PetaPixel

Can the Nikon D800E Hold Its Own Against The Hasselblad H5D-40?

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What happens when you pit Nikon’s $3,000 D800E up against a $30,000 Hasselblad H5D? Well, photographer Benjamin Von Wong — whose work we’ve featured quite a bit here on PetaPixel — got to do just that in a friendly comparison.

The opportunity came about when BorrowLenses let Ben try out the Hasselblad H5D-40 and a set of Elinchrom Ranger Quadras for his “Fallen Angel” photoshoot, a project which has an interesting story behind it in and of itself.

Excited to play around with the medium format beast and pit it against his favorite workhorse camera body, he got to work and shared his conclusions in a post over on his blog.

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To briefly summarize his thoughts on the experience, he basically reiterates what most of us would probably conclude: the H5D impressed Ben in many regards, but it wasn’t without its typical medium format faults.

First the positives. The True-Focus system of the H5D made a positive impression. Also, a bit to his surprise, the lower frame rate and overall slower workflow of medium format ended up drawing him in.

“I’ve been looking to pay more attention to details,” writes Ben. “So slowing down wasn’t a big bother to me, and the fact that I could sync the camera past 1/250th (even though I never ended up needing it in this particular shoot) meant that I’d get more power out of my small little ranger packs while maintaining a shallow depth of field.”

Where the H5D fell noticeably short was in the ISO performance. Ben notes that anything past ISO 400 picked up grain extremely fast, and the autofocus ended up being borderline useless once the sun was down.

Understandably, he didn’t make say much about the D800E in way of a direct specs comparison, noting that these “are two different classes of camera,” each owning their own strengths and downfalls.

Demonstrating the kind of noise that shows up in H5D images when you start to crank the ISO a little.

Demonstrating the kind of noise that shows up in H5D images when you start to crank the ISO a little.

In the end, Ben concludes that while he does dream of owning it one day, at $27,000 more expensive it’s much more sensible (at least for him) to rent a medium format camera on those occasions when it’s capabilities are needed than it is to actually own one.

Of course, words can only tell you so much, and so Ben was sure to provide plenty of visual evidence for you to parse through at home. We’ve included those images below so that you can take a look for yourself and see if you can tell which image is from what camera. (We’ve included an answer key at the very bottom so we don’t spoil your fun while you’re browsing through them).

In my own opinion, the differences are rather obvious. No matter how well the D800E’s sensor performs, you can’t bend the laws of physics. The increased size of a medium format sensor (or negative) will always allow for a much smoother, more aesthetically pleasing bokeh when you compare the results against a full frame sensor (or 35mm film).

Those are just my thoughts though. Can you note the differences? And more importantly, are the differences worth the extra $27,000?

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Photo 1

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Photo 2

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Photo 3

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Photo 4

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Photo 5

If you’d like to take a look at the unique story behind this awesome photo shoot, be sure to head over to Ben’s blog and check out the wonderful write up and behind the scenes video included there. And if you want to read Ben’s thoughts on this comparison for yourself, you can find that blog post here.


Answer Key:


Image credits: Behind the scenes photographs (first two images in post) by Edward Lian Photography, remaining photos by Benjamin Von Wong and used with permission.


 
  • DafOwen

    Disregarded No1 as I accidentally saw the answer,otherwise managed to choose the right ones.
    However can’t help thinking it would have been fairer if he used a prime lens on the Nikon.

  • templebox

    Really pointless guessing on pictures on the web at 800px wide, I’d like to see a comparison on them printed 60+inches.

  • jones

    easy :) it’s just the difference in frame size and thus perspective compression that shows. Same reason why large format is so easy to tell from medium format. And, each has it’s use :)

  • mat

    Seriously guys… You want to compare Bananas and Oranges ?

  • Matt Wheeler

    But’s it’s a nikon…

    Who buys those anymore?

    /begin angry quarreling

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    When high-megapixel compacts started appearing, ‘photographers’ (read: dudes on the internet who own a dslr) would constantly post mocking MEGAPICKLES DONT MATTER comments anytime someone would compare the two and deride the megapixel war as marketing fluff. Same as with that silly new Nokia cameraphone.

    But as soon as the d800 appeared, suddenly every second blog post is ‘medium format killer?!’

  • Noel Kerns

    Fully agreed; at these image dimensions, pretty much any full frame DSLR is gonna hold it’s own, even against a medium format camera like the ‘blad.

  • Kaz

    Well when I die I will have my life insurance money,but then what good will a 30k camera do me? So guess I will just stick with the Nikon.

  • Moire

    So true. I wish they’ll go back to their 12mp camera. Canonites have been more open to largish MP, but a bit defensive on DR discussion. I guess people just need something to justify their gear’s inadequately.

  • kassim selamat

    A direct comparison will be with Sony A7r. Equipped with Zeiss FE 55mm, it can gives D800E a run for the money.

  • Olivier Sylvestre

    Am I the only one who prefers the 35mm shots?

  • szfofa

    QUIT TRIPPIN ON GEAR!!! if you got dollars you runnin with hasselblad, if you doing alright but aint the ad photog king do with the D800. a boss has both.

  • Rob

    PetaPixel you need to fix your photos here, they are super blurry compared to the photographers site.

  • Tyler Magee

    HA I will say the only reason I shoot nikon is for the D800 and D3x I do not own the D3x but the women I work with does.. at least the glass is good.

  • OtterMatt

    Personally, I gravitated more towards the DSLR photos here, and I think that has something to do with the focus capabilities of the Nikon over the apparently frustrating focusing of the ‘Blad. Color depth doesn’t seem so different, and maybe I’m just not refined enough (fnar, fnar), but the extra compression and depth of field of the ‘Blad just doesn’t pop to me. The bokeh seems perfectly fine to me.
    And no, no difference is worth $27,000. Not unless the person PAYING you to take those images thinks they’re worth that much.

  • micksh

    Nothing new. 5 years ago it was known that Canon compact can beat Hasselblad
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml

  • http://www.danielscottphotography.com/ Daniel Scott

    It’s almost unfathomable to think about the epidemic that has swept the internet with these stupid picture quality comparison between cameras, formats and lenses. You will never see the true difference on screen because of its low resolution and color characteristics compared to print. Why stop at comparing a Nikon D800E and Hasselblad H5D!?!? You might as well compare them to an iPhone which shot under controlled conditions won’t look any difference online. Also, if it’s not bad enough that the comparison is between two different sensor sizes (FYI: you can’t break the law of physics, at least where it pertains here), the pixel density isn’t the same either neither are the optics.

  • Genkakuzai

    Yeah it’s hardly fair to compare medium format primes with full format zooms, even if they are good zooms.

  • G. Green

    Independent of the gear used and the technical perfection or lack thereof, I do not think any of the above pictures are of high quality.

  • tg

    couldn’t agree more. No use to compare haseblad images where there has been done a terrible job at gradiation/color correction

  • Gavin Lister

    Your comments will fall on deaf ears for most. Either people don’t quite understand what M Format is about or they just wanna make comments about how ridiculous the price is compared to my this or my that.

  • http://www.stevehuskisson.com/ Steve Huskisson

    Unless I’m being paid $27,000 for a picture, it’s not worth the difference.

  • Andy Umbo

    BTW, I still shoot a 12 megapixel Nikon D300s, especially because it shoots .tiff, and can say that for magazine reproduction, I’ve shot more than a few double page spreads that look fine. I can’t see how using anything over a 24 megapixel APS-C is worth it, if all your work gets reproduced in a magazine or web-site. If we’re talking prints, then were talking different…

  • http://biglightbox.com Andres Trujillo

    wait, so are you trying to stop the comparison between the Canon 5D Mark W and the Hassie? So what are we gonna see next?

  • Alan Klughammer

    except it again is a different camera. Slower autofocus, etc etc.

  • Peter “Pots”

    I do agree that comparing images this small on a boob tube is kind of silly (pointless?)

  • Tony L.

    it’s too bad that the tighter portraits weren’t shot on the H5D… If a photographer shoots with a medium format digital like they shoot with a 35mm digital then you’ll get similar results. But if you shoot knowing what can be accomplished with a MFD camera then there certainly is a difference. I found that shooting with my 5D2 vs my H3D is all dependant on setup. But hey what do I know, BVW is a much more accomplished photog than I.

    On a side note, I’d like to see what these photographers can do with 4×5 film.

  • Eugene Chok

    35 mm vs 120, different tools for different work

  • Halfrack

    H5D-40 kit with the 80/2.8 is a $21,000 camera, not $30k. If you want a $30k kit, the H5D-50 with the 80/2.8 is $28k, and yes, that extra 10MP is worth it.

    If you’re shooting with a free rental, you should have taken BorrowLenses’ H4X + IQ280 kit. Better high ISO performance, plus sensor plus, and oh yea, 80MP! Retail is a bit more, but other peoples money….

  • http://www.daniriot.com/ Dani Riot

    sure, when showing us shots from both cameras that have both been cropped down to 1000 pixels tall, you are not going to pick out the differences.

    But taking pictures to look at on a screen is a bit of a waste on the money you spend on gear.

    Get these images printed big, and lets do some real comparisons…

  • Alex_sc

    The Hasselblad is better hands down, BUT, the Nikon customer service is by far superior. I purchased an H5D last year. It arrived and promptly broke, so it had to go back home to Sweden. I thought, hey, no worries it is new, they will replace it or something, and I had an expensive service plan. But, after 4 months, no loaner, and evasive customer service, I drifted into the Dislike Hasselblad category and remain there. My little D800 carried my studio while we patiently waited for the Hassey to return. It performed so well, that no one really knew the difference. It generated income that entire time while we waited and waited and waited for the Hassey to return. Hasselblad had absolutely no sense of urgency and beware that if your not a “big name” photographer in their book, you are no one. I agree with all the comments that they should have compared a prime lens on the D800. I have the 24-70, but it is not ultra crisp like a prime. Just my take on it.

  • Alex_sc

    The Hasselblad is better hands down, BUT, the Nikon service is by far superior. I purchased an H5D last year. It arrived and promptly broke, so it had to go back home to Sweden. I thought, hey, no worries it is new, they will replace it or something. But, after 4 months, no loaner, and evasive customer service, I drifted into the Dislike Hasselblad category and remain there. My little D800 carried my studio while we patiently waited for the Hassey to return. It performed so well, that no one really knew the difference. It generated income that entire time while we waited and waited and waited for the Hassey to return. Hasselblad had absolutely no sense of urgency and beware that if your not a “big name” photographer in their book, you are no one. I agree with all the comments that they should have compared a prime lens on the D800. I have the 24-70, but it is not ultra crisp like a prime. Just key take on it.