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Hasselblad or PhaseOne, choosing your medium format system.

Choosing your medium format system can be a daunting decision. If you already have a medium format system, then you already have knowledge of what your system lacks and what your looking for.

If this is your first medium format system, it can be tough, everyone talks about the camera, every manufacture claims theirs is the best thing since sliced bread. In this article, rant, my techie mind, I will not even discuss the camera body -- its the ecosystem.

For me, I had shot MF in my film days, and I know the reasons I want, need, one for my workflow, but this was over 25 years ago, today I was mostly using the D800 & D810 36mp systems. I went and bought a Pentax 645Z system, and spent about 2 weeks getting familiar with it every single day, then had my big week long fashion shoot. -- it was a partial success. Out of 15 designers that I shot, I only had two magazine prints, and only one designer who was happy.

What was my big mistake? I didn't put as much effort on lens selection as I did on camera selection. From my DSLR work, I got spoiled by how sharp and reliable my Sigma lenses were, that I never gave it a second thought. So when I purchased a $5,000 lens from Ricoh for the 645Z, it has to be a performer right? -- nope, it was less quality than my $2,000 sigma lens.

Ok, on to the reason your here, how to decide Hasselblad or PhaseOne.

I highly suggest you start looking at the lens selection that suits your needs. There is not a high number of lenses available for these systems compared to the DSLR world. There is even fewer overlaps in focal lengths as well.

Maria Shantanova Look at this photo for example, I shot this at 160mm focal length, and I was only 4ft away. If you have never used or not familiar with medium format, you need to understand that since the sensor size is bigger, you have a bigger view of the image circle casted from a given focal length. Just like the crop sensor vs full frame.

If this was a FF (full frame) DSLR, I would have been back 6 to 8ft

Back to choosing your medium format system, look at the lenses you need. For me, I need something close to 80 to 300mm, the 300mm is for when I do runway, but I just dont think that's going to happen.

So a more realistic would be the Pentax MF lens I am using 80-160mm, I really like this range, however, the closest thing we have to this in the Pro Cameras are:

Hasselblad: 50-110mm PhaseOne: 75-150mm

As you can see, the Hasselblad just doesn't have the reach (with a zoom lens) that I require for my genre and workflow.

There are two major parts to choosing a lens, aside from quality, the first is look/feel that comes from the compression/expansion of the focal length. (Thing wide angle distortion) the second is the field of view, how much of the scene fits into the frame.

In medium format, we recognize these details, and it's a major part of lens choice, so it is important that you can get the focal length you require.

If I shoot a set of head shots with the 110mm vs 150mm, framed the same, there is going to be a different look, plain and simple.

Now, Hasselblad and PhaseOne both make a 120mm and 150mm prime lens, ok great, you can shoot either system. But I like zooms, just gives me more freedom and flexibility.

For the most part, both cameras are going to perform equally well, there may be some features in one vs another that may help your workflow, but the biggest issue is what lens can you use, that you need?

The next big issue, is capture/raw processing.

Hasselblad: Phocus software PhaseOne: CaptureOne

I'm not really a fan of either, so for me, I just have to deal with it. But if you are a tethered shooter, check each of them out, as this is where you are going to spend a lot of your time in your workflow.

I am sorry if this is not telling you which camera is better, but that is subjective, you have to look at your needs, and find what fits best.

Nancy Vuu - Jump I shot an entire fashion runway season on medium format and failed, why? Because I forced the use of a system that didn't match my needs.

I was however able to shoot this shot of the designer Nancy Vuu jumping in the air, and it landed in a few magazines.

This was shot with the he Pentax 645Z with the 55mm lens, this lens is like a wide angle when it comes to a MF system

So to select which is best for you:
1: figure out your focal length needs
2: check to see if a lens is available to fit your needs
3: what about strobes, check your sync speeds, and how to trigger
4: download the demo software and try it, get familiar with it
5: go find the camera and hold it, take a memory card and shoot a photo with each

As you can see, the majority of your camera selection, has nothing to do with the camera body, it's the entire eco system

Mike Bradley

Author: Mike Bradley

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