Bought a Hasselblad X1D in NYC. Thoughts and pictures by Fabian Fabrega

Bought a Hasselblad X1D in NYC. Thoughts and pictures

by Fabian Fabrega

Greeting from Argentina! Before anything, a big THANK YOU for what you do. Your reviews are not only informative but also big deal entertaining. Particularly, two reviews of yours helped me solved my photographic life. Let me tell you about it!

Some twenty years ago… 

…when I was less than twenty, my parents got me a Hasselblad 503CW and I, as many others who find out medium format for the first time, could never quite go back to 35 mm –except for, later on, the companion of the most awesome Contax G2. While in college, together with my year-older brother and year-younger sister, we start up a commercial photo studio in the small city we grew up (it is said to have been the very first of its kind outside Buenos Aires City). In that studio, we had every photo equipment you could think of, and around fifteen working photographers, but could not run it anymore because destiny, and a grant, moved us to the US (Upstate New York) to attend grad school.

A few years later, back in Argentina… 

…digital photography had climbed up to the top as to make film developing and printing virtually disappear in this country. So, for the past decade or so I have been trying my best to adapt to the digital age. I did buy a Nikon DSRL with prime glasses, a Leica X2 and a few others that I do not remember. The more I tried digital, the more I missed film and both my Hasselblad and Contax (and Olympus, and Yashica, and Nikon, and anything for the matter). A couple of national financial crisis and questionable import policies made things worse. Eventually, frustration reigned and I abandoned taking pictures.

Until two months ago…

…when, after reading your review about the Leica M10, a business trip to New York turned to be the perfect excuse to get what seemed my so much hoped-for digital camera. And that is what I did; almost. I arrived in NY, checked-in at the hotel, had lunch, went to a Leica store, and, once a second had passed with myself lifting up and holding the M10, I thought: “Oh! What a camera!”. By the way, the M10 was supposed to be sold out everywhere… unless you walked into the store with cash. Because of a rush issue on our agenda, I had to wait until the next morning to come back to the store and buy it. Nevertheless, when waking up that next morning, my brother asked me: “Why don’t you buy a Hasselblad instead of the Leica, since you always have had such great experiences with your old one? Isn’t there a new, good one out there?”. At that moment, I remembered your other review, the one about the X1D, and decided to stop by a different store to check out the X1D, just in case something miraculous would happen as I was positive about getting the M10.

Well, the X1D and the 30 mm impressed me as miracles (no more money left for the M10, luckily).

Now, in regard to some criticism… 

…I have read about, is really the Hasselblad X1D slow? Slow turning-on? Slow autofocus? Black-out at exposure? In all: is this camera therefore good only for predictable environments, such as landscape, architecture or studio? With this kind of machinery, I think it depends on the user. Is a music drum set better suited for faster playing if its head sizes are smaller? Well, ask the ultra-fast jazz players of the ‘40s how small theirs were (they were not!). By the same token, is a guitar more subtle than other? It may be as subtle as the guitarist who plays it is. I could think of a similar parallelism on sports: is a tennis racquet more fast-response than another? May be on a test bench, but maybe not on a real match; and also, there is a reason for every player choosing a different racquet, even though they are playing the same sport.

Consequently, as a first and final report… 

…thanks to the X1D, my love for photography has reborn. I now feel the need to shoot every day. I now do not miss my old gadgets any more. As much as I have hated digital screens and small buttons, I know enjoy what Hasselblad has managed to make all intuitive and fun. Built class is out of this world. The format ratio and the perspectives it gives –DOF included– are inspiring. The dynamic range relocates correct exposure to a lesser issue. And the quality of printed pictures is just unbelievable. This camera motivates me to take pictures. It helps me decide whether to shoot or not to shoot at a single moment. It encourages me to creatively see and watch around, and find the answers to what, when and why a picture must be taken, instead of taking endless consecutive pictures around and then wasting otherwise creative time in selecting the one that looks best. The X1D takes the art of photography back to its roots: it’s about choosing to shoot, rather than shooting to choose.

In practice… 

…joining your love for the X1D –and contradicting any criticism–, I have so far used it on three environments that few could call slow or predictable: the above-mentioned trip to NY in which I bought the camera, a horse jump tournament, and a 11-year-old schoolkids’ year-end trip (after all, I used to do street and live music photography with the old 503CW…). These are the pictures I took. On a technical note, most of the time I focused manually (without zoom or peaking assist) –for which I customized the Stop Down button to work as AF/MF Toggle–, and shot on S mode. Also, I used Lightroom to slightly retouch highlights, shadows, color filtering, straightening, and grain (if any, added).

Thank you for reading!

Check out the X1D at B&H Photo HERE (Still on sale for the holidays)

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6 Comments

  1. Two nights ago I had a dream.

    I was out with hired X1D. Photographing street. Then from somewhere there’s Debbie and Steve :-)) :-))

    Debbie really friendly smiley to me asking me how things going, Steve greeting me like a buddy :-)) :-)) we discuss X1D.

    Afterwards I realise I didn’t have SDCard in X1D : DOH!!!

    I distinctly recall feeling real euphoria regarding X1D best camera I’d photographed with .

  2. Buenos Días Fabián, y gracias por compartir tus experiencias con la fotografía y tu equipo! Me gustó tus fotos y espero ver mas de tu trabajo en el futuro! Feliz Año Nuevo!

    Fabián, thanks for sharing your experiences in photography and with your gear. I liked your photos and hope to see more of your work in the future! Happy New Year!

  3. I only own the XCD 30mm f/3.5, which focusing total movement (from closest to infinite distance) is limited. I have just checked it, as I had not known before about “acceleration”. I do not notice this effect. Under a smooth, normal use, it is hard to notice that this is a by-wire focusing lens. What I do notice is that, if I turn the focus ring very fast —much faster than anything I would do or have ever done— the lens loose control (i.e. it either moves in steps or keeps focusing for a fraction of a second after I stopped turning the ring).

  4. does the manual focus have “acceleration” where the speed with which you turn the ring— and not just how much you turn it— impacts the degree of focus adjustment?

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