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If you think about any of the companies who have contributed much to the world of photography gear, there shouldn’t be a doubt in your mind that Hasselblad is on that list. With the company’s new X1D announced earlier today, I’ve got no doubt in my mind that they’ve reached out and touched the millennial generation of photographers in the digital world in the same way that the 500C has touched them.
The Hasselblad X1D features a 50MP cropped 645 format sensor–that is to say that it isn’t a full frame 645 sensor but instead still larger than a 35mm sensor. The camera also incorporates the use of leaf shutter lenses that let you shoot with a flash to 1/2000th with full sync, autofocus, an EVF, a touchscreen LCD, and interesting features such as a mode dial that locks and unlocks by simply pressing it up and down.
But even more amazing: it’s pretty small–honestly if you could imagine a Sony a6000 series camera, put a big sensor in it and make it around the height of some DSLRs then reduce the weight and depth significantly, you’ve got this camera.
Specs taken from the Hasselblad product listing page
ISO speed range
Host connection type
Wi-Fi & GPS
Shutter speed range
Flash sync speed
The Hasselblad X1D is the world’s first mirrorless medium format camera with autofocus and built from the ground up just for digital. From the looks of it, it looks a lot like a serious camera. Hasselblad is targeting this camera at the prosumer; or at least they said that in their press invitation to us. In many ways, it’s a camera that can do a lot of serious work. Targeted at the photojournalist, landscape photographer, studio photographer and all the rest that shoot in medium format: this may be the one you want.
What you’ll first notice is just how simple the camera is on the front. You’ve got a giant area for the sensor and lens, a grip that feels very nice and a lens release button. That’s all.
Move to the top of the camera and what you’ll find are a couple of settings. You can find a hot shoe, power control, shutter release, exposure dial (in the front and not so visible in the image above) and other buttons. You’ll also find the EVF towards the back.
Move to the back of the camera and what you’ll find is how Hasselblad put an emphasis on the touch screen. There are a few buttons here and there but in all honesty you’re best off just using this screen. It’s nice–as are the placement of things like the exposure dials like the one on the back of the grip.
On the left side, you’ll find the dual SD card slot. It’s kind of odd to find card slots on the left of a camera, but considering that this is essentially a giant sensor, screen, EVF and a grip it really does make sense.
There’s a lot about the build of this camera that makes it very deceptive though leaning more on the edge of surprise. On the outside, it looks a bit plasticky though when you pick it up, you’re holding something pretty much on par with the Leica SL’s toughness. To that end, it’s deceptively tough. If you tried, you could probably hammer nails in with this camera–though it would be the most expensive hammer you’ve ever bought (and that’s why you rent instead!)
I’d honestly say that from my recollection, the Leica SL feels heavier than the Hasselblad X1D. There isn’t a single part of the camera that doesn’t feel like it’s got professional quality–or at least that’s what I felt in the few minutes that I got to play with it until it was whisked away to another journalist.
Holding the camera reminds me a bit of using the Mamiya 7 II–but when it comes to the shooting experience, the shutter is nowhere as silent with the pre-production model I held. Instead, it sounds like the original Olympus Pen EP-1. For those of you who don’t remember or know, that camera sounded like a Leica M.
In this case though, it’s louder; like, I was able to hear it over music and journalists schmoozing and enjoying drinks in these copper pineapple things with all the ice in the world.
The autofocus on the camera that I tested seemed to be accurate enough but in the low lighting of the venue it was a bit slow compared to many 35mm, APS-C and Four Thirds cameras. That isn’t necessarily a fair statement at all, but it’s the only point of comparison that could be a commonplace one for many of you to understand.
Again though, I was testing a pre-production model for the few minutes I held the camera. Hasselblad tells us that the autofocus on the production copies will be faster and I really hope they deliver on that promise and improve it even further with firmware updates.
If you know anything about the Hasselblad True Focus system, then you know that it’s usually pretty accurate. Basically you focus, recompose and the camera detects how much you’ve moved it and adjusts the lens based on minute calculations. It’s pretty genius, but mirrorless cameras overall have caught up to a certain point. This camera doesn’t use the True Focus system, but it’s a point of reference for you to consider how Hasselblad typically thinks.
Ease of Use
Some of the coolest things about the camera is the operation. There is a giant LCD touchscreen panel that lets you have fast and direct access to lots of options. You can also swipe through menus to get directly to what you need.
One of the other cool things about the camera is how the mode dial works. You turn it as you normally would, but then when you have what you want it set to, you lock it in by pressing the dial down. Then it stays with a satisfying click.
In the short time I got to spend with the camera, I didn’t get to do much in the way of pixel peeping. To be honest, when you get to medium format then you’re shooting very seriously and you’ve got a good reason to pixel peep because your work is going on much more than just the web.
As it is, Hasselblad didn’t let us put a card in the camera–which is a bit odd as it’s the same sensor that they’ve used before. It could have surely been a processor issue of some sort, so at times like this I need to respect their decision though many of you on Facebook, Instagram and in emails really wanted to see original sample images.
Sorry folks, sometimes I can’t win.
In the roughly 15 mins I got to spend with the Hasselblad X1D, I was very impressed. It feels great, is a camera that I’d most likely tote around, functions well, and is weather resistant. It’s designed to do serious work, but the seven units currently going around the US are very pre-production in status. I can’t at all get a final assessment of how it works because I only spent 15 minutes and this is a pre-production model. But from what I’ve seen, Hasselblad shows a lot of promise here. I probably wouldn’t buy one. Why? I’m way too smitten with the 6×7 format and folks at Phase One told me recently that making a 6×6 imaging sensor is very difficult–let alone trying to make a 6×7.
If the company can really deliver on its promises, then the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax need to be shaking a bit. I specifically say need there because they need to be looking at this seriously.
What I’m personally baffled by is why Fujifilm hasn’t beaten them to the punch. In fact, this camera wasn’t designed in collaboration with Fujifilm at all according to what they told the press here in NYC. However, we’re not quite sure about the lenses.
Stay tuned, I’ll eventually get a review unit in.