Hasselblad to slash digital SLR prices

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In an interview with dPhotoexpert at photokina, Cologne, Hasselblad CEO Christian Poulsen revealed that the company is to cut the recommended prices of its H3DII digital medium-format SLR bodies by up to €10,000.

This move may see Hasselblad H3DII 22 megapixel kits sell for around the same prices as digital packages based around the Mamiya 645 system despite the higher basic cost of the Hasselblad H-series bodies. The HD3II 31-megapixel kit including 80mm lens is now priced at £9,450+VAT, announced today on Hasselblad websites.

He also said that the V-series classic Hasselblad system would take a subordinate place in future plans; the success of the integrated H-system, which allows corrections to be made for lenses and in turn permits freedom to design the lenses for sharpness as other corrections are made in software, is such that it is their only way forward.

The discounts will not apply to the range of lenses, which are already competitively priced relative to high resolution designs for 35mm-based DSLR systems.

Two new optical units were unveiled at photokina – a 35-90mm zoom, which benefits from controlled digital corrections across its entire range via the camera’s software, and a 1.5X tilt-shift convertor usable with any lens in the system including thew 28mm wide-angle. Chip information enables the HD models to compensate for the extra light shading, and emphasis of edge-of-field distortions, produced when using extreme shifts. The assembly of the adaptor and its controls resemble the Hasselblad ArcBody in many ways, and the 18mm rise/18mm fall adjustment is generous.

With Leica previewing their 30 x 45mm sensor S2, also using Kodak imaging technology and aimed at the same market sector as the Hasselblad models, Christian Poulsen confirmed that future developments with their 22, 31, 39 and now 50 megapixel sensors might improve the shooting rate.

“We are fortunate that the H-series was originally designed for film and the shutter-mirror mechanism could be capable of 5 frames per second, but we do not think that is needed. The present one frame every 1.2 seconds is satisfactory, though it would be good to improve on it.

“Although we have introduced a 50 megapixel back, the quality from all of the backs is good enough to ensure them a long life. Anyone buying a Hasselblad H-series digital system now may still be using it in ten years’ time, or more, just as they did with V-series Hasselblads.

“The H lenses are made in Japan, but the only part which is subject to wear – the shutter assembly – is manufactured in Sweden and assembled into the lens, which comes back to Sweden for testing and quality control. Like any shutters they should be serviced about every 100,000 pictures.

“Our Phocus software continues to be entirely free for everyone who has bought a Hasselblad digital system. We do not charge anything for the software when the camera is bought, or for upgrades.”

Poulsen agreed, in discussion, that the arrival of models like the Canon 5D MkII, Nikon D700 and Sony Alpha 900 in the higher end of the amateur sector meant that their traditional customers – working professionals – were no longer comfortable being seen to use 35mm-systems. Sales in the medium format market were increasing because of professionals switching to to type of camera their customers were not likely to own.

“We have always given owners of earlier digital models special discounts for trading-in to replace them with the latest model”, he explained, “but this has not been fair to new buyers moving over from other systems. We will no longer be offering the upgrade discounts, but the cameras will be lower in price.”

This would mean it actually cost about the same to upgrade, but much less to get into the system. Poulsen explained that in the past, sensor technology was improving so much that each new generation made the last one worth almost nothing. If they took an older back in part-exchange, it could not be resold and might end up just being scrapped. But the H models all used a mature technology and were not made obsolete just because higher pixel counts were introduced – the photographer should choose the model according to requirements and only a few would have a need for 50 megapixels. So all these cameras had a normal second-hand value for sale or dealer trade in, and no special upgrade path was needed; photographers could sell or keep as they wished, and invest in new bodies at lower prices if they chose to.

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