Hasselblad H3DII-50 Announced
World's First 50 Megapixel Back
Hasselblad has announced the H3DII-50, its latest medium format camera and back. The H3DII-50 is the same camera as before, it's really the back that's new. The news is, obviously, that this back features a standard sized 36X48mm with a new 50 Megapixel Kodak sensor. Hasselblad is indicating delivery in Q1 2009.
The company is currently offering a promotion, till the end of September, in which if you buy a H3DII-39 now you can receive a free lens of your choice and an upgrade to a H3DII-50 when it becomes available for the difference in list price between the two backs.
Obviously there's little more to be said about the back itself and what can be expected in terms of performance and image quality until test samples are available.
Hasselblad HTS 1.5
Another exciting new product is a tilt-shift adaptor designed to accept existing medium to wide angle Hasselblad lenses, the HTS 1.5. The adaptor can be used with Hasselblad 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm lenses and will cost EUR 3,600.
Though at first it seems theoretically impossible to create such a device for an existing camera and lenses because the lens to focal plan distance is of necessity altered, this has been done before by Zeiss with the PC-Mutar 1.4X.
There is no indication at this time, at least based on Hasselblad's published specs, whether the HTS 1.5 will work with H1 and H2 cameras. I hope that Hasselblad is forthcoming with a clarification on this soon. If it is possible, I for one will be very pleased, and will buy one right away, as I imagine countless other H1 and H2 owners will as well.
HVC View Camera Solution
One of the concerns that some photographs have had with Hasselblad's current backs are that they do not have their own batteries, instead deriving their power from the camera's battery grip. This is a welcome feature when the back is used with an H3D or H3DII body, but means that there is no convenient way of powering the back so that it can be used with a technical or view camera.
Hasselblad's new HVC addresses that concern in a clever way. Looking much like other maker's sliding adaptors, it has a connector so that a camera battery grip can be attached as well, powering the back.
There is no price or availability information as yet, and since the image above appears to be a simulation rather than an actual product shot I can only assume that it will be a while until this reaches the market. A welcome addition nevertheless.
The 50MP Kodak Chip
For the moment that's about all that's known officially about the 50MP back. I have spoken though with Kodak's sensor division in Rochester, and here's a bit more information on the new 50MP sensor that Hasselblad is using.
This new 50MP CCD chip, the KAF-50100, has 6 micron photo sites, down from 6.8 microns in the 39MP sensor. According to Kodak this reduction in size has been accomplished without reducing the dynamic range or noise floor, which remains the same as with the previous 39MP chip at 70db. Several new Kodak technologies dubbed Truesense are involved.
Other changes include a new red pigment in the Bayer array which is said to provide greater colour accuracy. The chip also features 4 separate channel readouts which allows the chip to operate at 1 FPS.
Apparently this chip features a global reset capability that allows it to more quickly flush and become ready for the next shot. This also reduces power consumption since less clock cycles are required between frames.
Who Needs a 50MP Sensor?
As nice as the new sensor sounds, the question is asked – Who needs a %$%#@ 50MP sensor anyway? In fact there are ongoing discussions currently on many web forums (including this site's) on this very topic. It almost seems as if there's a backlash underway against such a high resolution chip.
I find this hard to understand, but there may be two factors at work. The first is from within the DSLR crowd. 50MP is so far beyond what is now available in a 35mm format camera, and likely will always be so given the price, that there may be a bit of sour grapes at work.
For those that already own 30 – 39MP MF backs, it may be the – "Oh shit, I now have to spend even more money to keep up with the Jonses. Will it never stop?" (Answer – No!)
And of course there's the ever-popular – "I don't need it so I can't imagine why anyone else would, therefore it must be crap," attitude so often seen on tribal web forums.
Regardless of the motivation, I do sense an undercurrent of annoyance that we are being sold more and more megapixels while what people really seem to want in medium format backs is higher ISO capability, faster frame rates, and lower noise at other than base ISO.
As for me, I have mixed feelings. My 39MP back provides incredible image quality and file sizes as big as I likely will ever need. But, a larger sensor means the ability to make even bigger prints, and more importantly to crop while still retaining sufficient detail. For some shooters – those able to plan their shots in studio or on location, this latter requirement may not be a factor, but for those of us shooting landscape and nature it is frequently the case.
In any event, there's a constituency that will always find larger and higher resolution sensors appealing. Count me among them. And as for whether 50MP is the end of the line for now; no – likely not. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see more announcements before or at Photokina.