By David Grover, Hasselblad A/S
Rodney Hobbs, one of Australia’s emerging photographers, began his wedding and portrait photography business in late 2005. Previously involved with professional sports and a senior corporate IT exec who traveled the world extensively, Rodney believes this unique background has helped him develop many of the key skills needed to deliver the best customer service and client experience.
I read about Rodney’s story in the discussion forum on the popular website www.luminous-landscape.com, published by Michael Reichmann. He described how he spent many months testing his new camera system and others, and explained the reasons for his final choice. I am happy to say that Rodney’s new camera system is a Hasselblad H3D-31. Below, he offers invaluable insight for us, as a manufacturer, for our partners around the world, and for prospective Hasselblad customers.
I work in the demanding and dynamic business of wedding and portraiture photography in Melbourne, Australia. I recently decided to take my business to a new level, which required looking into the elements that make my business and my images distinctive. One aspect that I focused on was how to create the highest quality images. Of course, your craft and creative vision are key, but it all begins with a platform that supports the creation of those images.
I realized that the pace of change and the introduction of higher megapixels in 35mm SLR systems was not going to give my business any advantage. While a 35mm system offers clear advantages in certain situations and applications, I felt I needed to take another direction, with equipment that would differentiate me from what all my competitors could buy in the corner camera store. This led me to investigate the digital medium-format system.
Clearly, this platform is not used regularly any more by wedding and portrait photographers, so trying to find out more about these systems was an art in itself. After three months of searching, I decided to invest in a Hasselblad H3D system.
What led me to make one of the single largest investment decisions in my business? The simple answer is “many factors.” One cannot make this kind of investment without considering the components that make up a system and the future ability of that investment to support your business and creative objectives. My investigation and research lead me to evaluate two systems: the Hasselblad H3D-31 and the Mamiya 645 AFD II with a Phase One P 30+ digital back. My selection criteria were straightforward:
• Highest overall image quality
• High ISO performance
• Integrated workflow (software and RAW file support)
• Breadth and depth of overall system
• Brand value and long-term value of my investment
During a week of shooting all weird and wonderful things in many different situations, I was able to compare the two systems, the Hasselblad H3D-31 system and the Mamiya 645 AFD II with a Phase One P30+ digital back.
Overall, I really preferred the image quality of the H3D system. Its handling of noise at the high range was, in my mind, better than the P 30+. I also felt that the H3D provided natural and true color rendering, which required little, if any, post-production. And the sharpest of the images and optical quality that the HC lenses provided were stellar. I was amazed at the detail, clarity, and dynamic range I was able to capture. A major step above the 35mm systems I use today. I shot across a range of ISOs and used various lenses from both systems. The H3D’s noise performance and the characteristics of the noise were very pleasing.
As I shoot a lot with available light, this was a key consideration in how I could use this system in my style of shooting. The Hasselblad gave me the look and feel I wanted.
Introducing a new system into your workflow can cause many headaches, which you need to consider. Being in the digital world has certainly added many new steps to how we work, so I did not want to introduce anything that would add to or detract from the workflow I already had implemented. I quickly downloaded the new Phocus software and the latest version of FlexColor. I work on the Apple OSX system and recently moved to Aperture 2.1 as my main RAW converter. It was great to know that native support recently was added in OSX for the 3FR RAW files. This will enable me to either use Phocus or to take files from all my systems into Aperture.
I decided to take full advantage of Phocus—with its built-in lens corrections and amazing new moiré removal tool—as the primary software for my new H3D files. I can also fully use a DNG workflow in the future. I saw great potential in what Hasselblad has created in Phocus version 1.0 and can’t wait to see what future releases will provide, such as ISO 1600 support.
The H3D system provides a complete and integrated approach. The ergonomics of the H3D are an advantage, and with the stunning 50-110mm lens, the camera is very well balanced. When I think of a system, I consider the lens range and the optical and build quality. The build quality of the Hasselblad lens was matched and surpassed by the optical quality they produce.
This was not to say that the Mamiya lens performed badly, but the general feel and auto focus were a main difference. I became aware of the new lenses that Mamiya is developing, which are apparently much better build quality, with metal barrels, and of future lens corrections, for the C1 software. I didn’t have to wait for this with the Hasselblad system. The H system already has this across the range. To me, Hasselblad has a leadership position and has the opportunity to extend that with future releases and developments. Lastly, while the P 30+ back was very well built and performed very well, I always felt that it was held back by the camera system.
The bottom line was that the Hasselblad system provided every level of flexibility I would ever need, down to the interchangeable view finders. When making any investment, particularly larger investments, you need to consider what it will be worth in the long run. I was very surprised to discover a couple of interesting things about the Hasselblad H system. First, very few used units are in the market, opposed to Mamiya, which you can find everywhere and seem very affordable overall. Second, the perceived value of the Hasselblad system seems extremely high, where Mamiya is seen as a more economic system.
A key to being successful in the wedding market is your perceived value in the images you create. I saw a clear advantage in having the Hasselblad brand in my stable. It would also strengthen my own brand, as well as protect my investment into the future. I felt a real “wow” factor holding an H3D system, where many times these days, wedding guests have the same or better cameras than photographers do! I doubt that’s going to happen when shooting with the H3D. Of course, Hasselblad’s history makes owning a Hasselblad a very special thing!
So in the end, based on my selection criteria and months of research, I saw that the H3D system was the best choice, based on the image quality, build/optic quality, overall design, software, and perceived value of the brand and system.
On a special note, it is worth mentioning the role that the local dealer played in the whole process. For many months, my requests regarding Phase were unanswered and at many times, I thought I would never see a real Phase digital back to test. In the end, the local supplier provided great service and assistance. I can’t say the same for the importer!
In stark contrast to the Phase experience, Damon Rulach of CR Kennedy’s, here in Melbourne, provided lenses on very short notice and took the time to assist in every way. Damon’s knowledge of the H3D platform and product was a great support. His detailed answers to every query were most reassuring. His willingness to go that little bit extra at every stage of this process left me with a very positive impression of the local support. Hasselblad should know that with this kind of service at the grassroots level, they will be assured of greater sales.
In the end, the choice was easy for all the reasons explained. I think you can see why I say I have the best system. A system that will help me achieve my goal of creating stunning images that differentiate me in my market and delivers amazing memories to my clients.
Rodney Hobbs, June 29, 2008