How I came to use the Hasselblad (PART 1)

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My clients are important, every single one of them. It’s how I make a living, taking photos of their products and portraits. It’s how I get paid. It’s what puts food on the table and basically it’s how I make my living.
Very few people know this but I used to serve in the Singapore Army on a short term contract. I did about 7 years as an infantry sergeant. What I learnt when I was in the armed forces was this concept called the ‘force multiplier’; the idea that one’s numbers may be small, but by putting advanced equipment in his hands, he’ll be able to take on forces far greater than he physically could alone.
After my contract ended, I left the SAF to pursue my calling which is photography. More on this next time. This concept of having advanced equipment stuck with me throughout my short career in the army, but I never forgot that technological superiority meant that half the battle is already won, aside from having competent and committed soldiers, airmen and sailors. Before you step into the battlefield, you are already one up against your enemy, so to speak.
I started photography a few years back, about 4 to be exact. It came from a order by my company commander to make a video commemorating the recruits’ passing out. So instead of using the 8 megapixel compact cameras that were provided for me, I did some research for getting a camera of my own. In the end i purchased the Canon 6D, a full frame 20 megapixel DSLR which I bought brand new for about $2100 Singapore dollars. I didn’t have any money after that so I bought the EF 50mm f1.8 II lens, which is about $100. And this is how I started my photography journey.
It was the pride and joy of my work. Everywhere I went, I’d sling the bright red and black strap along, proudly emblazoned across the embroidery of the strap is the large white words CANON EOS 6D. And I’d shoot every damn thing I can set my eyes on. But basically I shot my then girlfriend (who is now my wife) the most.
After a while, I began researching techniques as to how to improve my photography. I’ve learnt lighting techniques, the nitty gritties of exposure, subject placement, etc. At that point, I’ve bought the Canon 24-70, the Canon 17-40, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG HSM, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens, the Canon 70-200 f2.8L and also my old nifty fifty lens. But something still seems to be missing.

ENTER THE Nikon D800/D800E

When Nikon released their super high megapixel DSLR, the world was basically gasping for air. How dare Nikon? Packing so many megapixels in a small 35mm sensor. Imagine the kind of details that would be possible with that kind of resolution. I watched a video on YouTube of landscape photographer Hans Strand talking about his choice of camera. I did a little research, looked at his images…and then his gear list. He packed a Nikon D800E as a second camera. I was like…shit…I’m going Nikon.

SELLING OFF ALL MY CANON GEAR

I sold off all my Canon gear within the month and bought a D800E. Frigging 36 megapixels of detail. It’s mine. This camera was basically every DSLR pixel-peeper’s wet dream. Shooting a headshot you can zoom in and see details of every single pore of a person’s face. I quickly mentioned this to my makeup artist and she sorta panicked for a moment.

This is an example of what 36 megapixels can do. This is the original image from a shoot I did outside Ion Orchard.

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Zoom in to a 100% resolution and this is what you see.

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Welcome to the world of megapixel whores.

So all this while I thought I wanted more megapixels, more detail, more resolution. I was so wrong. Even after playing with the D800E for about a year, I still couldn’t get that satisfaction whenever I saw my images. There just wasn’t that ‘look’ I knew I wanted. I wanted something that looked ‘real’…like…has that ‘realism’ of real life. I wanted to capture something that looks realistic.

That’s how I came across Hasselblad.

Funny thing, I didn’t read about it anywhere or was even looking at an advertisement. It was on an episode of Pro-Photographer, Cheap Camera challenge on DigitalRev TV on YouTube. Seeing Eric Wong working his Hasselblad and the kind of images that he can churn out…I was hooked.

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Screenshot from DigitalRevTV.

This was the beginning of a romantic relationship with the Swedish camera.

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My two Hasselblad bodies. Primary and Secondary weapons.
To be continued…

About the author

Alexcheous Cheng is a professional photographer from Singapore who shoots a wide range of commercial pictures through his brand Paragon Pictures. His notable clients include multinationals like Citibank, Johnson & Johnson and Amcor, to name a few. He believes in doing things a notch better and his passion is delivering the highest quality images because ‘if you do the same thing as everyone else, you will get the same results’. For enquiries for your own photography campaigns, drop him a mail at http://www.paragon.pictures/contact/.

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