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THE HASSELBLAD H5D 50C WIFI VS. THE PHASE ONE XF IQ350

By: Michael Clark

Before purchasing the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi last December, I did a ton of research and tried out both the H5D 50c WiFi and the Phase One XF/IQ350 camera systems before making any decisions. I realize there are a very small number of people out there that shoot with either of these systems or even care about a comparison of these two cameras. But, for those that do, here I will offer up my thoughts on these two state of the art camera systems. When I was doing research, I found nothing out there comparing the H5D and the Phase One XF directly. I found independent reviews of both but no comparisons. Hence, for those few making the move to medium format, what follows are my thoughts and experiences with both systems.

Right up front, I want to make sure folks understand I am not here to bash one brand or another. My aim is to share what I learned in the process of trying out these cameras. I will call it like I saw it. But, I will also say this, I only had one afternoon with the Phase One XF and the IQ350 back and I had five days to try out the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi before deciding to purchasing that system. Since I purchased the Hasselblad you might sense a bit of bias towards that system, and you’d be right, but here I will point out the upsides and downsides of each system. I will also relay some feedback from Phase One and Hasselblad users I spoke with about their experiences using these cameras. Because I didn’t have as much time shooting with the Phase One, I ask that any Phase One owners correct me if I am wrong about certain aspects of the Phase One XF by posting comments below.

Let’s start out by saying neither camera is perfect. Both have their upsides and their downsides. Both are capable of creating incredible images with detail no DSLR can touch. These are also both extremely expensive camera systems. At the moment, the H5D 50c WiFi sells for $16,500 USD, which is far below it’s original price of $28,500 USD. I am fairly certain that this low pricing on the H5D 50c WiFi is because Hasselblad wants to bring in a lot of new medium format shooters (like myself) and also that they are going to announce the H6D (or whatever the next version of this camera will be named) at some point later this year. In this interview with Perry Oosting, the CEO of Hasselblad hinted quite openly about a new 100 MP camera during the interview. Just to be up front with readers, I purchased the H5D 50c WiFi during the December sale when it was $14,500 USD, which is a heck of a deal for that system. The Phase One XF and IQ350 digital back goes for $34,990 USD at the moment. When I was considering both systems the Phase One XF / IQ350 went for $40,990 USD. Suffice it to say that right now the Phase One XF/IQ350 setup is significantly pricier than the Hasselblad.

As a side note here, I did not consider the Pentax 645Z, which uses the same 50 MP CMOS sensor as the Phase One IQ350 and the Hasselblad 50c WiFi digital backs because the 645Z has a flash sync of only 1/125th second. One of the important factors in my decision to go with a medium format digital camera was the ability to sync with strobes at higher shutter speeds using a central shutter built into the lens and this isn’t an option with the Pentax system, which is why I did not consider it. By comparison, the H5D can sync with strobes up to 1/800th second and the Phase One can sync with strobes up to 1/1600th second with certain lenses. For those that do not need this option then the Pentax is an excellent camera system to consider and it is also quite a bit less expensive.

In comparing these camera systems, I will list the pros and cons of each camera for a variety of important features. Let’s start out with the autofocus capabilities as that is a huge issue for all medium format cameras.

AUTOFOCUS

Autofocus is a feature that needs to be incredibly accurate when using cameras of this caliber. Because of the 50 MP resolution, and the extremely sharp lenses made by both manufacturers, missing focus by even a few millimeters can sometimes make the difference between getting the image or major frustration. Both manufacturers advertise the accuracy and reliability of their autofocus systems as a core feature. Both of these cameras also have a single autofocus point in the center of the viewfinder. Hence, to set your focus off-center you have to rely on the focus and recompose method. Both also have impressive viewfinders and built-in options to add a diopter adjustment to the viewfinder for those that don’t want to wear glasses while shooting.

When I tested out the Phase One XF, I got only 7 images out 200 in focus using that camera’s Honeybee autofocus system. It wasn’t as if all of those 193 other images were way out of focus, but they weren’t critically sharp where I intended for the focus to be. Some images were way off and some were only slightly off but they were off enough that it wasn’t a useable image. I had the XF set up with the focus being initiated by holding down the shutter release half-way. Once focus was achieved you could then recompose the image and push the shutter all the way down to capture the image. I have since been told that the better method is to use a back-focusing method where you set a button on the back of the grip to initiate focus and use the shutter release to snap the photo. I did not have time to test this out so I hope some Phase One users can chime in here and give us their experiences using the back focusing method. I use this back focusing method with the H5D and it’s True Focus technology and it works very well. Also, Phase One has a few options where you can set up the Hyperlocal distance settings for each lens, which allows you to optimize the amount of Depth of Field (relative to the infinity setting) and automatically recall this setting. I did not have time to play with this feature but that is a pretty nice feature to have when shooting with wide angle lenses.

With the Hasselblad, I have had a much higher percentage of in-focus images, up at around 80%. Usually, if the image is out of focus with the Hasselblad it’s pilot error. The True Focus II technology built into the H5D works. It takes some time to get the hang of it and not rotate the camera forward but rotate it on axis so the camera doesn’t move closer or farther from the subject, but once you get the hang of it, the True Focus works well. In fact, it works so well that I shoot a lot untethered and don’t worry too much about the autofocus.

Neither camera has what I would call stellar autofocus. For that matter, no medium format camera that I have ever shot with has stellar autofocus. Both are slow and take some time to get the focus nailed down. In low light situations the XF performed extremely poorly, worse than a mirrorless system. By contrast the Hasselblad could still focus accurately but did so at a slower pace.

In talking with a few Phase One photographers, whom I won’t name, I heard them talk openly about autofocus issues with the XF. One photographer said he doesn’t trust it and focuses manually using the live view all the time. The other, who has shot extensively with the Phase One DF+ and tried out the XF, said the Honeybee autofocus system was a step backwards and seemed worse than the DF+, which was known to be a spotty AF system.

The Clear winner here is the Hasselblad H5D.

IMAGE QUALITY

Both cameras use the same 50-megapixel CMOS sensor, so you would assume that the image quality is fairly similar. In my experience, I found the images coming out of the Phase One XF/IQ350 to be a bit softer than the H5D 50c WiFi. I know there are a lot of people out there that swear by the Phase One backs so I was pretty surprised by the images I was comparing. I was also quite surprised at the huge amount of capture sharpening that Capture One applied to the images by default. This seemed to only highlight the softness of the images when I turned off the capture sharpening.

Since I did not shoot the exact same scenes with both cameras I won’t show any comparison images here. Also, there are so many factors that come into play that can make for soft images, especially when comparing high-resolution medium format digital cameras. The XF is slightly heavier, and I shot with it mostly handheld. The lenses are physically bigger as well and the large shutters in the lenses could have created more camera shake at the instant the shutter was released. To really know if this was an issue I would have to have both systems locked down on a tripod and then look at the resulting images.

For this comparison, and at low ISOs, meaning anything around ISO 400 and below, I will call it a tie on the image quality. Though, I will say I preferred the image quality out of the 50c WiFi over the IQ350.

HIGH ISO NOISE

Because both of these cameras incorporate the first CMOS sensor for medium format cameras, there was a lot of hoopla about how great they are at high ISOs. As we covered in the last section on image quality, at their lowest ISO settings, the image quality was a tie. At higher ISOs, I found the H5D 50c WiFi to be significantly better than the IQ350. As shown below, at ISO 6400, the H5D 50c WiFi (left) shows significantly less noise than the IQ350 (right). At ISO 6400, the IQ350 has a strange blotchy pattern to it that is quite ugly, while the H5D 50c WiFi has a grain-like structure to the noise that is much nicer and easier to deal with when using noise reduction software.

To create the comparison images above, note that both cameras were locked down on a tripod and both had the mirror up. Both of the above images were shot at ISO 6400. This comparison was pulled up in Lightroom. The H5D 50c WiFi is a raw image without any adjustments. The Phase One XF/IQ350 image was exported out of Capture One as a full resolution TIFF file with no adjustments. No noise reduction or adjustments were applied to either image. To see a full resolution image file of this screenshot click here or on the image above. The difference is quite noticeable when you view the larger version of this image.

In talking with a Phase One user, he told me that with the IQ350 he never goes above ISO 1600 because there is too much noise for his taste at those higher ISOs. That was my conclusion as well when looking at the IQ350 files I shot at every ISO setting. With my Hasselblad, I wouldn’t hesitate to go up to ISO 6400 (and I do often when shooting handheld outdoors) because the noise is so smooth and can easily be removed in Lightroom using the noise reduction sliders.

In my testing, the Hasselblad clearly outshines the Phase One IQ350 at high ISOs.

ERGONOMICS

Both of these cameras are gorgeous, well made pieces of art. The Phase One XF is clearly the more modern looking of the two and it is a marvel of engineering. The touch screen LCDs on the XF give it a sleek, clean look that is very enticing. I will get into the user interface and touch screen displays in the next section. Here, I will discuss the ergonomics of the two cameras including how they feel, how they are balanced and the control layout.

As can be seen above, both have right angle viewfinders, a beefy grip and controls in similar locations. The Hasselblad weighs in at 1,815 g while the XF comes in at 2,085 g, so there is a 270 gram difference (roughly half a pound). The weight difference mostly comes down to the fact that the XF has two batteries on board – one in the camera grip and one in the back. The XF feels larger in the hands than the H5D. The XF grip also feels larger. For my hands, the grip on the H5D was much nicer than the XF. On the XF, there is a bump on the top of the grips backside (visible in the images above and below) that seems fairly odd and forces your hand to be cocked at a strange angle. I have large hands so maybe for smaller hands that works well, I am not sure. Either way, I prefer the grip on the H5D.

In the hand, the noticeable weight difference of the XF and the larger lenses, make it a beast to handhold. I am a rock climber who is decently fit, so my arms aren’t weak by any means but with some of the massive lenses, like the new 120mm f/4 Macro “blue line” lens from Schneider, handholding the Phase One XF was a chore. I also noticed that the extra battery in the back made the camera feel off-balance compared to the H5D, whose sole battery is in the grip. I found the H5D much better balanced overall. I will say that when I tried it out, I really wanted to fall in love with the Phase One XF. The marketing materials had me all amped up to love this camera, but it was not to be. The ergonomics and the focusing issues really turned me off quickly while testing it out.

In terms of the control layout, I am not sure I had enough time with the Phase One XF to really decisively critique this part of the camera. In my time with it, I found it easy to adjust the big three exposure options: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. The XF has quite a few buttons and many of them can be customized so with time you could customize the buttons to your liking. Because of the touch screen interface, I was constantly finding that I changed settings on the top LCD or the back without even knowing I had changed anything. That was annoying. With the H5D, the ergonomics seem to have been worked out more thoroughly. Without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder, it seemed fairly easy to figure out which button you are touching and make adjustments on the fly.

USER INTERFACE

As I just mentioned in the last section, the touch screen interface on the XF is whiz-bang cool and looks phenomenal, but in practice I found it to be less practical than the old-school buttons on the H5D. Of course, you can lock the touch screen out so that you won’t accidentally change anything but then if you actually need to change something you have to undo that to access those settings again. I have talked with a few other photographers that have had the same experience with the touch screen displays on the XF. With the H5D, you can change settings without moving your eye away from the viewfinder. With the XF, unless you have certain functions set up with a custom button this is difficult if not impossible to do. Need the mirror up? With the H5D you don’t have to take your eye away from the viewfinder. Need to do that on the XF, you have to very precisely touch the top LCD and you’ll have to look at it to do so.

With the above said, and as you can see below, the actual touch screen interface is pretty phenomenal aside for the issue of accidentally changing settings. The Phase One LCD on the back of the camera and on the top of the grip is incredible. It looks like the screen on a Retina iPhone. The simple four button interface on the sides of the digital back, along with the touch screen options, is simple, elegant and easy to use and navigate. The Phase One LCD displays are a dream compared to the ancient LCD on the back of the Hasselblad. The quality of the LCD on the Phase One is what every camera in this category should have on it.

The Phase One IQ350 back (and all of their current digital backs) are also packed with useful options and features like focus peaking, exposure color charts, and the ability to focus accurately using the live view mode. There is also a feature built into the XF camera body that acts as a seismograph and won’t trigger the camera until all vibrations have quieted down. That is a great feature for landscape photographers. In addition, Phase One has also integrated features that aid the photographer when shooting with HDR techniques, photo stacking, and time-lapse.

The LCD on the back of the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi is ancient. It is so low resolution it is almost laughable for a camera of this caliber. Luckily, you can sync the H5D 50c WiFi to your iPhone or iPad and check focus really easily but that is a workaround. The LCD on the digital back is barely useable but it does work for checking focus, setting up the shot in live view and checking the histogram. It is also possible to use Live View to focus manually with the H5D even though it is a lower res screen. The quality of the LCD is the achilles heel of the Hasselblad system. It seriously needs to be upgraded and if it isn’t upgraded on the H6D then there will be some boisterous howling on the part of Hasselblad users who are looking to upgrade. When viewing images on the LCD, they appear quite contrasty. Hence, aside from the ability to check focus, viewing the image on the digital back won’t tell you much about the image save for composition.

The LCD display on the top of the H5D’s grip is less horrific. It tells you all that you need to know but the menu system is clunky and difficult to maneuver through. Regardless of the pixelated nature of the top LCD on the H5D, it is well thought out for the basic functions. For example, when you put the mirror up on the H5D it stays up until you put it down. You have to put it up for every shot on the XF.

As for the WiFi option on both of these cameras, I have only tested the Hasselblad WiFi option and did not have time to test out the WiFi capabilities of the IQ350 back. From what I have seen with the Hasselblad, this is an excellent feature that I will be using often. On assignments, even those in remote locations, I can hand the art director an iPad and they can see everything that is being shot right then and there. I have heard Phase One photographers speak of similar great experiences with the IQ350, which may have even better WiFi capabilities than the 50c WiFi.

In terms of looks alone, the Phase One wins this category hands down but when you add in usability, I feel like the Hasselblad is more intuitive. Hence, what you shoot and how you work will determine which of these user interfaces will work best for your needs. At this price point, no one just goes out and buys one of these cameras without trying out a few different options–or at least I would hope they don’t. This is one of those things that is a personal preference. Some will prefer the Phase One others will prefer the Hasselblad.

FLASH SYNC SPEEDS

One of the best features of both of these camera systems is that they can sync with flash at high shutter speeds. This is a big reason why professionals choose a medium format system over 35mm DSLRs. To achieve this, the lenses for both systems have built in central leaf shutters. The H5D can sync at up to 1/800th second and the Phase One can sync up to 1/1600th second with certain lenses. The caveat with the Phase one, as told to me by the rep I worked with, is that the larger lenses have such huge leaf shutters they can really only sync up to 1/1000th second, not the 1/1600th second some of the smaller lenses can. You won’t find this caveat in the Phase One marketing materials for the XF or in any of the marketing materials for the Schneider-Kreuznach lenses. The rep told me that especially the larger new “Blue Line” lenses, like the new 35mm f/3.5 LS  and the 120mm f/4 LS Macro, will not really sync above 1/100th second. Interestingly, on the Phase One website, the specs say that these lenses can sync at up to 1/1600th second. I’d love to hear from Phase One XF users who have tested these new lenses. If this is the case, then this makes the systems a bit more equal on the flash sync speeds.

The bigger question is will either camera work with your flashes. We had a hell of a time getting the Phase One XF to sync at anything above 1/250th second with my Elinchrom strobes. In the end it was a matter of the transmitters we tried not being up to task–and we tried three different brand transmitters. The Phase One dealer had never worked with Elinchrom strobes so they did not have any experience to help out on this front. After doing some research, I finally figured out what the issues were and found that with the new Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transmitter in Speed mode the XF would trigger the Elinchrom strobes just fine. When using the PocketWizard transceivers, the flash triggering was very unreliable and I am still not sure why that was the case as PocketWizards have been very reliable for me in the past. The XF has a Profoto trigger built into the camera so if you shoot with Profoto strobes you should have very few issues. From what the rep told me, the Broncolor transmitter and strobes also work well with the XF.

By comparison, the H5D worked perfectly with my Elinchrom gear all the way up to 1/800th second on the first try with no issues at all. The top end 1/800th second sync speed isn’t that fast compared to the 1/1600th second shutter speed option on the XF but it is still quite effective for darkening backgrounds and stopping action when used with strobes that have a fast flash duration.

The XF wins here, if you are using lenses that can actually sync up to 1/1600th second.

SHUTTER SPEED RANGE

The Phase One XF has a shutter speed range of 60 minutes to 1/4000th second. The H5D has a range of 34 minutes to 1/800th second. The Phase One XF has a wider range of shutter speeds due to the fact that it has a focal plane shutter built into the camera body that extends the shutter range beyond the 1/1600th second leaf shutter lenses to 1/4000th second. I can certaily see some scenarios where this would be very useful–like trying to get sharp images while handholding the camera or wanting to stop fast action. So far, I haven’t had any issue with the range of shutter speeds on the H5D though I do shoot at or near the 1/800th second shutter speed when handholding the camera for the sharpest possible images. Because the H5D is a tad lighter and better balanced than the XF, I do feel like I can get sharp images at shutter speeds down to 1/250th second whereas on the XF that would be seriously pushing the envelope.

The Phase One XF wins in this category.

BATTERY LIFE

I didn’t have time to test out the battery life of the XF system. I can get about a half day of shooting done with the H5D before I need to replace the battery. That isn’t bad considering how large the components of this camera are and that there is only one battery to run everything. The XF has two batteries so I would expect them to last longer than the H5D’s single battery. In the end, this is a moot point anyway because if you aren’t shooting tethered you would take at least one extra set of batteries.

RELIABILITY

Reliability is always a huge issue for me as an adventure sports photographer. I pound my cameras and I wanted to make sure whatever I purchased could take a licking and keep on ticking. Of course, with cameras in this price range I am going to treat them well. If it is really rough weather or difficult conditions I will take my Nikons, which seem to be able to handle anything mother nature throws at them. I spoke with several different photographers about each of these cameras and specifically about how reliable they were on a variety of assignments. On the Hasselblad side, none of them had ever had to send their cameras in for any repairs of any kind. On the Phase One side, almost everyone said they had to send in their cameras and/or lenses a few times a year for issues. That was a wake up call for me. As it turns out there is a reason the Phase One reps boast about their policy of offering loaners while your camera is being repaired – because most owners have to deal with this issue.

There is also the issue of the camera locking up while on a shoot. The Hasselblad owners I spoke with had never had this happen. The Phase One owners had seen this happen from time to time. Recently, PetaPixel posted an article entitled, I Switched from Phase One to Nikon. Here’s Why. In that article David Cohen de Lara talks at length about the reliability issues that plagued his Phase One cameras. Yes, he had two Phase One cameras. In that article he states, “My experience with Phase One in terms of reliability has been terrible. I’m not just talking about the usual hiccups, errors, and misfires that are an almost daily reality when using these camera systems, I’m talking about things that just stop working altogether for no apparent reason. In just the last four years of shooting Phase One I’ve had no less than 7 instances where I was in the middle of a shoot and a body or lens would just spontaneously lock up, requiring it to be sent in for servicing.” His blog post is rather scathing of the Phase One system and medium format in general. David was shooting with the Phase One DF+ cameras but I have talked with a few Phase One XF owners that have had to send in their cameras for repairs already – and the XF has only been out for a year. None of the Hasselblad owners said anything about their cameras locking up.

As a pro, you rely on your gear. If it isn’t reliable, especially when you have to pay this kind of money for it, then that is a huge issue. The Hasselblad wins massively here on this front.

LENSES

As for lenses, both Hasselblad and Phase One offer a pretty compelling line up of quality glass. The Hasselblad lenses are designed in-house by Hasselblad and are manufactured by Fujinon, who is a less well known, but still a renowned lens manufacturer. It is notable that the leaf shutter mechanism is made by Hasselblad and then assembled into the HC lenses by Fujinon. They note that the Fujinon lenses are just as sharp if not better than the legendary V series lenses made by Carl Zeiss. Phase One’s lenses are made by Schneider-Kreuznach of Germany. Schneider-Kreuznach is another legendary lens manufacturer and the Phase One lenses are stellar by any measure. Phase One recently introduced the “Blue Line” lenses, which they say are ready for the demands of 100+ MP cameras.

Both companies offer an excellent range of lenses. Hasselblad offers a slightly wider focal length range from 24mm up to 300mm. All of the Hasselblad offerings are leaf shutter lenses. Phase One has a range of lenses from 28mm up to 240mm. They offer both leaf shutter (LS) and focal plane versions of most of their lenses. If you need tilt-shift capabilities, the Hasselblad Tilt Shift Adapter works with all of their fixed-focal length lenses up to 100mm. Schneider-Kreuznach has a 120mm tilt shift lens. There are quite a few used Hasselblad HC and HCD lenses on the market that will work with the H5D. On the Phase One side there are some used options out there but with the XF, many of the older Mamiya 645 lenses won’t work with the new camera body.

I prefer the Hasselblad lenses as they aren’t quite as huge as the Phase One LS lenses. The new “Blue Line” Schneider-Kreuznach lenses are massive. I tested out the new 120mm f/4 Macro lens and it is wicked sharp and also giant. The Hasselblad lenses, from my experience so far, seem just as sharp as the Phase One Schneider-Kreuznach lenses. And since I can get accurate AF and sharp images with the H5D they seem a lot sharper that what I was able to achieve using the Honeybee autofocus system on the Phase One XF. Also, in terms of used lenses available, there are a lot of used Hasselblad HC lenses out there that can be had for half the price (or even less in some cases) of brand new lenses.

In terms of lenses, my preferences aside, I’d call this one a draw.

SOFTWARE

If we are strictly discussing the software options offered by Hasselblad and Phase One then this is an easy choice. Phase One’s Capture One software is far superior to Hasselblad’s Phocus software. Aside from Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One is the only really professional alternative raw processing software on the market. Capture One has become much more popular since the demise of Apple’s Aperture. To that point, there are quite a few photographers shooting only with 35mm DSLRs that swear by Capture One. I have tried out Capture One, because I was curious, and I found it quite robust but because I have used Lightroom for a long, long time I wasn’t as enamored with it as many other photographers seem to be.

Luckily for Hasselblad users, Hasselblad has given the folks at Adobe their entire codex, including all of the lens corrections for each of the HC lenses. In my testing, Lightroom affords the exact same image quality as can be had using Hasselblad’s Phocus software. For me, the fact that I can use Lightroom to work up the Hasselblad images makes this a very easy platform to work with. In my testing Capture One is very good. I can see them both having their strong points and weak points so I’d say it is a draw in terms of image quality for each software platform. I actually prefer the color out of Lightroom over Capture One. I know most folks go the other way on that one but Capture One’s color balance seems really warm in terms of skin tones compared to Lightroom. In the end, this software comparison is just a matter of preference.

I’d say in terms of software, because Hasselblad has worked with Adobe, it is a tie on this one.

SUMMING UP

Let’s get real here for a second. Each of these cameras offer incredible image quality. There are top-end pro photographers working with each brand who are creating incredible images. These cameras are just tools and as such, any photographer using these tools has to learn how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of each camera system they use. That is just part of the game whether shooting with 35mm DSLRs or a medium format camera.

Each of these two cameras, and for that matter each of these two camera systems, have their weak points and their strong points. For myself, as you have probably surmised from the introduction, I found the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi to be the better camera for my needs. This may or may not be the case for still life photographers who shoot tethered in the studio all the time with the camera on a tripod. For those folks, the poor autofocus of the Phase One XF may not be an issue. For myself, the autofocus abilities of the H5D and the low noise at High ISOs, combined with the reliability factor and the user interface sealed the deal for me.

Talking with several photographers working with medium format systems, there are quite a few top-end portrait photographers who choose a hybrid camera: mating the H5D body with a Phase One IQ series digital back. With that combo you get the practical user interface of the H5D up front and the stellar LCD interface on the Phase One digital back. You also retain a camera that can focus accurately. In essence, you get the best of both worlds–unless you want to shoot at high ISOs. This is a workaround to be sure. You have to think one of these manufacturers would get it totally right here at some point. Amazingly, Phase One designed the perfect camera but failed in several key aspects like in the area of autofocus, ergonomics (at least for me) and high ISO noise.

I can live with the H5D’s lackluster LCD screen. I can’t live with a camera that costs $40,000 and can’t autofocus to save its life. For me, accurate AF is worth more than a touchscreen display. Sure, it would be nice if the H5D could sync with strobes at 1/1600th second, but I can live with 1/800th second. I have Elinchrom’s amazing Hi-Sync technology, which allows me to sync strobes at up to 1/8000th second with my Nikons if I really need to freeze motion using strobes. I also prefer the way the H5D feels in the hand, and how it is better balanced. The user interface, though not modern or fancy, also feels much more useable and practical for my needs and for the way I shoot. I can see why the Hasselblad continues to win awards as the best medium format camera out there, over and above the Phase one XF, as shown above.

The cost vs. value equation also played a huge factor. Right now, with the H5D 50C WIFi selling for $16,500, the Hasselblad is a great value (among medium format cameras), especially in comparison to the Phase One setup. When I did the calculations, I could get a full Hasselblad kit with five lenses and three extra batteries for around $35,000 USD. For a similar kit with the Phase One XF, I was looking at approximately $70,000 USD. Buying a digital medium format camera these days is essentially like buying a car. They depreciate massively as soon as you get it. But the bigger questions are: Will it get you to the place you want to go? Will it be reliable? Will it do what you want it to do? Can you afford it? Those are the same calculations I had to reason with. In the end, the Hasselblad overwhelmingly was the obvious choice for my needs. Your mileage may vary.

For more information on these cameras visit the Hasselblad and Phase One websites.

The detailed review of Hasselblad H5D 50C WIFI

Michael Clark is an internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel, and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images of rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, big-wave surfers and mountain bikers in remote locations around the world

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There are 3 comments on this post
  1. February 13, 2017, 5:40 pm

    I agree with your conclusions. Pity you did not compare the Phase One with a H6D it would have been a slam dunk. Between us I do not agree that the Phase One is a better looking system than the Hasselblad. Phase One looks to me like a test version of a camera!

    Given that Phase One outsells Hasse;blad in the USA by 10:1 and at twice the price – I think it is admirable that Hasselblad continues to produce such a quality product and I hope they continue with the new H6D and X-1

  2. Hans-Günter Dr. Lindner
    January 22, 2018, 12:32 am

    I own a PhaseOne XF since 2 years. I started with IQ2 50MP and changed to IQ1 100 MP because of higher resolution and dynamics of 15 apertures (you did not test that!). I never had problems with the XF though my tripod fell down with the camera and lens (nothing happened – it stills works) – your support guy is wrong. Ergonomics is extremely good. The XF system is super easy to handle including synch with Profoto. The new HAP-2 is another hardware focus and compared to other manufacturers they did it as an update. Nearly each time when a new firmware comes, you have a new feature, i.e. you do not have to buy a new camera when hardware or software changes. The only thing that could be better is noise beginning from ISO 6400.
    Flash sync with 1/1600 for the 120mm Schneider-Kreuznach blue ring is possible (I tested it today) – your infos are partially wrong due to your support guy.
    In my case, I tested PhaseOne for one week before buying – especially the comparison with the LEICA S was incredible: the Leica who lost significantly; Hasselblad had no comparable model and their computer hardware was still based on an old version.
    The PhaseOne support is incredibly competent and extremely fast. They always find a solution.
    When I bought my first XF, other systems were not comparable and it is still now because they did a lot: Firmware & Hardware updates.

  3. Harrison Killian
    November 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

    As someone who’s about to purchase a Hasselblad H5d 50. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your review. Very concise and well conveyed. I’m so psyched to start shooting with a Hasselblad!

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