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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