H1 & Kodak Pro Back 645H Experience Report
Hasselblad H1 with Kodak Pro Back 645H attached
A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller
|We might add some more findings as our review continues.
|It took us one year to test our second medium format
camera equipped again with a Kodak Pro Back. Last year we had a brief
look at the Contax/Pro
Back 645C combo.
The Hasselblad H1 is Hasselblad's move to the popular
6x4.5cm format and marks a new era for Hasselblad:
- No 6x6cm
- No Zeiss lenses (Fuji)
For many the first one might be even more a problem than the second
one. We cannot compare here Zeiss vs. Fuji lenses but everything indicates
that the H1 lenses do just fine.
|H1 is a Hybrid for Film/Digital
Because the H1 is the most recent released new medium
format camera it was designed to be more digital-ready than other MF
cameras on the market. That means:
- No extra cables required for camera/back communications
- Even Histogram display on the camera panel
Hasselblad stayed with it's traditional leaf shutters (but a new electronic
one: 18hours to 1/800 sec). This solution results in more expensive
lenses but has two principle advantages:
- Higher flash synch speed
- Zero shake at longer exposures if mirror is up
We hardly ever use a flash in our outdoor work. But the zero shake
is a big plus for many exposures between 1/60 and a couple of seconds
if used with mirror up.
Mexican Feeling (H1 + 80mm + Pro Back)
|Using the H1
What is the big deal about a medium format camera?
With film it is clearly resolution and the big viewfinder. With digital
the resolution advantage is still there but for us the viewfinder might
be the more important feature. There is no doubt in our mind that a
bigger viewfinder allows more control for composition. The H1 has one
of the best viewfinders in its class.
Handling the H1 is pure fun. Here are our highlights:
- Bright and large viewfinder with easy control of shutter speed and
- Easy mirror lockup
- Fast autofocus
- Zero shake on long exposures (your tripod and the wind are your
- Excellent grip for handheld operation
- Histogram display on camera panel
What is the downside of the H1?
- Much more expensive than the Contax or Mamiya
- Still a very limited selection of lenses available
Why don't we mention the exposure metering system? In our style of
digital only photography we only use manual settings. The exposure metering
is used as a hint and then we adjust the exposure to the resulting histogram.
Here the histogram display on the camera LCD comes in handy as it is
easier to read than e.g. on the Pro Back LCD in bright sunlight.
Note: If you use the Pro Back noise reduction feature
for long exposures you might need to recall the the histogram manually
as it takes the ProBack some time to generate the extra data needed
for dark-frame subtraction.
If price and the limited line of lenses are no issue then we think
this is a 645 camera as good as it gets today.
Faded Colors (H1 + 80mm + Pro Back)
|Kodak Pro Back 645H: Transforming the H1 into a digital
|If you add the Kodak Pro Back 645H to the H1 you really
get a well integrated digital camera. This has the advantage that you
can use one camera with different backs (studio and outdoors). Your H1
will also be ready to take the next generation of digital backs. Even
if we did not hear that much about the new Fuji back (announced at this
years PMA) this might be a great surprise for all H1 users. Keep in mind
that the H1 is manufactured in cooperation with Fuji and also sold under
the Fuji brand name in Japan.
|If it comes to outdoor photography a back that is not
tethered like the Pro Back 645H (and there is no other back like this)
is a big advantage. There are no cables to trip on.
|The Pro Back 645 feels nearly like a film back. Only
the battery makes a difference but we did not find it in our way at any
time. The other difference is the a different viewfinder screen. This
is needed as the Pro Back has a sensor size of 37x37mm and only uses a
crop from the 60x45mm format.
With the Pro Back 645H all H1 users win the square
format back. You can chose also rectangular formats on the Pro Back
but would just throw away some resolution. So why not shoot square and
We have never been a fan of the square format but we now learn that
there are many, many compositions that break the 4x5 or even 3:2 barrier
of 4x5 and 35mm cameras. It probably can be said that square is the
most flexible format to use and we begin to like the square.
|Pro Back Software and Workflow
We used the Kodak Photo Desk software many times
and really find it not to support our kind of workflow (here we use
Phase One's Capture One DSLR most of the time). We would rather like
to use Adobe's Camera Raw even if the Kodak cameras are not officially
supported. But unfortunately we think that the latest version of Photo
Desk delivers better results in terms of colors. For this review we
will only use Photo Desk with sharpening and noise reduction set to
"None". All images are converted using the "Product Look"
in Photo Desk 3.1.
Note: We still think the Photo Desk does some sort
of noise reduction anyway.
|From now on we will provide as some kind of a reference
a shot of a brick wall with a GretagMacbeth Color Checker.
Note of Caution: This
is not a scientific test, but should give some clue about the resolution
and color qualities of a system:
- Software (Raw converter)
We also provide a link to the original RAW files. As base reference
we will use our Canon 1Ds.
- Camera specific raw converter (specified)
- Some contrast adjustments using the white, black and gray fields
of the Color Checker
- Sharpening with FocalBlade
- needed extra steps (specified)
|Note: Yes, the Canon 100mm is an excellent lens to beat.
But this is by no means a macro shot and should be in the reach of any
|1Ds + 100mm Macro Reference shot (original
raw file 10MB)
1Ds + 100mm Macro, Raw Converter Capture One DSLR
|H1 + 80mm + Pro Back 645H (original
raw file 20MB)
H1 + 80mm + Pro Back 645H, Raw Converter Kodak Photo Desk
|100% Pixel crop comparison
Pro Back (some additional "Clarifier" USM 0.35, 40, 0)
The Pro Back needs a bit more sharpening. Some raw converters apply
some implicit sharpening. But we think the 1Ds + 100mm Macro have a
very slight edge over the H1 + 80mm + Pro Back 645 combo at the pixel
level. But the pro back delivers 16 MP vs. 11 MP of the 1Ds. Depending
on how you crop the difference might be smaller or even bigger.
We are very pleased with the colors we get so far and
find them pretty truthful.
The Pro Back has slightly more noise but we printed a couple of 20x20"
prints and got excellent results. We also see no problem to use the
Pro Back at about ISO 200. In case we see too much noise for our taste
we use "Grain Surgery 2" to lower it.
Make up your own mind and download our full sized raw files.
Power of the Square (H1 + 80mm + Pro Back 645H at 2secs)
|We also made some exposures at 2-6 seconds and found
the results really good.
H1 + 80mm + Pro Back 645H at 2 secs
100% pixel crop (sharpened)
Some more Shots
Hakone Gardens in Saratoga
Point Lobos Rock Abstract
The Hasselblad H1 and the Kodak Pro Back 645H deliver a good portable
medium format solution we would like to use every day. The square
format is also a big advantage and we find more and more compositions
that benefit from the square.
Michael Reichmann called it "A very 'restful' format" and we can relate
to it. If it would not be a major investment we would easily
go the Hasselblad H1/Pro Back route. It would not be
a replacement for our 35mm cameras but as a major addition. We would
use it for about 70% of our work if we could get our hands on the Hasselblad
120mm Macro lens.
We recommend both camera and back.
|Other Reviews about the Pro Back 645