The HASSELBLAD X1D Street Review
By Thomas Ludwig
When HASSELBLAD presented the X1D medium format mirrorless camera in 2016, I was very impressed. And glad and happy for HASSELBLAD for this bold move after some shaky times in the last two years. Some weeks later I got the chance to hold the X1D in my hands–boy, what an amazing camera! My first thought was that this will be a huge success for HASSELBLAD. And I was asking myself if I could use it in street photography as it is relatively small and unobstrusive. So let’s have a look!
Marc Lethenet from HASSELBLAD was so kind to loan me one of the pre-series X1Ds for a day in the streets of Hamburg. Together with my friend Marco Larousse (www.marcolarousse.com ), street photographer and host of the Photofocus.com podcast, I gave the cute Hassi a try. Attached to the X1D was the 45/3.5mm lens, which is roughly 35 mm in FF terms. That’s quite perfect for street photography and furthermore it fits equaly perfect in the new CAMSLINGER Streetomatic+.
Hamburgs new and amazing Elbphilhamonie in the background
Mirrorless technology has come a long way since 2008 and is now entering the medium format world. Hasselblad and FUJI aswell are about to ship there new systems. While the FUJI has a more functional, maybe a bit boring design, the HASSELBLADs shapes, lines and materials are outstanding and inspiring. I would say that’s art. And as soon as you hold it in your hand, you’ll be amazed by the ergonomics too. But how about all the stuff under the hood?
The sensor has 50mp and is well known from other medium format cameras. It’s size of 44 x 33 mm is clearly bigger than full frame 36 x 24 mm, but it’s pretty far away from film medium format with 60 x 45 mm or even 70 x 60 mm. So it is a bit of a deception package. However the image quality should be very good. Unfortunatley the day I had in Hamburg was cloudy and foggy, but the details I saw on my PC screen when editing my shots from that day was simply amazing.
Images are very flexible and cropping is no prob at all
My setup fort he day in Hamburg: HASSELBLAD X1D | HASSELBLAD XCD 45 mm F 3.5 | Spare battery | All packed in a CAMSLINGER Streetomatic+
The orange clothes in this image look like in real life.
Image Quality is amazing! Images have a very natural appearence. Colors are true to life and I have the feeling that one can see that medium format look. This might be subjective, but I think they have more plasticity than smaller sensors could deliver. I’m mostly happy with my micro 43 cameras, but these files play clearly in another league. The look, the colors, dynamic range and of course noise–simply amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Hassi was metering rarely spot on. Mostly it was under exposed and if not, images were over exposed. That’s not a big deal, as you have so much dynamic range to work with, but it’s not perfect. Marc from HASSELBLAD told me that my sample unit has not the final firmware installed and this and AF speed will be fixed.
Below are some dynamic range and low light samples up to ISO 3200. The first one, a 70’s TV, got an exposure compensation of +2(!) steps in LR. See the 100% crop and the grain, which is however quite nice.
I’m blown away by the portraits that the X1D and 45/3.5 deliver. People look so real and natural. Maybe portrait photography is the best genre for the HASSELBLAD X1D. As it is so small (for a medium format camera) you can grab street portraits without people getting annoyed. Images right out of cam have so much flexibilty for editing. The image below is edited by Marco Larousse and even if contrast is relatively high, there are plenty of fine details.
The handling oft he X1D is somehow perfect. It is so nice and safe to hold. All knobs and dials are in the right place and the touch screen is quick and easy to operate. The menues are easy to access and everything else than complicated. Well done Hassi!
Due to the not final firmware I cannot say much about operating the camera. My sample however had a long blackout time after taking a photo and needed some seconds to be ready when switched on. So I didn’t switch it off and had it always in stand by. That was eating batteries. I had to change the first one after 150 shots only, but that’s for sure while I needed some time to get used to all the functions while using the display quite a lot. The second battery was lasting another 150 images and was at about 50% at the end of the day.
The viewfinder is big and bright and very responsive. But I would like to see a viewfinder (or at least a backscreen) in the X1D that can be swiveld. It’s so typical to medium format cameras that one can view the scene from above that I really missed this feature.
Focusing abilities are a bit restricted with the current firmware, but single point auto focus was relatively quick and in 95% spot on. The only problem I had with the X1D was the long blackout time after taking a photo. I hope this will be fixed in firmware and that’s what Marc from HASSELBLAD said. As for manual focusing this is pretty easy due to the huge electronic view finder and the magnification abilities.
In the moment there is no face detection available. Especially when taking portraits, this is a neat and deal breaking feature. Hopefully Hassi will introduce it in a future firmware update.
So here is my conclusion: Would I buy a HASSELBLAD X1D for street photography (if I had the budget)? Probably. I think a micro 4/3, aps-c or full frame mirrorless camera has more features, speed and smaller appearence to offer, which makes them on the streets the possibly better choice. For my “normal” days of street photography, I’m happy with an OLYMPUS OM-D or LUMIX. But everyone has their own preferences and when your preference is amazing image quality and a look to your images, that is beyond what smaller sensors can deliver, well, than the X1D might be a camera for you.
However I was extremely impressed by the IQ of the HASSELBLAD X1D and could imagine to use it for fine art projects in street photography or certain projects, especially in street portraiture.
What impressed me on the same level is the georgeous design of this camera. HASSELBLAD did what many others don’t do: They had the courage to walk new ways. And the result is already iconic to my eyes. The HASSELBLAD X1D offers AMAZING image quality and it’s design is contemporary arts. It’s a camera for the fine art street photographer.
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I do not understand so much fierce criticism of the camera and the photographer. This man has risked his prestige to show us images of this camera. It has only had a few hours, the day was bad, the images are very compressed, are jpg and also has not had time to get 100% of the camera. Should we be more grateful and understanding, or do we all get the best pictures on a new system the first day?
CA .. they are there, but surely they will be improved in the next firmwares.
Am I the only one who doesn’t see anything special in these images. Similar images can be taken with a nice APS-C setup for a fraction of the price.
You just saved me £10000. Thanks!
Something weird about the colors, hopefully is the editing since I seen already many beautiful images coming from this camera in other posts. Did you do some editing on them? They image so don’t do any benefit to the camera, and it’s not the compression. Many images have been posted here that don’t look this dull.
Also it’s vignetting highlights very noticeably.
Thanks for posting these. When photos are downsized this much, they lose a lot of richness, and you said you pulled shadows like crazy. However, I don’t like the vignetting e.g., in the photo of the cranes by the water. Does street photography benefit from medium format? Vivian Maier’s work is a good example of where it does, but overall I’m not so sure there is much advantage over 35 mm (so-called FF).
Hi Tony, I’m not sure if digital medium format is the best for street photography these days. First it is not really medium format as it is much smaller than 60 x 70 mm and than pretty much all mirrorless cams with smaller sensors are much quicker and lenses are awesome in many cases. But the Hassi might be the right choice for the fine art street photographer…
As others point, IQ is not good at all.Construction pic is just horrendous (color, purple fringing, phocus, soft phocus, vignetting…); some have artifacts (green plastic frog). If you add phocusing and metering inaccuracies, it becomes difficult to like. And I want to like it, still have a cx503 I just love.
I really want to like this camera, but there are quite a few things about it that drive me nuts. One of them is a terrible metallic noise that camera (lens) makes every time I take a shot. I tried both lenses and I even went to B&H and their sample cameras make same noise. It’s terrible for street photography, so distracting.
I don’t know… not what I expected. After shooting for about 2 weeks with it, the cannera is now sitting in the shelve and Leica Mojovhrom and Sony a7r II found their way back to my bag.
My ancient Sigma Merrills would blow this out of the water. I saw it doing much much better in other hands.
What a harsh thing to say about a walkabout review. I actually think that some of these images (especially two of the portraits) really show off the large sensor rendering. I own a Sigma DP2 Merrill and while it has all the sharpness you could want, the colors are far from natural, and the rendering (fall-off) is far from this. Thanks for this review, and I’m sorry that some people thought you were entering a photo contest here.
Interesting overview and some nice shots here, but I’m a little underwhelmed by the overall image quality – especially considering the cost of the camera and the fact it is medium format.
I agree, the images are good but I feel you can get the same shots with the cheapest full frame you can get.
Hey Luke, many thanks. Maybe the upload and down sizing is the cause. On my screen in Lightroom it’s simply stunning! I think Hasselblad chose to leave the RAW as untouched as possibe to give more possibilties in post…
A great camera that also tested few weeks ago. Very usable (after recent firmware upgrade) and thanks to share you experience.
Steve, I love the concept and the size and who could complain about the big sensor. If you have the desire and the money, why not. I don’t think the images really show of the capabilities of the camera in the ‘best light’ but MOST of all why, why, why, do we continually read that the camera was ‘pre-production and the latest firmware isn’t on it’? Excuse me, but wasn’t this all worked out by the most prestigious medium format people on the planet? If the metering was continually off and the focussing not up to snuff, not defended the manufacturer, why would you lend it for review? Almost like lending out a new 5K lens that couldn’t focus or a portfolio to a magazine saying they were only ‘work prints’. No excuses, and Steve, I am trying to be positive.
I did not review it and it was not lent to me for review. Please read the article.
Hi Steve, sorry for the confusion. I did read the article and I meant any reviewer, including Thomas Ludwig, not you.
Hey Chris, thanks for your comment. I think Hasselblad is going to go the “FUJI way” of constant firmware improvement. And even if there were some quircks with this cam I think one could get a good impression on the uniqueness of this camera. But sure, it can be disappointing to read a review about a new cam with not yet final firmware.
Hi Thomas, I think you’re correct about the Fuji path. It reminds me of Microsoft in the 1990s releasing ‘BETA’ versions of their software for enthusiasts to respond to all the problems. Like having 100,000 unpaid employees. Ultimately, with software, a good thing for the eventual users but hardware..meh. Thanks for the pics!
The X1D looks like an amazing camera. I would be tempted to save my pennies for one, but frankly I’m nervous about Hasselblad’s future. I’d hate to invest all that money in a new system only to have support for it suddenly taken away.
I’d say you can relax. DJI, who’s invested in Hasselbald, has a very good financial background. And the X1D is selling like crazy, as far as I heard from some peeps in the industry…
Too bad the weather was poor…but thanks for sharing all the same. Many of these shots are soft, and the construction site picture showed really horrible purple fringing. As for street shots, would really like to know about focusing ability on moving subjects, and also quietness of the shutter
Hey MLZ, thanks for your comment. I think this is due to the compression and down-sizing. I can tell you that images are VERY sharp and there is so much detail. The construction image was corrected for about two stops. I think that’s making CAs etc. much more visible than it would be under good conditions…
Looks really underwhelming, they’re almost all super soft. Yet again we see camera does not make the shot.
I don’t agree that they are soft. The JPEGs supplied by Thomas are highly compressed and are only 1920px wide. I wouldn’t make a judgement based on that.
That’s true, it seems like all the images on this site tend to be softer looking (on retina), just poorly downsampled or something.
That said, they look exceptionally soft, with poor colors and contrast, really almost everything about them looks bad to be honest. I know the camera is capable of more but it doesn’t look promising here.
No downsampling but as I have said for years you MUST click the images to see them correctly, and hopefully you are not viewing on a phone 😉
Nah, on a Retina display, but they still look really bad to be honest.
think that’s because of the compression. I can tell you that images are VERY sharp and there is so much detail. It’s crazy, but I’m getting addicted to this 🙂
uh the construction workers on the scaffolding picture has more chromatic aberration than is acceptable for a $10,000 setup, I don’t know if this is preproduction or what is going on, but this doesn’t seem to be impressive in the slightest, I hope the fuji does better.
I would have to assume that the purple fringing could be eliminated in software.
Yeah, that CA is pretty bad …Hassel-bad! 😉
Fingers crossed for the Fuji.
Hey Geaorge, I think that’s because of the huge processing. I’ve pulled shadows and exposure like crazy…
Wow, these photos look great IMO. Amazing how small the camera is. Sadly, it’s out of my league for price. *sigh* But thanks for the great report.
And hey, why did those 2 guys give you the finger? Was it a joke, or were they upset to have their photo taken?
Haha, that was joke. The guy in front is a Punk from Italy and we had a nice chat. So he and his friend thought it would be fair to show the world how they feel about it 😉
I have one and it’s great, your feedback is great. still it require couple of firmwares before it really shine. one thing missing i’m used to from Sony A7 cameras is seeing my image preview in the EVF after each shot.
The orange jackets looks horrible, not natural.
That was the color …
No, not at all. I know these jackets from real life and they look over-saturated and pushed.
Sweden. Maybe there is hope for them after all. 😉
Thanks for the review.
It’s a dream camera for me. But I don’t like those colors