This discussion is all about why Hasselblad cameras are so expensive.
Hasselblad is a Swedish manufacturer of camera systems, lenses, and image scanners. The Hasselblad camera has always been the pinnacle of the photography world has to offer. The company is known for manufacturing some of the most renowned cameras the world has seen.
Hasselblad cameras have also produced some of the most iconic photos known to man. When the first humans landed on the Moon, the most well-known photographs of that expedition were shot using a modified Hasselblad camera. Then you have the famous image on the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. That was also shot using a Hasselblad. There are many such examples.
Reputation aside, is the high price associated with Hasselblad camera systems justified? Let’s find out.
Main reasons why Hasselblad cameras are so expensive
Having learned about Hasselblad’s manufacturing process and the way the company operates, we can summarize the main reasons for Hasselblad cameras being so expensive under the following main points.
Manual assembly line
One of the significant reasons Hasselblad cameras are so pricey is because the entire assembly process is done manually. Although many other companies manufacturing lenses and cameras also include manual processes in the assembly line, they can’t compare to what Hasselblad does. The entire assembly line is manually operated, and the quality check is performed manually too.
Hasselblad shares this appeal with another iconic brand, Ferrari. Just like a Ferrari is hand-assembled and custom-made to order, and only a few are made every year (the most mass-produced Ferrari takes about three weeks to assemble), Hasselblad also makes only a few cameras each year.
This unique assembly method contributes significantly to rising costs due to the cost of manual labor and individual expertise. The cheapest Hasselblad currently is the X1D II 50C Medium Format Mirrorless (belonging to the Hasselblad X series) which is priced at $5750.
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Large sensor size and increased resolution
Hasselblad uses medium format sensors as the beating heart of their camera systems. Larger sensors are capable of capturing a lot of detail.
It is not only about the size of the sensor but also about the size of the individual pixels that make up the sensor. The individual pixels that make up the sensors for medium format cameras are also very large. They are significantly larger than the pixels on full frame and crop cameras – this is the reason they’re able to gather a lot of light and are so good in low light conditions.
Additionally, manufacturers can fit in many individual pixels because these media format sensors have a larger area. Therefore, these camera sensors’ resolution is significantly higher than the resolution possible on standard full frame and crop camera systems. Suppose you compare an image shot with a medium format camera with an image shot by a full-frame (same scene). You will notice that the medium format image has an incredible amount of detail compared to the image shot with the full frame camera. If you blow up a tiny section of the image, even that section will have a lot of detail compared to the image shot with the full-frame camera.
Additionally, media format camera systems do not use pixel binning – a technology many consumer-grade camera systems use to make their specifications appear more impressive, when in fact, these camera systems combine four or more pixels to showcase as one. On some camera systems like smartphones, pixel binning can involve using around 16 pixels combined to work as one pixel. This often results in a lot of detail and sharper images, but on the flip side, there is a lot of noise.
Medium format camera systems do not use pixel binning, and that’s why these camera systems don’t suffer from noise – an important reason why professional photographers, especially those in fashion and other high-end product photography fields, use medium format camera systems.
Another significant advantage of large pixel sensor camera systems is that they have a greater dynamic range when compared to smaller sensors cramped with many pixels.
Fewer products manufactured
One important reason I have already mentioned above is the low production output of Hasselblad compared to the high labor cost involved in manufacturing these cameras. Hasselblad does not reveal how many cameras they produce every year. Yet, It is safe to assume that they do not manufacture a lot of cameras the way Nikon, Sony, or Canon does. However, the steep cost of manual labor needs to be absorbed, which is why the per unit production cost of Hasselblad cameras is so high.
The shift from analog to digital systems
Interestingly Hasselblad cameras did not always fetch such exorbitant price tags. Back in the 1940s, a Hasselblad camera cost only about $500. If you compare the camera price after accounting for inflation, it will come down to only $5900 today.
Even in the 1970s, the cameras made by Hasselblad were not as expensive as they are now. The price tag of Hasselblad cameras began to skyrocket when the digital camera movement came into existence, and camera manufacturers started shifting toward digital technology. The simple reason for this is that it costs a lot of money to produce a digital medium format sensor.
Unique calibration system
One of the essential aspects of Hasselblad camera systems is the proprietary calibration process that every camera goes through before they roll out of the assembly line.
Manually done using a proprietary process, Hasselblad cameras are calibrated to ensure that they capture accurate color tones, such as skin tones. This is extremely important for certain types of photography.
The sensors are calibrated down to a single pixel level. This calibration process takes time, and it’s done with a very systematic approach. None of the other manufacturers, especially the ones that mass produce cameras on an assembly line, do this. This can usually take up to one-third of the time to manufacture a Hasselblad camera.
Hasselblad camera systems are built to withstand almost everything you or Mother Nature could throw at them. They can easily take in any amount of abuse that they are likely to come across in the work field.
Hasselblad cameras were even used in the Apollo moon missions. Some of the most iconic moon mission images you see were shot by Neil Armstrong using a specially designed Hasselblad camera.
These cameras work in zero gravity (though you are unlikely to test this) and in extreme cold, conditions in which most electronic equipment would fail. So if you are investing in a Hasselblad, it’s safe to assume that it will not only outlast you, but your future generation will also be able to use your camera without any issues.
Notwithstanding all that has been said above, Hasselblad understands the growing consumer demand for affordable cameras. The cheapest Hasselblad you can buy right now will push you back nearly $6000. But even for that price, the camera is nowhere near having the same features and functionalities as some of its competitors.
For example, the Nikon Z9 mirrorless camera is priced at just under five and a half thousand dollars and has way more functionalities than the entry-level Hasselblad. It can shoot 8K 60P videos and offers N-RAW. On the other hand, the Hasselblad can’t even shoot videos.
Hasselblad understands this vast gap and commits itself to producing more consumer-friendly camera models. About six years ago, in 2016, Hasselblad introduced the first ever digital compact mirrorless medium format camera – the X1D-50c.
We are excited to see Hasselblad grow and strive to meet photographers of all experience levels where they are at in the future.
Hasselblad, just like Leica, is a premium camera manufacturing company. Hasselblad cameras stand out for their high quality, exceptional build, superb resolution, and precise calibration, placing them in a league of their own.
That said, Hasselblad is not a camera brand for everyone. They prefer to cater to only premium users, unlike Canon Nikon or Sony.
The most important reason why Hasselblad cameras cost so much is that they are medium format cameras and the sensor technology of medium format cameras is expensive to perfect and produce.
If you are not a professional photographer with high-end clients, you do not need a Hasselblad in your arsenal. Any good full-frame camera is more than enough for your requirements.
Hasselblad systems tend to be reserved for people who cater to a premium market.