By BRAD MORRIS
Allow me to introduce myself. I am an Australian-born photographer based in Hong Kong, having lived most of the last 30 years in Asia. I tend to specialize in portraits, live music with some commercial studio work, travel and street photography thrown in to the mix. I shoot Nikon SLRs, the Fujifilm X-E1 and Sony RX100.
The situation that I got to see and play was not a formal demonstration but a lucky coincidence as I saw some guys playing with their new toys and decided to have a chat in passing. They were kind enough to let me have a play with the gear while I was there. I did not get the opportunity to keep images taken with either the Zeiss lenses or the Lunar, but I was able to spend a little time with the Lunar in hand so I am able to offer some first impression thoughts.
I just happened to have my RX100 in pocket and was lucky enough to get some grab shots.
First to the Zeiss lenses.
There are comparison images floating around the Internet. Personally, in Fujifilm X mount at least, I can’t really see the point of the 1.8/32 model. Comparisons with the stellar Fujifilm 35/1.4 don’t really seem to show any optical advantages and you lose 2/3 of a stop in speed wide open — and if anything, based on the samples I have seen to date, the Zeiss is ever so slightly softer than the Fujifilm lens.
Sony NEX though is a different story, as that system is lacking in a variety of available autofocus fast primes. The 12mm lens again is a different story, there is nothing available in the ultra wide space for NEX, and the widest Fujifilm optic available is the 14/2.8.
A difference of 2mm doesn’t sound like that much, but at that wide angle it is a significant difference, being 99 degrees angle of view for the 12mm lens as opposed to 91 degrees angle of view for the 14mm lens.
The 12mm seems to be a sharp optic and is something that I may consider for my bag after the initial rush drops off.
I was told that the Hong Kong recommended retail pricing would be approximately HK$8,000 for the 1.8/32 and HK$11,000 for the 2.8/12. As the Zeiss name has the luxury cachet, I would expect initial pricing in Hong Kong to start close to the recommended level and drop after the initial “must have on day one” demand has been satisfied.
Right, those prices seem a little high compared to U.S. dollar pricing. However, the Hong Kong market tends to add a premium to desirable new to market items that just hit the market and street prices then drop quite rapidly after the supply catches up with the demand.
The lenses themselves seem to be well engineered. The focus and aperture rings feel nice in hand and have a smooth quality feel. That is one area where they do exceed the feel of the Fujifilm lenses, but given the price premium over the Fujifilm glass I would say that it should be expected. In my opinion they certainly look nice on camera.
Moving on to the Hasselblad Lunar:
What can I say? A funky repackaged Sony NEX-7 (not the rumored Nex-7N) that costs approximately $5,000. My first thought when I heard the announcement was who the hell would ever buy this thing? But I guess that Hong Kong may be one of the places where Hasselblad makes some revenue with these things. Vertu, the ultra expensive luxury mobile phone repackager, sells more of their blinged out phones with old generation electronics in here in Hong Kong and in China than anywhere else in the world, so what do I know?
The first thing that strikes you when looking at the Hassy is the funky shape of the wooden grip and the dials and buttons. The next thing that strikes you is that, in spite of the camera top plate being metal, the finish on both the top plate and the buttons works really hard at giving the impression that they are cheap plastic. The texture is visually similar to the plastic used in the low-end Canon Rebel SLRs.
The kit lens is the standard Sony 18-55mm lens with “Hasselblad” stenciled on the barrel. Image quality and lens performance should be identical to the NEX-7. The LED and VF are the same as the NEX-7 however there is a large eyecup now installed on the viewfinder that is not on the NEX unit.
In the hand, the Lunar is heavier than the NEX-7. The extra mass from the Lunar case does give the camera a nice heft and damps the shutter click more than a standard NEX-7. It gives that aspect of the Lunar an extra quality feel in much the same was that a European luxury car door thunks when closed compared to a standard Japanese 4-door family car door. It is not that the NEX-7 is bad, just that the Hassy feels to have a better quality click when releasing the shutter.
Unfortunately that is about the only positive feeling that I came away with. The Tri-Nav system from Sony is there, however Hasselblad has recontoured and stiffend the buttons. That means firstly you can’t reach either with your right thumb when it is in a regular shooting position meaning that you will need to use your left hand to adjust either knob detracting from the original design intent.
Secondly, the knobs are now quite sharp and uncomfortable to touch, almost like touching a cheese grater. Combine that with the fact that the knobs are rather stiff and just detract from the whole user experience making you think more about the gear and less about taking a photograph.
I am sure that there will be some people who must get one just because they want to collect a Hasselblad camera, but I can’t imagine that there will be too many sold to people whose aim is to actually go out and use it to take photographs.
There is no compelling reason I can see to take this camera over the NEX-7.