HomeDJI buys a minority stake in camera company Hasselblad

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By Sean O’Kane
DJI, the company behind the popular and increasingly iconic Phantom quadcopter, has acquired a minority stake in Hasselblad, a company known for high-resolution “medium format” cameras. DJI will also join Hasselblad’s board of directors.

The two companies will continue to market and maintain their own product lines, but it’s likely that DJI will lean on Hasselblad’s 70 years of camera making experience going forward, something that the heads of both companies mentioned in the release announcing the news.

“We are looking forward to sharing technical expertise and paving the way for future innovations,” says Perry Oosting, Hasselblad’s CEO. Frank Wang, CEO of DJI, says the same in so many words. “With this partnership, we combine our strengths to further push the borders of what’s possible in imaging technology,” he says.

IT’S EASY TO IMAGINE HOW DJI MIGHT USE HASSELBLAD TO ITS ADVANTAGE

What does any of that mean? It’s unclear for now, but it’s easy to imagine. DJI has become the leader in consumer and prosumer aerial photography in a very short time, and each new drone the company releases features wildly better image quality than the last. But there’s a reason that the DJI’s bigger hexa- and octocopters don’t come with a proprietary camera like the cheaper Phantom 3 or the Inspire One: the company knows that pros want the best image quality available and more flexibility, which means using other cameras.

DJI has made up lots of ground in this space — it recently launched a modular Micro Four Thirds version of its Zenmuse drone cameras, and the one found on the Inspire quadcopter camera is so good that it’s beingsold as stand-alone device. But the company still isn’t making cameras that are as capable as most high-end production companies would like them to be.

That’s where Hasselblad comes in. Hasselblad’s cameras are most frequently used on fashion or magazine shoots, but the company also knows its way around aerial photography. Not only was it famously used on NASA’s Apollo missions (and, therefore, on the Moon), but the company made cameras for the Swedish Air Force during World War II. That’s all well and good, but DJI is likely more interested in Hasselblad because of more recent developments — earlier this year Hasselblad announced a new aerial camera that can be configured to use 40-, 50-, or 60-megapixel image sensors.

When (or even if) we might see a new DJI drone equipped with Hasselblad technology is hard to say. But one thing’s for sure: the nascent consumer drone market is getting more competitive every month, and will only get tougher when GoPro launches its own quadcopter next year. Acquiring a minority stake in Hasselblad should help DJI keep the early advantage its built up, but how long that will last is another story.