In this guest review, Osaka-based filmmaker Matthew Carmody takes a close look at the Hasselblad H6D-100c – a 100MP, 4K Raw-capable medium format camera. Intrigued? Read on for his hands-on impressions.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who took a peak at Christoph Tilley’s write-up about medium-format video on the H6D-100C last year. The images had something special about them to my eye and I wanted to know more. But, to my surprise, after scowering the internet for days there wasn’t really much in the way of other detailed reviews or footage.
This only served to fuel my interest, eventually leading me to chat with an old colleague that had recently started working at Hasselblad here in Japan. And, funnily enough, it seemed that I wasn’t the only one that wanted to see what this camera could do in the field.
So, two full days of testing and two all-nighters to make workable rigs for my usual fast-paced shooting style later and I was ready to head out to the track to film a popular drifting event I originally intended to shoot with Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro. Here is a detailed description of what I discovered in the process.
First Things First – Workflow & Technical Details
The Hasselblad H6D-100c shoots UHD 4K video @24p to CFAST2.0 cards in a proprietary compressed raw format with a .3FV container. The 256GB CFAST2.0 cards I used held around 20 minutes worth of data. Why I say “around” is that it doesn’t tell you how much space is left on the card while you shoot, leaving you to guess and backup as you go.
The whole width of the sensor is being used, with the tops and bottoms cut off to create 16:9 aspect video. I can’t seem to verify if it is using a method such as pixel binning, but nonetheless, this is quite amazing as it is converting that lovely medium-format look from the 12K sensor to 4K compressed raw video on the fly. As a result, prepare for noticeable rolling shutter effect, something I was ready for thanks to Christoph’s original review. Seriously don’t try and shoot handheld with anything over 24mm, especially if you are a heavy coffee drinker like me…
Once you have shot something, you need to decompress the .3FV files into a flavor of ProRes or a cinema DNG sequence using Hasselblad’s Phocus software. You can name these sequences, or just output to the same name as the original compressed files. Beware that Phocus is very slow to decompress the files. I mean REALLY slow. It took close to 20 hours on my reasonably fast PC to decompress 930GB of .3FV files from the shoot. I put this down to it being optimized for single photos and not video. Hopefully this will change in a future version!
If you choose cinema DNG like I did, the decompressed 16bit DNG files take approximately 2.5 times the space of the original compressed .3FV files. These files are very processor intense even in Resolve, so I recommend creating DNG proxies with Slimraw ($49.00 USD) to compress the 16bit CDNG files into 12bit DNG with 3:1 or 4:1 etc compression for editing and grading in Resolve. This way the workflow remains the same in Resolve and you then just re-link the original 16bit CDNG when finished to output.
NOTE: Resolve is the only software that currently reads these compressed DNG files. Other NLEs need a different workflow.
This decompression process is kind of similar to what you have to do with DJI’s X5R footage from the Inspire 1 or DJI OSMO RAW. Anyone familiar with Blackmagic or DJI products will feel at home with these DNG files. I enjoyed the editing and grading process once everything was decompressed and proxies were created.
The Good, The Bad, and the Audio
I quickly worked out that there is no built-in microphone. You can attach an external mic via the 3.5mm jack on the left side.
I couldn’t find anywhere in the menu to alter or monitor audio levels. They appear fixed. As a result, I had to scrap all audio from the shoot as it was way too loud and noisy. A shame, as some of the engines sounded amazing…
Once the mic is setup, the audio is recorded along with a 720p mp4 file that is put in the cinema DNG folder and called “audio.mp4.” Surprisingly these mp4 files are 25p, not 24p like the raw sequence. Even more surprising is that the audio.mp4 and corresponding raw sequence are different lengths and don’t match.
You could add something like a Juicedlink for better preamps, but the audio itself isn’t going to be easy to use even for scratch due to the differing lengths.
Rigging the Camera for Real-world Filming
The first problem I ran into was that the camera body needs to be raised as the lens is lower than the body and will hit the tripod or gimbal plate in most cases.
The viewfinder can be removed, so I did to streamline the build. In combination with the very compact 80mm lens, fitting it on a Ronin-M was reasonably straight forward.
80mm is equivalent to 40mm on a super 35mm camera like the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro or Canon C200, making it a perfect focal length for general shots.
The built-in screen is less than ideal for anything other than seeing you have a picture when filming moving images. You absolutely need an external monitor to shoot video on the Hasselblad H6D-100c. Some other quirks associated with the built-in screen are a lack of metering/monitoring tools like a histogram in video mode, so you have no idea of your exposure. The built-in focus peaking is useful for manual focusing but will only work if you first go into photo mode and then back to video mode. It will then stop working as soon as you press record.
Once you have an external monitor setup you will find the 1080p feed out from the mini HDMI out seems to have a heavy rec.709 LUT applied, making it difficult to judge exposure by eye. Not that one would ever judge exposure purely from a monitor by eye, but…
To overcome this I used an IKAN DH5e 5″ external monitor with waveform to purposefully overexpose, ignoring the misleading super blown out look you get on the camera LCD screen. The reason for this overexposure is that the raw files have amazing highlight recovery. More on this later.
Another area that needed some thought was power management. The battery in the hand grip only lasts around 30 minutes when using live view and shooting video. You could use a few batteries and recharge as you go, however the batteries take several hours to fully charge and I didn’t have time to do this during the shoot.
To shoot a full day event I made a 12V D-TAP cable to get external power from the Ronin’s battery distributor for gimbal work, and a V-mount battery for tripod shots
I didn’t have to change the hand grip battery once with this setup, making filming a lot less complicated. NOTE: You still have to have the hand grip battery inserted for the system to boot, so the hand grip itself can’t be removed.
Continual power means heat and the sensor will overheat in continual live view mode after around 30 minutes on a warm day. I decided to leave the live view off between shots whenever possible, allowing me to shoot for over 8 hours straight with only one overheat resulting in 5 minutes downtime to cool off and backup data.
On the topic of live view, the live view screen will go blank after every clip you record, requiring you to restart it and get everything setup again for each individual cut. This isn’t a big issue, but can be a slight hindrance if you want to shoot clips in quick succession.
No built-in ND filters meant back to good old 4″x 5.65″ IRND for the 300mm and 24mm lenses, and a 67mm IR cut + Variable ND for the 80mm/2.8 and 100mm/2.2 lenses. Not a big deal if, like me, have filters lying around for other cameras without built-in NDs.
Also, there is no way to remote trigger REC with something like a LANC cable. You have to press the small rec button on the touch screen, or press the shutter button on the hand grip. Needless to say, this makes recording a little cumbersome on a gimbal…
Shutter Angle and ISO
The Hasselblad H6D -100C is primarily a studio camera. After much research and several days of testing in various environments I found that you generally need to film at ISO 64 for the cleanest results, so I decided to fix ISO at 64 for the whole shoot. This camera is not designed for lowlight environments. At least not when it comes to video. One nice side effect of this is that you don’t need as much IRND during the day even at bright apertures.
The closets you can get to a 180 degree shutter angle is 1/45 or 1/60. There is no option for 1/48 or even 1/50. Slightly strange as it only shoots 24p.
NOTE: ALL SHOTS IN THE VIDEO USED ISO64 and 1/60 SHUTTER. I could have chosen 1/45, but drift cars are fast and I wanted to cut stills for SNS from the video as well.
The Raw Truth
As soon as I brought the files into DaVinci Resolve, I found the colors to be amazing even with a standard rec.709 LUT and basic grading applied. The grade you see in the video literally took 30 seconds to achieve. I just needed to tweak individual files from there and I was done.
The next thing I discovered was that the highlight recovery of the 16bit raw files is very good. You can get back even the most severely overexposed areas to a point where the clipping doesn’t bother your eye. Quite amazing and much better than some other popular cinema cameras on the market.
The catch is that the shadows can be quite noisy. You can see this in the wide angle slow push into the yellow car window. The bucket seats show a decent amount of noise. It would seem that the compressed raw files favor the highlights at the expense of the shadows.
One thing I can say is that if you look at the video as a whole you see it isn’t a problem with the majority of shots. Overexposing in light of the excellent highlight recovery can help solve this issue in most cases.
Another thing you may also notice in the overexposed areas have a tendency to exhibit a purple tint. I needed to mask and fix a few shots in the video due to this. Check the wheel rims and other overexposed metallic parts in some shots. You can see a bit of this purple in the bright highlights.
This was a real shoot, so I decided to go with three main lenses that were all reasonably different and would cover wide, medium, and long shots. Starting from the wide end, the 24mm lens has noticeable distortion in the corners as it is apparently designed for a slightly smaller medium-format sensor. Check the wide shots in the video. Phocus apparently crops and corrects this for still images, however in-body correction of this distortion would be much appreciated for video shooters. It has a very unique look that is great for certain shots. Creating bokeh with such a wide angle is one reason medium-format is so intriguing to many people including myself.
The 80mm lens is a great all-round lens that is super compact and features a bright F2.8 aperture. F2.8 for medium format is faster than it sounds. I used it as the main lens on DJI’s Ronin-M with a DJI follow focus system for control. 80% of the footage is filmed with this lens purely due to the convenience and speed this lightweight setup afforded. The early morning shots are at around F2.8-F3.5. Later on I used F5.6 for medium shots like the fake cop car with flashing lights. All apertures up to F8 were pleasing to my eye.
The 300mm lens was naturally a tough one to shoot moving objects like drift cars. Rolling shutter can be a problem with longer focal lengths and moving objects. Most of the shots in the video with the 300mm (The blue drift car, guy waving green t-shirt) are shot at F5.6 with 1.2 IRND applied and the results look very pleasing to me. Resolving, but not sharp with creamy bokeh.
Wide open, all lenses seemed to be a tad soft and creamy, while at the same time highly resolving. This is a character I really liked. They started fully resolving when slightly stopped down to F5.6 through F8.
The bokeh and fall off from all the lenses (aside from the 24mm which I mainly used at F8 for this shoot) are absolutely beautiful. The subject in focus is very 3-dimensional and the backgrounds are soft and creamy to my eye. Watching the video should show this better than anything I write here.
This camera is not everyone’s cut of tea. However, working around its restrictions you can get very nice images in the right conditions. For me, the overall image quality and look this camera produces is special enough to outweigh the current list of cons, some of which I am sure can be easily rectified in a firmware update and future versions of Phocus.
Hasselblad H6D-100c – Main Pros: (In no particular order)
- Full readout of the sensor width with no horizontal crop
- The amazing look the lenses give in combination with this massive sensor
- Lovely 3-dimentional rendition of subjects with superb fall off and creamy bokeh
- Beautiful colors out of the box
- Medium-format video in a compact form factor that even fits on a small gimbal
- Highlight roll off is pleasing even in heavily overexposed areas
- Recording to readily available CFAST2.0 media
Hasselblad H6D-100c- Main Cons: (In no particular order)
- No way to see how much space is left on the CFAST card
- Noticeable rolling shutter in fast pans or fast-moving objects
- The audio is difficult to use even for scratch
- Shadows can show noticeable noise in some situations
- Overexposed highlights tend to have a slight purple tint
- The mp4 files are 25p and of a different length to the DNG sequences
- Live view resets and needs to be reactivated after every shot
- Phocus is slow to expand the compressed raw files into DNG files
I hope some of this might be useful if you ever get your hands on a Hasselblad for video. Happy shooting!