Hasselblad Lunar: The kitschy side of the moon
Ah, the Lunar. It was never the full moon, was it? This camera, an over-styled and over-priced geegaw bearing the Hasselblad name, was something of an enigma from the start. How could a mass-produced camera and lens worth under £1,000 be sold for six times as much, outré styling and an exceedingly fancy box notwithstanding?
Leica tackled the branding game in a much more sensible manner. Its versions of Panasonic compacts (D-Lux and V-Lux) carry a relatively tiny premium and offer several benefits, not least the name. Admittedly, they aren’t covered in carbon fibre or wooden grips — mercifully so. But, the question remains: What on earth was Hasselblad thinking about?
Whereas the Hasselblad Lunar at £6,000 was not much of a bargain, is it any better value at, say, £800? Personally, I’m not convinced — primarily because the camera is now several generations old. But I have a friend who clearly thinks it might be a bargain. He has bagged a mint Lunar so I donned my RayBans and went along for a quick shuftie.
Now we all know that behind all that glitter is a common-or-garden Sony NEX-7. The accompanying 18-55 kit lens is a good starter zoom but, to paraphrase Churchill, it is a modest lens that has much to be modest about. It remains unassuming, even with the Hasselblad moniker on its barrel.
But what presentation! The box is magnificent, a black-lacquered, satin-lined jewel case of a construction that promises, ultimately, less than it delivers. Personally I am not a fan of tarted up cameras and this particular model (one of many variations offered by Hasselblad) is the photographic equivalent of a thick gold chain resting a hairy chest. The body is in carbon fibre, but a of strange design that gives the impression of being festooned with finger prints even when clean. The grip is covered in high-quality brown leather and is complemented by a very attractive leather neck strap with deep Hasselblad tooling. That's my favourite bit.
In all, the presentation is worthy of a £20-grand Leica special edition. It's just a pity that the camera within is no collectors' piece. Maybe a collector of kitsch would approve but, for the thick end of £6,000, I wouldn't have been plonking down my credit card on the counter of the nearest Hasselblad dealer.
Sad to say, the over-dressed and over-rated Lunar was not destined for stardom. In its day the NEX-7 was a good camera and, frankly, didn't deserve this degree of gratuitous kitschification. Yet the Lunar does have some redeeming features. That grip does a good job and the camera feels chunky and purposeful in the hand — better so, as I remember than the basic Sony. It all boils down to a question of taste and having more money than is perhaps good for one.
Anyway, the new owner of this particular Lunar was prepared to pay not £6,000, not £3,000, no, not even £1,000. My friends, it was a snip at £800. Yet who is to say this isn't the collectors' sweet point for this camera edition? The new owner is a man with a great deal of market savvy and perhaps the Lunar will actually appreciate from now on. If so, it will succeed as a monument to marketing hubris.