What Is A Hasselblad Camera And Why Are They So Expensive

Hasselblad is a company that has been associated with quality and technical capabilities since 1944. Throughout that time, Hasselblad cameras have been at the forefront of iconic photographs, taken by iconic photographers. From the famed Earth Rise photograph to the album cover of The Beatles Abbey Road.

As Hasselblad is considered a luxury brand, its cameras are out of reach to most consumers. Realistically, these cameras usually cost $48,000 or more without lenses. However, this high price hasn’t always been the case.

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The Hasselblad Price

Prices of high-quality cameras, such as the ones manufactured by Hasselblad have increased significantly over the years. If you had bought one back in 1948 for $500, it would have cost you $5,300 in today’s money, adjusting for inflation.

It is a high price, but nothing compared to the price of a Hasselblad today. And the large spike in the price of Hasselblad cameras is down to the shift from analog to digital.

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The First Digital Hasselblad

Why Hasselblad Cameras Are So Expensive
Credit: pixabay.com

The first digital Hasselblad, codenamed the H1D, was developed in 2004 and cost $24,000 at the time (a large spike compared to its predecessor’s price of $13,000). The camera had a 22.0-megapixel sensor (a number smaller than the 35mm film it was replacing) and offered excellent low-light performance as well as an impressive dynamic range:

To this day, these are still important factors that contribute to the camera’s high overall value. With a low volume of sales (the Verge reported under 10,000 units sold in 2018), the price of each camera is based on the manpower used to assemble the camera and components within.

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The Hasselblad Process

It takes a significant amount of time to make a Hasselblad camera, a process that is much more expensive than an automated assembly line. Moreover, this video explains that some people who assemble the cameras have been doing so for over 30 years. Making the production of a Hasselblad camera a craft, more so than a job.

In total, it takes about six to eight hours to assemble each camera, with calibration time taking up an equally long period of time. Additionally, each camera sensor is manually calibrated on its own before being affixed to the camera body.

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Price Of Each Component

There are three main components that form a Hasselblad camera; the digital back, the body, and the lens. A big reason why these cameras are so expensive is the digital back. It contains a high-end sensor that can cost almost $26,000.

This sensor is the biggest you will ever find in a camera and is manufactured by Sony. However, Hasselblad modifies the sensor to make sure it meets the high quality and perfect color calibration they require.

Considering the cost and time to produce a Hasselblad camera, it is no surprise they are so expensive and capable of producing such iconic photographs.