Hasselblad X1D vs Sony a7R II Vs Canon 5DS-R vs Leica Q by Rick Birt

Hasselblad X1D vs Sony a7R II Vs Canon 5DS-R vs Leica Q

By Rick Birt – His website is HERE

What are the benefits of using an ultra expensive Medium Format camera? For my wife, Kelly, and I they are:

• Higher Detail images
• A more gradual (and natural) fall-off between in-focus, and out-of-focus parts of the image
• Greater Depth (or 3D pop) in the image
• Reduced Digital Noise
• Greater Dynamic Range
• Greater Tonal Gradation
• Better Skin-Tones

After my first post on the subject, my wife and I shot another fashion editorial for Lovebite Magazine. This time, the plan was for me to use the Hasselblad X1D-50c as well as a Sony a7R II, and Leica Q. While Kelly planned to use the X1D, and her Canon 5DS-R.

We wanted to see how the X1D’s 50mp sensor compared to:

• Canon 5DS-R 50mp (full-frame) sensor
• Sony a7R II 42mp (full-frame) sensor
• Leica Q 24mp (full-frame) sensor

On first glance, one might think the 50mp sensor of the Canon would be equal to the Hasselblad’s 50mp sensor. However, the Hasselblad’s sensor is 1.5x the size of the Canon’s (as well as Sony, Leica) full-frame sensor.

When we first opened the Hasselblad X1D box, my wife said, “We may have to buy two of these so we don’t fight over it.

It is that beautiful…

It looks beautiful, it feels beautiful to hold, and it takes beautiful images.

When I first loaded the images on my computer, the Sony files came up first. They were amazing. I thought to myself –

“There is no way the Hasselblad will be better than these.”

I was wrong…

Kelly and I instantly noticed the 3D depth, detail, and tonal gradation. We both agreed that these were the type of images we had always wanted to take.

Notice the hair in the following images, and how it falls around Kiersten’s face…

Click images for larger and better versions of each

Sony A7RII

Hasselblad X1D

To me, the hair in the Sony shot looks to be on and beside Kiersten’s face. However, in the Hasselblad shot, her hair looks to fall all-around her face.

The next four shots – from the Leica Q and Hasselblad X1D – are fairly close in detail (especially when compressed for web use), however, when viewed in full resolution on my 4K screen, the Hasselblad file looks “richer” in color and contrast.

Leica Q

Hasselblad X1D with 45 f/3.5




Comparing the Canon 5DS-R and the Hasselblad X1D, I find that the Hasselblad has richer color, more depth, and higher contrast. The Canon files tend to look a little dull compared to the Hasselblad.

Canon 5DS-R



Is the Hasselblad perfect? Oh no! It is VERY expensive, slow, and more difficult to use than the other cameras. But it takes amazingly beautiful images!


Hasselblad X1D Pros

-Best IQ of any camera my wife and I have ever shot with – I love the way it handles skin tones and highlights – gives a very Leica-esque glow, Very accurate colors, & ‘richness’ to the files

-Absolutely Beautiful Camera. When we opened the box – my wife said “We may have to buy two so we don’t fight over it.” UMMMMM…OK!

-Free Phocus & Phocus Mobile – Everyone LOVED the tethering via WiFi to our iPad!

-Firmware updates have come fairly frequently (more frequently than the GFX), and are quickly striking off items on reviewers’ con lists

-LEAF SHUTTER LENSES – Flash sync up to 1/2000th of a second

-Nikon Flash mount

-Simple – intuitive menus

-Actual Hasselblad Employees answering complaints/issues in forums (DPReview, GetDPI, Fred Miranda, etc.) – is any other camera company doing this? I haven’t seen it (at least to this extent)

-Lightroom handles the large files beautifully. Much better than the files from the Fuji GFX

-Ming Thein – an actual photographer. He isn’t just a Hasselblad Brand Ambassador – he is the Chief of Strategy. This guy understands the average working photographer, and I am confident in the future of Hasselblad as long as he is with them

-Ability to adapt Hasselblad HC lenses (with AF) with the soon to be released adapter – at a pretty reasonable price

Hasselblad X1D Cons

-Long start-up time – actually similar to Sony a7RII

-Changing focus point is really a PIA. AWKWARDLY placed AF button must be held down before the focus point can be moved, and then you must use the front and rear dials to move the point (when using EVF to compose).

-Low-res EVF compared to other new cameras- very similar to a7RII

-Hexagon shaped highlights using 90mm lens * I’ve heard this will be fixed

-Not enough AF Points (They are too big to pinpoint an eye sometimes) *I’ve heard this will be fixed

-What is that AWFUL sound coming from the camera after pressing the shutter?!?!? It sounds like a $5 electronic stapler. My Leica Q and Sony RX1RII have leaf shutters and they are virtually silent.

-Noticeable black-out time – reduced if shooting in Raw only

-Issues with 45mm lenses? We had an issue where the 45mm lens would just lock-up and refuse to focus. A re-boot of the camera fixes it, but that is 10-15s each time – moments (and sunlight) were lost. *Hasselblad overnighted a replacement that worked great.

-Issues with Lexar SD cards – X1D would complain that the SD card was too slow (even though our Lexar is faster than our Sandisk)

-Takes a long time to automatically switch to from EVF to LCD

-Slow (UHS-I) SD card slots – same as the Sony a7RII and Leica Q


If you would like to view or download higher-res versions of these images, I will post them in a flickr album here

I would like to thank the following for their contributions to this post:

Model Kiersten Dolbec
Styling Gabi Sztamenits
Hair & Makeup Al Tidwell
Kelly Williams (my beautiful wife)
Ming Thein and Greg King at Hasselblad,
Lovebite Magazine
VOD Boutique Dallas

If you like my work, I would appreciate a follow 🙂



  1. OMG! These comments about this being a bad comparison seem to come from folks who cannot afford a Hasselblad and are desperately trying to prove that their (non-Hasselblad) camera is as good. Well, it isn’t. Rick has clearly stated the pros and cons for Hasselblad, and it clearly isn’t ideal. Still, none of other three cameras will ever produce a file this large sensor is capable of delivering. Hence the price difference. Excelent review.

    • Huh? Where are you coming from? Show me one difference in these pictures that isn’t a composition difference or white balance difference. please! This is total nonsense. It has been sceintificaly proven time and time again that the best sensor in existence today is the one on the a7rII. And no, I do not own one. I’m just being subjective.

      • Abe you don’t own an a7R II -like I do- yet you claim that it is scientifically the best sensor available…
        Where is that science? I SEE the pictures every day I shoot with these cameras. The a7R II files are not better than the X1D files. Not SOOC, not after being edited…never.
        If you want to see scientific numbers, I submitted them here, but they weren’t published. I did put them on my own blog though (at the end):
        The X1D beats the a7R II in Dynamic range, High ISO, and Low-light EV. IMO, It also has far better color, AWB, and 3D depth. The Sony has advantages over the X1D, but the sensor performance is not one of them.

        • ok this is the first time you’ve brought a meaningful argument here. (with those lab tests, although I still question how he got such a big iso difference between the Fuji and the Hasselblad despite both cameras using the same exact sensor, but that’s out of the scope of this article). I wish you’ve made a real “real life comparison” like Steve Huff does, showing stationary objects shot at the same equivalent focal distance, either OOC JPEGs or Untouched RAWs, showing real differences under various ISO settings in Noise and Dynamic Range.
          maybe you can post such comparison while also evaluating the new features added recently to the x1D with the firmware update.

          • We obviously have a different definition of “Real Life Comparison.” My definition is using different cameras using my normal shooting conditions/settings and then comparing the results. I do it this way because I was always bread to “train like you fight” in the Marines. If I just lined cameras up on a tripod and took a picture of a stationary subject I would not get a “Real Life Comparison” of how they perform in the field. Every
            As I’ve said many times, if you want a review done your way – then do one yourself. Don’t complain because someone else hasn’t done it for you.

    • Thanks Michael. If you’ll notice, as I have, most of the people whining mention one common word…Sony. I will NEVER understand blind brand loyalty, but Sony fanatics seem to be the most unreasonable people on the internet. There is no use reasoning with someone that is unreasonable.

      • Dear Rick Birt, maybe you should stop accusing other people for being fanatics or brand loyal, when your “real world comparison” is actually an advertisement. You compose one image with the hair falling nicely around the face, another with the hair posed differently, and you claim that the camera made the difference… Give us a break. I’m no fan of sony or any other brand, but if you look at DXO mark, the a7rII has the best image quality. And any other non biased website agrees with that. I do not like sony cameras, but they make the best sensors, including the one in the Hasselblad you’re advertising. And the sensor in the a7rII is simply the best they have made to date. To tinker with WB and claim one camera is better than another is an insult to our intelligence.

        • First, calling this an advertisement is pretty over-the-top. Did you miss the list of cons? Can you point to the part where I claim everyone should run out and buy an X1D?
          We did not conduct this shoot as a professional camera comparison (or review). I never intended to use this shoot as a basis for this article. So to say I staged these photos to make the Hasselblad look better is asinine. We were conducting an editorial fashion shoot (which was published in early August). If you have never photographed a REAL fashion model – they NEVER stop moving, so to get two shots that are identical is next to impossible, unless you ask them to stop. If I was conducting a professional camera comparison – sure – I would have asked her to hold a pose while I took a shot with each camera, buy in this case, we needed to get ‘the shot’ before the sun went down.
          Then to accuse me of adjusting the WB in lightroom to suit my purpose is just ridiculous. What would be my motive? Why would I try to falsely paint the X1D in a positive light? If I could take pictures that were just as good with my Sony, I’d save a boat-load of money! I see below you mention AWB in lightroom…I never used AWB in lightroom – I stated I used AWB in camera. I used Lightroom to convert images from raw to jpg. Since the shots comparing the Sony and Hasselblad were not chosen as ‘selects’ for the Fashion editorial, very few (if any) adjustments were made in LR.
          My wife (she has been a pro photographer for 25 years BTW), and I looked at all of the pictures (about 3000) we shot that day, and we could see a noticeable difference. The difference was so noticeable, that we bought an X1D. The shots you see are just a sample based on two shots I found that were similar (after the fact). I didn’t write this post to try to convince anyone that the Hasselblad is the best camera ever, and that they should all buy one. I could care less if anyone buys one. However, since my wife and I had conducted this shoot with so many cameras, I felt it might be useful to others. If it’s not useful to you that’s fine, but there is no need to question my integrity.

  2. 1. Thanks to Steve for posting this.
    2. 98% of the people commenting on this post have completely missed the point of it.
    As I said in the post, this was a Fashion Editorial shoot for a magazine. I assumed the readers could deduce the rest, but here are the details. We had 6 hours to get 6-8 shots using 5 different outfits at 5 different locations. Since my wife and I were using this shoot as a final audition for the X1D vs our current cameras, I thought others might find it useful.
    3. The point of this was not a science experiment under controlled conditions using tripods, color checkers, and custom white balance, and notepads. We used each camera as we would normally use it – because…shocker…that’s how we use them.
    4. The comments suggesting I should have used the same lens on every camera obviously know nothing about the cameras and lenses that were used.
    5. Lenses used:
    a) Sony 85/1.4 GM (Can not be used on any of the other cameras)
    b) Leica Q 28/1.7 FIXED LENS
    c) Canon 70-200 IS L II (Could be used on the Sony, but it was on the Canon_
    d) Hasselblad XCD 90/3.2 and 45/3.5 (Can not be used on any of the other cameras)
    6) I never stopped down to less than f5.6 with any lens/system
    7) We shot raw, and processed in Lightroom
    8) I linked to my Flickr album so that you can view higher-res versions of the images (and a LOT MORE images).
    9) I will never understand why someone would take the time to comment on a post like this and say it is useless because of BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. It wasn’t useless to me or my wife. It wasn’t useless to our client. It wasn’t useless to the Model, HMU artist, or Stylist. Hasselblad was VERY appreciative that we took the time to write an impartial comparison, and provide them with honest feedback. If you found this useless, I didn’t write it for you. Go do your own comparison the way you want it done, and I’ll appreciate it for what it is – more information that wasn’t available before.

    • Amen. This is the type of thing that this website was built upon. Real world use of all kinds of camera systems. REAL WORLD comparisons, not scientific. That never ever existed here, over 10 years. This site was built for me, you, all of us to enjoy our hobby, our passion our craft. If you want to see boring technical nonsense that has NOTHING to do with real photography or soul, then look elsewhere. What this test said it would show, it shows. What you can expect from each system or camera, period. Not sure how some come here after this site being here for ten years, expecting it to be different than it ever has been. ; )

      • 1). Saying that a camera “makes the hair look to fall all around the face rather than on top and besides the face” while the only reason it may look like that is because the hair in one picture is actually positioned in that way is a total nonsense and misleading advertisement.
        2). The main difference in all these shots is the White Balance. If all these pictures were shot RAW and edited on Lightroom, then “Real life use” would be using the same values of WB across all photos, not tinkering with WB to make Hasselblad look perfect and to give the rest of the files awful color casts. If you’ve used Auto WB in Lightroom for all shots and this is what Afobe provided then I apologise, but I find it hard to believe as I have experience of many years processing RAW files on Lightroom and it never gave me such Auto results for Sony files.

  3. It’s an obvious difference between lenses in the first two photos. The look of out of focus areas is quite different. If we add different poses, different white balance, different default look of RAW files (I assume they were taken in RAW), the test becomes not very reliable I’m afraid.
    Beautiful pictures, cameras and model though 🙂

  4. I’m not defending the Sony or taking Hasselblad lightly, but the difference in the first two shots between these two cameras was, well, they are different shots. The model’s head turn (or the camera angels) were different; the positions of her hair on her face were different. In the Sony picture, the whole glob of hair covered her eyes, and the camera angel was more straight-on.

  5. I enjoyed the comparison, seems in the spirit of this website as per Steve’s moto: real life shooting. Also seems to me that people complaining about different lenses or “poses” are missing the point. People normally use the lens of the system. And if one uses a non-system lens this is a different test, which is valid, but does make this comparison any less useful per se. Showing the various systems results looks more of use and broader, I guess. Concerning a more “technical” comparison, I believe it is more in the spirit of DP Review and other places. But i may be wrong, of course.

    Thanks for posting and for making your thinking explicit.

  6. What lenses was used on the Sony A7RII and the Canon 5DS-R? And what aperture was the photos shot with and what raw converter was used? Adobe and Capture One sets default curves when importing “out of camera raw” and yields very different results. Nice photos from the X1D, but without knowing what lenses was used and so on, the comparison is at best useless – and likely rather misleading.

  7. For myself to compare ( $13300.00 + len price) Hasselblad X1D and $2700.00(current price) Sony a7rii is bad idea, even that much difference in price didn’t see too much difference,

  8. Nice photo, beautiful model. Just enjoy. Thanks for the posting. We can’t see the difference on iPad or phone anyway.

    • That is a bone of contention with me; when people post images as Jpegs on websites, the extra quality of one camera system over another can only be seen if there is a downloadable version of the image full size and as a Tiff or (more unlikely) Raw file, because the colour palette of a Jpeg is 8-bit whilst the other two mentioned, are 14-16-bit. Unfortunately, Tiffs and Raw files are huge, even when a Tiff has lossless compression applied to it, so many websites do not offer these file-types and people don’t want others to have them because this can result in their images being stolen and passed off as someone elses.

  9. If we want to do a camera comparison, we should use the same lens. This we should say, a comparison of Hasselbald, Canon, Leica certain camera SYSTEM!

      • Hahaha, I understand what you mean Steve. But when we talking about Zeiss lens 3D pop, we put on Leica camera did we? Or we put Leica, Zeiss lens on Sony to do comparison. There are only camera Leica Q, lens is not interchangeable in this article. Suppose we put the Hassleblad lens on Canon 5DR, is that going to give use 3D?

  10. The Leica Q looked the best in terms of tone. I imagine a Leica M comparison to the X1D would also show that clear Leica distinction. I imagine the second X1D hasselblad makes will improve upon some of the first ones drawbacks.

  11. This is a horrible comparison. Look at the pictures closely. Not only does the composition change (in some of them drastically) it appears to have been shot at different times of the day. Sony A7Rii is the better choice by far for the money. Set up a tripod and do a real and fair comparison.

  12. First two images: looks like the Sony focused on the eye lashes and the Hassie on the nose – may account for why the hair looks different.

  13. I’ve never owned a Leica, so obviously I’m not a fan boy, but I thought the “Q” had the most pleasing colours of any of them. Especially the skin tones.

    • My thought, too. If I were into fixed lens 28mm I’d go for the Q. (Some day over the rainbow………)

  14. Seriously, the difference is almost indistinguishable, and at 10 grand verses a couple of grand it’s a no brainer, why would you bother with such an expensive camera that gives such a small amount of improvement?

  15. Well,
    I believe Rick when he says that the X1D provides better results.
    But the samples he provided here, especially in reduced size, make it very hard to see any differences. And the aperture on the X1D seemed to have been set to somewhere between f/16 to f/22, so a lot of the shots are fully in focus.
    Also, the model (and camera?) was moving between camera changes, which also makes it hard to compare between 2 shots.

  16. Most of the images are so good (as the last) that the concept of amateur is more than positive. I think, Marco, that for a professional user some of the features of the Hassy are more than welcome as the big sensor. Indeed will any pro buy a camera at this cost today? I think no. Is probably a camera for an amateur.

  17. Great images! I might be a bit bias but the a7rII shot is the sharpest IMO. The model’s lips and eyes look gorgeous (zoomed into actual size on my Mac). Although the sky and skin tones the Hasselblad produces look very nice in these shots I’d take a sharp image over skin tone and saturation because those can be fixed in post obviously. The 5D image looks nice and well balanced. Any of these shots would look amazing on a cover but I’m not sure I’d pay 13K for the X1D and I don’t feel like any of the images produced by the Hasselblad are 4 times better than the rest. I do love the set, thanks for sharing.

  18. One thing which is not mentioned here, but may well have a significant impact on why the Blad’s sensor produces ‘better’ images, is that because each pixel is bigger and the gap between them is also likely to be bigger, there is probably less crosstalk and noise ‘leakage’ between each pixel on the sensor? I’m also guessing the signal to noise in Db is higher on the Blad’s sensor.
    Maybe this is something which those producing technical tests on equipment need to investigate and report on, (an issue that HiFi equipment tests cover) but either haven’t the tools to test this, manufacturers refuse to release this data or don’t want to.

  19. I think I’m pretty good at pixel peeping, and can’t see any difference at all between these photos, or at least no difference that can’t be fixed by changing the sliders slightly in Adobe Camera Raw.
    As for the hair thing, I don’t see any differences except those that could be chalked up to a slightly different DOF and a slightly different focus point.

  20. Lovely pictures of your wife. But can you also do a comparison of a static image like a wall, to show us a more accurate depiction of the camera’s capabilities?

    • The model is not his wife. See the credits at the end – model is Kiersten Dolbec. His wife’s name is Kelly, and she’s also a photographer.

  21. This is the same article that compared the Fuji GFX 50 to the X1D. I wonder why it was left out?

  22. These amateur-style tests are useless. If it is to have digital images strait out of the camera, a DSLR entry level is hall you need, so low is the requirement. For a pro or expert amateur, the editing changes the final result to the point of disappearing the small differences between top cameras. .I use Sony and Fuji and no one can distinguish my images after editing.

  23. It would be helpful to know the lenses used as well as the set apertures. Are these images OOC JPGs or processed RAW files? If yes, what processor was used?

  24. As a commercial ad shooter for decades all I can say is “yes”. Use the correct tools and the results will speak for themselves.
    Though obviously my FF Canons (and my personal EM1 lls) are far more fun to to use then our half dozen Hassie H series camera’s. Which are indeed the default highest and best output for any job where their physical use is appropriate. And likely mandatory.
    But they ain’t much fun to fiddle with.
    Oh well.

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