Monday, December 30, 2013

My Camera Choices - Part 1: Hasselblad H5D

Photographing my favorite subject Lake Tahoe with my Hasselbad Camera
Image by Martin Gisborne for Apple Inc.
With the new year approaching I am recommitting to posting interesting content on my blog for my fellow photography enthusiasts. We have been so preoccupied over the last year getting our new Calistoga Carmel Gallery up and running that I did not have the time to commit to my blog. With the successful opening of the Calistoga Carmel Gallery and the continued smooth operation of our  flagship Truckee Carmel Gallery, I am excited to be able to revive my blog posts on a regular basis.

In the interest of full disclosure I also have links on my blog that allow readers to click through to more information on the products I mention and to make gear purchases. I use this to help fund my photography, writing,  and travels so I can provide new and interesting content for readers, so it is greatly appreciated if you use these links to order photo gear. I am a big fan of both B&H and Adorama for photography gear purchases.

I often receive inquiries about what cameras I use and why. So here is the rundown on my camera collection and what specific types of photography each are used for. I am currently using 3 different camera systems depending on the subject matter and the amount of traveling involved in a shoot. These are the Hasselblad H5D 50, the Nikon D800E, and the Panasonic GH1 which has now been replaced by the Panasonic GH3. I will be writing about the Nikon and Panasonic in future posts. Here is the low down on the H5D-50:

Hasselblad H5D-50: This is my main workhorse camera. It is a 50 megapixel medium format camera by Hasselblad. I have been using Hasselblad cameras for the last 10 years, and started out the with 22 megapixel back that required a separate (large) battery pack that I had to carry around in a modified purse. Thankfully Hasselblad has continued to develop and improve their technology over the years and has provides a clear upgrade path so users can keep up with the latest cameras.

 I regularly make prints that are greater than 30" wide, and often up sample images with On One Perfect Resize to create prints up to ten feet in the longest dimension. To make such big prints I need a lot of  high quality megapixels. The large sensor size (6132 x 8176 pixels with a sensor dimension of 36.7 x 49.1mm) of the H5D 50 along with 16 bit color depth results in noticeable improvement in the quality of a fine art print when compared with almost all other camera systems. The Hasselblad sensor captures true 16 bit color, which basically means it captures a broader range of colors than be captured by a standard DSLR sensor. Most DSLRS capture colors in the 12 bit or 14 bit range, which is about 25% (in the case of 14 bit) of the color data captured by a 16 bit sensor. Granted this is an oversimplified explanation of bit depth, however functionally what I find with 16 bit files is that I am able to perceive a broader range of colors and shadow / highlight details from the image files when I make them into prints.

In addition the lens quality of the Hasselblad H lenses are stunning. The optical quality is designed to bring out the best in the high resolution sensor of the Hasselblad. Since the unique patented shutter is in the lens and causes no vibration, it is possible to capture images that are tack sharp at any shutter speed since there is no detectable shutter vibration once the mirror is locked up. The combination of very high quality lenses, 16 bit color, and 50 megapixels on a very large sensor make it possible for me to capture the best possible image quality. Of course this requires using a tripod for all image captures, since hand-holding a camera like this results in a decrease in image quality due to mirror slap and camera movement. I use the Really Right Stuff L bracket and the Arca Swiss Cube Head on a Gitzo tripod to ensure a stable platform, and I use a cable release with mirror lock up.

I use an assortment of Hasselblad Lenses. In my bag are the 28mm wide angle, 35mm wide angle, 50-110 zoom, 300 mm telephoto, and the 1.7x converter which makes the 300 mm into a 510mm lens. I also use a special macro adaptor that allows my existing lenses to focus at a closer distance to take better macro images. Here are some images I have taken with the different lenses (all images ©Elizabeth Carmel):


28mm Very Wide Angle

Summer Bloom Lake Tahoe


35mm Wide Angle




50-110 Zoom: Wide Angle to Mild Telephoto







300 mm Telephoto




510 mm Telephoto with 1.7 Converter




The reason I have invested a substantial amount of money in this camera system (it costs as much with the lenses and accessories as a nicely equipped SUV) is because I want to create landscape images that are state of the art in detail and color range. I want collectors of my work to have a print that represents the best possible image quality available at the time I made the photograph. I do not like to have regrets after I have photographed a scene. If I capture an amazing, once in a lifetime scene with the best available photo equipment I will not have regrets, since I know that the prints I make from that file will please even the most discerning photo collector. I know that I can make my images as large as needed to fit any wall. I have found this out the hard way by having the wrong gear along when I had a once in a lifetime shot in front of me. I have come to accept that very good photography is a pain in the a** to accomplish, so I have resigned myself to the need to spend the money, schlep the gear around, worry about the gear, fiddle with the gear, and get to the location at inconvenient hours. That is part of the price I pay to do what I am fortunate to do. Ultimately my goal is to bring home the beauty of our planet and share it in a way that others appreciate.

Coming Next: Why I also use a Nikon D800 E 

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