Like Father, Like Son – My Experience with the Hasselblad X1D By Mark Hall

Like Father, Like Son – My Experience with the Hasselblad X1D

A User Report

By Mark Hall

I live in Northern Virginia, but I travel often to New Mexico to visit my elderly father who resides in Las Cruces.  Now 90, he gave me my first Kodak at 8 years old and I am soon to be 60. While I was growing up, he demonstrated to me a great love for photography, which of course I now have.  Traveling to see him in Las Cruces has afforded me the opportunity for several years to photograph the beautiful New Mexico landscape.  I am a dedicated Lecia M9 user who has been delighted with the camera except for its low light performance and the red tones in certain light.  After six years of ownership and the acquisition of several lenses, I thought it might be time for an upgrade to the M10.

In my own growth as a digital photographer, I have moved from shooting Canon DSLRs at my children’s sporting events to developing a real love for landscape photography using the M9. So, I have been busy saving my funds and working the WAF (wife acceptance factor) – as in “you want to spend that much on a new camera?!” I thought that I wanted to upgrade to the new Leica, because, I really like shooting with a rangefinder.  I don’t play cards or have a girlfriend, so I find it socially acceptable to spend my moola on cameras that are better than I am as a photographer.

My Dad, Ken Hall

Then, through the Steve Huff Photo website, I learned of the Hasselblad X1D. Whoa!  A Hasselblad?  I have Dad’s film 40-year-old 500 c/m that was his pride and joy.   I think I grew up understanding what a Hasselblad is in terms of quality and pride of ownership.  I never considered the Fuji medium format camera at all.  I confess that  I felt some “like father, like son” feelings about the Hasselblad brand.  I’ve heard it said that we all turn into our Father’s eventually, I guess I was near crossing a milestone bridge.  The shot at the top of this article is of my new X1d and my Dad’s old Hasselblad.

Before I bought the camera, I did some further homework.  I watched the Huff X1D video series, taking notes.  I also read everything I could on the web about the camera.  I got the real sense that this camera could be for me.

(From Steve: I have now published EIGHT videos on the X1D, see them by clicking below)

I fell in love!

Yes, it is a new system and maybe I could use my Leica glass with it, but really?  I would purchase some Hasselblad glass and quickly chose the least expensive 45mm.  If I’m going to buy a Hasselblad, it’s going to be all Hasselblad, even if it’s just one lens.  I also was not wild about using the electronic shutter that was made available through firmware.  I have a couple of V series lenses from Dad’s system with the leaf shutter inside the glass.  Put those bad boys on the camera and then use an electronic shutter?  Not for me, brother and sister!

So in short order, I took the plunge and set my Visa card on fire at BH.  So, now I have been shooting with the X1D for three weeks, including a long weekend trip to Las Cruces.  Hardly a lifetime, and I still have a lot to learn,  but I already feel comfortable with this camera.  My budget is blown, for now, so maybe next year I’ll pop for the 30mm too if I don’t take up cards.  My lovely bride of 31 years wouldn’t appreciate me having a girlfriend either.

So, what have I learned in my short time using the X1D?

1.  The camera shoots like a dream as long as you realize that things are going to be slow.  It is not a sports camera.  It is perfect for my landscapes use.  Perhaps portraits and some “slow to develop” street scenes shooting too.  The camera does take seven seconds or so to start up which is not a concern to me.  This camera wants you to slow down and think!

2.  The autofocus in low light “hunts” and the sound the 45mm lens makes when it is hunting for focus sounds that sound like something grinding – at least to me.  In daylight, the autofocus is fine, not so much in the early morning.

3.  What I quickly discovered, much to my delight is that I enjoy shooting this camera in all manual mode. Just like my Leica, I adjust ISO, shutter speed and f-stop.  This means that in the morning, I can set the ISO at 400 or 800 and forget about it.  I manually focus and yes, I love the focus peaking!  After shooting an M9 for several years, I learned to take things slow. And, just like Steve said in his video, you can take your time, compose and ONE SHOT. Boom.  Move on. If you have a steady hand, you can hand hold this camera at much lower speeds that I have seen suggested in some literature.  A 2X focal length would be a recommended 1/90 of a second.  I’ve gotten sharp images with much lower speeds than that.

4.  The files are HUGE and they eat my MacBook Pro and iMac alive.  I’m using the subscription Lightroom and my goodness, my machines just grind away.  Things were pretty zippy with Leica images, with Hasselblad 100 mb files, importing a card full of 30 images will kill a standard iMac by sucking up the memory and stressing the graphics card.  I’m going to have to do something about that.

5.  The electronic viewfinder works well.  It looks fine to me.  Guess I had better not look through a Leica SL EV.  Seriously, I’m finding that it has a what you see is what you get when you look through it.

6. I like to shoot Leica glass wide open.  Not quite the same with my one Hasselblad lens,  I like to stop it down a couple of stops if I can to max the sharpness.  The 45mm vignettes in the corners, but the Lightroom correction for the lens works just fine.

7.  I’m trying to learn the Hasselblad Phocus software, but I am finding it a challenge.  I have had trouble at every step of the process including importing.  I don’t know if the image quality would be any better, but for now, I’m sticking with Lightroom which works for me except for the slow speed on my Apple machines.

8.  The build quality of the X1D is awesome!  Most handsome camera ever.

9.  Image quality is fantastic!  Dynamic range, low noise and great in low light.  The color is excellent and no more of that M9 red.  Wow! This camera is just what I was looking for!  Thanks for the recommendation – I love it!

 

Above, I have included some scenes from Las Cruces, Mesilla it’s companion village and the nearby Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument.  I’m looking forward to growing with this camera and the new system.  Thank you Steve for bringing the world of a more affordable Hasselblad to my attention!

Mark Hall

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16 Comments

  1. Nice pictures, thanks for posting. I notice, however, in some of them something I have seen before in pics from this camera, and I am refering to oversaturated light greens and yellows. They seem unreal to me.

  2. Mark

    It has been a few years since I have been to New Mexico and your images make me want to go back. I also like the portrait of your father. Make a print of that.

    I also appreciate the insights to the camera. I have been wanting to try one.

    Concerning the time to import images, this is a function of the computer bus speed, processor speed, hard drive speed, and the amount of RAM in the computer. The only two we any influence over is the amount of RAM and the hard drive.

    For image processing time it’s more about hard drive speed than any thing else, once LR has loaded the image file. Having a second internal HD for LR to use as a flash drive may help a little.

    Unfortunately, over all performance is hardware limited. So a newer, faster, bigger computer may be in your future.

  3. A tip for getting better performance out of Lightroom while processing X1D raw files… use Smart previews. Then take your folder offline that contains the raws. That’s the only way to to do it. Otherwise Lightroom will be slow it’s almost not even worth it.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Mark. Your father-son story echoes that of my own (in which I include grandpa). Very touching narrative. Very touching images. Also, to further surprise, I happened to write up a similar Hasselblad comparison last week. Looking forward to seeing and reading more of your work!

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience and nice photos. Don’t own it (stuck with Leica), but a good friend has one and it is indeed a beautiful camera that produces amazing files. And as long as you know what kind of a photographer you are, and the nature of the camera you’re using, it really doesn’t matter if the camera is a bit slow. There are plenty of scenes out there in the world for which the X1D is perfect, so enjoy and keep shooting.

    • David, Minor adjustments from RAW for contrast and sharpening. New Mexico colors are fantastic all on their own! –Mark

  6. I appreciate your post, photographs and observations. I’ve used the X1D now for about 8 months and deeply enjoy it. I have the 45 mm and 30 mm lenses.

    I have not had much trouble with autofocus speed and it’s worth noting that the camera can be configured and used such that it can be put to sleep yet awaken instantly for the next shot.

    I also wear glasses but have not had any issue with the EVF sensor, etc.

    Again, thanks for your remarks and photography.

  7. Your shots are nice. Shooting in and around Mesilla is terrific; lots of lovely territorial style architecture.

    I recently tried an X1D out at B&H. I had high hopes I’d like the camera. In fact I did like the feel. It is a bit heavier than I anticipated but not too bad. However, the deal killer for me was the EVF. The little sensor to switch the EVF on is located deep enough inside the opening for the EVF that with glasses on (which is a must since I can’t see all that well to begin with) the EVF would not turn on.

    So, no X1D. Do you wear glasses and has what I’ve described happened to you if you do wear glasses? The salesman and I tried to adjust the sensitivity but we could not find an adjustment.

    • No, I don’t wear glasses. The sensor on the EVF seems like it wants you to have your face flush to the camera. I don’t know if there is a work-around.

  8. Great shots … and a great summary of the two cameras… I started using a Hasselblad 500cm in the 60’s for weddings.. It was much easier to process the roll film than many sheets of 4×5 film which was the alternative then… One could make a credible 8×10 print from the ‘small’ 6cm X 6cm negative.. But you had to be much more careful or the slightest error in exposure or cropping would be a lost shot… a wedding disaster. ISO was about 32..for color 100..for BW. supplemental lighting was required or at least a tripod. Life in digital world is wonderful….Printing large files is almost always a successful exercise. Color durability of the medium is decades instead of a few years. Cameras and lenses are exquisite in their build and function. Alas, few people print anymore and a monitor is the new canvas.
    However… the pleasure of setting shutter, lens, ISO, carefully framing is still with us… and the Hasselblad and Leica make the experience worthwhile.

  9. Thanks for your post. This camera facinates me even though I shoot mostly action and events for which my A9 is better suited. The X1D colors have a unique and appealing look to my eyes. I’m hoping a version 2 with faster operation will be forthcoming.

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