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40 Years + H4D = Success

05/10/2009 Hasselblad Global Conference Rocks Kennedy Space Center.

Hasselblad’s 2009 Global Conference, held in Orlando, Florida, from September 24 to 26, was an extraordinary event by every measure. Reflecting the Hasselblad camera’s role in capturing man’s first walk on the moon 40 years ago, one day of the conference was spent at the Kennedy Space Center. Hasselblad execs energized the conference by launching the H4D-60 and a revolutionary new, multi-point autofocus system called True Focus. (More information about this innovative camera and revamped Phocus 2.0 can be found here)

As one of the 25-plus international press members who participated in this conference - along with some 200 Hasselblad employees and executives, partners, Hasselblad photographers, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his wife Lois, and other special guests - I will try to describe the excitement and excellence that pervaded the event.

Kennedy Space Center

Meeting Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Thursday’s opening night reception set the tone for the conference. Casual conversations with people from around the world, bubbling with excitement for the days ahead, were punctuated by Hasselblad CEO Christian Poulsen’s enthusiastic welcome.

Friday’s chockfull schedule brought an abundance of surprises and highpoints. A tongue-in-cheek presentation by marketing director Mark Duhaime, combining videotape and live delivery, disspelled the myths often associated with medium-format cameras. Next, Christian Poulsen and product manager Peter Stig drew applause and cheers when they shared their big news: the debut of the breakthrough H4D.

“True Focus is so new, so big, and solving things no one has solved, so we needed a new camera line," said Poulsen. "This is probably the most important innovation we've done at Hasselblad in the past 10 years. Sometimes you need to give it a new name to say it's brand new.”

The new system includes the 60-megapixel H4D-60 - which will ship in January 2010 for approximately USD $42,535 - and the 50-megapixel H4D-50, which replaces the H3DII-50 - which ships in early 2010 for $29,332. H3D-II cameras purchased between now and 2010 Q1 will be upgraded to the H4D-50, free of charge. Owners of H3D-31 and H3D-39 cameras will have a step-up program to the H4D platform.

Stig added, "True Focus technology helps solve one of the remaining technical challenges that face serious photographers today: true, accurate focusing throughout the image. The new Absolute Position Lock (APL) processor, which is the foundation of True Focus, accurately logs camera movement during re-composing, uses these exact measurements to calculate the necessary focus adjustment, and issues the proper commands to the lens’s focus motor so it can compensate.” 

Riding a wave of enthusiasm, the international group headed to the Kennedy Space Center by bus. Eight eye-opening, memorable hours began with a three-hour guided bus tour that included stops to the famous Vehicle Assembly Building, Apollo 11 launch pad, the Holiday Inn where astronauts spend the three days prior to a flight, photographers’ traditional shooting spots, and one of many eagles’ nests. A brief meeting with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, exhilarating video presentations of their harrowing trip to the moon and back and historic moon landing and moonwalk, and a visit to the extraordinary Saturn V Center rounded out the day.

At the Saturn V Center, we watched a five-minute film on the history of NASA, then went next-door to the Lunar Landing Theatre, featuring a fully reconstructed firing room used to launch the first Saturn-V rocket, carrying Apollo 8 astronauts into lunar orbit. The film presentation, lighting and sound effects in the room gave one a real sense of a rocket launch. From here, we entered a vast hangar-like room, where a behemoth Saturn-V rocket hung overhead. The sheer magnitude of the rocket - more than 111 yards! - was stunning. Adding to the drama of the occasion, Buzz Aldrin shared with us his post-Apollo 11 challenges and how he overcame them, and where he sees the future of the space program.
Autographed copies of Aldrin’s new book provided even greater insight. Oh, what a night.

On Saturday morning, Christian Nørgaard, photographer relations director, gave an overview of the new Hasselblad website, Masters Program, Victor magazine, and introduced the Hasselblad PR team. Stephan Bittner, managing director of the PR effort, urged us to ask the tough questions when we were given the opportunity to press Poulsen and Stig on the new equipment. Our meeting was, in fact, quite unusual due to the executives’ candor and frankness, providing a unique insight into the minds behind Hasselblad’s success. Breakout sessions explored the H4D from various angles.

The global conference showcased the brainpower and spirit behind the camera manufacturer. No wonder a Hasselblad camera was chosen for the daunting task of shooting the moon.

Text by Alice B. Miller