Back to Earth: Hasselblad confirms that it has shelved its pricey Lunar and Stellar glam-cams


posted Friday, April 8, 2016 at 8:59 AM EDT

When Hasselblad first launched its blinged-up -- and exorbitantly expensive -- Lunar and Stellar cameras back in 2013, it found itself the target of widespread ridicule. Since the 1940s, the company had been building a name for itself as a reputable manufacturer of well-designed, high-quality cameras built with photographers in mind, but at one fell swoop the Lunar and Stellar undid much of its hard-earned good will.

Not surprisingly, photo buffs from across the web and around the globe saw the company's latest products as a rather poorly-veiled attempt to cash in on its heritage, after a somewhat rocky first decade in the digital era. Both cameras, after all, were little more than existing (and vastly more affordable) Sony models with space-themed names, a new logo and a sprinking of somewhat gaudy materials adorning their exteriors.

The camera that started the uproar, the Hasselblad Lunar was a Sony NEX-7 rebrand at six times the price, and was greeted with widespread derision by camera buffs around the globe.

And the gathered masses, pitchforks in hand, weren't shy in pointing this out, loudly and repeatedly on forums and in comments sections wherever and whenever the cameras were mentioned. You couldn't really blame them, either: Hasselblad's new strategy was akin to legendary Italian car marque Ferrari suddenly deciding to offer rebadged Toyota Corollas with diamond-encrusted wheels. These rather gaudy cameras were certainly very capable, based as they were on very well-received Sony cameras. Yet while certainly of interest to collectors, they simply weren't what Hasselblad's core customers wanted.

Hasselblad wasn't the first photo icon to see value in rebranding a partner's cameras -- Leica had already done so for years with Panasonic cameras, for example -- but the Swedish camera legend's rebadged products had a far, far higher markup which ensured they were of little real value other than as shelf queens. After all, if you could buy six or eight of the equivalent Sony camera and get the exact same image quality while perhaps even saving some money, why would you risk taking the Lunar or Stellar out into the big, bad, scary world where they might get damaged?

The original Hasselblad Stellar was a Sony RX100 with a chunky handgrip for four times the price.

Yet with contracts doubtless already signed and in place, Hasselblad stubbornly continued on its path despite the uproar, releasing yet another pimped-out Sony rebrand in early 2014 -- the Hasselblad HV -- even as it saw its precious reputation rapidly dissolving into the ether before its very eyes. But it wasn't to be too terribly much longer before the writing was on the wall for the company's Sony rebrands, as the company replaced its CEO and, several months later, confirmed the closure of the Italian design center which had been responsible for bringing all of that much-derided bling.

The series' last* entry arrived just days later with the Stellar II, and while at the time the company had claimed that the design center's closure would "not have any effect on our production or product portfolio", that was the end of the Stellar, Lunar and HV cameras. We never received any official confirmation of their demise, however -- until now, that is.

(*Yes, there was also a Hasselblad Lusso released in mid-2015, but this was sold only in Hong Kong and in such small numbers that it can effectively be ignored -- not that we'd guess the other rebrands sold too terribly much better. At one point the original Lunar was on fire-sale at an 83% discount!)

The Hasselblad HV was a Sony A99 with bundled lens, sold at 2.4 times the standard price. Beyond the logo, the only real difference from Sony's model was a two-tone body.

Chris Cheesman of UK-based Amateur Photographer has just published an interview with current Hasselblad CEO Perry Oosting -- the company's fourth different leader in just the last six years -- and in the piece he confirms what we'd all taken as read: The era of the Sony rebrands is over. With impressive restraint, given that these products weren't of his creation, he resisted the urge to lay all the blame on his predecessors' doorstep, but he also confirmed that under his leadership, Hasselblad won't be continuing down that path to its inevitable doom.

"‘These were great cameras," Oosting told Amateur Photographer. "The thing is, we see the value proposition that we will deliver going forward as different." And we're sure that news will be received by a very warm welcome by the company's remaining fans, of whom there are doubtless still many who can remember the days before the debacle.

The Hasselblad Stellar II was the company's last mass-market Sony rebrand.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, Oosting went on to tell AP that while he wasn't yet ready to share his plans for the company, they would be of interest not just to professionals, but also to prosumers. Could this herald a more affordable camera system made in-house for enthusiasts, perhaps? We can but hope!

For more details from AP's interview with Oosting, hop on over to their website. And note that more from the interview is promised "in due course", so you might want to keep an eye on their site for further illuminating info in the not-too-distant future. We know we will be!

One final rebrand snuck out the door, but only in Hong Kong: The Hasselblad Lusso was essentially a Sony A7R with a restyled body, and sold in extremely limited numbers.

(via Amateur Photographer)