Magazine Article


Great News for Medium-Format Shooters



Hasselblad H1 645 AF Camera Specs:

• Maximum sync speed is 1/800 second; sync at all shutter speeds as shutter is in lens

• Shutter speed range is 18 hours to 1/800 second, B and T

• Features include a self-timer and interval timer

• Camera prewinds film to first frame

• Camera automatically winds film after last frame is shot

• Camera can read Fujifilm DX coding and set film speed automatically

• Exposure data, etc. visible in LCD screen on hand grip

In 1948 Victor Hasselblad, a nature photographer, created the 6x6 medium-format camera system that bears his name. And for almost 50 years, Hasselblad cameras offered only the square 6x6 format. With the introduction of the H1, a 645 format autofocus camera system, Hasselblad has entered the 21st century.

To distinguish between the three camera systems the company now offers, Hasselblad has renamed its 6x6 system the "V" system, the X-Pan is now the "X" system, and the new H1 plus its accessories is designated the "H" system. Simple enough.

The H1 system offers four lenses: HC f/3.5-4.5 50-100mm zoom, HC f/2.8 80mm, HC f/3.2 150mm, and HC f/3.5 35mm. Three additional lenses will be available next year: HC f/4 210mm, HC f/4 120mm, HC f/3.5 50mm.

The system also includes a Polaroid back and digital backs. Kodak's DCS 645H and Phase One's H101 digital backs work seamlessly with the H1 to provide digital imaging. For photographers who own Hasselblad "V" series cameras, the H1 will accommodate the manual Carl Zeiss lenses with an adapter that's scheduled for release this summer.

Putting the H1 to the Test

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to shoot with the H1 at the New York Botanical Gardens. While the autumn winds were howling outside, it was warm and dry inside. After a brief introduction to the basic workings of the camera, I set to wandering the gardens in search of subjects. The H1 can be used with minimal or total control required by the photographer. The camera controls are well laid out, all dials within fingertip reach.

The built-in meter offers spot, center-weighted, and average-metering patterns. Most of the time, I kept it on center-weighted. Shooting modes include two program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and full-manual modes. The control freak that I am, I had to use the camera on manual, though I did give in and shoot with the program mode, as well. Regardless of selected mode, the camera's built-in meter was right on, for consistently exposed images every time. Focusing can be automatic or manual. I used the camera's auto-focus the entire time. It's quick, accurate, and had no problem in low-light or low-contrast scenes. The lenses produced sharp images and crisp, vivid colors.

New Ease-of-Use Features

Designed from the ground up as a separate camera system from the Hasselblad square-format cameras, the H1 incorporates brand-new features to make the photographer's life easier. For example, the same film back is used for both 120 and 220 film. This is a great space saver, since you can carry one back for the two film formats.

I know I'm not the first person to scamper around a crowded dance floor looking for the darkslide that slipped out of a pocket. With the H1, this scenario is history because the darkslide is incorporated into the film back. And when the darkslide is down, and you put your eye to the camera and try to shoot, you see a message in the viewfinder telling you the slide is down.

One of my favorite features is a built-in, pop-up fill flash. Most often found on amateur cameras, the pop-up has been showing up on pro models recently. For fill-flash it provides just the right amount of light and you don't have to burden yourself with a full-sized external flash. And it's adjustable, allowing the power to be increased or decreased.

A great custom feature on the H1 is its ability to keep track of the number of frames that have gone through each lens, body, and film back. The camera can also tally the number of times the built-in flash has been popped open. Another handy feature: data can be imprinted on the edge of the film, including exposure information, date/time, and text, such as the photographer's name or job information.

I found the Hasselblad H1 a joy to use. Hasselblad has married the simplicity of 35mm SLRs with the quality of medium-format. The H1 gives the photographer the speed and spontanaety of 35mm without sacrificing the beauty of a larger film size.

Alas, medium-format photographers no longer have to be slowed down by their equipment.

For more information on the Hasselblad H1,

(Left) The Kodak DCS Pro Back 645H features a 16- megapixel sensor that can generate a 12-bit image or 96MB RGB file; ISO range is 100-400. The back doesn't have to be tethered to a computer and features a full-color LCD screen for image review.

(Right) The Phase One H101, featuring an 11- megapixel CCD sensor, integrates with the Hasselblad H1 so histograms and ISO values can be displayed on the small LCD on the grip of the H1. ISO range: 100-400.