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Photographer Falls for H4D During Month-long Test Drive

03/05/2010 At the high profile, glittery event held at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on April 10, Hasselblad executives presented an H4D-40 to Michael Schmidt, Austria-born, California-based fashion, portrait, and architecture photographer, to test drive for a month. Now halfway through his month, Michael and his H4D have become inseparable.

When contacted about his unexpected good fortune, Michael wryly responded, sounding much like Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone journalist in the 60s and 70s, known for his so-called “Gonzo journalism” writing style. Said Michael, “My initial reaction was confusion and shear excitement, followed by fear and terror! What will I shoot? What if I’m not good? I could just picture them saying when they selected me, ‘Yeah, send the freak a $30,000 camera. Let him fall in love with it then we’ll take it away.’

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“Tanya,” was shot April 2010 in Michael’s studio, Los Angles, CA, with the H4D-40 and 80mm for Lunalba. Michael Schmidt Photography, www.mesfoto.com

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“Model Test,” taken April 2010 in his Los Angeles studio with the H4D-40 and 80mm lens. For Model Test, Vision LA. Michael Schmidt Photography, www.mesfoto.com

All of his regular cameras are manual, mostly film cameras, including his Hasselblad 503CW with a digital camera back. So, using a camera that offers auto focus and aperture priority has been eye-opening for him. “The system is amazing,” he says. “The quality and range of lenses are what really make the system sing. So far, I have used the 28mm, 35-90mm, 50-110mm, 80mm, and 100mm lenses and the Tilt Shift adaptor. True Focus is brilliant!”

After a few days adjusting to Phocus, the software has become his best friend. “It’s very powerful,” he says. “The amount of control over color is shear madness! It boggles the mind to consider what I will do after this month is over . . .”

Thus far he has brought his H4D loaner on a fashion shoot in his studio and another fashion shoot at an edgy mansion in Bel Air. He’s captured café racing motorcycles on the streets of L.A., landscapes while driving at 100 mph from L.A. to Phoenix, an architecture shoot in the Arizona desert, and a portrait session while hanging over the side of a 1922 Ford Hot-Rod - while security guards and stray dogs chased him. “In each case, the camera was superb,” he says. 

The top three things he loves about the camera:
(1) Auto Focus - he’s getting older and his eyes aren’t so good anymore;
(2) Aperture Priority - it lets him shoot from the hip without worrying about his settings; and
(3) Ergonomics - it fits so well, and since he shoots primarily handheld, this is very important on long shoots.

With video becoming the norm nowadays, Michael shoots frequently.  “Everyone wants video content to go along with stills,” he reasons. “For me it’s not really a big stretch since I worked on three independent films in NYC right after grad school. To catch a couple of his effective and entertaining videos on hassyLA, click here.

He put the H4D thru as many different situations as he could think of and hasn’t been disappointed yet. “Fashion, Portraits, Candids, Architecture, and Landscapes. This camera is sort of a jack of all trades and could easily replace my entire arsenal of cameras. When you shoot as many different things as I do, and can do it all with one camera, it really is a no-brainer. And that, as they say, is that.”

Please click here to visit Michael's website and explore his pictures and videos.

You can also follow Michael's blog by clicking here.


Similar “Three Stages” events were held the same week in Chicago and New York, where photographers in these two cities also were offered use of the H4D for a month. Watch for updates on this website.


Text by Alice B. Miller