Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Hasselblad H1 & Phase One P25 Experience Report

Hasselblad H1 with Phase One P25 attached

A review note by Uwe Steinmueller



This won't be one of our usual diaries as we had the H1/Phase One P25 combination for only a few days and not the best weather for outdoor photography.

In 2003 we had the chance to work with the Hasselblad H1 and a Kodak ProBack (now discontinued). The most important feature of any MF camera is the huge viewfinder. This is a big deal as the viewfinder is the interface to good composition and also checking the focus. Except for one short note we won't look into the H1 in more detail again but concentrate on a few aspects of the P25.

The Phase One P25 feels quite advanced compared to the ProBack:

  • 22MP compared to 16MP (37% more pixels)
  • Better engineered (e.g. the battery integration)
  • We like Capture One way better than Kodak's Photo Desk software
  • Can be used with 4x5 cameras (using the Phase One FlexAdapter)
  • Very good user interface

Yes, the P25 costs $30K list price but we won't get into the discussion whether it is worth the extra money. As always it depends on what you need and want.

  • Use MF camera digitally
  • Want to be 100% untethered
  • Want top tethered support in the studio
  • Use the back on a 4x5 camera
  • Want 22MP high quality images

If you want all this then your options are limited and the P25 delivers what you need. In 2005 we will also see other 22MP class solutions in the market.

There is no single camera or camera type that is best for all types of photography and styles of photographers (we pick only 4 major categories):

35mm Rangefinder

  • Silent and compact cameras.
  • Digital only the 6MP Epson RD-1 available.
  • Limited in the tele range.
  • Allow fast operation but not high speed like DSLRs designed for sport and wildlife.
  • Good ones are not cheap

35mm DSLR

  • Maybe the most universal camera type today.
  • Large sophisticated lens systems.
  • Heavy and noisy compared to the rangefinder cameras.
  • Viewfinder very limited compared to MF SLRs (like the H1). Actually the viewfinder does not invite for longer extended checks of composition.
  • Invites to use zooms which are good but not in the league of top prime lenses.
  • The maximum pixel count is right up to 16.7MP (Canon 1Ds Mk. II).
  • The camera resolution is challenging many lenses.
  • Fast frame rates available.
  • Allow fast operation
  • Image stabilization allows handheld photography even in the longer tele range
  • 6MP can be bought for $800 to $1500

MF Digital SLRs

  • Still compact compared to 4x5 cameras
  • Excellent fixed focus lenses
  • Great large viewfinder
  • Slows you down a bit (I mean this positive as you will most likely use a tripod and take your time to optimize composition)
  • Top 22MP resolution backs available
  • Untethered backs are expensive (like the P25)
  • Top studio cameras for product, fashion and people photography
  • We like the 4:3, 7:6 or 6x6 aspect ratios much better than the 35mm 3:2

4x5 Cameras (View and Field cameras)

  • More bulky
  • Tripod required
  • Top control over perspective and focus (e.g. DOF)
  • Very good lenses available
  • No full frame digital one shot backs
  • Still very useable with backs like the P25

As you can see there is no single camera that can do it all. Each camera is tuned for a specific purpose. It is completely up to you what your style and budget requires. Where would I fit in? We like the MF solutions but use mainly 35mm SLRs for over 30 years now and like it. We plan to have a look into 4x5 view cameras soon. Here a back like the P25 is right now the only digital ticket if you want to use a 4x5 digitally in the field (remember that all cables may call for disaster).

Our advice is that you find out what your type of photography requires. Often only multiple systems may do.

P25 Handling

You can learn the P25 interface in about 10-15 minutes if you understand digital cameras a bit. The user interface is really fun and easy to use. There are no cables and the P25 feels very well integrated with the H1 camera. After the initial setup we could concentrate on using the camera itself.

Exposure control

The P25 provides an auto preview mode and you can control the exposure using a well readable histogram (could be slightly brighter outdoors). Also very useful is an overexposure preview where the overexposed parts blink. We would propose a feature that the right side of the histogram would blink if there are any regions of overexposure. That way we would not need to switch the preview panels that often.



Note on Hasselblad H1

What we like:

  • Top bright viewfinder
  • Excellent handling for MF
  • Leaf Shutter and mirror lockup allow lowest level of camera shake
  • High synch speed
  • Autofocus works fine (we think though that a Canon 1Ds is slightly better)
  • Sharp prime lenses

What we do not like that much:

  • Still very few lenses available (we don't think there is even one T/S lens)
  • No image stabilized lenses
  • Quite expensive (body and lenses)

Using the H1/P25

We use Capture One for all image processing. Means there was hardly anything to learn for us as we use CO now for over two years and like the image quality and workflow. Some sharpening was applied in Photoshop.

Note: We now use most of the time custom camera profiles created with GretagMacbeth ProfileMaker 5.0 (camera module) and the new GretagMacbeth ColorChecker SG. But also the generic profiles provided by CO would work for us.

Ristorante (H1/P25 at ISO 100)

100% magnification crop

We have the original raw file here for download (26MB). If you don't own Capture One you can get a full working demo to experience this P25 image yourself.

Color and details were excellent. Because the P25 does not use an AA filter the images get a more natural sharpness than with a Canon 1Ds Mk. II. That said the 1Ds Mk. II did also do an excellent job using prime lenses.

Antique Store (H1/P25 at 200 ISO)

100% magnification crop

The best results from the P25 you can expect at ISO 50/ISO 100. The ISO 200 results are not bad at all but you can find some smoothening done by the CO software.

ISO Behavior

All shots were processed and sharpened in the same way.

ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


Results at ISO 50 and 100 are as good as it gets. As said ISO 200 introduces some smoothening and ISO 400 is still useable but smoothening makes it even more soft.

We had only a short period of time to use the P25 for real images. See some of the images as part of our San Juan Bautista portfolio.

Phase One P25 vs. Canon 1Ds Mk. II

Comparing cameras is tricky and we don't want to claim that our comparison does both cameras justice. Unfortunately we did not manage to have the exact same magnification on both cameras (they have even a different aspect ratio). We used one of the best Canon lenses: the cheap 50mm 2.5 Macro (Photodo rating 4.4). The H1 was used with the 80mm standard lens. Both are very good lenses but it is hard to tell how much they favor one or the other solution.

1DS II + 50mm Macro                             H1+80mm + P25

Note: the P25 has about 33% more pixels.

ISO 100

H1 + 80mm + P25 ISO 100 (100% magnification)

1Ds II + 50mm Macro ISO 100 (100% magnification)

Iso 400

H1 + 80mm + P25 ISO 400 (100% magnification)

1Ds II + 50mm Macro ISO 400 (100% magnification)

In the end the cameras are pretty close at ISO 100 but the P25 images show more natural sharpness and look smoother. At ISO 400 we would give the edge to the 1Ds II.

What we experience here is the clear high end for one shot digital cameras (untethered) as of 12/2004. Also Capture One proved to be a raw converter that can resolve a lot of details.


The use of the P25 on the Hasselblad H1 was painless and fun. If you look for an untethered 22MP first class MF back then you should give the Phase One P25 a try.

Other reviews about the P25


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