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.Â 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!