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Hasselblad H6D-50C and HTS adapter

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Using the Hasselblad H6D and HTS adapter

A short review


Keith recently had a week to try out some quite advanced camera gear, the Hasselblad H6D camera, with a 50MP back.

As well as the wide HCD28mm lens we also had the HTS tilt/shift adapter, giving a range of movements.

This is Keith’s quick overview of the equipment and what it lets you do.

HTS and H6D-50

The Hasselblad camera equipment

I should start by saying that I don’t believe you can do a real usage review of significantly unfamiliar kit in a week – so I’m not attempting it here.

However, building on my review of the Hasselblad X1D-50C last year, with very similar menu, setup and image processing requirements, along with my many years experience using Canon TS-E tilt shift lenses [list of all of my tilt/shift related articles] I was pleased at just how quickly I was able to become familiar with the main functionality of the kit.

My main reason for looking at this equipment was to see how the HTS 1.5 adapter lets you use normal Hasselblad lenses (for the H6D body) and add tilt and shift to your options.  I’ll start with a quick overview of the camera, then the adapter and then look at some actual photos and how useful the HTS can be.

The camera

With the H6D camera, you get a reflex camera body, with a grip/battery to one side.

camera-front

Note the focusing screen at the top, and the huge mirror (compared to a small DSLR)

At the rear is the digital back, in this case a 50MP sensor that’s 44mmx33mm.

That’s 1.68x more surface area than my 50MP 5Ds, so bigger pixels, which go part of the way to explaining the difference in image quality compared with smaller cameras (I’ll come back to this later).

camera-and-back

Note the shutter in the H6D. This isn’t a focal plane shutter as such, it’s an auxiliary shutter that the H6D uses to shield the sensor – actual image exposure is via the leaf shutter in the lens.

You can also see the greenish IR filter for the back, in front of the sensor.

See also how the sensor doesn’t fill the shutter area? That’s because this is ‘small medium format’ not the larger area you’d get with film or the 100MP 100C back (53.4mm x 40mm or almost 2.5x the surface area of 35mm). There’s also a 400MP multishot version of the 100MP back, which uses sensor shift to get very detailed images of static subjects (see my Panasonic S1R review to see how this works at 187MP)

The battery for the camera (7.2V 3200 mAh) is part of the grip.

battery-pack

This worked well, although I’d have liked to see a charger that gave some feedback as to how full the battery was. This can be really useful when you look in your bag, see three spare batteries and want to know which will charge the quickest, whilst you’re using the camera.

The camera can take (some) power from the USB-C socket, but does still need a battery attached.

In terms of viewfinder, I was using the 90x reflex viewfinder, giveing a really clear and bright 3.1x magnification.

viewfinder

The viewfinder offers metering from EV1-21

Then a surprise for all you who think that ‘Pro’ cameras don’t have a pop-up flash…

flash

The back takes SD and CFast cards. I just used a fast 128GB ProGrade SD card out of my 5Ds

card-slots

On the other side are some more ports, including a USB-C socket at the bottom (hidden behind a cover that just moves out of the way)

camera-back-ports

There’s an LCD display on the grip.

camera-display

The display shows a histogram after shots, which is a nice touch.

It has backlighting, but in these days of sharp OLED displays seemed a little basic, especially in non-optimal lighting.

backlit display

That can’t be said for the crisp brightly lit screen on the 50MP back.

rear-menu

The touch screen has clear, easy to set menus, that give you quick customisable access to all you need.

This is not a camera for casual snaps like the X1D-50C (didn’t stop me though) so I was please to find it as simple to use effectively as my EOS RP mirrorless. Then again I don’t shoot video and normally use a lot of manual focus lenses.

touch-screen

The built-in level is very easy to use, and really clear, even without my reading glasses.

levelling

Note the blue Arca style plate on the bottom.

base-plate

The camera has a baseplate, it’s just not the same fitting as my tripods, so hence the blue plate to go with the really nice Benro geared head I’m using [review]. I mention this purely because thinking the camera plate is going to fit and finding out it doesn’t by the camera falling off the tripod would not be nice…

The AF performance is competent, but not something that’s going to make sports and wildlife photographers rush to gear like this.

It’s a camera for image quality not speed (which suits me just fine – YMMV)

H6D-50C-XCD28

There are a lot of features in the camera, whether used on its own or tethered (using the Hasselblad Phocus software) which are obviously there for serious professional use. If you want to know more, have a good look at the easy to read H6D manual PDF from Hasselblad.

Tilt and Shift, the HTS adapter

The HTS adapter adds tilt and shift movements to many lenses that you can use with the H6D

hts-top-bar

Here it is between the H6D and the HCD28mm lens.

HTS and H6D-50

It lets you raise/lower the lens with respect to the camera, and tilt the lens upwards/downwards with respect to the camera.

Two scales show the shift (rise/fall) in millimetres and tilt in degrees.

HTS-settings

You might also notice the lens in the HTS.

Its full name is the HTS 1.5 – the 1.5 referring to the fact that it acts as a 1.5x teleconverter.

It is designed to work with the HCD24mm, HCD28mm, HC35mm, HC50mm, HC80mm lenses.

So, using it with the HCD28mm gives a working focal length of 42mm. 42mm is a longish focal length for what I’d consider for much of my architectural work.

However, I’m forgetting the larger sensor in the back, so my actual 35mm ‘equivalent’ focal length returns to a more useful ~33mm (I’d need the HCD24mm to give me ~28mm equivalent)

hts-vertical

The mount will rotate.

hts-rotated

There are click stops at useful 15º steps (rather more useful than the Canon 30º steps, which make setting at 45º tricky)

At 90º I’ve left/right shift and a lens that will swing left/right.

hts-90-degree

The mechanism is very solidly built, with (red) locking tabs for either movement.

HTS-mechanism

The tilt is easy to see here.

hts-front-tilted-up

The view ‘from the camera, with upwards tilt

hts-tilted-up

At full shift you will need to work at smaller apertures to avoid potential vignetting from the mount itself.

hts-vignetting

Using movements

The adapter gives ±18mm of shift and ±10º of tilt.

In this example I’ve tilted the lens downwards and the plane of focus now runs along the card.

tilting-the-lens-downwards

How much to tilt is not an intuitively obvious setting, but the HTS has one feature that makes it a bit easier.

tilt-indicator

The adapter lets the camera know the settings, and the info is recorded in EXIF data.

If you’re unfamiliar with using tilt and shift, then I’ve a lot of articles on the site covering how and why it’s useful

The HTS adapter only lets you use manual focus, so the focus peaking in Liveview mode is really useful (notice the red edging for the card above).

The adapter also shows the amount the unit is rotated.

rotation

A clearer view.

rotation-setting

The tilt axis takes some care to set to 0º and lock at that setting, since the locking can easily let the lens drop a fraction of a degree and there is no really hard zero click stop.

Since I was mostly going to be using the lens with shift, I took care to zero the tilt and lock it before use.

Tilting the lens

I’ve only a few examples using tilt here – it’s mostly something I use for product photography (with longer focal lengths).

It’s easy to set using the HTS unit and the focus peaking does help refine focus.

Here’s the camera pointed to a pot of small cacti in our conservatory

tilt-and-shift

With around 9 degrees of tilt the plane of focus runs across the top of the pot.

just-tilt

Here’s an animation showing just the tilt changing

You may need to enlarge [click on the image] to read the settings from the screen.

changing-tilt

As you can see, the composition changes with tilt.

If you’re wondering how I decide an initial value of tilt, well that’s from my trusty tilt tables.

I have a spreadsheet that generates the table for any focal length – here I’ve added a column for 42mm.

tilt-table

The important distance to measure is known as ‘J’ and is measured (with a tilted camera) like this.

camera-pointing-down

Or like so with an upwards pointed camera

tilt-camera

This is explained in a lot more detail in my ‘Focusing the tilted lens’ article.

You can add a bit of shift to adjust composition, but do watch out for vignetting at wider apertures.

adding-shift

F/16 here gives pretty even illumination and a modest depth of field.

Here’s a photo without the shift, so you can see the plane of focus extending back outside.

cacti-in-pot

Two 100% crops show the cacti and the view outside – note the raindrops on the window.

close-view

raindrops

One place you might use tilt is for landscape photography, although finding a suitably planar scene for the plane of focus to run along is not always so easy.

Keith_in_a_field

Taken by Karen, from the shade of my car on the day temperature records were broken in the UK

The view over towards Billesdon Coplow in Leicestershire.

leicestershire Billesdon Coplow

And with the HTS unit removed and AF re-engaged, perfectly good for hand held snaps…

Karen in car

Shift and architecture

As I’ve said, my greatest use of movements is using shift to raise my view, without introducing converging verticals.

There’s quite a bit of development work going on in Leicester at the moment, so I went into town to get some photos, both to test the equipment and build up my stock of local images (I live 15 mins walk from the city centre).

This is the new Wullcomb development shot with a lot of rise (upwards shift) and surprising me a bit just how wide the view was, even with the HCD28mm lens and HTS.

wullcomb front-view

Watch out for the lens hood though, at full shift.

vignette

The camera handles extremes of lighting very well, with a clarity in darker areas of the scene that I wasn’t surprised to see after my experiments last year with the X1D-50C.

showcase

Going round to the back of the Wullcomb, I can get this shot, using downwards shift (fall) to look downwards, but with no convergence of verticals.

rear-view

The reflection of the Wullcomb in the glass facade of the John Lewis store.

reflection-2

Stitching

Just like I regularly do with my Canon TS-E lenses, I can take two photos with different amounts of shift and simply flat stitch them in Photoshop.

Looking again at the reflection…

reflection-1

A short distance away the age of the buildings increases by several hundred years.

Leicester cathedral, where King Richard III (laterly of car park fame) was interred.

guildhall lane

Of course, you don’t have to use shift for pictures of buildings.

One of the things I always want to know for any client is what the photos are to be used for, and by whom. Whilst architects tend to prefer the geometry of carefully composed shifted images, people on the marketing side often want something a bit more dynamic.

That means I’ll often do a few shots at dramatic angles. Personally I can tire of such views, but they are the staple of press photographers sent to photograph new buildings (I’m suspecting because they don’t own lenses with movements ;-). Remembering that sometimes my personal artistic concerns are secondary is an essential for the business of photography, so…

looking-up

These are shot without the HTS adapter.

looking-up-3

Very good shadow detail, taking a bit of boosting in RAW processing with no obvious problems.

The images are simply very easy to work on whether I’m using Adobe camera RAW or Hasselblad’s free Phocus software

looking-up-2

Thoughts on using the H6D-50C and HTS

If you’re used to a 35mm DSLR and TS-E lens, then the size and bulk can be a little off putting, but it all handles very nicely, and there are a lot of nice design touches in the usability of the kit.

Image quality is really nice although at strong shifts I was noticing a touch of softness at the edges for the 28mm+HTS – not much, but at the 100% level definitely benefitting from a touch of deconvolution sharpening.

This slight softness and any working at f/8 or higher meant that there was less obvious moire in several images where I’d have expected it. Now, experience with the X1D-50C and its similar 50MP sensor suggests that:

  • 1 I’d need to re-evaluate my focusing with the HTS
  • 2 Even if I do get moire, it’s often ‘fixable’ with modern software (Phocus handles this well)

This brings me back to my initial note that you can’t do a proper review of unfamiliar kit quickly…

The RAW files can take a lot of adjustment – see the dark shadows in this shot in the city centre.

cafe

Some four stops boost (using ACR as the RAW converter) shows no real issues in those shadows.

four-stop-boost

If you use Hasselblad’s Phocus software, you also get full lens correction when using the HTS adapter.

The dynamic range of the images also helps when converting to B&W – there’s less noise in channels to appear when converting to B&W.

vjp BW

Using the camera tethered gives the ultimate in control, but that’s not always feasible in the locations where I’m often shooting.

If I had to pick two image which best showed the way I feel the camera handles lighting, it would be these two unremarkable views along the river, on a dull day.

bridge

dull-day

Both have needed some pushing to bring up darker areas, but both capture the feel on the lighting rather well.

My biggest issue before using the HTS was the 1.5x multiplier, especially given my preference for wider views. However the ~33mm ’35mm equivalent’ forced me further back and sometimes to look more at detail. It’s enough to remind me of the gap in Canon’s TS-E lineup between 24mm and 50mm and that I have a Mamiya 645 35mm lens and EF shift adapter.

One other minor issue is that the tilt and shift axes are locked with respect to each other. That means that I couldn’t for example apply downwards tilt (to photograph a floor for example) and then add left/right shift to expand my view. With downwards tilt I’m limited to up/down shift (as I used earlier to vary some compositional aspects)

The HCD28mm is a great lens, but I think I’d prefer the 24mm with the HTS if I had to use it. Of course that really comes down to what you want to photograph. Give me that 50MP back, a technical camera and a suitably wide lens, and I’d be really happy. Now I just need enough of the right sort of clients to pay for it all ;-)

Overall conclusions

Great fun to use and forced me to look at some different viewpoints than normal. Image quality is excellent – as I expected.

I’d also be lying if I said that using the equipment didn’t get me a lot more glances and questions from passers by than normally ;-)

Thanks again to Hasselblad UK for the loan

Basic specifications
Sensor Type CMOS, 50 mega pixels (8272 × 6200 pixels, 5.3 × 5.3 μm)
Sensor Dimensions Image Size 43.8 × 32.9mm
File Format Stills: RAW 3FR capture 108MB on average. TIFF 8 bit: 154MB; Video: HD (1920 x 1080p), Hasselblad RAW 2,7k
Shooting Mode Single shot stills, Video
Colour Definition 16 bit; Dynamic range approx. 14 stops
ISO Speed Range ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
Storage Options CFast card, SD card (UHS-I) or tethered to Mac or PC
Colour Management Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution, HNCS
Storage Capacity 16GB card holds 140 images on average
Histogram Feedback Yes, on Sensor Unit Display and Grip Display
IR Filter Mounted in front of sensor
Software Phocus for Mac and Windows
Platform Support Macintosh: mac OS version 10.9 or later; PC: XP/Vista/Windows 7 (64 bit)/ 8 / 10 or later.
Host Connection Type USB 3.0 (5 Gbit/s) Type-C connector, Mini HDMI, Audio In/Out
Additional Connections Mini HDMI, Audio In/Out, Flash sync In/Out, Power In
View camera compatibility Yes, Mechanical shutters controlled via flash sync.
Film compatibility Yes
Shutter Speed Range 60 minutes to 1/2000 sec (depending on lens type used)
Flash Sync Speed Flash can be used at all shutter speeds
Viewfinder Options HVD 90x: 90° eye-level viewfinder w. dioptre adjustment (-5 to +3.5D). Image magnification 3.1x. Integral fill-flash (GN. 12 @ ISO100). Hot shoe for SCA3002-system flashes from MetzTM
HVM: Waist-level viewfinder. Image magnification 3.2x
Focusing Flash Control Automatic TTL centre weighted system. Uses built-in flash or flashes compatible with SCA3002 (MetzTM). Output can be adjusted from -3 to +3EV. For manual flashes a built-in metering system is available
Exposure Metering Spot, Centre Weighted and Centre Spot
Metering range Spot: EV2 to 21, Centre Weighted: EV1 to 21, Centre Spot: EV1 to 21
Operating Temperature -10 – 45 ˚C / 14 – 113 ˚F
Dimensions Complete camera w/ HC80 lens: 153 x 131 x 205mm [W x H x D]
Weight 2105g (Complete camera w/ HC80 lens, Li-Ion battery and card)

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