IN-DEPTH HASSELBLAD X1D REVIEW
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HASSELBLAD X1D REVIEW: POCKETABLE MEDIUM FORMAT IN THE FIELD!
Before we start, let me say that as a landscape photographer my in-depth Hasselblad X1D review will mainly deal with the use of the camera for a pretty specific genre of photography. I am also well aware that I am late to the party, with the Hasselblad X1D now reaching its third year of existence and with many reviews already out there. However, I think that it is exactly due to my very specific approach to using the Hasselblad X1D, and to my own approach to photography, that adding one more review to the many already out there might still prove of interest. Finally, this Hasselblad X1D review is the result of more than six months of experience using the camera for my professional work day-in, day-out; it’s not one based on a few days of use shooting resolution charts and the like. All photos in this article have been taken with Hasselblad X1D, Hasselblad XCD lenses & the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide-Heliar v. III.
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Hasselblad in any way. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
WHAT I PHOTOGRAPH AND WHAT I NEED
I am a Fine Art landscape photographer and I see my work as that of an interpreter. As such, I use my cameras and lenses to express my vision of the landscapes in front of me, fix it on my photographs and pass it on to my viewers. My cameras are almost always on a tripod, I always work with filters on my lenses and I am very often using long exposures (from a few seconds to a few minutes). To create the images I love, I need to photograph under any kind of weather, and in any kind of environment. Therefore, I need to be sure that my gear will keep working no matter what the elements will throw at it. Finally, since a sizeable part of my business is selling prints, I need a camera system providing me with enough resolution and micro-detail to print my images big. This Hasselblad X1D review and its conclusions are based on my work and rely on my experience with the camera & lenses in the field: if you do a different kind of photography, both your requirements and your conclusions about which cameras are best for you might be completely different.
A MEDIUM FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNEY
I am not new to medium format, both digital and analog. In the past, when I did mostly people and studio work, I used high-resolution medium format PhaseOne and Leaf digital backs with Mamiya 645 and the early Mamiya-based PhaseOne bodies. I also used for many years various Hasselblad 500 bodies and lenses, loving both the concept and the negatives it produced.
During my first years of professional landscape photography work (starting from 2010), I used my digital backs with Silvestri and Linhof tech cameras for about one year but eventually gave up using tech cameras due to the operational cumbersomeness of such cameras, both in the field and during post-processing.
What convinced me to move on was, among other things, the lack of weather-sealing, the lack of long lenses, the need to correct every image with ICC profiles, and so on.
After a short interlude with the Nikon D800E and the Sigma SD1 Merrill, I went back to medium format using the Pentax 645D and the Pentax 645Z for a couple of years. The Pentax 645Z was a great concept: the first “popular” medium format camera, it sported a truly great sensor, the very same that you find both in the Hasselblad X1D reviewed here and in the Fuji GFX 50 Mp cameras. Sadly, Pentax pretty much killed what could have been a great system by stopping developing modern lenses for it. More, for the kind of work I do, the Pentax 645 system was too big and heavy, and I always found its user interface to be too messy.
So, in 2016 I moved back to digital 35mm, and to the Leica SL. I happily used the SL for three years, enjoying the quality of its zoom lenses, its essential design, its build quality, its sturdiness, its ergonomics and its user interface. Most importantly, thanks to the Leica SL I got used to working with an EVF, which I find to be the single most important evolution in camera development for landscape photography work since the advent of digital photography.
In late December 2018, I decided to leave Leica as an Ambassador and move on (see A NEW CHAPTER AHEAD: FAREWELL LEICA). Coincidentally, in my quest for always better image quality I started looking at what I felt it was the only possible way forward: medium format was calling my name again.
ENTER THE HASSELBLAD X1D
A lot happened in the years since I last used digital medium format. The new PhaseOne backs looked pretty interesting, but despite the developments in digital back / tech cameras integration, I wasn’t going to go back to that just yet. The Leica S, unfortunately, is completely useless for Landscape Photography: besides the lack of ultra-wide-angle lenses, Leica decided to cripple it by limiting long exposures to an irrelevant one minute, a total deal breaker for me. I already used the system for about six months, using the Leica S (Typ 007) on the side of my Leica SL, and I wasn’t going to go back to that either.
So, after reviewing all the options, the choice boiled down to the Hasselblad X1D and the Fuji GFX 50S or 50R. While the Fuji GFX is without a doubt a great system, my personal preference went to the Hasselblad X1D. A quick call to the great guys of NewOldCamera, my trusty new & second-hand shop in Milan, Italy, and I was ready to pick up my Hasselblad X1D, with the 21mm, 30mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses to go with it. See NEWOLDCAMERA for more information. Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with NewOldCamera in any way.
Let’s now see in detail during this Hasselblad X1D review what I thought about this camera.
BUILD, ERGONOMICS & USER INTERFACE
The Hasselblad X1D’s build is just incredible: the camera exudes quality, its all-metal body is extremely compact for medium format, feels perfectly built and as strong as a camera can be. Fundamental for my work, both the camera and all XCD lenses are weather sealed.
It might sound meaningless for your photography, but during this Hasselblad X1D review I loved the camera’s battery release: like on the Leica SL, the battery is flush with the camera body, serving as a battery door as well. Operating the battery release will make the battery drop just a notch, but not let it fall off the camera: you’ll have to push it back in a bit to unlock the security catch and get the battery out. This saves you a lot of time in the field, while preventing accidents such as your battery falling off into a river of something.
Ergonomically, the camera is just perfect. The sculpted handgrip falls perfectly in my (relatively large) hand, and all buttons and controls are easily reachable with my hands in shooting position. I can operate the camera, change all the settings I need to change, frame, focus, shoot and review my images always keeping the camera to my eye.
I find the Hasselblad X1D’s user interface to be simply the best out there today. Simple yet powerful, the Hasselblad X1D has all the features I need and lets me do all the customisations I want without any unnecessary clutter. I love the touchscreen-based UI, best in class without a doubt, but I love that you can also fully operate the camera without ever touching the screen. This is fundamental for situations where using a touchscreen could prove testing, such as in sub-zero temperatures while wearing gloves.
Being used to the Leica SL’s extremely useful joystick, I was a bit worried by the lack of a similar control on the Hasselblad X1D, feeling that using the front and rear wheels instead would prove uncomfortable. This Hasselblad X1D review proved me instead that nothing was further from the truth: the camera’s interface just works perfectly, either via the touchscreen or via wheels and buttons, and its simplicity is something all manufacturer should take as guideline.
SETTING UP THE CAMERA
Thanks to the simple, straightforward and almost barebone menus, setting the camera up to my liking took me but a few minutes.
FRAMING AN IMAGE
As I mentioned at the beginning of this Hasselblad X1D review, I find mirrorless EVF to be the most important (r)evolutionary change in camera development for landscape photography since the advent of digital. Personally, I love to look at the world through a viewfinder, resorting to using the back LCD only when I have no other choice (and I’d do pretty much everything not to do that!). Formerly a lover of a large, bright optical finder, I now find an EVF to be much, much better than an optical viewfinder to work in the field.
With an EVF you get:
– Real time exposure: what you see is what you get;
– The ability to work with filters, even 6 or 10 stop ND, without having to constantly remove them for focussing or framing;
– The ability to “see in the dark”, fundamental before sunrise and after sunset;
– The ability to focus with the outmost precision;
– The ability to move your focus points all over the frame;
– Full shooting info in your EVF, including histogram, electronic level, grids, and so on;
– Full playback in your EVF, with no need to take your eye off it;
and more. As I mentioned, I came to the Hasselblad X1D from the Leica SL’s EVF, still the best in class at the time of writing this article (soon to be bettered by the new Panasonic S1/S1R). So, I was a bit worried that during this Hasselblad X1D review I would be disappointed in use by the lower specs of my new cameras’ EVF. To my surprise, that didn’t end up being the case.
Sure, the Leica SL’s EVF is larger and more detailed than the Hasselblad X1D’s. However, I found the Hasselblad X1D’s EVF to be more responsive when photographing in low light, especially moving subjects (such as running water), which is much more important for my application. I appreciate it that mine might be a very niche user case, but nevertheless it is what I need. Specs differences aside, in practice I was happy to trade in some resolution and some of the “wow” factor of the Leica SL’s EVF for less lag and more usability in the darkness.
Of course, the Hasselblad X1D’s EVF sports a built-in dioptre correction making it easy for glass-wearer people like me to use the camera without having to remove or to change glasses.
Finally, an eye-sensor on the right side of the finder allows you to automatically switch between the EVF and the monitor on the back of the camera, which is very handy. As a side note, I leave such feature on auto on all my EVF-cameras, and I find it to be working pretty well for me most of the times. On those rare situations where I have my camera setup in an uncomfortable position (either too low, too high, and the like), I move it to “always EVF” or “always LCD”, whichever is more convenient for that particular case.
While I personally much prefer to use the EVF as my framing method of choice, if you prefer you can also frame your images using the monitor on the back of the camera, taking advantage of the amazing Hasselblad X1D’s touchscreen for focussing, changing settings and so on, or via the Phocus app (see the dedicated section below).
Whether you choose the EVF or the back monitor, the Hasselblad X1D offers you various framing aids and screen configurations. Generally speaking, for my landscape work I like to use the grid and the electronic level almost equally, assuming they are both available on my cameras. The Hasselblad X1D offers them both, and intelligently it offers them separately (i.e., on the Leica SL you can either have them both on together, or neither). While no camera I ever used sported a truly accurate electronic level out of the factory, the Hasselblad X1D included, the X1D allows you to user-calibrate the camera’s electronic level. During this Hasselblad X1D review I was extremely impressed by this truly unique feature, perfect for us landscape and architectural photographers.
FOCUSSING AN IMAGE
For my work, I use a mix of autofocus and manual focus, according to the subject matter and the situation. Therefore, I find it paramount to have a camera allowing me to:
– Switch rapidly and easily between AF and MF; while
– Keep the shutter button decoupled from initiating auto focus.
The main reason for the latter is very simple. Imagine photographing either in very low light, or in daylight with a strong ND filter on your lens. In both cases, if the action of pressing the shutter will trigger autofocus, and if the camera won’t be able to lock focus (which is almost guaranteed to happen, with dark filters or in the darkness), then you either will not be able to take the shot at all, or the resulting shot will be a out-of-focus mess.
The Hasselblad X1D fulfils both my requirements beautifully. Just select the camera’s manual focus mode switching the AF-MF button on top of the camera, and you are done. In MF mode, the shutter button will only trigger the shutter; however, the AF-D button on the back of the camera will still activate autofocus if you need it. Simple and perfect.
To move your focus point around the frame, just hold down the AF-MF button until the focus point grid appears and, if you prefer to use the EVF as I do, just move your focus point around using the front & back wheels. You can do all this without having to take your eye away from the camera, which is great.
If you prefer to use the LCD for your composition instead, you can move your focus points via the touchscreen, which works brilliantly. For your convenience, the Hasselblad X1D let you both resize autofocus points, and select the touchscreen’s active area. In short, you can set your autofocus pretty much as you wish.
With the Leica SL, I loved the focus scale on the top LCD. Sure, it wasn’t perfectly accurate, and I definitely wouldn’t have used it for portrait work at f/1.4. For landscape work, however, it was more than enough to save you from having to focus in a lot of situations. Unfortunately, there is no such thing available on the Hasselblad X1D, and I definitely hope that this will be added in firmware at some point, or in the next iteration of the X1D cameras. However, if you like to use manual focus, the Hasselblad X1D offers you both focus magnification and a precise focus assist feature with colour blinkies. Happily, both features work with adapted manual focus lenses as well: I use these features all the time, and I never had a miss.
Once more, I only photograph landscape. Therefore, in this Hasselblad X1D review I couldn’t put the X1D’s auto-focus through any really stressing speed test. As far as I could see while working on the landscape, the Hasselblad X1D’s autofocus will definitely not win any speed contest. However, for my use the X1D focussed fast enough, and locked focus surely enough with just a bit of light. The lenses are a bit noisy when focussing, some more than others, but again this is of no consequence for my work.
In conclusion, during this Hasselblad X1D review I found focussing images to be fast and easy both using autofocus or manual focus with native lenses and using manual lenses. The camera offers you all the flexibility you need to set up focussing the way you like, and all features are extremely straightforward and simple to use. Most importantly, I found both autofocus and manual focus to provide reliable and consistent result in the field.
The Hasselblad X1D lets you review your images both on the EVF and on the back’s LCD monitor, which is great. During this Hasselblad X1D review, I found it slightly annoying that playback mode doesn’t “stick” when you change between EVF and LCD: moving from the one to the other in either direction will bring you back to live view.
The Hasselblad X1D EVF is great to review images: during playback, you can zoom in just by pushing the AF-D button on the back of the camera and move around with the front & back wheels. If you prefer to review your images on the back LCD instead, you will also be able to browse through them and zoom in and out using your familiar smartphone finger gestures.
While reviewing images, either on the EVF or on the LCD, you will be able to cycle through various sets of information, including three different types of histogram (luminance, RGB, separate RGB), a classic screen with all shooting data or, if you prefer, nothing at all.
USE OF FILTERS
For my work, the ability to use my beloved Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra 100mm square filters easily is paramount, and a decisive factor in my choice of a new camera system. Obviously, the ability to use filters is a function of the lenses, not of the camera body. However, one of the major selling points of the Hasselblad X1D system for me has been the small size of all its lenses, all supporting filter threads of 67mm and 77mm at the largest. Amazingly, this includes also the 21mm: this is the lens that convinced me of the viability of the Hasselblad X1D for my work, it’s the widest lens in the medium format world and yet, it still supports 77mm filters.
Not only using 100mm square filters with the Hasselblad X1D is extremely easy, but as you can see in my FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM FILTER HOLDER REVIEW if you even wanted to go one step smaller you could use the 85mm system with no problems.
This is something often not possible even on 35mm Full-Frame cameras, which all have some lenses featuring 82mm filter threads.
Let’s now compare the X1D with other medium format solutions. The FujiFilm 23mm G, supporting 82mm filters, is the only other medium format lens that can be used easily with 100mm filters. The Pentax 25mm for the 645z doesn’t support front filters at all. The Leica 24mm Super-Elmar-S supports 95mm filters, requiring the use of 150mm filters or some acrobatics to use 100mm filters, and so does the old Hasselblad 24mm H. Of course, none of these lenses is as wide as the Hasselblad XCD 21mm to begin with.
After almost 5 years working with Formatt-Hitech filters as a Brand Ambassador & Featured Artist (09.2016-05.2021), I am now looking for new filters to help me create my Fine Art landscape photographs. I am currently testing various options, and will update you as soon as I’ll have found the best, highest quality solution for my work.
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY IN THE FIELD: THE PHOCUS MOBILE APP
Hasselblad offers a free iPhone app, the Phocus Mobile App (there is no Android version at this point). The Phocus app allows you to connect your iOS device to your laptop & camera in the studio, if that’s what you need. More importantly for us landscape photographers, it allows you to connect to, and then control, your camera in the field even with no WLAN present.
During this Hasselblad X1D review I found connecting the app to be extremely simple. Just turn WIFI on in the camera and the camera will create a WIFI network named as your camera’s serial number. Just select that network in your phone, and you are good to go. The app puts you in charge of the camera photographic controls (no menu controls, though) and allows you full access to all the images in it. As well, you can access the camera’s Live View feed, which is great when you need to set up your camera in such a way that looking through the viewfinder or at the monitor would not really be comfortable, i.e. very low on the ground and the like.
During this Hasselblad X1D review, I found the app to be working fast and reliably, without crashes or glitches. However, I found the app’s UI to be a bit convoluted in its management of Live View & camera controls. The problem is that they are separate, forcing you to close the one to go to the other and vice-versa.
Personally, I don’t find this to be a deal breaker since I use the phone just as a remote live view device, using the camera’s own shutter button with delayed release to take my shots.
However, it would be great if Hasselblad’s developers could add Live View in the small window bottom right in the camera control panel; double tapping on the image could bring you to a larger image, the same you can see in today’s Live View. That alone would make the app way more usable.
The Hasselblad X1D ships with an external GPS module that installs on the camera’s flash hot shoe. I almost never use GPS for my work: despite aging, I can still remember where I took my photos pretty well, and when needed I use a Garmin watch for precise tracking instead. However, I tried the GPS module on for this Hasselblad X1D review and found it to be working well enough for a camera GPS – meaning, nothing earth-shattering as far as speed is concerned, but accurate enough once it locks.
Since getting my first Hasselblad X1D body last fall (I now have two bodies), I have been almost continuously on the road, and I took more than 4.000 photographs in extreme environments all over the World. In particular, while preparing this Hasselblad X1D review I photographed in situations ranging from sand storms in Death Valley to walking with my camera in the ocean in Atlantic Spain; I worked with my X1D in the freezing cold of winter Iceland and in the constantly wet and rainy northwest of Scotland; together we braved the sea sprays brought by the gale-force winds of Cornwall and created by the rough seas of Italy. Sure, I handle my cameras with care, but I certainly don’t pamper them. Where I go, they also go, and what I can endure, they will also have to endure. If it rains, they get wet. If there is a sandstorm, they get sanded. If it’s cold, they have to brave it. Both my Hasselblad X1D bodies simply didn’t care about any of that, and just kept working flawlessly no matter what. Perfect.
NATIVE LENS CHOICE
The Hasselblad X1D is a completely new system, and as such lens availability might be a concern for you. Personally, lens availability is a determining factor for me to decide whether a system is mature enough for my work. In the X1D’s case, two things happened during the camera’s history that made it viable for my work.
First, the availability of the Hasselblad XCD 21mm f/4. I love wide-angle lenses, and this is the widest medium format lens available today on the market, covering an angle of view of 105’ and with a field-of-view (FOV) equivalent to that of a 17mm lens in the so-called “full frame” format.
FujiFilm offers a 23mm lens as their widest choice for their GFX cameras, covering an angle of view of 99.9’ and with a FOV equivalent to that of an 18.5mm lens. While 23mm might be enough for your work, the 5 degrees of extra coverage of the 21mm XCD do make a substantial difference for my work.
Second, the implementation of an electronic shutter, allowing the use of adapted lenses (see dedicated section below).
As of this Hasselblad X1D review’s writing, the native lens line-up for the camera is as follows:
Hasselblad XCD 21mm f/4 (17mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 30mm f/3.5 (24mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 45mm f/3.5 (35mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 65mm f/2.8 (50mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 80mm f/1.9 (63mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 90mm f/3.2 (71mm FOV equivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 120mm f/3.5 Macro (95mm e FOV quivalent)
Hasselblad XCD 135mm f/2.8 + 1.7 TC (105mm FOV eq., 178mm with TC)
While the absence of zoom lenses might be something you cannot live with, for my work this line-up is pretty much perfect, covering all my requirements. Please note that all Hasselblad XCD lenses have a built-in shutter: this limits your shutter speed to 1/2000 sec, but at the same time it allows you to sync flash up to 1/2000 sec as well. Using the electronic shutter, you can go up to 1/10.000 seconds at the time of writing.
ADAPTING LENSES TO THE HASSELBLAD X1D
One of the advantages of mirrorless cameras is that they have a much shorter flange distance than traditional, mirror-box cameras. Therefore, they allow us to adapt pretty much any lens to them. The Hasselblad X1D is no exception: with it, you can use pretty much any MF and 35mm lens on the market, albeit with possible limitations if you stray out of Hasselblad own MF offer, which you can use enjoying full functionality.
While I find the native Hasselblad XCD lenses to be nothing short of amazing optically, as an ultra-wide-angle lover I am always looking for the possibility of adding wider options to my cameras. So, while working for this Hasselblad X1D review, I got a Novoflex HAX/LEM adapter to try my Leica M lenses on the X1D. I was especially curious to see the behaviour of my beloved Voigtlander 15mm v. III, the one I sawed the hood off to be able to use filters with (see SURGERY ON THE VOIGTLANDER SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15MM III).
While it vignettes noticeably, the lens is optically excellent on the X1D (see my VOIGTLANDER SUPER-WIDE HELIAR 15MM IN-DEPTH REVIEW ON THE HASSELBLAD X1D), and so are my other Leica M lenses (28mm Elmarit-M, 50mm Summilux-M and 90mm Elmarit-M). I am also curious to try some Leica R lenses, such as the 100mm f/4 Macro, as well as some Canon ultra-wide lenses, and I am looking forward to doing so in the near future.
I was very much looking forward to seeing how the Hasselblad X1D’s electronic shutter would behave with adapted M lenses, and I found it to be working perfectly at the shutter speeds I normally use. A quick test at faster shutter speeds, on the other hand, proved to be less successful in terms of file cleanliness – keep that in mind if you plan to use adapted lenses for portrait work and the like. Also, with electronic shutter you won’t be able to use a flash.
One of the biggest reported shortcomings of the Hasselblad X1D from day one has been its start-up speed. While firmware upgrades took care of some of it, start-up time is still noticeably long (in the order of a few seconds). During my Hasselblad X1D review, however, I found this not to be a problem at all for my work. I turn the camera on when I take it off my bag, and by the time I have it secured on my tripod the X1D is ready to go. Of course, I would like it to be instant, as it should be in 2019; and I am hopeful the next iteration of X1D, whatever it will be called, will take care of that. I appreciate that for your kind of work this might be an issue: if so, just leaving the camera on sleep, rather than turning it off completely, will be a good temporary solution.
Start-up time aside, in my Hasselblad X1D review I found the camera to be very responsive during normal operations: it is at least as fast as any camera I have ever used, and thanks to its terrific UI it feels even faster.
Battery life is pretty good considering that we are talking about a camera that is both medium format, with huge files to move, and mirrorless, therefore always relying on a screen to work (be it the camera’s EVF or its LCD). I don’t machine-gun my landscapes: in fact, I found out that the more experienced I get, the less I shoot. That said, using the camera with WIFI often on, I consistently managed to get through more than one day of battery-intensive, long exposure work with just one battery. That said, if you do landscape photography, I’d definitely recommend having at least one spare battery with you at all times, no matter which camera you use.
The Hasselblad X1D creates 16-bit 3FR Raw files of amazing quality and beauty. Routinely, once I selected the images I will work on, during post-processing I examine all my files at 200% to clean them from dust spots and dirt. Of course, doing so allows me to give a very good look at the quality of my files as well. I have been doing so for a number of years now with all my cameras, including top of the line Medium Format digital backs. What I look for, besides sharpness, is file cleanness (especially for long exposures), colour quality (tonal response and tonal separation), the ability of a file to withstand post-processing without breaking up, and so on. Thanks to my workflow, I learned to recognise a good file when I see one, and I can confidently say that the Hasselblad X1D’s files are easily the best I ever worked with.
White Balance. White balance works very well on the Hasselblad X1D. Auto WB works nicely, as do the usual presets, and setting a custom WB is really easy. That said, I always shoot RAW for best image quality: this allows me to set my WB to taste in post-processing, so WB is not a huge issue for me anyway. If you shoot JPEG, though, you’ll be happy with the Hasselblad X1D’s implementation of white balance.
Long Exposures. For my work, and for many landscape photographers as well, the way a camera deals with long exposures is really important to assess a camera’s image quality. Due to potential overheating, reading noise, banding, colour fidelity and other issues, long exposures usually put a lot of stress on any camera’s sensor and image pipeline.
As mentioned at the beginning of this Hasselblad X1D review, I used the 50 Mp sensor found in this camera already, in my old Pentax 645Z. Therefore, I had a pretty good idea about what to expect as far as image quality goes.
While I didn’t do any side-by-side comparison, I went back and reviewed some of my old Pentax 645Z files: I think the Hasselblad X1D’s files are better, both in terms of colours and cleanness, than those my Pentax 645Z produced. Again, this is a very subjective comparison, not based on anything remotely scientific.
Coming to user interface and feature set, I find the long exposure implementation of the Hasselblad X1D to be simply the best I have ever used. First of all, the Hasselblad X1D lets you shoot up to 68 minutes without the need for dark frame subtraction. In fact, there is no such feature in the camera, nor it is needed: I regularly used the Hasselblad X1D up to 12 minutes so far, and the files are perfectly clean, with no artefacts whatsoever.
Second, with the Hasselblad X1D you can forget Bulb, or even having to go to manual mode to do your long exposures. You can stay in Aperture mode, if so you wish, and the camera will obediently follow you in your descent into long exposures up to 68 minutes without the need to change modes or any other fuss.
Third, during long exposures a large timer appears on the back LCD (or in the EVF, if you are looking into it), counting down to zero: the counter is always visible during all your exposure, as is the battery status indicator.
Fourth, the Hasselblad X1D offers a truly genius “Finish Exposure” feature: just press the “x” button next to the “Finish Exposure” message on the LCD (it’s the fourth from the top) and the camera will stop the long exposure whenever you decide, creating a file with whatever it recorded so far.
This is extremely useful for situation such as:
– I.e., you started a daytime 10 minutes exposure with a cloudy sky, but after 5 minutes the sun appeared: you can cut your exposure short, avoiding losing your image to burned highlights;
– I.e., you started a 2 minutes exposure on the shore, and after 1 minute a bigger wave threatens to submerge you: you can cut the exposure short and still be getting an image, underexposed perhaps but better than nothing;
– I.e., you started a 5 minutes exposure, but something amazing happened somewhere else in the sky and you don’t want to wait that long: again, you can cut the exposure short and still be getting an image, underexposed perhaps but better than nothing, and move to the next image. And so on, you got the idea.
In short, the Hasselblad X1D has the best implementation of long exposures I have ever seen, while producing the cleanest long-exposed files I have ever worked with. Just perfect for me.
The Hasselblad X1D offers some video options, but not being a videographer, I haven’t even tested them.
As you know, I need to print big. So, how big can you print with the Hasselblad X1D? Well, 50 megapixels in 4:3 image ratio allow you to print a 27 x 20” image (50 x 70cm, slightly smaller than A1 in metric) at a native resolution of 300 dpi; if you go down to 200 dpi, you can print up to 40 x 30″ inches (75 x 100cm, slightly smaller than A0 in metric).
Please note that we are talking about printed area, not paper size. With careful interpolation and post-processing, 50 Mp allow you to print pretty much as big as you want: in short, the Hasselblad X1D’s resolution is more than enough for most users, if not all.
How about 100 or 150 Mp then?
Personally, I think that having more resolution is always an advantage for landscape. More Mp give you more room for post-processing and cropping, not to forget that more sampling is always a good thing when you have to print large. So, if and when a new Hasselblad X2D with more resolution will come out, everything else being equal I will definitely consider it.
SYSTEM’S BULK AND WEIGHT
We all know how losing a few extra pounds in our backpack really makes a difference when hiking long distances. The Hasselblad X1D is an incredibly compact and light camera, especially so considering that it’s a medium format camera. Let’s see how it fares compared to its medium format competitors first.
As of this writing, there are two mirrorless medium format cameras directly competing with the Hasselblad X1D: the Fuji GFX 50R and 50S. The newly available Fuji GFX 100, in my opinion, is not a direct competitor of the Hasselblad X1D. In fact, I personally would not consider the GFX 100 for landscape photography in the first place, but that’s the topic for a different article. Let’s look at the comparison (all measures include battery and memory cards):
1. Hasselblad X1D, 725 gr, 150 x 98 x 71mm
2. FujiFilm GFX 50S, 825 gr, 147.5 x 94.2 x 91.4mm (without a viewfinder)
3. FujiFilm GFX 50R, 775 gr, 160.7 x 96.5 x 66.4mm
As you can see, the X1D is lighter than both Fujis, and if you add an EVF to the 50S it is also smaller than both, despite being all-metal and, in my opinion, much better built.
Of course, not having a shutter built-in the camera body definitely helps in keeping bulk and weight at bay. Since every XCD lens must include a leaf shutter, we can then expect XCD lenses to be bigger and heavier than their Fuji counterpart. However, during this Hasselblad X1D review I found that not to be the case. Let’s consider similar lenses in both manufacturers’ line-up:
Hasselblad XCD 21mm f/4: 600 gr, 83 x 106mm, filter 77mm
FujiFilm G 23mm f/4: 845 gr, 89.8 x 103mm, filter 82mm
Hasselblad XCD 45mm f/3.5: 417 gr, 77 x 75mm, filter 67mm
FujiFilm G 45mm f/2.8: 490 gr, 84 x 88mm, filter 62mm;
Hasselblad XCD 65mm f/2.8: 727 gr, 81 x 93mm, filter 67mm
FujiFilm G 63mm f/2.8: 405 gr, 84 x 71mm, filter 62mm
Hasselblad XCD 120mm f/4 Macro: 970 gr, 81 x 150mm, filter 77mm
FujiFilm G 120mm f/4 Macro: 980 gr, 89.2 x 152.5mm, filter 72mm
Despite all having a built-in leaf shutter, all Hasselblad lenses are smaller and lighter than their FujiFilm counterparts, with the exception of the 65mm vs 63mm. Therefore, if you are looking for the smaller and lighter MF mirrorless package, the Hasselblad X1D system is the way to go. Just as a curiosity, let’s now compare the Hasselblad X1D with 35mm cameras such as the Nikon D850, Canon 5D mark IV and Pentax K-1 Mark II:
1. Hasselblad X1D, 725 gr, 150 x 98 x 71mm
2. Nikon D850, 1005 gr, 146 x 124 x 78.5mm
3. Canon 5D Mark IV, 800 gr, 150.7 x 116.4 x 75.9mm
4. Pentax K-1 Mark II, 1010 gr, 136.5 x 110 x 85.5mm
Here you can find the links to CameraSize comparisons:
X1D vs Nikon D850: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,718
X1D vs 5D Mark IV: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,682
X1D vs Pentax K-1 Mark II: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,773
Again, the Hasselblad X1D is lighter and smaller than all 35mm cameras considered here. And, the Hasselblad X1D is medium format! And finally let’s see how it fares against 35mm mirrorless cameras, such as the Nikon Z7, Canon EOS R, Sony A7R Mark III and my previous camera, the Leica SL:
1. Hasselblad X1D, 725 gr, 150 x 98 x 71mm
2. Nikon Z7, 585 gr, 134 x 100 x 67.5mm
3. Canon EOS R, 660 gr, 135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm
4. Sony A7R Mark III, 657 gr, 126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm
5. Leica SL, 847 gr, 147 x 104 x 39mm (?)
Here you can find the links to CameraSize comparisons:
X1D vs Nikon Z7: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,794
X1D vs Canon EOS R: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,799
X1D vs Sony A7R Mark III: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,724
X1D vs Leica SL: https://camerasize.com/compare/#678,639
We had to go to mirrorless 35mm systems to find some cameras that are smaller and lighter than the Hasselblad X1D. In fact, all cameras here, except for the Leica SL, have a slight advantage over the X1D in terms of size and weight. Two of them, the Nikon Z7 and the Sony A7R Mark III, offer comparable resolution and present with a compelling alternative for landscape photography if you like their image quality, user interface, feature set, operations, and so on.
Bringing this Hasselblad X1D review to a conclusion, let me just start by saying this: for my kind of work, I found the Hasselblad X1D to be simply the best system for landscape photography on the market today.
Image quality is the ultimate goal for every one of us, no matter what kind of photography we do. For landscape photography, high-resolution medium format camera systems are still king when it comes to image quality. Traditionally, the marriage between medium format and landscape photography has always been a troubled one: in exchange for great image quality, depending on what medium format you chose you had to suffer issues with portability, size & weight, cumbersomeness of use, lack of weather sealing, lack of landscape-oriented features, lack of lens range (especially for wide and ultra-wide angles and for very long teles) and so on. Some systems fared better than others in respect to some of these issues, some worse, but until now no system had it all figured out.
At this point in its development, the Hasselblad X1D solves pretty much all the issues I previously had against medium format. Not only does it have a great sensor and offers amazing lenses covering all the range I need with spectacular image quality, but it’s also amazingly small and light (and not just for medium format), offers an essential and powerful user interface with some unique landscape-oriented features, its body and lenses are weather-resistant, and it’s a camera that gives you the possibility to adapt pretty much any lens you want to it, medium format or not. Last, but certainly not least, the files it produces are nothing short of amazing, no matter the exposure time, and can print very big without any loss in quality.
WHAT I LOVED
– Amazing image quality;
– A set of amazing prime lenses, with incredible resolving power and beautiful rendering;
– The possibility of adapting pretty much any lens on the market; i.e., I loved using my Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide-Heliar in Leica M mount to extend lens range into the extreme ultra-wide;
– Build, size, and weight: while built like a tank, the Hasselblad X1D is smaller and lighter than the competition, both medium format and 35mm;
– Weather-resistant body and lenses;
– The user interface, best in class;
– The simplicity of use;
– The camera’s fantastic landscape-oriented feature set;
– The user experience: the Hasselblad X1D inspires me to go out there and work like no other camera did before, not even the Leica SL!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
– Lack of Live View histogram;
– Lack of focus distance information;
– Playback mode doesn’t “stick” when you switch between EVF and LCD;
– Interval shooting starting countdown at the beginning of the taken image, making it impossible to do interval long exposures;
– Some random bugs.
Plus, I appreciate that many would want to see:
– Faster start-up time.
During these last months working with the Hasselblad X1D in the field, both for my personal work and to prepare this Hasselblad X1D review, I truly loved both the camera and the system as a whole. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it is pretty much perfect for landscape as it is. However, as I do with any product I test, I also thought very hard about what I was missing and what I would want Hasselblad to add, either via further firmware updates or through the release of a new model.
The list is pretty short, but here it is. In-camera improvements:
– Live View histogram
– Focus scale, like on the Leica SL
– Sticky playback mode when switching between EVF and LCD
– Better interval shooting implementation
– Customizable sensitivity of the eye sensor, now a bit too twitchy
– Faster start-up time
– Ironing out all remaining bugs
– Better Phocus Mobile app, reuniting Live View and camera setting / shooting in the same window
– Better battery charger (i.e., providing the new, double-charger as standard would be a great solution)
And, finally, in case you thought I had forgot all about it:
– More resolution: it looks like the 100MP sensor is behind the corner for digital MF cameras, so I assume it will find its way into the new X1D as well, at some point.
I left the “more resolution” thing last, and separate, on purpose. As mentioned before in this Hasselblad X1D review, as a landscape photographer I always welcome more resolution, no question about it.
As far as I could judge, the Hasselblad X1D’s lenses look like they can easily support it.
However, I also think that 50MP are enough for most applications and for most users, and I appreciate that they might not want to have to deal with larger files and the like, for their work.
So, I think that ideally there is room in Hasselblad’s line-up for both an entry-level Hasselblad X1D Mark II with 50 Mp and better electronics, more features, etc. at a relatively affordable price, and a flagship 100 Mp Hasselblad X2D also with better electronics, more features etc. for those who need the extra resolution.
Such a line-up would be hard to beat, in my opinion, and would make Hasselblad a major contender in the Medium Format arena, definitely luring people using high-end 35mm cameras into moving up to MF, while luring people using higher-resolution MF systems such as PhaseOne. Pretty much what Fuji is doing, but with a nimbler, better looking, better featured couple of cameras: what’s not to like?
WILL I KEEP IT OR WILL I SELL IT?
After seeing in this Hasselblad X1D in-depth review what the camera can do, I’ll keep it, definitely. For landscape photography today, I find the Hasselblad X1D to be simply the best system out there. It just inspires me to go out and shoot!
Thanks for reading this Hasselblad X1D in-depth review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?
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