It’s no secret that Hasselblad has been in a near-constant state of upheaval over the past few years.
The once venerated Swedish camera company, synonymous with professional medium-format cameras, struggled tremendously with the transition to digital photography, and has been sold multiple times since the start of the new millennium.
Despite changing hands and undergoing new leadership every few years, Hasselblad continued to languish and flounder, and the brand has even become increasingly diluted in recent years by a number of painfully gauche collaborations with Sony.
The consequences of such partnerships have been severe, and even at the very top there have been seismic disturbances. Larry Hansen, CEO of Hasselblad from July 2011 to October 2013, in particular bombed out rather acrimoniously and was sued by Hasselblad in 2014 for his deals with Sony. Hasselblad accused Hansen of financial negligence and causing huge cash-flow problems for the company by commanding his subordinate to buy new camera components in breach of the board’s demands to halt orders and save costs.
The shake-ups culminated last November when the buzzing and soaring Chinese drone manufacturer DJI (who just released the excellent Phantom 4) acquired a minority share in Hasselblad—a sure sign if any, of how much the landscape of photography gear has shifted.
Hasselblad may have shown us the first images of the moon back in 1961 when the 500 EL was taken into space with Apollo-11, but DJI is the pioneer now, granting consumers the ability to see our own planet in unprecedented ways.
Regardless of DJI’s new minority stake however, current CEO Perry Oosting spoke to ePHOTOzine during the launch of the H6D and insisted:
“We have not changed strategy due to the investment. We would love to do more on the product side with DJI, but both companies are very busy. There is a huge pool of talent there, and we would love to work with them more. We have done two joint events with them, but beyond that there’s no product, yet, on the market. Strategic direction will remain the same.”
While professionals still trust the professional H-series cameras (Read more: Hasselblad have just released two new promising models), consumer confidence in its prosumer models must surely be at an all time low.
In collboration with Sony, Hasselblad produced cameras like the Lunar, Stellar, HV, Stellar II, and Lusso that quickly made the brand a laughingstock; the cameras were clearly just rebranded from the Sony NEX-7, RX100, a99, RX100 II, and the a7R respectively, for the luxury Chinese market (where apparently they were quite profitable).
Hasselblad in 2016
Unwilling to criticise the previous leadership at Hasselblad, Oosting even defended the Sony strategy by saying, “There was nothing wrong with the Lunar camera, or with the Stellar. These were great cameras. The thing is, we see the value proposition that we will deliver going forward as different.”
What Oosting was hinting at was that Hasselblad will start making more affordable cameras, although it isn’t clear if Hasselblad will be independently developing one, or opting to work with trusted partners such as Sony or Fujifilm. While Oosting did tell ePHOTOzine that these new cameras won’t be rebranded Sony models, he was keen to stress that Hasselblad has not ruled out working closely with their partners in an effort to make the new cameras as excellent as possible.
Optimistically for Hasselblad fans who have become accustomed to feeling disappointed and even betrayed by the brand’s recent cameras, Oosting has made it clear that he doesn’t see Hasselblad as a ‘luxury’ brand.
He told Amateur Photographer that he doesn’t intend to make ‘bling cameras’, and that from now on:
Some commentators online have surmised that Hasselblad might rely on Fujifilm’s expertise in the mirrorless department to bring out a mirrorless medium-format camera, and if those speculations turn out to be true, Hasselblad may finally have a winning camera worthy of the name.
Cover image by Pixabay user Benjamin Balazs