Why Are Hasselblad Cameras So Expensive?


Pierce Codina

Oct 15, 2021

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The moon landing? Check. The Beatles at Abbey Road? Check. Hasselblad cameras have shot some of the most iconic photos for decades. It's a name every photographer, amateur, and professional alike have come to know. And while today their name is synonymous with a hefty price tag, that wasn’t always the case. In 1948 the company’s first consumer camera cost was around $5,900 adjusted for today’s inflation. Through the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, multiple models, while on the more expensive side of consumer cameras, still fell within the $500-$700 price range (around $5,700 in 2021). But while their early film cameras fit squarely into the budget of the average professional photographer, something happened when the company went digital. The average price of a camera exploded to a staggering $24,000 in 2004 - a 200% increase over their previous film model. So, what happened? Was Hasselblad just cashing in on iconic brand recognition and photography folklore? Or was their newfound technology in digital a landmark game-changer worth the five-figure price tag?

How are Hasselblad cameras made?

Let’s start with how the camera is manufactured. Unlike the factories of larger manufacturing plants of Sony, Fuji, and Canon, Hasselblad’s output has remained staggeringly small from its home base in Sweden. While exact production numbers are not known, a Verge report pointed out that it most likely falls well under 10,000 units a year. For comparison, Canon, Nikon, and Sony all produced well over 1 million units per year. This conscious effort on the part of Hasselblad to keep production numbers low has allowed them to retain old-school manufacturing techniques while embracing newer digital technologies. The average Hasselblad camera is built entirely by hand and takes up to 6-8 hours to assemble. Calibration makes up a third of those hours. The average Canon? A fraction of that time. With each sensor calibrated to the single-pixel level, it’s clear that production, QA, time, and individual care play a role in that hefty price tag. So, what about technology?

The Legendary Sensor

For fans of Hasselblad, it’s all about the sensor. In fact, the sensor in the digital back of a Hasselblad camera is exponentially larger than that of a Sony A7R. A larger sensor equals more detail, lower noise, and a wider dynamic range. So while the QA and care during the manufacturing process is a little hard to quantify, having the largest sensor in a medium format camera is not. And let’s be clear, the market of medium format cameras also plays into the price tag. Off-the-shelf consumer cameras are simply not the best option for art, fashion, and high-end photography of consumer goods. Professionals within those industries are often looking for medium format cameras that provide the most dynamic range without losing any clarity. And in that department, the clear winner is a Hasselblad. [caption id="attachment_3912" align="aligncenter" width="501"]hasselblad cameras Sensor Comparison Between iPhone, Sony A7 and Hasseblad  (Credit Business Insider)[/caption] So, if you’ve ever romanticized about owning the creme-de-la-creme of cameras are you out of luck if you are unwilling to shell out $25,000? The good news is, no. In the last few years, Hasselblad has made an effort to release more affordable models. The X1D II 50C retails for around $5,750 while the 907X 50C retails for around $6,399. Both are built in the same factory in Sweden and carry with them a smaller sensor which demands less calibration and a lower cost for the consumer. Best of all, if you check out the used gear market here on Gear Focus you can find similar models for just a fraction of that cost. [caption id="attachment_3916" align="aligncenter" width="452"] Used Hasselblad H5D 50C Camera on Gear Focus for $6,199.00[/caption]

What does it add up to?

Like most instruments that carry an iconic gravitas, the intrinsic value of the product is tied both to the quality of the output it can create and the allure that comes with it. This is no different than say the guitar or classic car industries. What is clear though, is that no matter the art the comes from a classic Hasselback, the camera in and of itself is an art piece. What do you think? Is it worth the price tag? Buy & Sell Hasselblad Cameras on Gear Focus today.

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