Hasselblad X1D Review

 
Camera Reviews / Hasselblad Cameras i Now Shooting!
51.30
Megapixels
Hasselblad XCD Medium format
size sensor
image of Hasselblad X1D-50c
Front side of Hasselblad X1D digital camera Front side of Hasselblad X1D digital camera Front side of Hasselblad X1D digital camera Front side of Hasselblad X1D digital camera Front side of Hasselblad X1D digital camera
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Hasselblad X1D-50c
Resolution: 51.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: Medium format
(43.8mm x 32.9mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/2000 - 3600 seconds
Dimensions: 5.9 x 3.9 x 2.8 in.
(150 x 98 x 71 mm)
Weight: 25.6 oz (725 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 08/2016
Manufacturer: Hasselblad
Full specs: Hasselblad X1D specifications

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Now Shooting!

Preview posted: 06/22/2016
Last updated:

Updates:
06/23/2016: Hands-On First Impressions posted
08/25/2017: Field Test posted
10/06/2017: Video Features & Analysis posted

Click here to go straight to our Hasselblad X1D Product Overview

 

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

Compact medium format powerhouse: The X1D-50c makes incredible images

by Jaron Schneider | Posted

[Editor's note: Per a recommendation from Hasselblad, all of the gallery images in the X1D field test were captured in RAW, rather than in RAW+JPEG mode. As such, all the JPEGs were converted from RAW using Adobe Camera Raw at default settings. Some images were retouched/edited further and are labeled as such. Please see the Gallery Page to view and download both JPEGs and RAW files.]

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
Introduction

I don't know that anyone was ever prepared to say medium format was "tiny" or "lightweight," but here we are in 2017 and I spent the last couple of weeks carrying the Hasselblad X1D-50c across the country and up mountainsides like it was a point and shoot. That's one of the more remarkable things about this camera, made even more so when you consider what it is capable of. This is easily one of the highest quality and most impressive cameras from a sensor standpoint that I have ever shot, and it also fits in a small day pack and weighs very little.

This actually feels like the future.

Though it's not the quickest camera I've ever used (it is actually in the running for the slowest), the trade-offs to the X1D are paled in comparison to its advantages. With a leaf shutter capable of syncing with flashes up to 1/2000th of a second, outstanding dynamic range, shocking ISO performance, a comfortable grip and stellar optics, I've only scratched the surface of why I'm so enamored with the X1D. The short answer is, there is a lot to love.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
Body Design and Build Quality

The X1D clearly looks like a camera, but it utilizes a design that is rather unique. The main part of the body that houses the sensor, lens mount and rear LCD is a thin, brushed metal rectangular space that looks like the old Instagram logo. As far as modern cameras go, most tend to replicate the pentaprism design or shape of traditional cameras when it comes to the viewfinder, whereas the X1D does things a bit differently. The X1D has a smooth, longer top portion that plays host to the hot shoe mount and the Hasselblad branding, a logo that takes up significantly more real estate than any other camera on the market. This is both good and bad. On the good side, it looks stellar. On the bad side, it really advertises the "I am holding more than ten grand in camera" -- a thing you might want to avoid in certain environments.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
The X1D paired with the 45mm F/3.5 XCD lens.

Attached to that metal rectangular build is the X1D grip, and it is my new favorite grip on any camera out there. I would say it has the most in common with the Nikon D750, which is deep and satisfying to hold for photographers of any hand size. As I've said in prior reviews, I have smaller hands, but I have given this camera to friends with much larger hands and they love the way the camera feels.

The grip is sturdy and covered in a rubberized finish that just feels excellent in hand. Overall, it is very well balanced and feels nice to shoot.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

The lens mount is a bit stiff, so know that going in. That is to say, you're going to have to twist the lens very hard to get it off, and it can feel like you're grinding metal. You're not, but it is one of the stiffer mounts I've used.

The X1D plays it simple when it comes to buttons and dials. There are scant few on this camera: five along the right side of the LCD, two above those, and five on the top of the camera. That's it. The five on the top control ISO and white balance, switching between manual and auto focus, plus the shutter, power button and command dial.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

Here is something you don't say too often: the design of the command dial is excellent. Modern cameras tend to have a lock on the command dial that can only be unlocked by pressing and holding a tiny button in the center of the dial that you have to keep holding while you turn the dial. It's a lot of digit dexterity. The X1D eschews from that, and instead the entire dial can be pushed to pop it up, allowing you to turn it to the setting you want, and then pushed again to lock it down flush with the camera body. This action can be done quickly, seamlessly, and with one hand. It's a brilliant design, and makes the rest of the industry look silly for not doing it before them.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

The rear of the camera is almost too simple. Aside from the five aforementioned buttons along the right side of the monitor, there is only the AE-L and AF-D buttons back there as well as a rear control dial. Coming into the X1D fresh, you might have a difficult time understanding what the five buttons actually do, and the order is somewhat unusual as well. The top button is for playback. The next button down is for general selection as well as "up" in the menu. The next, which is the "star" icon, is the general select button and will also change the playback view from single to multiple. The fourth button is a delete, back button and down button in the menu. The final button is the menu button. I would think that they would put the menu button on top, as that seems to be the "industry standard" (which is in quotes because there is no industry standard, only a kind of norm). The playback button is usually down by the delete button and so on and so forth, but it takes only a bit of getting used to. After shooting with the camera for a few days, it was all second nature.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

What is immensely helpful is that as much as those buttons are poorly labeled and oddly arranged, you don't necessarily need them much of the time because the gigantic, high resolution screen on the back of the X1D is a touch screen, and can serve to do just about whatever you might use those buttons for.

Notable Features

Speaking of that screen, it is a non-tilting, 3-inch, 921,600-dot touchscreen LCD that is just as bright and crisp as those numbers make it sound. Being able to zoom in quickly to photos you've taken to assure they're in focus is super handy, and the screen is big enough to allow for that.

Also of note is how nice the operating system of this camera feels. Outside of a few glitches and freezes (of which I had two or three over the couple weeks I shot with it), it's fast and responsive. It felt akin to using my iPhone, which is great. Later, when we talk about the camera's speed, please note that I'm not referring to the camera's OS; that is slick, quick and responsive.

More specific to those glitches: once or twice the camera stopped working, though the power light indicator was still on. Nothing I did would "wake" it up, including pressing the power button in various ways, and the rear screen as well as the EVF were black. Popping the battery in and out restarted everything, and it worked fine from there. Another couple times, the camera seemed to really slow down and chug, having a very hard time responding to any commands for a few moments. These were not common occurrences, but they did happen.

Inside the electronic viewfinder is a 2.36-megapixel XGA screen that displays all the necessary shooting information as well as the capture area when set to shoot in 39MP square format or XPan panoramic image modes. The refresh rate on that viewfinder is very good, and I never noticed a lag or felt like the experience should have been better. As a guy who shoots on a lot of Sony cameras who do a great job with EVFs, this is high praise.

Other stuff worth mentioning:
  • Has a USB 3.0 Type-C connector, which allows transfer speeds of up to 5 Gbps for tethered live view and stills capture.
  • Dual SD card slots that are, unfortunately, not UHS-II. This means you'll need really fast UHS-I cards, and if you don't have cards with enough "oomph" the camera will warn you that it can't write image files fast enough. You can set the camera to save all images to one card and automatically switch to the other when it is full or save RAW images to card 1 and JPEG to card 2.
  • There is a Mini HDMI port (my least favorite of the HDMI options due to its fragility), and it can be used for monitoring or you can plug the camera into your television, if you're into that.
  • There is also a 3.5mm mic input & a headphone jack.
  • You can use the built-in Wi-Fi with the Phocus Mobile app, which allows for remote camera control, image previewing and file browsing. Great for clients on set if you want them to not be hovering over your shoulder while you're shooting (just give them a couch and an iPad).
  • The X1D has weather and dust sealing, which isn't "proofing" but you also don't have to feel like you must baby the camera. I ran with this thing on my hip through a flash thunderstorm in Georgia, and it's no worse for wear.

The X1D does shoot video, but only 1080p25 and 720p25 with no adjustment settings whatsoever beyond that. We'll dive more into video in our upcoming video section.

The battery situation on the X1D is a little unusual, so let me explain that. There is a trigger on the bottom of the camera that barely pops the battery out, but it will only come out about a quarter of an inch. To fully eject the battery, you have to lightly press on it back up into the camera without fully pushing it back in, which disengages the safety lock and then the battery will fully come out. It's a good way to assure you don't accidentally pop the battery out and drop it, but a typical battery door would have worked just as well and prevented any possible confusion with the mechanic.

As for charging, at the time of this review, there was no traditional "dock" to charge the X1D battery. Instead, a very specific power cable/brick combo is included with the X1D, and the battery plugs directly into that. It's pretty unusual in the camera world, and not what I was expecting. It's not like they saved space by this method, as the brick/cable combo is pretty large.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
Shooting Experience: Slow and steady

This is as good a time as any to talk battery life: it's pretty much par for the course. Back before the Sony A9, I would have said that the X1D compares pretty much with the best full frame mirrorless camera out there, which means it can handle moderate use all day long. Extended, repeated use means it can go for a few hours. So while it's nothing to get excited about, it is also nothing to be particularly worried about either. The built-in sleep timer is customizable (mine was set to 10 seconds), and you can initiate standby by tapping the power button (instead of holding it down, which powers the camera on and off).

While we are on that subject, power-up time is pretty poor. From off to on, the Hasselblad takes somewhere between six and seven seconds, which is pretty dang slow. That said, the aforementioned standby mode allows you to save power when you're not using it, but instantly reactivate the camera when you need to. With this setup, I am able to power the camera on one time before shooting, and truly power it down only one other time: when I am putting it away, back in a bag. So yes, the power-up time is pretty bad, but you don't actually need to regularly power the camera on and off. Standby mode saves battery and gives you instant access to the camera when you want it.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 30mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/1250s, ISO 100
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

Speaking of power, that's a good segue into the general shooting experience. This is where I think it's important to note what the X1D is, what to expect, and what that expectation gets you. First of all, this will probably be the slowest camera you will use since the film days, and even many film cameras are faster. Hasselblad rates the X1D to shoot between 1.7 and 2.3 frames per second, but I'm not sure where they are getting that. It's really not telling of how the camera really functions, at least in my experience.

In reality, you can expect to take one photo every two to four seconds, depending on if you are shooting RAW only, or RAW+JPEG. Shooting both RAW and JPEG slows the camera a bit, but it's not a huge difference from shooting RAW only.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 30mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/45s, ISO 100

Additionally, the autofocus speed is pretty abysmal on any of the three lenses I tested (90mm, 45mm and 30mm). Think back to how the original mirrorless cameras focused (hunt a bit, lock on to subject, beep the a-ok) and that's how the X1D functions. It's slow, the autofocus motors in the lenses are loud, and the process of taking a single frame is a very deliberate process. You can't rush the X1D, because if you do it will reward you with an out of focus image.

Transparent and very dark subjects can be challenging for the camera to focus on thanks to the purely contrast detection system. For many of you, manual focus might be a better choice than autofocus, since the focus peaking is pretty darn good and it will greatly speed up the process of taking a photo. This is especially the case if you are shooting in studio.

But slightly speeding up a very slow process will still result in a slow process.

I mentioned above, the X1D does not support the speeds of UHS-II cards, and that is likely at least one reason why the camera is so slow between images. Playback is also slow, as the camera has to call up images and process them from the slower UHS-I cards. You can double tap on images in playback to zoom in, but you'll have to give it a few seconds before it processes the actual 100% image. During that time, you'll be staring at a pixelated preview.

The thing is, the X1D is a very purposeful camera. It takes a couple seconds to process the data and to re-engage the image capture functionality. So this is a truly terrible choice if you are shooting any kind of action sequences or subjects that cannot repeat motion for you. It's not great at capturing an unforgettable moment in time. But it is an excellent choice if you're planning to shoot portraits, landscapes or any kind of studio work. When you can take your time to compose an image, the X1D will reward you.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 30mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/500s, ISO 100
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

It can be a bit confusing to try and balance the fact that the X1D is so small and portable with the fact it's a very slow, very deliberate camera. In the minds of many photographers, if something is small and portable it is also quick and nimble. Though that is normally the case, it isn't so here. Making the X1D small wasn't so that it could be fast, it was so that capturing high quality images was less taxing, and could be done in more varied environments.

Prepare for "different" -- This is a leaf shutter

Earlier I made mention of the flash sync speed of 1/2000th second, and that is made possible thanks to the leaf shutter. The camera itself has no shutter, that exists inside each lens. As you can well imagine, that really changes how the camera sounds when you take a picture.

It is at first disconcerting because it is so different. Imagine a rigid piece of thin metal about the size of a popsicle stick, and the sound it would make if you snapped it in half. That's how the leaf shutter sounds. It's a firm, slightly elongated metallic snapping sound, and if you're not ready for it, it can give the impression that something is breaking. Don't be alarmed, that is exactly how it is supposed to sound.

Leaf shutters have a significant advantage over focal plane shutters when it comes to control over light. Because you can sync at far faster shutter speeds, you can balance strobes and ambient light better and give yourself more options when doing so. Let's imagine that at ISO 100 with a strobe and a focal plane shutter (the type of shutter in most other cameras), a proper exposure is f/16 at 1/200th second, which is around a typical flash sync limit for this shutter type. Well, with a leaf shutter, however, you can increase that shutter speed to (for example) 1/1600th second at f/5.6, which as you can imagine changes depth of field and how subjects appear in the frame. With ISO performance nowadays being so much better than film ever was or even digital just five years ago, this whole conversation about focal plane vs leaf may matter a bit less than it used to, but for optimal quality and the most control, leaf shutters are still the way to go.

When compared to ISO limits and shooting situations specifically to medium format, however, that story is a bit different. For optimal quality and highest resolution, having the kind of light control that leaf shutters afford makes them the superior choice.

Image Quality: The X1D is a greens monster

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 30mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/80s, ISO 100
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 45mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/1250s, ISO 200
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 45mm f/3.5: f/4.8, 1/50s, ISO 800
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

When looking at where the X1D excels, it is in making the most exceptional single photo of a scene possible. Greens are spectacular with the X1D. To say they explode like firecrackers would be a disservice to how well this sensor reacts to the color. Reds jump off the screen, too. Colors overall feel as vivid and pure through the eyes of the X1D as they could possibly be. The sharpness of images is also un-compromised.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 45mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/350s, ISO 1600
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

The X1D has a different philosophy from the other mirrorless medium format on the market, the Fuji GFX. The Fuji seems to place much of its emphasis on making beautiful in-camera JPEGs that have a spectacular film feel, based on Fuji's vast experience in that area. That isn't to say the Fuji doesn't make great RAW files. The point I'm trying to make is that Hasselblad cares little to none about JPEGs, while Fuji spent a lot of time engineering specifically for them. For the Hasselblad, they did their best to flatten the colors as much as possible in camera to allow for great post-processing. JPEGs and RAWs straight out of camera on the X1D look dull and uninteresting. But that's the point. Take a look at the JPEG, after only a default ACR conversion:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 35mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO 800

And now after light post processing with the RAW in Photoshop:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 35mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO 800
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

The level of vibrancy and pop of color I was able to get with the RAW feels beyond any other RAW I've ever processed, even when compared with the many other medium format cameras I have used. Imagine stacking LOG video flatness on top of RAW. That's what Hasselblad did here, and the result is exceptional control over a final image in editing.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 45mm f/3.5: f/4, 1/500s, ISO 100
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

With shooting medium format in the past, I have really shied away from bumping the ISO above 800. 1600 has always been my ceiling, and through my field testing I kept to that rule, since I did ISO testing last.

But I should have done it first, because what this sensor is capable of blew me away. Take a look:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 100
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 200
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 400
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 800
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 1600
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 3200
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 6400
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 12800
Hasselblad X1D Field Test
ISO 25600

Though there is clearly some image degradation happening at higher ISOs -- and I encourage you to go to the X1D image gallery and take a look at the images at 100% -- but surprisingly, the quality of the X1D at its maximum ISO of 25,600 is not only usable, but actually looks good. I would be totally satisfied with images captured at that ISO, and I never even considered it an option on this camera, or on any camera outside of the Sony A7S before. To get 50 megapixel resolution and this kind of ISO performance is mind-blowing and very unexpected.

Now, what I do expect out of a medium format sensor is excellent dynamic range, and though this is hardly a "scientific" test of the X1D's capability in this area, I do have some test images to look over.

First let's take a look at the shadows. In this image, I set the camera to -5 exposure, which is the lowest it can go and still show me an exposure number:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

In post, I pulled those shadows up, and we get all the details:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

That is very easily five stops of range right there, and a colleague of mine who owns the X1D says he regularly will get 7 stops of shadow range out of the RAWs. While I did not verify this, looking at the results here, I do believe it to be possible.

In the highlights, I shot a +5-stop overexposed image that looked like this:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

And in post, I recovered it the best I could to this:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

You will notice it is not actually recovered. There are places that are still blown out, and details could not be brought back. So I shot a second overexposed image, this time at +4:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

And in post, I recovered it to the following:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

Ah, there we go. That is a proper highlight recovery. I am confident in its ability to pull four stops out of highlights, giving it at least nine stops of dynamic range. Looking at how well the shadows performed there, it would not surprise me to find that it can get one or two more out of the shadows, bringing it to 10 or 11 stops of dynamic range.

Lens Options: Yes, the Hasselblad X1D lenses are great

For those who were concerned about the new mirrorless lenses used exclusively for the X1D, lay those aside. All three lenses create outstanding images with excellent sharpness and image quality. Of the three I tested, the 45mm f/3.5 was my favorite, with the most accurate autofocus and overall aesthetic. It's also the smallest of the three lenses, which was a plus. The 90mm f/3.2 is also outstanding, but the 30mm f/3.5 had a problem autofocusing accurately repeatedly. It's still a good lens, don't get me wrong, but it's not as good as the other two in my experience.

Take a look at this image:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 45mm f/3.5: f/4, 1/400s, ISO 800
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.

And then a 100% crop of the focus point:

Hasselblad X1D Field Test

That is some incredible sharpness, mixed with already insane resolution.

What struck me as unusual, in a good way, was how little lens corrections were needed on these primes. In Adobe Camera Raw, where the lens profiles are available, my images changed very little when I activated those profiles. A bit of vignette removal, a slight bit of distortion correction in the corners, but overall relatively little changed.

Hasselblad X1D Field Test
XCD 30mm f/3.5: f/3.5, 1/200s, ISO 800
This image has been edited. Please click photo to view original.
Overall, the many pros greatly outweigh the few cons

The Hasselblad X1D-50C is by no means a "quick" camera. It is deliberate and downright slow. But this medium format mirrorless rewards a paced, thoughtful approach. Outside of slow autofocus, everything else about this camera is there to promote a great image. I spoke to my colleague Jeremy Gray about shooting with the X1D, and he agreed with my sentiments of it based on his experiences with the Fuji GFX. We agreed that shooting with this camera really humbled us and made us concentrate on technique more than before. It's kind of funny how cameras these days allow you as a shooter to be really be lazy, but when the sensor is as demanding as the one in the X1D, you've really gotta be on the ball for every second of every photo you take.

And that makes the photos you capture all the more satisfying.

In just about all cases, any bad image I created is because of something I did poorly or unintelligently. When an image from the X1D sucks, it's because I made a mistake. This camera has a very hard time making a bad photo because of itself, and anything that goes wrong is entirely on you, the photographer.

That is the unique and honestly refreshing reality of the Hasselblad X1D-50c. It's not a camera for everyone, and not just anyone can pick it up and use it. It takes discipline, and that should be celebrated.

What I liked:

  • Above all else, image quality is the number one reason to love this camera
  • Sensor makes greens and reds truly stunning
  • ISO performance vastly outperforms expectations; every ISO is usable
  • The build quality is stellar; plastic parts are minimal, with metal being dominant
  • Lightweight, despite all metal design
  • Excellent grip; probably my favorite on the market today
  • EVF is bright and feels real to life
  • When in manual focus, focus peaking is accurate and color is customizable
  • Simple, intuitive interface that's responsive and snappy
  • Bright, responsive touch screen
  • Smart design for the locking command dial (seriously, why is no one else doing this?)
  • Power can be provided by USB-C port
  • Wi-Fi & HDMI connectivity
  • Two SD memory card slots

What could use improvement:

  • Contrast detection autofocus means a slow, hunting-filled autofocus experience
  • Camera has a very slow boot time (6 to 7 seconds), but this can be avoided for the most part using standby mode (which reduces the time from battery save to on to 0 seconds)
  • Lack of UHS-II compatibility adds to a slower camera experience
  • Firmware could use some tightening, as whole-camera OS freezes or hitches were intermittent
  • Limited optical lineup to just three lenses (but this will change over time)
  • Buttons along the right side of the rear monitor are poorly labeled and oddly arranged

For those looking to pick up the X1D or even rent it, remember: it's a medium format leaf shutter camera. Focal lengths are wider than you will expect, focal planes are shallower than you are used to, and the leaf shutter sounds unusual and affords you more power over light than a focal plane shutter camera.

Speaking from a wider perspective, this might be the most pleasant experiences I've ever had with a medium format camera. Though the Pentax 645z, Phase One XF or even the full size Hasselblad H6D are all excellent in their own ways, the X1D-50c brings a new experience to medium format. It makes medium format more approachable thanks to its compact and svelte design. It feels good to use, and it rewards a skilled and patient hand. It's not a do-it-all camera, and it wasn't meant to be. It's exactly what medium format has been good at for decades, but in a body that's easier to maneuver and take with you.

 

• • •

 

Hands-on with the Hasselblad X1D

Already backordered through the end of the year

by Eamon Hickey | Posted

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Hands-On Preview
A pre-production Hasselblad X1D with XCD 45mm f/3.5 lens.

Yesterday, Hasselblad hosted a launch event for the new X1D camera in New York City, and I got a chance to get this new mirrorless medium format camera in my hands. The seven X1D cameras that Hasselblad brought to the event were all pre-production, with pre-production firmware, so many things about the features and performance of the X1D will remain uncertain until we can test out a full production model. But here's what I can say with confidence based on handling a pre-production model for an hour or two. I also gleaned a couple of interesting tidbits about Hasselblad's sense of the market for the X1D, and they told me that it is already backordered for the rest of this year after only one day on the market.

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Hands-On Preview
Hasselblad Bron Technical Support Representative Anthony McCall shows off the portability of the company's new baby.

First, the size and weight of the X1D. It's one thing to see it in pictures or on spec sheets, but it really hits home in the hand. This is a remarkably portable and manageable medium format digital camera — quite a bit smaller and handier than any other medium format digital model. Its weight and "wieldiness" are a lot like a mid-level DSLR such as a Nikon D7200 or a Canon 7D Mark II. The grip is extremely comfortable and secure, and the controls don't feel cramped at all.

As you'd expect from this legendary manufacturer, the X1D feels extremely well built, with a completely solid body and crisp, smoothly operating controls. Physically, the X1D is fully worthy of Hasselblad's historic reputation for quality. We don't yet have definitive specs on the EVF (magnification, refresh rate, eye relief etc.), and I'm not sure its performance has been finalized on the camera I was using, so I'll comment on only a couple of things I noticed. Subjectively, the EVF image seemed quite large and eye relief was about what I'm used to with a good DSLR — I could see nearly all of the viewfinder with my glasses on.

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Hands-On Preview

Certain aspects of the autofocus system on these pre-production models were also clearly not finalized, so I'll only say that, even on these units, the AF was fast and decisive enough to make me confident that the X1D will focus well for typical everyday shooting. I was only able to test the magnified manual focus assist, and it worked well, making it easy to judge focus even in fairly low indoor light.

I'd like to say more about the touch-screen menu system, since it's at the heart of the somewhat unusual camera control system on the X1D. (It's the same basic system as that of Hasselblad's recently introduced H6D cameras). Unfortunately, very few of the menus were complete or finalized on these pre-production cameras. From the small number of active menus that I could use, this looks like a highly efficient and well-designed system that works much more like smartphone menus than most camera menu setups. (And that's largely a good thing.) I'm cautiously optimistic, but it'll take some real-world use to really know how well it works.

Quick Video: Hasselblad X1D demo of menu & touchscreen

After playing with the X1D, I took the opportunity to speak with Michael Hejtmanek, President of Hasselblad Bron, Inc., the U.S. distributor of Hasselblad products (and Broncolor lighting). He would not divulge any sales projections or monthly production figures for the X1D, but he did say that the entire U.S. allocation for the remainder of this year was sold out by the end of the first day of dealer availability. (In other words, yesterday U.S. Hasselblad dealers placed orders for every X1D that Hasselblad Bron will import to the U.S. this year.)

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Hands-On Preview

Hejtmanek also made it clear that Hasselblad thinks the X1D will attract a much different mix of buyers (and by implication, a larger market) than other medium format digital cameras. The market for digital medium format up until now has been about 75% professional photographers and 25% advanced enthusiasts, Hetjmanek told me.  "I think this camera will flip that curve. It will be 75% enthusiasts and 25% professionals."

 

• • •

 

Hasselblad X1D Review -- Overview

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Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image

After producing their first camera for the military in 1941, the HK7, Swedish company Hasselblad then focused their attention on providing artists with exceptionally-crafted tools, releasing the 1600F to consumers in 1948. Their latest camera, the X1D-50c, hopes to change the game and put the power of medium format into the hands of more photographers.

The Hasselblad X1D is the world's first "compact mirrorless digital medium format camera" and it packs a 50-megapixel sensor into a body that tips the scales at less than half the weight of a conventional digital medium format camera. The importance of this announcement is not lost on Hasselblad's CEO Perry Oosting, "The X1D marks a pivotal point in Hasselblad's rich 75-year history. This camera makes medium format photography available to a new generation of Hasselblad users, while pushing the existing limits of photography to new heights." That's a big claim, so let's get down to the details of what this camera hopes to offer.

A medium format body that weighs less than 26 ounces

Weighing in at 1.6 pounds (725 grams) with the Li-ion battery included, the relatively compact Hasselblad X1D is designed for portability. At nearly six inches wide, just under four inches tall and under three inches in depth, the X1D is not vastly different in size compared to a Nikon D810.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image

To understand the motivation behind the X1D, it is worth taking a look back to the 1600F that Victor Hasselblad created in 1948. The 1600F body was designed to be portable, iconic, durable and intuitive. These same principles are evident in the X1D as Hasselblad hopes to provide an easy-to-use medium format camera that you can comfortably fit in the palm of your hand.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image
The X1D-50c retains much of Hasselblad's iconic styling but does not retain the large form factor of its medium format siblings.

The Hasselblad X1D is handmade in Sweden using durable, lightweight materials and focuses on an ergonomically-friendly design. The dust- and weather-sealed milled aluminum body features a relatively simple assortment of controls. There are two control dials, one on the front of the camera and a second on the rear. The top of the camera includes a power button, a pop-up mode dial (with three custom modes), the shutter release and two buttons (one for ISO/WB and the other for AF/MF). The front of the X1D is home to the lens release button, a programmable button which defaults to DOF preview, and the aforementioned front control dial. The window next to the dial is for the AF illuminator. The rear of the camera has 'AE-L' and 'AF-D' buttons in addition to five buttons alongside the 3.0-inch high-resolution multi-touch display. The TFT type rear LCD has 920K dots and 24-bit color.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image
You'll notice the large grip that follows from the front to much of the back of the camera. The smartphone-inspired user interface is navigated via a 3.0-inch touchscreen display. The Hasselblad X1D is designed to be intuitive and easy to use.

The user interface features "smart phone style" icons and looks to be designed exclusively with touch in mind as there are no navigation buttons on the Hasselblad X1D. Being a mirrorless camera, the X1D utilizes an electronic viewfinder. The EVF has a 2.36M-dot (XGA) display and is equipped with an eye sensor; no word yet on type, magnification, eyepoint, diopter, etc.

Hasselblad X1D offers 50 megapixels of medium format resolving power

We need to test the X1D out for ourselves to see what sort of image quality it offers, but its specifications and features are impressive. The 50-megapixel AA-filterless CMOS sensor is 43.8 x 32.9 millimeters in size with a pixel pitch of about 5.3 µm, and the camera captures lossless compressed 3FR RAW files to dual SD cards (TIFF and JPEG files are also supported). Hasselblad states that the sensor can capture up to fourteen stops of dynamic range and that it has "16-bit color definition", though we're not sure what that means as we've since been told the sensor's ADCs are 14-bit. ISO ranges from 100 to 25,600.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image

As portable but not as agile as 35mm cameras

While the Hasselblad X1D is similar in size to many full-frame DSLR cameras despite its much larger sensor, the X1D is much slower. Hasselblad states that its new camera will be able to capture images at up to 2.3 frames per second. These are the same specs as the recent H6D-50c medium format DSLR despite the H6D-50c utilizing CFast media. When using XCD lenses, shutter speeds range from 60 minutes to 1/2000s. Capable of using flash across its entire range of shutter speeds, the X1D has a Nikon compatible hot shoe and offers +/-3 EV flash compensation.

It is unclear exactly what the specifications of the autofocus system in the X1D are, but it is stated to utilize contrast detection and offers instant manual focus override. Autofocus is available for both stills and video.

As you can see in the top view of the camera below, the Hasselblad X1D offers your standard assortment of P, S, A and M shooting modes in addition to a manual quiet mode, a full auto setting, video mode and three user-customized shooting modes. (The manual quiet mode closes the shutter and stops the aperture down to the selected value. The camera can then be triggered from the shutter button or remotely with minimal vibration/lens shutter noise.) Across all of the still image shooting modes you can record images in a variety of image aspect ratios, including square and X-Pan panoramic.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image

Regarding video mode, the video features aren't as revolutionary as the concept of the camera itself with the Hasselblad X1D offering only Full HD (1080p) video capture. In addition to the somewhat low video resolution compared to some of its mirrorless competitors, the X1D's video recording is capped at 30 frames per second and uses H.264 compression.

The X1D has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, which Hasselblad hopes will make it an ideal travel camera. The camera also includes a USB 3.0 Type-C connector, a Mini Type-C HDMI port with clean 1920 x 1080 output during video capture, and Audio In/Out ports (3.5mm stereo mic and headphone jacks). Via the USB 3.0 Type-C port, the camera can be tethered to a Mac or PC and transfer data at up to five gigabits per second. One note about the built-in GPS: Hasselblad reports that GPS functionality will be added after launch, via a firmware update.

New XCD lenses designed specifically for the Hasselblad X1D

Along with the new camera system, Hasselblad is launching a new line of autofocus lenses which feature an integral central shutter and are designed to bring out the resolving power of the X1D's 50-megapixel sensor.

Initially, there will be two XCD lenses available: A 45mm f/3.5 XCD and a 90mm f/4.5 XCD. Additional lenses will "follow shortly" including a 30mm f/3.5 which should be available sometime around the Photokina time frame, but a native lens roadmap has not been disclosed.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image
You can see here the new 45mm f/3.5 and 90mm f/4.5 XCD lenses. The new XCD line of lenses will be expanded following the launch of the X1D.

Fear not, however, as the entire twelve lens range of Hasselblad H lenses will be compatible with the Hasselblad X1D through the use of an optional XH Lens Adapter, which will be available around the same time as the camera for about US$350. You can view the dozen H lenses available now here.

Pricing and Availability of the Hasselblad X1D

Speaking of pricing, what will the Hasselblad X1D-50c and its lenses cost you? The camera body itself will cost just under US$9,000. The 45mm XCD lens comes in at just under US$2,300 and the 90mm lens around US$2,700. Availability of the system is planned for late August or early September, with demos starting in late July.

All X1D cameras come with a one-year warranty, but if you buy and register your new mirrorless medium format camera before the end of the year, you can get an additional year of coverage free of charge. The XCD lenses are covered for one year or a million exposures.

Hasselblad X1D-50c Review -- Product Image

What does the Hasselblad X1D-50c mean for photographers?

Considering its unique position in the marketplace as the only mirrorless medium-format camera, the Hasselblad X1D is in some ways without any competitors. It provides its larger sensor and medium format image quality in a body that is actually smaller and lighter than some high-end full-frame DSLRs. Two things are clear: digital medium format photography just became a lot more portable and Hasselblad is keen to be the company that changes the game.

 

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