Mid term review: The Hasselblad H5D-50c and CFV-50c

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H5D-50c with HC 3.5/50 II; 501CM with 4/50 CF T* FLE, HC1 prism and custom grip. The design lineage between the V and H cameras is very clear in this configuration…

Today’s report is a twofer, for the simple reason that both cameras share the same electronics and imaging pipeline: the backs are effectively the same apart from a power button and battery holder, plus some communication points with the camera body in the case of the H mount version. For all intents and purposes, image quality and performance are identical. I’ve owned the CFV-50c since early December 2015, and have had a H5D-50c firstly as a loaner in January and then from February onwards as part of the Hasselblad Ambassador program. I’m going on six months and norhtof 12,000 frames with Hasselblad medium format as my primary system, which makes now a good time to pause and see if I made the right choice. This will be a calmer analysis in the same vein as my long term reports on the D700, D800E, D810, 645Z and 5DSR. Since switching, I can count the number of occasions I shot with my other cameras on the fingers of one hand; I have to make sure my batteries are still charged before taking them out – which is something that has never previously happened. I suppose this is a good sign…read on if you wish to put your wallet at risk.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am a Hasselblad Ambassador, so my objectivity may be in question. But I do have a significant amount of skin in the game, too – all of the V system (including CFV) was acquired prior to my appointment, and good chunk of the H system was purchased by me at retail.

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Yes, the H6D was announced not long ago – but as with every new bit of gear, a) the old one doesn’t make any worse images, and b) may actually be a better price-performance proposition for most people. To my mind, the CFV-50c after the last round of discounts still remains one of the best bang-for-buck medium format options: state of the art image quality for a surprisingly doable price, especially when you consider the whole system. If anything, I’d say the H6D is a proposition for the pros who are billing in that category (and already know they need it, therefore reviews are somewhat meaningless); the more accessible generation represented here is of interest to both pros and serious amateurs. With that, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.

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The 1/800s shutter limit: Most of you will recall The Switch. I shoot the Hasselblads in fundamentally the same way as I did the Nikons: available light handheld most of the time, sometimes off a tripod, and with lights if needs must. Pixel density per degree and mirror/shutter damping are what determines handholdability; in this respect, the V system demands respect because of the sheer size of the moving mirror, and the H system seems to be no worse than the 5DSR. In practical terms, we’re talking 1/2x, and preferably 1/3x focal length. This means that nothing much longer than 150mm is practical handheld, given the 1/800s max shutter speed. For the most part, I rarely work this long anyway, and even when I did with 35mm, I always used a tripod – more for precision of framing and focusing than anything else. Would I like a higher maximum speed? Absolutely. And for that reason, I’m hoping Hasselblad sends me a H6 with its 1/2000s maximum.

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Reliability: I’ve had odd electronic glitches with both, but in all fairness, they were dealt with very promptly and responsively – even before I was an ambassador. I can’t ask for better service than that, and in fact, I can’t think of any other camera company that has this level of support for its users. But the glitches shouldn’t have happened at all.

Battery life: You’ll recall I complained bitterly about the A7RII’s battery life: 150-200 shots at most. The problem isn’t so much the number of shots, but the runtime of the camera: about 1.5 hours, maximum – no matter how you slice it. Battery life on both H and CFV are about the same – 4-5 hours with the back left powered on using a single standard battery, which means usually 2-2.5 batteries per full shooting day. In that 4-5 hours, I’ve shot anything from five to a thousand frames, depending of course on the subject matter. These cameras make you use them in a very different way to what you’re normally used to: just leave the thing on, and resist the temptation to cycle power with every shot. It seems Nikon still reigns supreme in the power management game, though.

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Weight: Whilst the overall system weight of the H is less than what I previously carried with Nikon, the unit weight – body and lens – is quite a bit more. You gain a bit from better ergonomics, but there’s no getting around the fact the lenses weigh a kilo or more each, and are physically bulky. Pack carefully and limit juggling to a minimum – you don’t want to drop one of these things. I’ve been working with a 28-50-100 combination for documentary and travel, which is soon going to be replaced with a single 35-90 since EXIF data reveals I’m stopped down most of the time and at 50mm anyway.

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Dust: The odd thing is the H5D seems to be far more dust-prone than the CFV, despite my 501CM being the better part of 25 years old and having a flaking internal coating like every other camera of that generation. I almost never have to clean the CFV, but the H5D needs cleaning after every full day of shooting. The dust bunnies I see on the sensor are more like giant dust pandas; often visible to the naked eye after removing the back. Fortunately, a blower makes short work of it. Having spoken to a few other H shooters, it seems this is common…

There are a couple of other minor niggles, two of which have been (fixed) with the H6D: live view refresh tops out at 30fps and works with a 1/30s shutter speed and within the ISO range of the back, which means it’s not so useful during daylight without an ND filter (fixed); the screen could really use more resolution (fixed), and lastly, the backs don’t seem to remember the last playback mode set, and you always have an initial info bar covering the bottom edge of your image.

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All in all, I think that’s actually not too bad. Remember, we’re expecting Bugatti performance with VW reliability. The list of good far, far dominates though:

Image quality: This is by far and away the best reason to go medium format, and remains so. I’ve shot with the the 50MP CMOS models by Pentax, Hasselblad and Phase One, and honestly, the Hasselblad implementation remains by far the best. It has the the most natural highlight rolloff without abrupt clipping (Pentax); it has the extended clean deep shadows of the D800E, and almost perfect color out of the box. Barring more comprehensive testing of the H6D models, I think this is about as good as it gets for image quality: it was state of the art at release, and remains very much the case. I’ve not yet encountered any situation in which the raw sensor performance has been exceeded by something else – in color, noise, dynamic range, acuity or any other parameter. The overall rendition is both incredibly transparent but also flexible in accommodating your own stylistic and postprocessing preferences. Those of you who’ve seen me work the files from this camera in the weekly workflow videos know just how little work I have to do on them – this has saved me significant amounts of time in post, and is alone worth the added productivity for a busy pro.

Actually, I’ll let you judge for yourself. There are three full size processed files here; these have already been licensed to Hasselblad for promo work, so for the first time, here we go – click on the thumbnails below to go the full size versions.

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By downloading any the above files you agree to use them for the purposes of personal evaluation only. Electronic or physical redistribution is not permitted.

Transparency: This is a tricky one to describe, but the camera basically just gets out of your way. It is responsive, easily customisable and settings are easy to find and change (for the H; the CFV basically has nothing to customise since it’s dependent on the V series body it’s attached to for the camera part). There is enough customisation that you can make it respond the way you want it to – and not so much that you can cause strange feature-driven lockouts. Ergonomics are great and despite the camera weight, it is comfortable to hold. The H5D’s finder is huge and fully visible even with spectacles – unfortunately that is not the same case with most of the 90deg V prisms; only the HC1 seems to offer a good balance between magnification and eye relief. The others are either not useful (chimney, 45deg – for square formats) or have poor eye relief (HC3/70, HC4) or poor magnification (PM90, PME90).

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The CFV/V setup itself is perhaps the closest thing you’re going to get to the feeling of a traditional camera with digital output: set sensitivity on the back, then feel free to ignore it. The rest off the camera operates entirely like a mechanical, manual V – you still have to wind it to recock the mechanical leaf shutter, and all controls remain on the lens (unless you have a 200-series body, then the FP shutter speed ring is around the mount). It’s actually quite a strange feeling to work with a V-H two body setup: they handle completely differently, but deliver identical files. Whilst I’m emotionally attached to the elegance and simplicity of the V, I do realise the H is a far more productive tool for me. Still, I’m happy to use either depending on the needs of the situation and have a backup – the H can also use the V’s lenses with an adaptor.

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Neat little ergonomic touches (H5D): It’s the small things that show the camera has been properly thought out and used/tested by people who actually use the thing to take photographs. For instance, the MUP button will raise the mirror with a single press, but a quick double press will then activate the self timer. The spot meter can be tied to a specific exposure zone, and that exposure zone easily changed on the fly. Pressing any programmable button followed by the menu key will take you to the page to change the shortcut for that button. A single press of the focus confirm button will take you to the focus point, which can also be shifted quickly around the frame with the command wheels. And that focus point might not actually be in the middle, even though there’s only one AF box…

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Focusing: …there may only be a single focus point in the centre of the frame, but Hasselblad has a rather clever gyro-based system that determines how much to shift the focus point by to compensate for parallax and focus shift (if any) when you recompose – providing you recompose after focus is locked. In good light, the system locks quickly and accurately determines the new focus point; you can verify this by hitting the focus confirm button and seeing which portion of the frame has been selected. In low light, it often has trouble locking on; there’s quite a bit of hunting. I suspect this may be a physical limitation of phase detect AF and higher resolution systems: very little is actually in focus even within the AF box (remember, the lenses focus wide open), and that AF box may well cover quite subjects sitting at quite a range of distances. With lenses like the 2.2/100, even at 10m a very small change in focusing position can visibly mean the difference between tip of the nose and back of the head. I saw this behaviour too with the D810, and with the 5DSR. It isn’t so much a problem of acquiring focus: it’s that the camera just can’t read your mind as to which bit inside the box you want to focus on, and so usually goes for whatever gives the larges phase difference (which might of course be different to what you intended).

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Wifi: I thought I wouldn’t use this, because it’s been pretty much a fiddly gimmick in every other camera I’ve used – the biggest limitation being JPEG only viewing and transfers, and the connection protocols often requiring several steps. Not so with the H5D: it appears as another access point. Launch the app, select the camera, and away you go. The app views full size raw files, including zooming and panning. And it has full camera control. Useful? Yes. I hand the iPad to my client to view (rather than tethering or crowding around the back of a small camera LCD), or use my iPhone as a wireless remote with full control – the app UI is cleverly a duplicate of the H5D’s top panel layout. Signal strength could be better, though – sometimes the connection drops for no particularly good reason.

Lenses and overall system completeness: The V system reached maturity a very long time ago; we have basically seen all the bodies and lenses we are likely to ever see, even if we still don’t yet have a full 6×6 digital back. Practically, this means that we have effectively no wide angle solutions with the current 44x33mm sensors, and of the limited 40mm choices, the 4/40 FLE is not bad (but requires f11 and some post-capture CA correction) and only the rare and expensive 4/40 IF is really up to par. To my mind, the best setup with a CFV is either the 501CM or 503CW bodies, a HC1 prism (or HC4 if you don’t wear spectacles), the CFV-50C, a 4/50 FLE and 4/150 CF. The rest is actually not really necessary. I’ve been asked many times about use of the Arcbody and Flexbody technical camera options with the CFV; the short answer is there’s no point unless you only need movements in one axis: those cameras were designed for a square film back, which means rise/fall can be changed simply by rotating the whole camera and not affecting the aspect ratio. However, with the digital back and non-rotating mount, we are stuck with rise in landscape orientation, and shift in portrait – which is not very useful, and personally tends to be opposite to what I need.

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I’ve not found anything major missing from the H system yet – the 24/28/50/100/TC combination, supplemented by the HTS, 35-90 and a couple of V lenses (4/150, 5.6/250 Superachromat) cover everything I need. Lens performance is excellent and more importantly, remarkably consistent, too – regardless of whether you’re using the TC or HTS, with the exception of the 100mm. The 24 and 28mm lenses are amongst the best wides I’ve ever used, and the 50mm is probably about as close as you’re going to get to an Otus for medium format (albeit quite a bit slower). This lens requires a little stopping down for optimum performance (and even then I suspect it’s due to the previously described focusing limitations). It’s best to treat it as an f2.8 or f4 lens with some emergency speed.

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Actually, the biggest problem is one that DSLR users have faced since the beginning of the affordable large sensor camera: crop factor. I selected my current lenses based off FF angle of view equivalents: the 24+HTS 1.5 is a 28mm tilt-shift; the 28 is a ~21mm; the 50 is ~39, the 100 is ~78. The 35-90 is a ~28-70. If you move to the larger 54×40 ‘full 645′ sensor, you land up somewhat in no-mans’ land: 23mm TS (okay); 18mm, 32mm, 65mm and 22-58. Hmm indeed. Oddly though, I’ve found that if an actual focal length works for you, it seems to work regardless of format. I’ve always found 21 a bit wide and 35-40ish unusable – but both are very comfortable with the 44×33 sensor. I put it down to some property of the real focal lengths being 28 and 50mm, both of which I’m very comfortable with on 35mm/FF. Fortunately, that remains an academic problem for the time being – but is still important to consider for system longevity when making significant lens investments.

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All in all, this has been a rather different kind of review. I think the basis of modern medium format is twofold: image quality, and productivity for the working pro. So far, the Hasselblads have delivered in spades, and I admit there’s something quite pleasurable about having this kind of image quality in the V body – I suppose having the H5D and the CFV-50c is probably something like having a Ferrari F12 and a 1960s-vintage GT with the same drivetrain. I’ve not found anything major that makes me regret my choice; if anything, processing the files from the other cameras leaves me with the feeling they’re somewhat ‘brittle’ – for want of a better description. There’s far less latitude and you’ve got to do some significant monkeying to make highlights and shadows look ‘right’, especially for highly saturated colors. I’m just glad the rest of the H5D has continued to live up to the expectations set by my first experience with it – it is and remains a camera that just gets out of your way and lets you shoot. The irony of course is this equipment makes me care much less (perhaps nothing) about equipment: preparation H seems to be the ultimate cure for GAS, too.

Actually, scratch that: it makes you want to shoot, because the process is so enjoyable and the results are so compelling; if anything, it makes you a bit more critical of your own work, too. I find myself asking more often: is the image good enough? How can I make it even better? Assuming current pricing levels for the H5D are maintained – and I see no reason why not – surely that’s worth the price of admission…MT

Both cameras are available here from B&H: H5D-50c, CFV-50c.

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Comments

  1. Really good article, Ming. I find your insights here and your article on “the medium format look” to be very helpful informative as I study more and more about MF photography with the advent of the Hassy X1D and Fuji GFX. Thanks! I’m finding MF to be more and more intriguing as I learn more and more, and your own path of discovery has been helpful, too.

  2. Do you use Phocus in the first stage of your workflow when processing your Hasselblad photographs in view of the rave reviews of how that software built in profiles handles color, or do you find the Adobe profiles with Bridge, and Capture Raw just as good, or good enough, to forego the importation with Phocus step?

  3. Best review/comparison! totally answered all my queries

  4. Hi Ming Thein,
    Great reviews on the Hasselblad system.
    I would like to find out when shooting with a 501cm or 503cw body with any CFE lens, would the CFV-50c able to record down the shutter speed and aperture data into the exif file ?

    Thanks

    Kiah

  5. Great review!….Love to be able to view the photos full blown!…but your watermark is too obvious and distracting!! j/k 😉

  6. Dear Ming, I’ve the same wifi problem with my H5D 50wifi. I’ve noticed that the problem concerns only newer Iphone/Ipad generations. Operating with Iphone5 and prior models the problem seems disappear, I’ve tried the H6D and always seems to work well (but I’m thinking to ask Hasselblad how to solve the problem because It’s very frustrating sometimes) . I totally agree with the dust catcher capabilities of the sensor, almost unknown with the CFV50 (CCD based) that I have. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    • Marco – there’s a beta firmware update (10R) that fixes this. Email Hasselblad support and they’ll send you a download link. As for the dust – turns out it’s the camera body, not the sensor. Karl Taylor suggested something that’s worked well for me so far: strip off the sensor, lens and finder and give the whole thing a good blast of air with mirror locked up and down.

  7. What’s the last word on CFV50 and SWC? I know it is not as good as the 40. But I am emotionally attached to my 905SWC. I have a 80 and 150 already so CFV would make sense. But there is no way I would replace the 38 with a 40 or even 50. Is there any way to make it work? I mean, I would hate to spend $10k+ and then get worse images than I can get with a Sigma DP1M. But if I can get a full 38-80-150 digital MF system at that price, it would be almost a bargain, considering the already sunk investment.

    • The CFV-50c (44x33mm) worked well on the SWC for me – and that was an SWC/M, not even the updated 903 or 905. I landed up sending that one back because it had shutter issues. Not sure about the larger sensors. You just need to get the battery L-plate or have the tripod foot modified so the battery can clear it.

  8. Thanks for an excellent article, as usual, Ming. Although I read it more for fun than for practical purposes as I’ve already been pretty heavily invested in the H-system for a couple of years. My experiences are pretty much as yours, even if I’ve had a different sensor, the 50 CCD, which I invested in because I’m mostly a wide-angle user and found the more cropped sensor to be to narrow for my taste. The low light capabilities is not an issue for me, and with this sensor I actually find the lens-lineup very natural for my use. But thing is, the H-system delivers so intensely excellent results over and over that for those of us that have used it, there’s no turning back. Just went over some old d800e files the other day and was utterly frustrated, especially regarding highlight rendering. The H-files just have a smoothness to them that is hard to beat, the files can be bent and stretched to extremes, and it translates all the way into the large format prints!
    Just wanted to give a little warning to those of you running to buy the 35-90 because Mr Thein is 🙂 It is one big piece of gear! Be sure to try it out (as I am confident you have done, Ming) before handing over the cash. Even though some of the specs seems (somewhat) comparable to the larger primes (35, 120) I find it much more cumbersome to handle than say, the 50 or the 150. And I do 99% of my work from a tripod. After having used the 35-90 as my go-to for the better part of a year, I find myself more and more often with the 50 attached and the 28 and 150 in my bag 🙂 But by all means, the 35-90 is an amazing lens, both optically and with respect to autofocus. I will definitely keep it! (Try changing primes when shooting in portrait orientation in pouring rain with the gear inside a kata raincower!)
    One question: I’ve ordered the H6D100c; do you have any inside info regarding delayed delivery after the april earthquake?
    Keep up the good work, Ming. I’ve followed you for quite some time and I’m mighty happy to see you as an Ambassador!

    • Thanks for the tip – yes, I’ve handled one but did not have time to shoot with it. It’s smaller than the 50-110, and that was doable. Plus I prefer not to change lenses under some environments too…

      The H6-100 is a little bit delayed; nobody knows how long because Sony isn’t saying. The earthquake has affected everybody using Sony sensors. The H6-50 is on track as far as I know though – mine was delivered today…

  9. <>

    Thanks for another elegant story, Ming. The images are lovely. And I couldn’t agree more about the utility and wonder of the CFV-50c (alas, I have no experience with the H…).

    I would point out two advantages of the older 500C/M bodies (vice the 501/503 models) when using the CFV… the built-in time exposure lock affords quick and easy access to either Live View or long exposures (using the lens bulb setting), without having to pull out and attach a cable release. I am so smitten by my own CFV-50c that I am contemplating buying a second body and although I am inclined towards either the 501 or 503, simply because they are the most recent vintage, the lack of that time exposure lock gives me pause. I may end up buying another 500C/M.

    Mostly, those little details are just noise, however. As you so aptly describe, the V-system when paired with the CFV remains a potent imaging tool. It’s really quite remarkable that a system that old can do what it does. The shooting experience is intoxicating. And the files are amazing!

    I’ll be looking forward to your experiences with the new H6 platform…

    P.S. For those still shooting analog – I find the CFV-50c integrates exceptionally well with a couple of A12 film backs – I can highly recommend the Flextight X1 scanner. Between the 3F file format and batch-scanning 6×6 film holder Hasselblad makes available, scanning is about as painless as it could possibly be. And the resulting ~390mb “virtual drum scan” files live in the same neighborhood as those from the CFV.

    • Thanks. Good point on the little lock on the older cameras – I can’t see how useful it’d be with film because of shake when applying it, but yes it’s perfect for live view! Problem is I like my longer lenses and need the floating mirror to see everything. I’d go with a 503 or 203 for both the grip and ease of use with verticals, as well as the faster FP shutter option…

      I was just told I’ll be getting my H6 very soon…:)

  10. Michiel953 says:

    Looking at the number of comments, one would think you should get back into equipment reviews… 🙂

    • My bank account is very happy I am pulling out, because I can’t keep buying things to review 🙂

      That said, I’ve just been told the first production H6D-50 will be delivered to me tomorrow at the Singapore launch event, so we’re not done yet…

  11. If I keep reading your blog then I am afraid I might move to medium frame at some point! 🙂

    BTW, I was pixel peeping your full size pictures and thought I found your house (with your name on it). Then I looked at the other two and found that you own the bridge and the concrete structure as well… 🙂

  12. Brett Patching says:

    Wow. These photos just look wonderful. Even at web size. They just pop.

  13. great article and reviews. Love the photos too – thanks!

  14. What excellent photographs Ming!

    They’ve really been of interest to me, as I’ve been to many of the locations in the shots, many, many times (some being only a few miles from my home!)

    You’ve completely and inadvertently (and perhaps even serendipitously!!) given me a free turorial with these (and the flickr album), I often look at the work of other ‘togs, but it’s rare to have such a golden opportunity to see the things you’ve seen so often, through the eyes of a more (let’s avoid being sycophantic and say) seasoned practitioner of the craft.

    Did Hasselblad send you up this way, or did you just make a visit off the back of the Lisbon MC? (If you don’t mind me asking?)

    • Thank you. The whole site is pretty much a free tutorial (especially the Technique and Philosophy archives 😉 ) but I suppose the proximity is a nice bonus!

      I assume you mean Porto – I was with another student.

      • I keep going back to so many of your articles Ming, FWIW I stumbled on your site via some camera review, but it’s the rhetoric that’s the star of the show (not that the reviews are bad you understand, nor devoid of rhetoric themselves!?)

        Yes, Porto – I’ve been here nearly 2 years now, it’s not a place (or a quality of light) that I tire of!

        • Hah! It seems that’s how most people find their way in 🙂

          I honestly found Porto proper a little sad; the bit on the other side of the river with the distilleries and the bit out towards the Atlantic at Foz do Douro was much, much nicer.

          • The other side of the River is called Gia!

            On somes days the waves smash clear over the top of that little lighthouse in Foz!

            If you keep going along the coast, you come to Matosinhos, where you can eat freshly caught fish, cooked in the street over an open flame!

            Porto is in a slow state of flux (IMO), gentrification hasn’t completely taken over (but it’s coming) so there’s a lot of dilapidation, and faded glory, sometimes juxtaposed with rejuvenation and chain stores!

            Explore the side streets and the ancient alleyways and there’s many stories to form photographs (I try my best) and innumerable opportunities for ‘wabi’ aficionados (I’ve dabbled, but I take it or leave it personally)

            Of course in X years, when the independent coffee houses are all chains, and the family run cafes are all golden M burger joints the place will have a different vibe!

            • Thanks for the tip – and waves going over the lighthouse would be spectacular (though I think I’d want to be much further away!)

              Porto: I get the feeling it’s a city in slow decay/decline, and bigger than the population currently living. Also the regulations required for renovation are so costly there just isn’t the money to do it…but at the same time, there are a huge number of people who seem to be begging or just looking lost and out of it. Quite sad, really…

              • A few of those beach front restaurants you’ll have seen in Foz have been severely damaged by waves over the years.

                The North Atlantic can be a hell of a force when the mood takes it, and of course there’s not really anything off the coast of Portugal to slow those waves down…

                IIRC about 2m people live in the greater Porto area. You’re not wrong though – without making any misplaced social commentary, as you can imagine, the global financial crisis has hit southern Europe very hard, and Portugal has a ‘decriminalised’ stand point on certain recreational activities…

                The renovation requirements centre around keeping the exterior intact and original, which is why IMHO, it’ll ultimately be only the big corporations that will be in a position to pony up the requisite coin to make a change.

                Both the last 2 statements could of course be expanded, dissected and discussed – but sincerely, your blog is neither the time nor the place (and frankly nor is my blog 🙂 )

                Of all the comments I’ve left here, this has been by far my best run of replies!! Cheers!

  15. Lucy March says:

    Fantastic images, Ming!

  16. It’s interesting that your reaction to the camera is that it feels completely natural, comfortable to use…that it just gets out of the way. Looking at the larger run of Hasselblad images posted to your Flickr photostream over several weeks gave me the impression it was taking a bit of time and effort to come to grips with the gear. Of course it may be that you were concentrating on technical aspects of the camera’s response in specific situations, or that my screen is not up to reproducing the files properly after they’ve been forced through the internet wringer.

    Also, I may have been unduly influenced by my reaction to the photos appearing in the earlier “Hanoi Cinematics” post — incredibly engaging and a virtuoso performance, those with the greatest impact wrought with the (relatively) lowly OMD-5.

    • I think there’s definitely a disconnect between what ‘works’ at flickr sizes and what works at full output/print – that time and effort is partially because I was trying to figure out the curation/presentation balance, and partially because not everything was shot with the Hasselblad, either, nor are things necessarily uploaded in the order in which they were shot – often I’ll wait a bit if I’m not sure about the curation or want to put images from different shoots together.

      Hanoi – for some things, smaller is better. The E-M5 had a tilt screen and I could use much smaller lenses handheld than with the 5DSR, so it was just easier to use for the cinematic objective. In hindsight, the 5DSR was the wrong camera choice to do that kind of work – there’s no advantage to the extra resolution because a large portion of the image is out of focus anyway 🙂

      • If I may join the conversation here …

        I thought that the Hanoi collection might have been hard to take with the Hasselblad 501CM without drawing considerable attention to yourself – A consequence of that glorous “clunk” that accompanies each shot. I cannot speak to the H5D-50c (most unfortunately) in this respect, not having any experience of it.

        🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

        • You’re probably right, not just because there isn’t anything in the lens lineup that gives that kind of shallow DOF. However, I find people respond quite differently to the V cameras; perhaps it’s the vintage charm (who knows?) but I find them to be excellent portrait machines. The H5D is another beast entirely.

  17. Hi Ming,

    Have you thought about using your 85mm Otus with a technical camera and one of the backs? See

    http://bokeh.digitalrev.com/article/image-samples-from-phase-ones-100-mp-digital-back-with-zeiss-otus-85mm-f-1-4

    There’s vignetting at f1.4 on the larger 100mp sensor, but with your smaller sensors I imagine it would be a dream — medium format f1.4 with Otus level optics.

  18. Michiel953 says:

    Hi Ming, great and informative article, wonderful images, even if I can’t imagine myself ever even wanting to own and use a camera like that.

    ome comment you made struck a chord with me: How is a camera’s AF system supposed to know what exactly it is you want in focus of a 3D scene within that AF box you’ve chosen?

    One might not see the issue with an ff 12MP sensor (just read your D700 final review; should never have sold that one 😉 ), but one certainly does with 36MP.

    Searching for the minute high contrast area the lens will focus will slightly rearrange composition (not a big problem); focusing inconsistencies (vide L Chambers’ latest exposé) nullifies all that.

    As it is, I’m not too unhappy with my 810’s AF consistency; off the cuff a 85 to 90% hit rate on the wider apertures (not that stopping down helps a lot at 36MP…).

    • It isn’t. And as we go up in resolution, we’re starting to increasingly see the limits of AF systems – which comes back to the importance of having a really good finder, whether it be a huge and perfectly aligned optical setup, or a high resolution EVF. Personally, I still prefer optical finders for two reasons: timing, and not staring at a small light source that can really ruin your night vision – especially when shooting in lower light conditions.

      • Michiel953 says:

        There’s also the inescapable fact that some of us (the older generation, ha ha) are programmed to view exact focus and depth of field in the old fashioned way; the film way, and we were used to slightly slower lenses (2.0, 2.8) as well. I used to think 5.6 was almost wide open, 4.0 was very adventurous. Using a lens at full bore was stupid, stop down at least one stop to get rid of most of the aberrations (I still go by that rule, ha ha).

        In the digital high MP world it’s all become so critical, the old rules don’t apply anymore. Is “pixel peeping” despicable? Maybe it is, but I still want my focus point to be where In intended it to; not on the eyelashes, on the pupil (spectacle wearers shouldn’t be photographed anyway).

        Like you I prefer a big bright optical viewfinder. I haven’t found an acceptable EVF yet (although the SL viewfinder is a big step forward). I also prefer looking through the lens. So there we go: pentaprism, flapping mirror, the whole kaboodle.

        I for one (I seem to be in a minority) don’t think the death of the (D)SLR is imminent; auto AF finetuning techniques will evolve rapidly, the D810’s mirror/shutter/mirror sequence is very acceptable.

        • On medium format, smaller apertures are still the way to go for depth of field control – though the lenses are much better, and will do just fine wide open. The problem now is that pixels are so small we’re starting to hit diffraction as early as f5.6 on the sub-4 micron pixel cameras; stopping down only makes things less sharp. The previous circle of confusion and diffraction relationships that were present with film (i.e. constant sensing area size, regardless of overall format area) simply don’t hold anymore. It requires re-learning for every camera since pixel sizes and lens performance for a given system are different; this is where lenses that perform consistently independent of aperture (e.g. the Zeiss Otuses) become useful. One simply selects aperture proportional to the desired depth of field rather than having to remember lens performance characteristics like optimal apertures and focus shift etc…

    • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

      Hello, I`ve some questions regarding AF accuracy on the high MPIX sensors. In cinema most of cases in half to full shot call for min f:2.8 where f:4 is more or less considered standard which would translate to f:5.6 DOF ( we`re talking here of S35 or APS-C ). Partly due to focus pullers margin of error ( try to pull moving halfshot at 1.4 ) and what`s more important to have enough of DOF to render human body and especially the head as cleary delined shape and not sharp eylash floating in the blurry baloon.
      If you shoot at,say f:4 to 5.6 is DOF not big enough to compensate for small AF errors? Of course astrography and distant landscapes shot at f:1.4 is a different thing.

      • I can think of very few reasons to shoot distant landscapes at f1.4 – there are few lenses that can isolate effectively at distance, and the optical tradeoffs are usually not worth it. As for f4-5.6 – it might not be with longer lenses; you don’t gain that much on say a 300mm, which is used far more often than most people think for those tight facial shots. The transition between in and out of focus is also very abrupt, which makes it doubly obvious when focus misses.

  19. Ming, I’ve had the CFV-50c since it’s release and use it principally with two 503cw bodies, CW winder and PME-51. That is my preferred set up for shooting. All of my lenses are either CFI/CFE. The 40mm FLE offers fantastic results, the 60mm is wonderful, the 100mm is the sharpest and best lens of them all, it renders fine detail and colour in an exceptional manner (highly recommended!). I also have the 120 (soft but excellent), 150mm (using less and less although excellent) and 180mm. Each of which are spectacular fittings. I have rarely used the stock 80mm since getting the 100mm. I carry at least 6-8 batteries when I travel. For solid focus and handling the CW winder and PME-51 are essential for my work.

    It’s great to see someone else with a similar kind of results. I have had some good conversations with Hasselblad over the past year and a half and I’m fairly certain we have an exciting roadmap up ahead for the V system and with new cameras. Perry is completely on about the authentic Hasselblad experience!

    To add to the conversation about GAP, once you’ve invested heavily in a system it really becomes redundant looking at other cameras. The interest is still there for me but essentially it’s about working with what you have and really trying to do extraordinary things with the equipment that you own. When I see all of these new Leica’s for instance I can’t help but feel its more of the same. Excellent cameras but no real new offerings. The V system for me offers a stable and classic photography approach and if you really work at it you can reproduce what you may have experienced via the same system with film. I have proven this and have shot only film with amazing results only to be able to now reproduce that look in digital with plugins and creative editing. It’s all great fun!

    Best wishes,

    Derek

    • I keep hearing good things about the 100 – should really try one. The 120 is best at close distances, and the 150 is a favourite. Do you find the PME51 has enough magnification though? I found anything other than the HC series finders to be a bit hit and miss.

      Agreed on the longevity of V – it’s a pity they discontinued it, but I agree with you on the roadmap 😉

      • Ming,

        Regarding the 120 Macro for the V System, you say it’s best at close distances; what distance would you say is its limit?

        As for viewfinders for the V, I find that the PME45 to be brilliant for eye relief, the best vf I have ever used in that regard. Only gripe I have with it is the magnification is only 2.5x; I reckon it should have been 3x at an absolute minimum and 3.5x or 4x would have been ideal.

        As for shooting portrait mode with a 45 degree viewfinder, that’s easy; almost as easy as shooting with a 90 degree finder. It’s just a matter of adjusting your head and/or stance position slightly.

        By the way, how are you finding the HC1 vf? It makes the cam look really sleek doesn’t it? :o)

        Oh, and one more thing…………..some bloody awesome images in this post of yours. The trees/landscape one made me swear out loud. Luckily I was on my own. I love it, it looks like a bloody painting. Gorgeous! :o)

        • I’ve never used the 120 past portrait distances; say 1.5m at most.

          PME45 is extremely disorientating if you need to turn the camera 90deg to use the digital back in portrait orientation. I could never get used to it…

          HC1 works very well, has better eye relief than the HC4 but not as much magnification.

          Images – thanks!

      • Pray tell more about the V roadmap – I have this system and would like to look forward to futher developments. I was afraid that the CFV-50c might be the final release before things were boarded up.

        🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

    • What is it you’re hearing gentlemen? 😉 I understand you can’t tell anything. Can you at least say if it’s going to be this year and V system related? I miss my digital back (sold it to fund other bits) and since then I took Hassy out only few times – not much time for developing and scanning.

  20. Mind blowing photography Ming. You were never better than now. If you ask me if the camera itself has any influence of how good a yield you bring home from a days shoot, my answer is a big yes.

    • Thanks Gerner – I think there are two things going on here; one self-curates a bit more, and there are some ideas that are now executable that weren’t previously mainly because of dynamic range…

  21. Hi Ming,

    Thanks for the interesting article.
    Just wondering…are all images (except the first two, off-course…) in the article taken with the H5D or also with the V-System?

  22. Now that you went Hasselblad route that almoust cured your GAS, the last secret wish would be digital X Pan for your filmic street shooting. Ask them H-bosses.

    • Actually, I really don’t find I have GAS these days…except perhaps for the 35-90, so I can carry one lens instead of three for most things. I’m quite happy using the H for street work (and have done) 🙂

  23. Good points and very informative as usual. Just a small note, I own a Sony a7rII and battery life is NOT at all as bad as you describe. I often do full day jobs and I always get away with just 3 batteries maximum, sometimes even 2, for a total of about 2.000 frames/day. This is repeatable and true. And image quality looks exceptional to me, even if sometimes I’ve rented a Pentax or an Hasselblad.

    • I’ve never seen anywhere near that kind of battery life, nor have people I’ve shot with – they also carry a sackful of batteries. I suppose it might be possible if you’re shooting bursts and JPEG…

      • I carry a sack of batteries. Mine is running 200 shots/battery approximately and depending a bit on how much I shut it off. So I go nowhere without bringing 6 batteries.

      • Not at all. I only shoot RAW, compressed or uncompressed judging from subject, client, situation. Never (or almost never) use bursts (I’m practically always in Single Image to keep all the 14bits). But I don’t have auto preview on and I’m not obsessed in chimping. I also don’t use WiFi and any in camera processing. Last week I also kept the rear screen on “Sunny” without any noticeable battery time loss. I’ve seen that the camera drains batteries even when not in use if has been on after inserting a fresh battery, so I’ve the habit of not turning it on after a battery replacement until I really need to use it, but it’s a very minor issue if you use it every day.

        • Hmmm…do you cycle power between shots? I wonder if the boot cycle might be the problem. On every other camera it’s usually more power efficient to keep the thing off between shots…

          • Leaving the camera on (with a short sleep time) is what I’m starting to do more often, but coming from DSLRs I just have the habit of turning it off sometimes. Anyway I’ve done some (not scientific) tests and looks like there’s not a big difference. I’ve noticed that longer battery times can be reached without stabilization, with IBIS on batteries drain faster. Those impressive shots numbers per battery were reached on tripod without IBiS and shooting with a USB cable release.

            • Makes sense, but surely having IBIS off defeats one of the key selling points of the A7R2? 🙂

              • Absolutely, but on tripod… I always use IBIS when handheld but handheld I also don’t usually do daylong sessions and battery life isn’t a problem at all, anyway. Not even a nuisance if (like me) you use a vertical grip that holds two. Anyway, I’d love to have an Hasselblad, but it’s way beyond reach here in Italy putting in the balance how much we’re paid for editorial/industrial and even adv work. And believe me, on print files from medium format and a Sony a7rII are impossible to distinguish if you know how the techs behind lenses / angles of view / perspective / position etc… And, finally, autofocus on the Sony is fantastic, if the subject doesn’t move too much (ok for my kind of work).

                • It’s the color and dynamic range that land up being different – and noticeably so – unless your printer/designer don’t do their jobs…

                  • In Italy they still can’t use an AdobeRGB profile properly. We still live in the “ignore profiles” world. sRGB is the only safe bet delivering files and sRGB is the worst possible color space to use for CMYK prep. It’s a battle lost in advance. Frankly Italy in 2016 is the worst place in the world to be a photographer.

  24. Ming, Thank-you for the article. It appears to have been a labor of love. Unlike the other reviews, you gave us two images of these beautiful cameras themselves. The other reviews had one image at most – some had none!

    When I started to read the article, a question sprung up in my mind. You answered this question, however, … namely …

    Q – In your work, could you shoot just as effectively with the 501CM + CFV-50c as the H5D-50c ?
    A – Technically, yes, but at reduced productivity.

    Q – Cheekily, I ask which of the two cameras do you prefer if you had to chose one? Or is this like choosing a favorite child?

    Q – Viewing of raw files on an iOS device via WiFi – Does the app provide the same level of sophistication in transformation of the raw file data (16-bit per channel data) to 8 bit per channel files for display as Phocus? As Lightroom? (As an aside, how much of a difference is there in this transformation between Lightroom and Phocus ?)

    Q – What is the chrome grip (?) or rest (?) on the righthand side of the 501CM seen in the second image ??

    Q – What “electronic glitches” affected your 501CM + CFV-50c?

    Q – How much do you feel the absence of V-series lenes wider than 40mm (discounting the fisheye lens)?

    Q – Could you please provide me with advice on an unrelated matter that I was looking at today – There appear to be some smudges, spots, and grime between the IR filter glass and the outer surface of the sensor on my CFV II 16MP sensor. Can this be cleaned by a technical specialist? Must the digital back be returned to Hasselblad overseas for a long sojourn ? Not a very pleasant or practical process from Australia for somebody wishing to get on with using the back.

    🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

    • Thanks. Your questions:

      Q – In your work, could you shoot just as effectively with the 501CM + CFV-50c as the H5D-50c ?
      A – Yes, except if you need wide lenses or movements – there is nothing easily accessible wider than 38mm for V, and nothing less than 60mm with movements (40mm + 1.4 PC Mutar). On H, you’ve got 36mm with movements and 24mm without.

      Q – Cheekily, I ask which of the two cameras do you prefer if you had to chose one? Or is this like choosing a favorite child?
      A – I used to think it was the V. The more I shoot with the H, the more I prefer it…

      Q – Viewing of raw files on an iOS device via WiFi – Does the app provide the same level of sophistication in transformation of the raw file data (16-bit per channel data) to 8 bit per channel files for display as Phocus? As Lightroom? (As an aside, how much of a difference is there in this transformation between Lightroom and Phocus ?)
      A – Hard to say, because there’s no way to do a direct comparison on the iPad. However, it’s enough to determine exposure and critical focus – which I think is the intended use (other than just to let clients see what’s going on without a wire and laptop).

      Q – What is the chrome grip (?) or rest (?) on the righthand side of the 501CM seen in the second image ??
      A – Something I designed myself and had machined. You need a grip to use the 90deg finder otherwise there’s no way to comfortable hold the camera, and you need the 90deg finder because the recording medium is now rectangular instead of square. 🙂

      Q – What “electronic glitches” affected your 501CM + CFV-50c?
      A – Live view wasn’t working properly, and it occasionally corrupted files. The new one is fine.

      Q – How much do you feel the absence of V-series lenes wider than 40mm (discounting the fisheye lens)?
      A – Not that much because I only use it for personal work, and have no problem working around it. Most of the time I’m using either 50 or 150mm; however if I was to do my usual professional work with it, then I’d be stuck without a wide shift option.

      Q – Could you please provide me with advice on an unrelated matter that I was looking at today – There appear to be some smudges, spots, and grime between the IR filter glass and the outer surface of the sensor on my CFV II 16MP sensor. Can this be cleaned by a technical specialist? Must the digital back be returned to Hasselblad overseas for a long sojourn ? Not a very pleasant or practical process from Australia for somebody wishing to get on with using the back.
      A – That filter is very fragile. I would send it back. Better yet, do it through the local reps and see if they can lend you a CFV-50c to demo in the meantime… 🙂

      • Hi there again, Ming.

        Thank-you so much for your comments, answers and advice. If I may ask, I have a further question …

        Q – You mention taking a large number of images in one session. What software tool(s) do you use to “triage” a shoot with several thousand images? Phocus? Lightroom? Photo Mechanic (except I don’t think that it can handle 3FR raw files)? Other (e.g., CaptureOne)? …

        🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

        • Bridge, most of the time, or if it’s a studio/static shoot, then the iPad and Phocus Mobile over wifi – easy to evaluate images and you can rate from the iPad, which then sticks once you import.

          • Much obliged as always for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

            By the way, I have followed up with the Hasselblad representatives in Australia as you suggested regarding my “sick” CFV II 16MP digital back. I sent them a “dark frame” image to demonstrate the sensor noise. They responded quickly advising that it appeared that the IR glass needed to be replaced. Cost A$770 (about US$500) and total time of 4 weeks for shipping to Hasselblad Sweden, repair, and return to Australia.

            🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

            • Ouch – not a disaster, but not so bad. Did you manage to get a demo for at least part of that time to try out the -50c?

              • Still working on the demo CFV-50c – that would be the bright light. A bit of a hit, but no choice really – wouldn’t walk away from the CFV II 16MP for this amount. I find the 4 weeks to be more of a personal issue – will try very, very hard for that “loaner”. I don’t have your (talent !!) relationships with Hasselblad and their representatives, so the CFV-50c might be a bit of a stretch.

                🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

                • Just dropped you an email…;)

                  • Hi there Ming.

                    You are way to kind and caring. As indicated by return email, your assistance resulted in me making contact with the Hasselblad representatives in Australia by telephone. I have been so impressed by
                    (1) the performance of the CFV-50c that you have demonstrated,
                    (2) the integration of my CFV II 16MP digital back into the 500 / V series experience, and
                    (3) the support that the Hasselblad people and user community provide …
                    that I made the decision to PURCHASE a CFV-50c!

                    You have trully done your work as a Hasselblad Ambassador.

                    I await delivery … eagerly.

                    🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

                    • Congratulations! I’m now going to chase down that commission haha. Enjoy – and you’re going to feel incredibly liberated when you switch to the new back.

                    • stephen says:

                      hi Richard,
                      i read about the impressive Hasselblad rep in Australia, and wonder if you can share their contact over.

                      few weeks ago i have made an unscheduled walkin to CR Kennedy Sydney office. unfortunately no one can help me b/c their only rep is on annual leave. i couldn’t even get a brochure, never mind pricing.

                      stephen

                    • Let me put you in touch directly. Have sent you an email…

  25. Wonderful shots in this article, and an excellent read. Love to read about the hasselblads in use. Unfortunately my wallet cannot yet spring for such a cost, but maybe someday. At least I get joy in seeing them used well.

  26. I can see why you love medium format. The detail in the full resolution samples are amazing. You can even the detailed outline of the fishing rods at the end of the pier.

    I’ve started to do some experimenting with 4×5 and I’m also blown away by the amount of detail it can produce. And I use a cheap 150 mm Fujinon lens, cheap Fomapan 100 film and a flatbed negative scanner. I wonder what results you could get out a Zeiss Planar, some fine grain Ilford Delta film and a drum scanner…

  27. Ming, big fan here. I read everything you post. Although, I must admit, it’s not an easy task for a man with not a perfect vision.
    Do you post your texts anywhere else? Maybe on Facebook? It’s a sort of a torture to read here. I zoom your pages but lines won’t scale correctly. You might not know it but more than 50% of population has problems with vision. So it would be only fair if you thought about as too. LOL Thanks.

  28. Wonderful Article Ming! The images are amazing. Glad to see you are enjoying your equipment. Best Wishes – Eric

  29. I have a little theory which I’d like to share. When you review or write about a camera, we can often tell what you think of it without reading the actual words. For instance, when you reviewed the Sigma DP Quattro (and if I remember the conclusion, it was basically “amazing IQ at the expense of pretty much everything else”) I remember thinking that the pictures you took with it were nice (and technically spot on, as usual), but that there was something about them that felt slightly like “I have to take some pictures to go with the review, so here we go”. Whereas when you get a camera you really click with (pardon the pun), your pictures really bring out the dropped-jaw, wow-factor. Case in point: the shots in this article. A number of these pictures rank, for me, among the best images I’ve seen on your site, and I’ve been following it for some four years.

    In regard to the digital back on the film body, is this basically an upgraded version of what you used in your Tokyo video? I do like the idea of this combination of old and new and while I can’t yet justify buying a digital back (either financially or in terms of ability), it’s something to think about for the future. I’m spoiled by the base ISO IQ of my DP3 Merrill, and the idea of getting similar or better IQ with a different shooting style is quite exciting.

    • Thank you. I think it’s actually a case of volume: if I’m reviewing something that doesn’t fit, it’ll be clear fairly early on it doesn’t work. If it works, I’ll be at least hundreds – if not thousands – of images in under my normal shooting regimen, which of course makes selecting eight or ten for illustrating a review much easier. I should also hope the more recent work is better than the earlier stuff! 🙂

      The digital back is a newer version of the one I used in Tokyo, yes – that was 39MP on a 49×37 CCD instead of 50MP on a 44x33mm CMOS. The older back was basically usable at ISO 50, 100 and 200 at a pinch – and without microlenses, halve that in reality. The new one is still good at a true 6400, and matches my H5D in image quality – same architecture and sensor.

  30. “I suppose this is a good sign…read on if you wish to put your wallet at risk.” Challenge accepted Sir!! Glad to hear your loving your switch over 🙂 and thanks for keeping us in the loop of your experience.

Trackbacks

  1. […] assignment was shot with a mix of hardware – my usual Hasselblad H5D-50c and the 35-90mm and 24mm when on-site or in places where I had setup time; otherwise, the Nikon […]

  2. […] used with kind permission of Chun Wo Construction Holdings Limited, Hong Kong. Shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, X1D-50c, H24, H35-90, H150II and X90mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

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  5. […] image quality and specificity of purpose – yes, they’re older cameras – a Hasselblad H5D-50c and 501CM/CFV-50c, to be […]

  6. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

  7. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, 50, 100 and 150mm HC lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

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  10. […] review of the back (same internals as the H5D) is here, and guide to the V system […]

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  20. […] series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

  21. […] series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

  22. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and H6D-50c and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. With thanks to Chun Wo […]

  23. […] series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

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  38. […] Australian coast on the Indian Ocean between Geraldton and Francois Peron National Park. I used a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in […]

  39. […] series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. […]

  40. […] series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. […]

  41. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in […]

  42. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c with various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow […]

  43. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various HC lenses and processed with the Cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images […]

  44. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass […]

  45. […] series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 28, 50 and 100mm lenses – plus occasionally the 1.7x teleconverter. Postprocessing was with […]

  46. […] think, and a lot more solid-feeling. You can see that the frontal cross-section is similar to a H5 or H6, but the depth corresponds to something that’s lost the mirror box, larger card slots, […]

  47. […] of lenses for a while now, I wanted to round off the post from a couple of days ago (which was my mid term assessment of the camera) with some more detailed comments on the lenses – especially since practical reviews of these […]

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