OnePlus has confirmed working with Hasselblad on its new OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. But who is this Swedish camera maker? We take stock.
A few days before the announcement of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, it is now official: the smartphone photo module will be designed in partnership with Hasselblad. If the name of this manufacturer will speak to the most connoisseurs of the world of photography, it is still very often unknown to the general public. After the history of Zeiss or Leica, we take a look back at the past of this brand which has managed to reach the moon.
First cameras designed for the Swedish army
While the world of photography is now often divided between Japanese, American or German manufacturers, Hasselblad has the originality of being a Swedish company, founded in 1841 by Fritz Wiktor Hasselblad. Initially, it was not a manufacturer of cameras, but simply an import-export company. The connection with the world of photography was made a little later, at the end of the 19th century, with the distribution of Kodak cameras. However, it will take another fifty years for the brand to embark on case design, at the request of the Swedish government during World War II. Hasselblad’s first aircraft was the HK-7, followed a year later by the SKa4.
But it was especially in the 1960s that Hasselblad gained international recognition. It must be said that the manufacturer launched, in 1957, the 500C, a box that will serve as the basis for most of the brand’s other devices throughout the rest of the twentieth century.
A NASA partner manufacturer
Above all, this device will be noticed by a major organization: NASA. Still very young, the American space agency looked, in the early 1960s, for cameras that could be carried by its astronauts in space. This will be done in 1962 with the first photos of the earth taken from the Mercury capsule in 1962 by Walter Schirra. The camera was then equipped with an 80mm Planar lens (f / 2.8).
Following this recognition from the American space agency, Hasselblad equipped the Apollo missions at the end of the 60s. Like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the devices of the Swedish manufacturer – in this case the Hasselblad 500 EL – have also worked on the moon. It is also during these missions to the natural satellite of the Earth that the most emblematic photos of the brand were captured: The Blue Bead (captured in 1972 during Apollo 17) and Earthrise (taken in 1968 during Apollo 8).
One point that has not yet been discussed about Hasselblad is the format of the brand’s cases. Unlike some manufacturers like Kodak, the Swedish brand has remained confined to the field of medium format cameras. Rather massive, film cameras were indeed used with film reels 6 cm wide. A point that has long reserved the use of the brand’s devices for professional photographers, even for studios.
Medium format cameras even in digital
Even for the switch to digital cameras, Hasselblad has stuck to the medium format. In 2004, the firm launched its first digital camera, still in medium format, the Hasselblad H1D, equipped at the time with a 22 megapixel digital back. The manufacturer is also the first to have offered, in 2016, a hybrid digital camera with a 43.8 x 32.9 mm medium format sensor, the X1D. Again, it was aimed only at the wealthiest consumers with an introductory price of 7,900 euros.
In the world of smartphones, consumers were able to hear about Hasselblad the same year, in 2016. The manufacturer then joined forces with Motorola to offer a Moto Mod for the Moto Z to significantly improve the photo capabilities of the smartphone. It was, as a reminder, a back with a magnetic grip that allowed to take advantage of a 12 megapixel photo sensor in 1 / 2.3 inch format and an equivalent stabilized lens 25-250 mm (f / 3.5-6.3) or a 10x optical zoom.
However, since this partnership with Motorola, Hasselblad had not approached the world of smartphones … at least until the announcement of the association with OnePlus around the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. It is not yet clear what role Hasselblad will play in this area, but a press release from OnePlus indicates that the partnership will allow much better color calibration as well as the addition of a photo mode. « Hasselblad Pro » with in particular a 12-bit RAW format.
We will know more about the role of Hasselblad in the cameras of OnePlus during the official presentation of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, Tuesday, March 23.