the camera was launched in 2012 in that third party imaging software could not handle the X-Trans sensor array and results from RAW could be poorer than other brands. But this was their software, not the camera per se. The good news, is that jpegs hardly need any work on them OOC, and TP software has improved significantly. Jpegs are really, really good, so often one really has little need to rely on RAW. Initially lens options, as with Sony when they launched their Nex and A series cameras were limited, but over the years this has grown to mostly anything you are likely to need with a r/f style body. And optically, these lenses are very good to excellent.

              Images are clean, and surprisingly so right up to ISO 3200. And the shutter is quiet!

              The only issue I would have over the offer bundle you have seen is that the 18mm, whilst a useful f2, is very good but can’t match the f1.4/50, and the 27mm is f2.8 but crucially, you lose the aperture control, so settings have to be done using the conventional LCD. If you were looking at a two lens kit, is it offered with the 35/18 option? It will be more, but would be worth it on quality.

              Ming: thanks for the indulgence.

              • Forgot, there is no built in eyesight dioptre adjustment. Fuji did viewfinder screw-in lenses, but only, now rarely, will you find the Fuji original in -dioptre strengths. However, I understand Nikon 19mm lenses fit!

                • Many thanks for the explanation Terry (and I hope Ming won’t mind this little side step)! The twins are learning to stand still when ordered to. The order :”hold hands” results in raised hands (very funny that!) but that’s ok. Once I’ve stopped shaking with laughter I can progress to the next stage. The D810’s AF (-S on continuous, single spot, 35/1.4G) keeps up reasonably well.

                  I know the bundle doesn’t come with the most attractive lenses. Body only is the same price, the 23 adds what, 600 eur?

                  I’d have to try the camera, possibly on Friday.

                • P.s.: the eyepiece diopters fit my Nikon slr’s (F2AS, compact F’s) perfectly, and the tend to unscrew during use and get lost. As long as I remember that Fuji 0 = Nikon -2 ;-). My local has a drawer full of them (I think).

            • Nothing at all – it’s just not the messiah some claim it to be. Just be aware the X Pro 1 is a little slower to focus than later generations.

              • Great camera just for Jpegs it seems; the one (or two) lens snaphotter, with better ergonomics than the X-E1 or 2. Slow AF, even after the latest firmware updates?

                • Michiel,

                  My X-Pro 1 is on V. 3.4. There is an update 3.5 but this is in respect of a specific lens that I will never own. It is difficult to get a true feel for the AF speed, it would be best for you to handle one and see. Some people need Ferraris others are happy to tootle around and more sedately in a family saloon. Personally, I wouldn’t describe its AF as slow, with the negative connotations this carries. However, if out and out speed were paramount to you it isn’t as fast as a lot of other cameras. So, whilst it may well be slow (in direct comparison) it is really a question of how fast does one need one’s camera to be, and only a potential customer can make that decision.

                  The X-Pro 2 radically improves the camera all round, but this is quite expensive at the moment, running to £1,349 body only. Quite a bit more than the kit you are looking at.

                  • Michiel953 says:

                    Accuracy and consistency are to me more important than outright speed. The 810 gives me at least that, and some more. But it’s quite big etc.

                    Cheers

                    Michiel

                • Yes, OOC jpegs are excellent (and this seems to be what a lot of reviewers have noted) and I’ve not really improved upon them with RAW (I always shoot RAW+jpeg). RAW does, as we know, have advantages when it comes to shots in less than ideal circumstances, and of course, one can save to TIFF for later editing for better results than would be possible with the original jpeg. So with the Pro-1 I look upon the RAW images as the safety net, just in case. But for my personal use, why spend time with RAW when I don’t need to, for most of the time?

                • Yes, slow compared to the X-T1…

          • L. Ron Hubbard says:

            I’ve seen plenty of ridiculous Fujifilm fan boys rant against Ming when he didnt sing the high praise of the X Trans “sensor”.

            Of course Ming is no fan boy of Fuji or any other brand. He’s way beyond that,which is probably why fan boys can get really frustrated with him sometimes.

        • Still misguided, then 🙂

      • A very hearty congratulations on joining with Hasselblad as a brand ambassador, Ming. Very exciting!

        Indeed the Hasselblad/Fujifilm pair-up has been going on for quite a long while now, not just with the H medium format system, but with previous film cameras like the X-Pan, too.

        You’ve probably also heard the rumors that Fujifilm is developing a brand new digital medium format system of their own as well. It’s definitely more than a rumor, and I’m hearing tell of an announcement at Photokina this year. No word yet on whether or not it will be mirroless, but that would be an interesting differentiator if Fuji chose to go that route.

        Either way, one can be certain that all their H system know-how and lessons will be poured into their own offering.

        • Thanks Robert. Fuji did sell the H-system equivalent for a while, but stopped…wonder why.

        • Jon Bush says:

          How I wish Fuji would refresh their old fixed lens, medium format rangefinder series (a.k.a. “The Texas Leica”) with the new CMOS MF sensors. I had a GW690 many years back and loved it. It was simple to operate and the 6×9 negatives were just beautiful.

  24. Paurav Shah says:

    Congratulations Ming! You deserve it. Keep inspiring and keep walking! The best is yet to come!

  25. Dimitris Kaioglou says:

    Hard work pays! Congratulations Ming!!!!

  26. Congrats Ming!

    a little heads up, I can see ‘//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js’ to the right of ‘IMG_0541b copy’, right above the line ‘My clients were very happy with the look, too: ‘natural’ was the term that was constantly used’.

  27. Ming,

    Would this monitor work in the field with your H5D-50C?

    http://www.gechic.com/product_help_en.asp?s=28

  28. Congratulations Ming! A wonderful accomplishment and great gear. A very nice explanation of why you switched as well.

    Best Wishes – Eric

  29. Congratulations, Ming.

    I’m researching switching to medium format as well, or at least getting that as another system. I shoot fashion. Just curious why you choose a Hasselblad system instead of Phase One? I shoot almost 100% of the time with strobes, both in the studio and on location and the 1/1600 sync speed of Phase One seems really appealing to me. Thank you.

    • Thanks Hien. P1 has no support in my part of the world, and on the several occasions I tried to obtain a demo for evaluation (before buying my first digital back in 2013, and then the Pentax in 2014) I never received any reply. So, it wasn’t exactly even possible 🙂

      If you use strobes 100% of the time, 1/1600 sync is a significant advantage. I need movements a lot, which P1 doesn’t offer without buying an additional Alpa – and that’s financially impossible. Hasselblad at least has the HTS.

      • Thank you for your reply and congrats again on the Switch and being named Brand Ambassador. Well earned!

  30. Hi Ming,
    Allow me to add yet another congratulatory message! As a fellow Malaysian (an ex though), I can’t be happier for you. Hasselblad is very fortunate to have a most thoughtful, articulate, constructive and helpful Ambassador. Best wishes for the future to you and your family!

  31. Just want to add to the chorus of well-wishers. I think the fact that barely anyone has used this announcement (the Ambassadorship) to bring up the issue of objectivity in future reviews, is a testament to your integrity. And it was fun to read this, as your excitement comes through loud and clear – your writing is normally very concise and factual, but this reads nearer to “kid in candy store”!

    I was also pleased to hear that you are optimistic about the future of Hasselblad. While I’m nothing like an industry insider, a lot of what was written on the internet (not by you, I should add) seemed to imply that Hasselblad was in a bad state (recent unwise moves by management, the lukewarm reception to the Lunar and Stellar, etc). While you probably can’t go into specifics, it seems that you have reason to believe otherwise, and that’s a good thing. The more companies who survive, the better for us all, and (while I love my Nikon gear), it’s nice that this will serve to remind people that the Europeans can do cameras too…

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing what you come up with using this new toy…I mean tool!

    • Thanks Mark.

      Objectivity is a perfectly legitimate question. I will of course strive to continue that – but I think the fact I owned a complete V system for several years beforehand, along with two digital backs prior to my appointment should be telling: I put my money where my mouth is. Similarly, I’ve been equally vocal about their missteps in the past – the Lunar/Stellar thing was a disaster, and I’ve said so here on more than one occasion. I was even skeptical about the CVF-50C on release until I tried one in person and got hooked – but you can ask the person who sold it to me; I didn’t buy it on the first visit and my wife will say I had a lot of uncertainty, too 🙂

      Ultimately there still remains no right or wrong answer to the hardware question – only one of suitability, and what works for each individual’s creative needs…

  32. Fred Pinkerton says:

    The “global ambassador” page you link to on the Hass. site refuses to scroll down on my Chrome, Explorer or Firefox browsers. It keeps resetting to the top of the page ever two seconds or so. So I can’t get to your bio blurb. Perhaps you know the person at Hasselblad that takes care of that stuff. I suppose it could just be my setup…

  33. Fred Pinkerton says:

    I want to congratulate Hasselblad for seizing a great opportunity. I look forward to your future posts. Who knows, there may be a ‘blad in my future also. You certainly showed me how to appreciate my Nikon gear.

  34. Kudos to you MT and nice get by Hasselblad; class begets class!

  35. …and now that you’re so close to the “mothership” please try to convince them to bring mirrorless MF digital, that’s the last piece that’s missing and hasn’t been introduced yet 😉

  36. Congratulations Ming to become Hasselblad ambassador! I’ve been following all these ventures of yours for over 2 years now and was wondering which way you’d eventually go, Hasselblad or PhaseOne. Yes, there’s no denying that there’s something special one can get out of MF sensor, something that’s hard to describe and achieve in smaller formats. Looking forward to read more of your follow up articles as you shoot more. Once again, well done Sir 😉

    • Thank you! Phase…well, I wanted to evaluate both thoroughly, but I never received a reply to any of my emails when I was buying back in 2013 😦

  37. And there I was thinking you were a committed Nikon man.. Welcome to the wonderful world of ‘Blad… I love mine (a 501CM) but I also love my D810 – horses for courses Cheers!

    • I think I’ll always own at least one Nikon, but there’s always been a ‘Blad in there too. It’s a case of finding the right fit, I think…

  38. Brett Patching says:

    Congratulations on becoming a Hasselblad Ambassador!! (I guessed there would be no going back after you posted your Thaipusam photo essays!) You always wring every last bit of performance out of your equipment, and you are so knowledgeable and articulate, so I hope that the communication channels to Hasselblad’s development teams are well and truly open in your role as ambassador. I see it as a great opportunity for Hasseblad (and great for you of course!).

    Just curious: Can you get anything more out of the RAW files with Phocus, compared to ACR?

    • Thanks Brett! Yes – I’ve already sent them a long, long list for the H5 – hopefully some of those changes will happen; most are fairly simple FW behaviours.

      Phocus vs ACR: I was told I can, but I need time to learn the software again – honestly not something I have at the moment, but it’s in the plan. 🙂

  39. Congratulations Ming! That is wonderful news all around. Well done!

  40. John Weeks says:

    Congrats Ming…definitely a long time coming. But please don’t get me into medium format…too much money!!!

  41. mike gannon says:

    great to hear about your move to mf, luminous landscape did a interview with the ceo of Hasselblad and it sounds like Hasselblad is going to get their s**t together , have you ever used the Hasselblad flexbody or their arcbody with the cfv50c back, hope to see more of your great work soon in MF

    • Thanks Mike. Flex/Arc: work fine, except you can’t rotate the back orientation so the movements are always fixed relative to the sensor orientation – no way to get portrait rise, for instance.

  42. Congratulations Ming. It could’t happen to a nicer, more professional photographer – can’t wait to see what you make of it, and it will be one of the first blogs to cover such a transition in a major way. Coverage at this level on the internet is very sparse, so I guess I won’t be the only one interested to see the difference it makes to you and your work. I wish you ever success! 🙂

    • Thanks Mike! Yes, I know what you mean about sparse: I was looking for information myself and only came upon other people looking for information! I hope this post at least lays out some of the rationale for future reference.

  43. “At this point, I also have an announcement to make. For the first time, I have formally tied up with a brand: I have been appointed a global Hasselblad Ambassador for 2016 (official announcement here), for which I have to thank the team at Hasselblad (specifically, William Penrice and Anders Espersen) and Shriro in Hong Kong and Malaysia for their support and for making all of this possible.” – does this mean you’ve sold out! I doubt it. I’m delighted that you have the opportunity to be an Ambassador for Hasselblad and I’m excited to see MF toddler photos :p

  44. Congratulations Ambassador Ming. I’m glad you’re excited about photography again. I think a lot of us are exhausted by the endless updates and trade-offs in 35mm and under gear when all we want is simple perfection in our hands. In the old days I was happy with a black Nikkormat, though I confess I did lust for a Hassy and a few primes in a shiny aluminum case. You’re there now with a new endless digital roll back and tilt shift. Wow. No more digital dogs. Unobstructed pure photography. You’ve taken a long road to get there but you also found out what you’re doing. Your fine body of work speaks for itself. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • I agree – the improvements are there, but the innovation and big steps are not. There are still things missing, though the image quality delta matters to fewer and fewer – unfortunately, I’m one of those few, so we keep pushing…

      Thanks Alan!

  45. Martin Fritter says:

    I am very pleased to see Hasselblad in _your_ company. Your vote of confidence should mean a lot to them. I can’t imagine ever owning one of their digital backs (I do have a SWC, though), but one wants an old-time high-end, high craft company like Hasselblad to prosper and move forward. There’s a lot of photographic DNA there. For a while, it looked they’d gone seriously astray with their pimped out Sonys. I feel the same way about Leica, btw, and am happy they appear to be prospering and inovating

    Made me sad to see Rolleiflex bite the dust (have a Xenotar), even though they’d been on life support for years.

    • After many long discussions with their management, I could be wrong (I hope not!) but I’m convinced the turnaround is here – and soon. A digital Rolleiflex – even with a smaller square sensor – would be quite interesting…

      • Martin Fritter says:

        Although the platform has some advantages, there will never be a digital TLR. However, a digital Mamiya 7 would be interesting. Very fluid cameras. Also, absolutely silent. Very curious to see how the 250 Superachromat works out.

        • Me too 🙂 There will be a report once it arrives…I find coverage of this lens to be pretty thin on the ground, to say the least. Probably doesn’t help that it predates digital considerably.

  46. Best wishes for your new venture and on your (long overdue) recognition, too. I hope it brings you joy (as well as tasty commissions). I’d love to see what you make of somewhere in dark and wintry Europe – Venice? – with your new camera. 🙂

  47. Hi Ming,

    do you still have your Sinar? I would be interested in a field test of large format camera with a H-back adapter (use of live view instead of the ground glass, zero latency setting etc). I still have a complete Linhof outfit with Rodenstock and Nikkor W and T lenses up to 500 mm and I am still hoping to give it a second life. The CFV-50c after the price drop is an option to consider. Question is if the movements are precise enough to obtain critical focus, if the large format lenses can keep up with the sensor, and if we are not already diffraction limited (the T 500 is f/11).

  48. Congratulation Ming… Always loved your Hasselblad posts. I have a quick question regarding the weather durability for these H5D systems.. Official specs says that operating temperature cannot be below 0 degrees and maybe the equipment is not good for harsh environments. I could be wrong here but would like to hear your thoughts on this…

  49. This should prove interesting for the future of the blog. No one can reasonably argue that a professional should use anything less than the best tools. Your readership, though, is largely limited (except for a fortunate few) to less expensive equipment. As you make the transition away from Nikon your readers may find less to identify with. Based on the known ratio of reader response to gear-centric vs. aesthetic content, this may present a challenge.

    All that side, congratulations on moving ever upward.

    • L. Ron Hubbard says:

      Good point. Ming’s gear posts get 10 times the feedback that the others get. Will Hassy posts get that kind of traffic? We’ll see.

      • I know the gear posts get more feedback, but I take more away from the non-gear posts because I’m artistically challenged (hey, I’m an engineer, what can I say). I’m looking forward to his artistic discussions (like the two festival shoots with Hassy) with the new gear too.

      • Historically, the MF stuff has done just as well as smaller formats. Perhaps better since there’s more curiosity and far less accessibility…

    • Thanks Mike. I think there are a lot of people who like to live vicariously, though 🙂

      • Yes. It’s much like reading car magazines. I will acquire a Lamborghini Huracan shortly after I dispose of my Bentley.

        More realistically, though, the techniques of finding and exploiting light, processing to maximize impact, and the ins and outs of subject selection and composition are all platform independent. I think your unusual editorial talents will become quickly fine-tuned to audience retention through more detailed emphasis on how-to rather than with-what.

        Not that this will be anything new; just look at the reader pool to see how your readers keep raising the bar for their own performance. Inspiration and education — good stuff to deal in.

        • 😛 Ahh, imaginary garages for teenagers with no licenses 😉

          The reader pool is curated, and the curation gets tighter every month.

          I always thought there was plenty of the how-to – but you often can’t separate it from the with-what (no compressed perspectives with a wide, for instance) – so it’s always a case of figuring out how to make technology subservient to vision, and not the other way around.

  50. Ming, I’ve been visiting your site for a very long time. As a new comer to photography – you don’t know – how your website/posts have helped me become a much better photographer. So please keep up the work and on the most recent development congratulations and I hope you can continue with the fantastic work you are doing truly.

  51. Out of curiosity Mr. Ambassador, did you ever try any of the older Perspective Control solution for the Hasselblad V-Series, (PC-Mutar or Flexbody)? Was wondering if the Flexbody would work with the new CFV-50c?

    Cheers on moving to MF!

    • Yes – the Mutar means you have no wides, which defeats the point somewhat. The Flexbody won’t work in vertical orientation (can’t rotate sensor orientation relative to PC axes), but is great otherwise (and easy to focus with live view) – so if you don’t mind only landscape with rise and portrait with shift, it’s all good 🙂

  52. Ming, thanks for this, another great posting. Congrats on the shift.

  53. Following one of the links you posted at the end of the article, by curiosity, I have a hard time understanding why the lenses are almost double the price of your beloved Otus – which you consider to be the best of the best on the market – and, on top of that, the plastic lens shades sell for 170$ as an accessory?! Not included for free with the lens? Or perhaps as a replacement part, I do not know. This is exactly the kind of reflexion that drives me away from certain manufacturers. The feeling of being either robbed or being taken for an idiot.

    • Patrick
      The 85 Otus is 4490 US dollars – The 100mm Hasselblad is 4290 US dollars . The Hasselblad-lenses comes with METAL-lens hood – If you read further down whats in the Box . The Hasselblad-lenses covers a larger sensor and they all contain a Leaf-shutter. – Oh I forgot they are also Autofokus .

    • Building a lens with an image circle that covers 645 and allows for movements with the HTS is something quite different to building a lens that just covers 135 – and I’m sure there are economies of scale involved, too. From what I understand, there are still far more Otuses (perhaps an order of magnitude) produced than H lenses – which also include a leaf shutter, which itself is not cheap. The hoods are included – that’s a spare part, and metal, not plastic.

  54. Hello Ming,
    I naturally also want to congratulate you on being ambassador for Hasselblad; I thinkyour photos are fit for high end medium format.
    I must say with nikon’s NPS in The Netherlands i always get a spare camera if mine is broken; i guess the service is not the same around the world and i agree; Service is Important. You are in luck with a good Hasselblad dealer nearby.
    Your photos of Thaipusam 2016 have indeed a nice 3 d feeling about them.
    My question is ; did you use Hasseblads raw developer or something else; I can imagine it is also of influence on the result.
    Then lastly; now you are a Hasseblad ambassador ; can we still trust you being objective about your review findings?
    for instance – if you use review a Phase camera or other medium format?

    • Thanks Pieter! NPS promises a spare, but they’re usually lent out already – I guess they don’t have enough.

      Dirty secret: I still use ACR, not Hasselblad software, because it fits my workflow better.

      As for objectivity: I wanted to go Phase in 2014, but they never replied a single email I sent – so, they lost a customer and honestly, I wouldn’t worry since it’s unlikely I’ll ever get to review one. But on the face of it, the XF is a much more advanced body than the H5; the only thing is it isn’t a fair comparison since we’re a generation different. As for other medium format: ask yourself if the position is consistent with my previous reviews (P645, Leica S, etc.) – I have no reason to change that. Working with Hasselblad does not change the absence of wide TS lenses for those systems, for instance. Color is always subjective…

  55. A minor nit, since I’m easily flustered by imperfections in the Cosmos: you ought to let Hasselblad know Kuala Lumpur is not a country, and they should list you under Malaysia on the Ambassador list. 🙂

  56. If there is only one line that we must take into consideration reading this article, it is this one: “I began to seriously a) run economics and ROI calculations…” If it makes sense to you, then, enjoy this fine camera system and make a living out of it.

  57. Your public is happy for you – as evidenced by all the excitement this post has generated! From now on your kit will be more uniform and perhaps no heavier than what you were toting in Chicago. Your work has always had a big format feel. Going forward the results will speak for themselves! Can’t wait!

  58. The best thing about this is that you got picked up by a company that isn’t out there trying to back a million people who are all running, gunning, dunking and otherwise breaking DSLRs on the regular. I think it’s the best thing for your work. Anyone who’s followed you for more than a month can see you’re out there getting that last 1%, and people like you really do need that MF advantage. You can go make it sing.

  59. Congratulations with your move to medium format, Ming!

    However, I wonder why you’d limit yourself with MF when the magical world of 4×5 is just a small step up 😛 You don’t even need dedicated TS-lenses!

    • Thanks – I guess it’s more of a return than anything since I already had a CFV-39 in 2013 🙂

      4×5: yes, but it isn’t versatile and you’ve got issues finding sufficiently wide lenses – plus you need a MFDB anyway for digital capture.

  60. Many congrats, Ming. Hasselblad looks like a very exciting venture. You’re clearly right about the additional functionality with tilt-shift. Obviously works well for landscape work too: Hands Strand among others uses one for this.
    Cheaper and more convenient, I guess, than going all technical with e.g. a Linhof/Phase combo, and, crucially, better supported where you are.

  61. I know it’s already been said, but congratulations on the ambassadorship!

  62. How about Pentax K-1? It seems like mr. Chambers is very much interested and exceited about this new toy:-)
    Have you by any chance got to test or try Pentax K-mount with Schneider tilt/shift lenses (28mm, 50mm, 90mm) ? This new pixel shift sounds innovative
    cheers!

    • Unless you’re in one of the limited situations you can deploy pixel shift, you’ve basically got a D810 without the same lens selection. It doesn’t make sense. As for the Schneiders, they were inadequate on the 810 as it is…

  63. Hello, Ming. I must confess, for quite selfish reasons, that your switch both made me smile and makes me look forward to your future musings. Like you, I’ve been entranced for awhile by Hasselblad’s V-system. Enough so, in my case, that early last year I bought a Flextight X1 scanner in order to get the most out of those lovely 6×6 negs. And later in the year I bought the CFV-50c.

    I kept my Leica stuff, but sold most of my (considerable) Nikon system to fund those two purchases. No regrets. Those two breathtaking (to me, as I’m an amateur) purchases may have been the best photographic investments I’ve ever made. I still love the convenience and flexibility of small format, but there is something ineffable about medium format. Both in the more thoughtful process it imposes and in the rich result it delivers. It’s slow and deep. There’s a hint of alchemy.

    Like anything, though, it comes with its own puts and takes. As you so aptly describe, the music the V-system makes is from a different era. Even the CFV-50c – such a marvelous, magical box! – cannot entirely bridge the gap. And so the H5D system sits there, quietly whispering.

    Congratulations on the appointment. I’ll be watching your upcoming adventures with great interest.

  64. Jay Swartzfeger says:

    The internet is a strange thing… I don’t know you Ming, and yet I feel so proud of you. So exciting for you, and for your readers as well — very much looking forward to more MF content and musings.

    I’m making a (much smaller) transition as well; the K-1 announcement made me pause and consider my needs, my workflow and the subjects I find ‘fun’ to shoot. Despite the usual caveats — limited lens selection, AF, FPS, etc etc — I’ll be making the jump to a Pentax K-1 here in a month. Hopefully, Sigma releases more ART K mounts, and maybe Zeiss will too if there’s enough momentum.

    • Thank you, Jay – and enjoy the K1. Pentax does much right, but it’s sorely needing a top flight lens systems to match that sensor. Zeiss pulled out of K mount a while back citing lack of demand, but there are still some floating around…

  65. Normansyah Duliar says:

    Congrats Ming on becoming the Ambassador!

    I’m just a bit confused, did you purchase both H5D and CFV? Because you stated that you purchase CFV and it seems that you have both 🙂 what a wonderful it must’ve been to have two great tools!

  66. Ming, I’d just like to add my congratulations to the many posted here of your move to the Hasselblad and of your appointment as an Ambassador for the brand. I’m looking forward to your next blogs with great interest.

    It will be fascinating following your blog from now on, although I’d guess that the esoteric nature of the kit you will be using will be less relevant to your readers. Most of us can’t afford super cars, but we get a lot of fun watching Top Gear and seeing them put through their paces. Notwithstanding, your blog is one of the best for content and writing. This is what sets you apart.

    Just out of curiosity, would you say that the move from FF digital to MF digital is commensurate with the difference between 35mm film and 2 1/4 square?

    • Thanks Terry.
      Top Gear got a lot wider audience than the more sensible Fifth Gear :p
      I’d say the move is more like 35>645 at the moment, but not quite – the sensors aren’t that big yet. But if they choose to use that new Sony full 645-uncropped monster, that might be something else.

  67. When I started out in digital photography I read your review of the Olympus EPM-1 and I bought it,
    When you reviewed the Leica X2 and the Nikon D600 I also bought those.
    Then you reviewed the D810 and I bought it as well.
    Finally I bought the Nikon D5500 and later found out that you also bought it (ha, ha).

    Not satisfied with where my photography was going I bought your photoshop workflow part 1, intermediate and Part 2.
    Now that you have gone on to Hasselblad MF, OMG, what am I to do?

    • Recognize that underlying the apparent madness is a quest for the right tool for the job. That doesn’t mean everything I buy is for everybody nor will it produce identical results in somebody else’s hands by virtue of being the same camera. The Hassy is a tool for when you can actually deploy all of that image quality in output – and more importantly, have already maxed out what you can get from your current hardware.

      Note that PS won’t save composition, and that’s the one thing that remains constant across formats…

  68. Michiel953 says:

    Hi Ming!

    First off: Congratulations on the appointment; a well deserved honour.

    Secondly: Interesting new step, thanks for taking us along on that journey. I’m wondering how “cyclical” that step will turn out to be. Undoubtedly you’ll let us know. I’ll be following you!

    • Thanks. This is pretty permanent, I think.

      • I know. You think that now. Wheels have a way of coming round.

        • L. Ron Hubbard says:

          Yep….99% of people who claim to be happy with their most recent purchase often drop it very very quickly. I doubt that Ming will move on fast though. He’s thought about this long and hard. Plus, Hassy might have given him a Lunar as a ambassador gift!

          • “Hassy might have given him a Lunar as a ambassador gift!

            Ye gods, that would make me want to run immediately. 😛

            • Michiel953 says:

              For some (hopefully good) reason I can’t find those aberrations on Hasselblad’s site. Is that the sign of a new found direction?

              • Hi, Michiel. Hope you are keeping well.
                Whilst the Lunar was indeed a monstrosity, both in its ugliness and price at launch, around £6,000 in the UK, I actually rather liked the design of their Stellar camera, though still ridiculously priced compared to the Sony RX1000 upon which it was based. Hasselblad’s re-working produced a rather pretty camera with a proper hand-grip, something that was missing in the Sony and why I never bought one.

                • Oooops, you will note I added an extra “0” to the Sony model number. This is an error, but thinking about it, it could represent the price hike! :D)

                • They’re a lot cheaper now 🙂

                  • Ming, maybe the Lunar because it was uber expensive to start with and, boy, was it UGLY, but I checked on the availability of the little Stellar here in the UK and a reputable Leica dealer has them new, but the Mk II version will set you back £1,850. The original is somewhat cheaper. I checked when a US photo store was having a fire sale on them, and was very disappointed to discover the offers were not being made available here in the UK. If they were, they were kept a secret. And they were not available on the official Hasselblad site.

                    Now with reputable UK sellers selling the RX100II for £349 new, and at around 1/5th the price of the Hasselblad, it is still shocking. I actually really like what Hasselblad did with the Stellar, but my head says, no, no, and when I look a third time, NO! It is clear, as Hasselblad originally announced, this is not a camera to be judged against others, but rather it is for collectors. And supply helps keep prices up. If I was in the market, another way to look at it is the upgrade for my X-Pro 1 at just £1,349 for the Pro 2 body. And it is far better. There is supposed to be no RPM (Retail Price Maintenance) in the UK, but funny how all the dealers are offering them for identical prices! :D(

                    • Try Amazon – I think they did have some on clear out too…

                      But no, it makes no sense for what is essentially a grip. I can’t believe people are buying them at all.

        • True. And nothing stays static anyway – besides, I’m the one who has to justify the economics of this business 🙂

  69. Does this mean you need to upgrade your display to something like an Eizo or an NEC ?

  70. Congratulations. The endorsement and the equipment are well deserved. I wish you well on your journey and look forward to your wonderful creations and insights. It really would be inspirational if once a year you would spend a day with a Ricoh GR II (or equivalent) just to help all of us, but especially the newcomers, keep talent and gear in their proper perspective.

  71. Comgratulations, Ming. I shall look forward to more medium format adventures. Having followed your blog for a while I can see how it makes sense for you. I will miss your insights on Nikon gear though, your reviews are by far the most useful, and I doubt I will ever move to medium format. Anyway, looking forward to new pictures!

    • Thanks Torsten. Reviews continue if the gear makes sense / does something unique / or is available on loan…in the meantime, think of it as a peek into another category of madness! 🙂

  72. Congrats Ming you thoroughly deserve it I’m sure it will be a excellent arrangement. I have always admired your blog the content is first rate the images always on the money and your knowledge is outstanding.

    I look forward to seeing what’s posted in the coming months.

    I own a mint 501cm and could not envisage ever letting it go the 50 is over thirty years old and the 150 likewise they still blow me away with the quality they produce.

    • Thank you! I am hoping there will eventually be an affordable V back…or at least a full 6×6 one to enable the camera to be used as it was designed.

  73. Well done. Can you please tell us more about the chrome (?) RH grip? Looks so cool.

  74. Gerner Christensen says:

    Big congrats Ming and welcome ‘home’ 🙂

  75. Congrats, sifu, well deserved, and quite a coup for hasselblad 🙂

  76. Congratulations! I would love to do the same. Alas, monies…..

  77. scott devitte says:

    Ambassador Ming. Has a ring to it.

  78. Hi Ming, and congratulations. I have two questions: how practical is it to fly with that rather voluminous and heavy gear? Do you check it in (which I would find scary) or do you manage to carry it on board? Second, do you have a specific insurance against theft, damage?

    • Thanks – I carry it on. It doesn’t leave my sight. A recent packing test this morning confirmed it takes up less volume and weight than my previous setup because I’ve now got three lenses instead of at least six, and usually eight…

  79. I will be interested in seeing your images with the medium format camera, although I doubt we’ll see much if any difference in the pictures as displayed on the internet. For most of us the stratospheric prices of a MF system will, I think, render your equipment observations henceforth more esoteric. But the image is the important thing, and if MF is more satisfying for you, then good on ya for your affiliation with Hasselblad. I certainly enjoyed your Thaipusam series and hope to see more of that kind.

    Cute kid, by the way.

    • Thanks Gary. I agree the differences for web viewing are going to be marginal – dynamic range will be the main one, and to a lesser extent, color and tonality (though JPEG compression takes a big bite out of that, too). But I don’t deliver web size files to clients or print from them 🙂

  80. Erling Maartmann-Moe says:

    Congratulations, both with the switch, and the Ambassador title! Does this mean we will see you in Scandinavia? Even workshops? Please beep me if you are coming to Hasselblad HQ in Gothenburg, it is only a couple of hours drive from Oslo….

  81. “and the shooting envelope has opened up agin.”

  82. D. Knisely says:

    Congrats, and frankly I’m surprised you didn’t make the move before. For your kind of work, I don’t see the “compromise” formats offering much except, well, compromises. Personally, I love m43 for everything I do where size/weight is paramount, and wouldn’t mess around with anything short of MF for pro work if I did it (which, happily, I don’t). I’m totally of the mindset to pick one mirrorless very compact system for fun and flexibility because it is good enough, and use the right tools for serious jobs (and just rent them, if nothing else).

    • Thank you – it was a question of timing and affordability, more than anything else. On top of that, I’m always nervous renting as you don’t know what kind of condition the gear is in – and discovering misalignments and malfunctions on the job is really not very professional… 😛

  83. Congratulations Ming! Hope as you move forward on your artistic journey, I keep learning from you!

  84. Ming, it seems to be, that you wants to play the undertaker of the medium format camera systems! Congratulations!

  85. Congratulations Ming! However, does this mean that you stop shooting with Nikon? Are you going to sell all your Nikon gear?

    • Thanks. No, as noted in the post, I’m retaining the Nikons for the moment, but I will be using them a lot less. Eventually I do see myself selling all but the really exotic stuff like the Otus prototypes… 🙂

  86. Does film still fit into your workflow or is having both digital backs a sign you’re all-in with digital?

    • At this point I’m all in with digital, mainly due to infrequent use/ maintaining fresh chemical AND having a 10-month old in the (small) apartment. That said, I still have film stock in the fridge and several film backs for the V 🙂

  87. Congrats Ming!! Medium Format?! Awesome! I never tried a digital Medium Format system, and I’m curious to try just for the IQ. How are the colors from the Raw files? Can you compare it to Leica colors? or even Fuji Colors? Which system does it come close too? As in does it have its own color look or its similar to another system. Also curious on one of the features “3.0 460k-Dot 24-Bit Color LCD Monitor”? Monitor is really accurate I assume in the images it displays?

    • Thanks James. Short answer: color is the most accurate I’ve ever seen, from both the CFV-50C and H5D-50c (same sensor, same profile, appears to be same image processing pipeline, too). It’s not like any other system in that sense. The camera LCD is crap though compared to the state of the art. It looks far coarser and limited in dynamic range; fortunately it will tether wirelessly to an Apple i-device and allow for full res previews of raw files on the fly.

      Color:
      Nikon – mostly accurate but requires correction in foliage. Skin tones not bad
      Canon – pleasing but not accurate, much better for foliage and skin tones
      Sony – not accurate at all; blues shifted cyan, greens shifted emerald
      Fuji – similar to Sony, but with better greens and good skin tones
      Leica – warmer, like Kodachrome; reds tend orange or pink in incandescent light
      Phase One – not accurate (cyan shifted) in ACR; much better in C1
      Hasselblad – highly accurate, best skin tones I’ve seen. my profile only requires a small shift in two of the eight ROYGCBPM primary channels in ACR…this is a first.

      • I agree with all your comments about each camera system in regards to color, I have used Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, and Leica. Canon was the worst for me 😦 So far for me the best accurate color for skin tones is my Leica M9-P, I used to have a M typ 240, but wow!! Amazing that the Hasselblad H5D-50C is super accurate in skin tones! I’m mostly a portraiture photographer as you can see on our youtube channel shooting a lot of local models, I need to try this one day 🙂

        • Oddly, Canon is the most pleasing of the small sensors – but the least accurate. Fine for everything but product work; it was really hard to get the reds right. I suspect it has something to do with dynamic range, too.

          THe M9 was reasonably accurate providing you got white balance right – not much latitude in that sensor for correction afterwards, especially if you blew a channel.

          • I always find it amusing to read about what someone finds pleasing and what not. Personally I absolutely cannot stand the colours I get out of any Canon or Fuji camera, whilst the colours from the CCD Leicas have been astonishingly good for digital, and the ones from the M240 have been kind of… eh. Better than what I got from Canon or Fuji, but still not great (mind you I never owned the M240, I had a friend who had one and I tried it out for a bit, but I never liked the colours). I’ve just played with the DNGs from the M9 without having ever shot with it myself, but the results were pleasing. Owned the M8 for almost a year and that gave me the best colours from any digital camera I’ve ever seen, including various newer systems (or RAW files from systems) I’ve played with. I’ve found that Canon ones take a shitload of work to get anywhere even close to pleasing for me, though now I do own a digital camera (a 1Ds mark II) once again, simply because I need a digital camera that I can earn money with, but the RAW files are difficult to work with for personal work, and the best case scenario is “decent” rather than “pretty good” or “excellent” like I get with film or what I got with the M8.

            Still prefer the colour output of scanned film (I have a Minolta Dimage Elite 5400) to anything digital I’ve ever used. For personal work, I honestly wonder if I ever even can go back to digital, especially given that everyone is moving away from CCDs and I’ve not gotten truly pleasing output from any CMOS sensor (closest I’ve gotten was when I fiddled with an old Olympus 4/3 camera… not m4/3, but 4/3), whilst various CCD systems have given me pretty good output, regardless of manufacturer (older, newer, various sensor sizes). I am by no means an expert on the matter, nor have I tried every single system out there, but I *have* done as much research as possible into this within my means (in practice, that means downloading RAW files of pictures other people have made, for the more expensive [read: medium format] systems, and borrowing cameras from friends for anything other than digital medium format), and the results have been consistent in that regard… that there are no options that work *for me* in regards to colour output. Something just always looks a bit… off… to me, I guess. And it makes me sad, because it limits my potential future options significantly, because I very much doubt colour film will be available forever, and definitely not at a reasonable cost.

            Eh… this turned into a much longer rant than I had planned. Sorry.

            • My theory is that it has to do with dynamic range, camera profiling, and monitor profiling – the last two elements are something that takes a little while to fine tune, and I’d investigate these before writing digital off entirely…

              • I’ve put quite a bit of time into finetuning the latter two, I just don’t get results I’m truly happy with (mind you the end results aren’t *terrible*, they just aren’t as good as I get from other setups), with digital CMOS sensor cameras, whilst I have no issues with getting it from scanned film or CCD sensor cameras (scanned film could also be counted as a CCD sensor camera, because the scanner itself is CCD based). Mind you I’ve done all the comparisons on the same monitor and also in print.

                There is just something inherent to modern cameras that I find extremely displeasing (it probably has to do with a great number of factors beyond the three you mentioned (in regards to dynamic range, I’ve compared CMOS and CCD cameras from different manufacturers with similar dynamic range characteristics and other metrics, and there has still been that difference), CFA, on-chip noise reduction, software noise reduction before writing the RAW file, which is a thing that cameras do, changes over time in how camera manufacturers decide to handle colour – they all have their own way of handling it, some tonal differences that may or may not be inherently different, but at least definitely are different in practice between CCD sensor cameras that I’ve used and CMOS sensor cameras that I’ve used – skies are particularly bad for me in that regard, they always look off, and it takes a lot of work to get them to look even remotely tolerable, also if you saturate colours in post, there seems to be a strange thing where with CMOS sensor cameras, it becomes a uniform mass of colour far more rapidly than it does with scanned film or CCD sensor cameras, so I can’t do the saturated pastel look thing that I like (which is a fairly specific look to me, and the description of it makes it sound self-contradicting), though noone else seems to.

                I don’t want to write digital off completely, but thus far I’ve found nothing that comes even close to the output I want for my personal work, even after *heavy* profiling and processing. Closest I’ve gotten from various CMOS sensor cameras is about 60-80% there, compared to the output of scanned film or various random CCD sensor cameras. Basically I am after a fairly specific look and some hardware is just much more suited to that than others, but unfortunately, the whole industry seems to be moving away from the type of hardware that is more suited to that. The only suitable cameras for personal work at this point are the M8 and M9, both of which are no longer produced and have their own share of issues (the M9’s sensor corrosion issue in particular is worrying) and aren’t permanent solutions because they aren’t made anymore and I don’t know for how long the spare parts for them will be available and what the long term repair and service costs will be.

                • I agree with what you are saying Erko, checked out your flickr page love the colors in your pics. I started with a Leica M8.2, then after that system, kept on hoping from Nikon, back to Leica, and then FujiFilm etc… None could give me the film like colors of the M8.2 M9 CCDs (which are made by Kodak). There is a whole debate of course on the CCD and CMOS sensor topic, but from your experience and mine, little tweaking is to be done to the M8/M9 files, and makes post processing so easy, its just the LCD screen is crappy. Ming’s switch to medium format got me researching. I downloaded some Leica S (CCD) raw files (37MP), and wow, they are like the M9 files but at a 37MP resolution, and the Leica S (typ 006), has a nice 920k screen at the back, and used prices aren’t that bad, that maybe my next route 🙂 Used the M 240 for awhile, yes it takes work to make it look like the Kodak CCD colors of the M9, I’m sticking with CCD for my portrait work.

      • Jason Davidson says:

        Hi Ming

        Have you or anyone else ever tried these?

        Huelight Colour Profiles http://www.colorfidelity.com

        As I have limited experience with various manufacturers I would be interested in any thoughts as to how they compare to camera manufacturers and other raw converter profiles.

        Thanks in advance.

        • Yes, but they don’t work for my workflow. They make a good end point assuming little further manipulation, but aren’t linear enough for the start point of the way I work.

      • Very short and very informative summary about color reproduction by brand, thank you, Ming!
        Where would be Olympus on that list? I’m looking for a camera with good skin tones with minimal post processing, something that should replace Portra and Astia 6×6 for family portraits. Hasselblad is out of question unfortunately… Well, may be used in 7-10 years from now…

        • It probably isn’t the camera you’re looking for. Very limited dynamic range on the smaller sensor means your going to have to work very hard with PP, and it won’t come anywhere close to the dynamic range of negative film.

  88. Hasselblad Ambassador…CONGRATS!!! So stoke for you, Ming! I’m also considering a used 503 with a CFV-50c DB and some classic lenses from Hasselblad. I borrowed my friend’s kit and something about looking down thru that prism, focusing manually, and hearing the shutter click and winding it back manually made me feel more organic or anti-digital sort of way. More primitive compared to my M9. I wish I can afford the H5D one but I think I can’t go wrong what I mentioned above.

    • Thanks Robert!

      I’m very happy with my CFV-50C, but a 90deg prism is a MUST – and remember there are no wide options; 40mm is ~32mm or so. If you’re okay with that, then all’s well 🙂 The CF generation lenses are bargains, too. Mint condition lenses can be found in the $500-600 range – not bad for made in Germany Zeiss…

  89. Well done Ming. A good fit I think.

    I didn’t know about the HTS. Does any other digital system have this? I wish the Leica S had this adaptor. Seems they missed a trick.

    I was at Shriro last week getting some tips from their technician about my own recent Hasselbkad acquisition – the Imacon X1 scanner, which has also recently seen a significant price drop.

    • Thanks Linden. No, Hassy is the only system with a tilt shift adaptor; it might fit the S since there’s a H-S adaptor, but you’d need H lenses. V lenses won’t adapt to the HTS.

      Update: it appears the HTS does work on the S: http://www.reddotforum.com/forums/topic/s2-and-hts1-5/

      Ah ha! Congratulations on the scanner 🙂

      • That’s interesting, and thanks for the link. That opens up an interesting additional use for the S, if the compatibility with the S2 has carried over to the S006 and S007 (can’t see why it wouldn’t).

        I will look forward to your future reports on using the H lenses with the HTS.

  90. Congratulations Ming. An exciting new chapter in the journey you are taking as a photographer. I wish you all the best with this, and I am looking forward to you sharing some of the images you make with the new system.

    • Thanks Ross! Still in shakedown for the last week or so, but I’m confident I’ll hit the ground running for my first assignment with it…tomorrow, then on to back to back shoots in London and Birmingham next week before the Lisbon Masterclass. Talk about a trial by fire! 😛

  91. Roy Prasad says:

    Hi Ming, thanks for the candid update, and good luck with the big H. I am curious about two things, however: One, why the PhaseOne XF apparently did not receive a serious consideration. The Schneider blue ring lens line up is supposed to be very good, designed to resolve 100MP, and there’s a pretty impressive range of lenses. (Although to be frank, my one very brief and admittedly unscientific encounter with a Schneider 80mm LS f/2.8 on an XF left me thinking both a Leica 70mm Summarit-S and a Zeiss 55mm Otus could beat the Schneider rather handily in terms of sharpness and micro contrast!)

    Two, it looks like the pixel shifting / super resolution technology in the Pentax K-1 really works, and that opens the door for 35mm to take a quantum step forward in IQ, enough to start asking why medium format is needed at all. (Lloyd has put up some compelling images on diglloyd.com). Granted, Pentax suffers from a very limited portfolio of top-flight lenses that would be needed to get the most out of the super resolution technology of the K-1. But Nikon, Canon and even Sony have decent lenses, and all three companies will inevitably have to get into the pixel shifting game. That means the entire 35mm space is likely poised to move up deep into the MF territory. I’m wondering if you gave any thought to where 35mm might be headed in the not too distant future (e.g., Sony A7R-III or Nikon D900) before making such a deep commitment to Hasselblad.

    • Thanks Roy.

      Firstly, Phase One has never replied a single one of my emails. That kind of response – or lack of – does not bode well when the inevitable support is required. On the flip side, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with H service even on my V gear; and I know that there is a local support mechanism in Malaysia. There isn’t for Phase One. It’s even more critical because at this price, there’s simply no way you can afford to buy a backup camera.

      Secondly, Phase One has only one TS option – otherwise you have to invest in a matching Alpa system if you want wide coverage. Movements are pretty critical for a lot of work, and Hasselblad has the HTS which works with every lens. They also don’t have the rather cinematic 2.2/100, or the super wide 24mm, plus I have a lot of Zeiss V-system glass to fill out the gaps – which is fully compatible with the H (and much cheaper than buying new H lenses; I have one of the legendary 250 Superachromats on the way for about a quarter of a new 210 or 300mm).

      Pixel shifting: I think you answered your own question: the lenses are missing. Beyond that, shifting doesn’t work with moving subjects. In practice, I tried to deploy it with the Olympus E-M5II I owned but found very few practical situations under which it was usable. Beyond that still, as an ambassador I have access to the 200C Multishot back if I do have subjects which work with those limitations – and 200MP > 36MP 🙂

      Lastly, remember that with Sony driving sensor development now: everything that applies to smaller formats can be applied to larger ones, too – except with more light collection area anymore pixels, results scale proportional to capture area once more. A bit like film in that sense…

      • Sean Quigley says:

        Great stuff Ming, very pleased for you, I am a huge Hassy fan and one day will be back using their system again I am sure, although I still have a fullish V system including the superachromats, I find the limitations of the sytem to be to great compared to the ease of A7rii etc and as you know I have no problems with that camera.
        Roy like me, seems to like the look of the Phase one 100mp camera and having pixel peeped some files I was stunned at the quality, but I too am not sure about Phase one support too, although I am sure it’s better than Sony’s haha.

        Good luck on the next leg of the adventure, Regards Sean

        • Thanks Sean! I suggest taking a look at the CFV-50C, though we might get lucky with that 100MP sensor in a V-back…

          Are the Superachromats as good as their reputation?

          • Sean Quigley Photography says:

            Yes they are, the 250sa has just a single coating so flare can be an issue,
            apart from that,0 they are the otuses of telephoto lenses.
            I took a shot a few months ago with the 350sa and the 135 f2 and the 350sa still after 20 years is up there if not better than the 135, which as you know is superb.
            Sadly, I am primarily using ultra wides these days so they don’t get used often.
            I still keep a full working Blad system and one day it will be resurrected because the amazing V lenses still deliver.
            I have on many occasions considered the Cfv’s but for me at the moment with Otuses etc I am happy with A7rii and after seeing what 100mp can do will wait to see who does what with that sensor, because ultra wide is such a large part of my work (11-25mm) on the A7rii that restricts the V system. Things are moving fast these days so who knows what will happen.
            I feel the sheer cost of digital MF is holding back that entire market, the quality is amazing, if the cost could come down further I doubt if the manufacturers would cope with demand. 😎

            • Balance isn’t quite right with the Otuses on the A7 series cameras though – especially the 28. Agreed though there really aren’t any options on a crop back with the V system. I suspect long term we will see cheaper crop factor option for backs now that Sony is driving development and volume across many manufacturers…

            • It’s single coated because the usual T* treatment would have compromised infrared photography, right?

      • Speaking of cinematic 100mm, how it compares with the Pentax 90mm?

  92. Congratulations! And I hope you will continue to share with us your view on selected 35mm bodies and lenses.

    • Thank you. Yes, if it makes sense…after all, they are tools, but given limited access here, I’ve got to buy them – so I have to have some use afterwards for what I buy, too 🙂

  93. * Gulp * … A great decision, Ming ! I recall with nostalgia the M 43 (EPL1, OMD E-M5) days. How things have changed ! Wish you greater success – you are, as always, in a totally different orbit…and I mean that in a good way 🙂

  94. Congratulations Ming!

    IIRC the promotional pictures for the Nikon D4 or D800 were themselves taken on a ‘blad.

    Could you prevail on them to make a digital XPan? As an ambassador, communication goes in both directions…

  95. Congratulations and looking forward to seeing your future images!

  96. caesar merlin says:

    how much do you reckon the switch cost you in net total? usd or your own currency

  97. Congratulations, Ming. It’s a win-win for you and Hasselblad. Looking forward to seeing what comes of this.

  98. Congratulations on becoming a Hasselblad Ambassador, i actually think you were mentioned regarding future H Ambassadors in an interview with Hassy’s boss with the guys from The Luminous landscape, i’ll have to see that again to confirm.

    • Thanks – I don’t think that was me; there’s another prior Hasselblad Masters winner in Malaysia who has a similar surname (Kevin Then) – he shoots bridal.

  99. Hi Ming! Congrats the switch (hoping that the returns will really be justifiable). One question, though you don’t have to justify your actions, is what was the main factor that prompted you to agree to a tie-in with Hasselblad?

  100. Congratulations Ming! Glad to see the year is off to a good start. 🙂 On an another note, I have to say that your aerofoil grip still steals the spotlight. 🙂

    • Haha, thanks! It makes the V work in portrait orientation with the digital back – and far less clunky than the winder (plus the 501 won’t take a winder anyway). And an L bracket is always handy 🙂

      • Lane Pelissier says:

        First off congratulations Sir!! I would love to be able to use MF digital but it would take too many sacrifices currently. Until that happens I will continue to use my 500CM, Mamiya 6, and various other MF and LF film cameras. Can you discuss the airfoil grip? Is it something you made or was it purchased? Thanks!
        Lane

        • Thank you! The grip is something I designed and had machined from aluminium. It’s also got a built in Arca-width L bracket.

          • Lane Pelissier says:

            Thanks for the reply! I don’t see how you have the time to reply to so many mundane comments and emails as you do. I kinda figured it was a custom item. I love taking my V out but it can be a bit of a drag doing the cradle thing. Though I have started using a Feisol mini tripod instead of hand holding.

            • The cradle hold works well with the waist level chimney finder, but not with the 90deg prisms – and though I prefer the chimney, the digital backs are all rectangular, so a 90deg prism is a must – and thus the grip…

              I’ve thought about doing a small production run of these things, but the machining cost is pretty high plus six hours of my time polishing 😛

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