Canon 5D vs. Hasselblad H3Dii

UPDATED: So, as Johnny Danger pointed out in the comments below, I didn’t upsample the 5D to match the native resolution of H3Dii in the original test article. I have added two new slides to illustrate this and it really shows how much better the H3Dii is compared to the Canon 5D. I’m still amazed that this little blog post gets about 100 unique visitors a day and is the #3 link when you do a Google search for h3dii.

As you may have followed in my Daily Photoblog, I’ve been testing out the new Hasselblad H3Dii 39.1MP Back. The camera is just awesome and really fun to shoot with after being in 35mm format DSLR for the past 4 years. And the files I pulled off it were amazing. The image quality, sharpness, and dynamic range just blew my mind. But is it worth $30,000? Better yet, is it worth a $500/day rental versus a $150/day rental for Canon 5D?

Why I did this test:

My goal is to provide the best photographic image for my client and I made this to show the difference. Feel free to reference to it, but please link back to it with full credit line, ©Lincoln Barbour –


In order to get results that made sense to me and my workflow, I converted the H3Dii raw file in FlexColor to DNG. My Canon files are always converted to DNG on import. I processed both images in Adobe Camera Raw 4.2 using the same default exposure settings, sharpness set to zero, noise reduction set to 10. I did change the color temperature so they would match better and be a little more neutral. Most of my color issues are dealt with in post, so I wasn’t too concerned about the native color of each camera. On the Canon 5D, I used the 50mm 1.4 at f/5.6. On the Hasselblad HD3ii, I used the 80mm 2.8 at f/8. These lenses are equivalent in focal length and both are good quality lenses. The reason for a smaller aperture on the H3Dii was to get same amount of sharpness on a larger image area. I’m not sure if one stop is mathematically correct, but it’s close enough. Both cameras were on 100 ISO. My shutter speeds varied due to the natural light conditions (it was a partly cloudy day, so light levels were constantly changing).

Test 1: Image Size

5D vs. H3Dii - Image Size

As you can see, the bigger sensor creates a bigger image. Kind of a “no duh!”, but I wanted to show it visually. The 5D image size is 9.707″x14.56″ @ 300dpi and the H3Dii is 18.04″x24.053″ at 300dpi. This example is a scaled down version of the two images at the same resolution.

Test 2: Resolution

5D vs. H3Dii - Resolution

Cropping in at full resolution, this is what we get. It’s really hard to compare the two, other than “Holy crap! That spout is huge!” But, you can tell how much more detail the H3Dii gets pixel per pixel. The more information you have, the better your final output will be.

Test 3: Sharpness & Detail

5D vs. H3Dii - Sharpness
Canon 5D vs. Hasselblad H3Dii - 39.1MP Crop

To compare apples to apples, I reprocessed the H3Dii file as a 12.6MP to match the 5D’s native output. I then also processed the 5D files at 25.2 MP and upsampled it (PS bicubic smoother) to 39.1 MP to match the H3Dii’s native resolution. As you can see, the H3D has a lot more detail and also appears sharper. Towards the bottom of the image, you can really see the difference by examining the fine powder specs in the metal. The specs are much more clearly defined and you see more of them. The 5D starts to mush things together.

Test 4: Shadow Detail

5D vs. H3Dii - Shadow Detail
Canon 5D vs. Hasselblad H3Dii - 39.1MP Crop

This is a tougher test to see at first, but the 5D is clipping to black faster than the H3Dii. In other words, there’s more shadow information in the H3Dii file. Shadow detail is so important and though the 5D does do a good job, the H3Dii gives you just a little more push and pull. Plus it’s a smoother transition to pure black, which makes a huge difference when it’s printed.


I’m definitely sold on the H3Dii. For me, it comes down to three things: Size, Detail, and Information. Cost isn’t really a factor, because my clients deserve the best and I want to give them the best. Though it’s hefty price tag, the H3Dii is really worth the extra money. Especially if you look at it from a rental fee point of view. You get such better quality images for an amount of money that is relatively small to entire project budget. The 5D is awesome camera and I will still use it for some editorial assignments and personal work. You really don’t need 39MP when you photo is going to run 1/4 page. Plus, walking around decaying urban areas with a $34,000 camera and $10,000 in lenses can be a little nerve racking. 🙂

2 Responses to “Canon 5D vs. Hasselblad H3Dii”

  1. ivan says:

    hi there

    i am currently thinking of buying a hd3ii 50 and i currently use a 5D mkiii so your post here is quite good as you made the same transition.

    the mkiii is disappointing because the file size is the same as the mkii. like you, i want bigger files with a high end quality and i think the 5d mkiii struggles to do that.

    so you would recommend the crossover to hasselblad ?

    i do not doubt it is a lot better, but unlike you the cost does bother me a bit, but i am swaying to the change anyway as quality is my priority.

    would you go as far as to say it is infinitely better?

    i too will keep my canon because the 3d will be too much for some things, but i will use it for editorial portraits to retain the colour.

    btw, your photos arent present here…so only the words to go by

    any of your thoughts on this matter, on an informal level, will be appreciated,.

    look forward to hearing from you!



    • Hey Ivan,

      I made this post a long time ago, so a lots changed since then. Ultimately, it really depends on the needs of your clients or creativity.

      Most of my clients use the images I shoot for web or print advertising. 90% of the time, the resolution of the Mark II or III is plenty.

      Every so often, a need comes up for crazy resolution and I’ll rent a PhaseOne or Hassy to
      do it.

      My go to camera is the Canon 5D Mark III and I use the 17mm TS-E, 24mm TS-E, 24-70mm L, 100mm L Macro, and occasionally the 70-200mm. The body and all those lenses costs as much or less than the one Phase or Hassy camera.

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