Hasselblad X1D Review Part 3. As a Walk Around Camera?
By Steve Huff
It seems that the entire last year that I spent pondering my decision on buying this camera has flown by and now I own it and am already on part 3 of a full-blown real world review! Crazy. Anyway, I am still enjoying the X1D and still digging in to it, to learn its subtleties and the files. I will start off and say that yes, there are so many editing options. I am still trying to learn the best way to edit these massive 16 Bit 50MP files that are filled with such a huge Dynamic Range. I am not used to it to be honest.
Video Supplement for part 3
You really do have the freedom to truly edit the files anyway you like. The 1st shot below? I added some contrast and a slight color boost using Phocus, the software that comes with the X1D. This software is fast on my Mac Pro, and is my preferred way to edit the RAW files. I edit, then export, then finish them off in Lightroom if needed.
The 45 f/3.5 at 3.5 – Stunning color, stunning IQ all the way around.
As I get to know the X1D better, I realize I can put out a file with high contrast, while retaining gentle highlights. I can go low contrast, I can add filters and go crazy with the sliders, all while retaining a solid file. I can bring up shadows without issue and save highlights even when I think they are gone. I am not used to this kind of Dynamic Range in a carry around camera but it is nice to have. Not that it will make my images better, as this camera is much better than I am. It really is. As I walk around with it my inner voice says…“This camera will teach you more Steve, learn it, use it, love it”.
I have been shooting this guy around town so far and taking it with me everywhere as a walk around camera. I have been taking it in place of my Sony or Olympus, and it has performed flawlessly. As I stated in part 2, I am not sure where negative views on this camera are coming from. Fuji shooters? DSLR shooters? Hmmm. No idea but coming from Mirrorless and Leica, I have fallen deep and hard in love with the X1D for so many reasons. I am not talking hype here, I am speaking from my heart, and while this camera may never even be on your radar I am hoping to give a view of the camera that not many others have.
A real world, real use, passionate review without comparing it to DSLR’s and speedy cameras that it is not meant to compete against. That’s not what this is. It’s better than that.
I have found it is giving me a look to the images I have always strived for, and maybe, just maybe one day I will be in a situation to shoot “my masterpiece” with this camera. Hasn’t happened yet, and may never but with the X1D in hand, I know I at least have a shot.
Remember, as always, click all images in the review to see them larger and correctly! If you do not, you will not be seeing the full quality. They are best seen on a large display, not an iPhone or iPad. ; ) BTW, all images in my review of this camera are handheld, as I am testing it as a daily walk around camera not as a traditional Medium Format rig.
Click the image below. This is why I have always wanted a camera such as this. Huge Dynamic Range, Detail with subtlety, nice DOF even when using an f/3.5 lens, and the “look” of the image. I may have added a tad too much contrast here but I have versions in color, and with varying degrees of contrast. The files from this camera allow us to really make them look however we want them to look due to that crazy good DR.
Just to recap where we are at with this review…
In part 1 of my review, I spoke about why I ordered this camera. In part 2 I used it in a torture test, extreme low light at one of my fave music clubs/bars/haunts. Since the type of shooting I normally do is very low light, the camera had to perform in that way very well for me to even consider keeping it for the long haul. It passed with flying colors and then some. Surprised me really, as I did not expect it to do good in that extreme low light and high ISO. I have shot with Sony, Leica, Olympus, Canon and others in this area and the only cameras that were truly workable were the full frame Sony’s and now this X1D. The SL was close, but was pushing it. So far so good.
Just a refresher image... below is a 100% 1/3 frame crop from the X1D at 25,600 ISO. I find it incredible. I ordered a print at 16X20 of this crop. Yes, I posted this in part 2, but I am still blown away at A: That this is ISO 25k, B: That the B&*W conversion using the simple B&W conversion in Phocus did so well and C: That this is a 100% 1/4 frame crop. Those 50 MP give you cropping freedom, which I never really was into much. This camera is changing my outlook on that.
So now, here in part 3 I will be talking more about using the camera, share more images from the camera and give some thoughts about whether or not I think I made a good choice buying it. Remember, I was not sent this camera to review. I bought it, and wanted to really evaluate it for my needs because this is a load of money here. It must do what I need it to do in more ways than image quality.
So away we go…
As I shot the X1D more and more, I realized that yes, I do miss my Leica SL a teeny little bit, but only for one reason and one reason only. I can get shallower DOF with it, and sometimes I love that look. As I shot the 45mm f/3.5 which in 35mm full frame terms is more like a 35mm equivalent in FOV, with a “slow” f/3.5 aperture, I started to see that if I wanted really shallow DOF, I had to be closer to my subject. We all know that distance plays a big role in DOF, nothing new here but when I shot that SL with 50 Lux SL I was getting some medium format “feel”. Luscious color and if I wanted that subject isolation I just turned that lens to f/1.4 and fired. It did not have the dynamic range of the X1D and it was much larger with that lens, but it was equally as nice in output and cost, about the same for that set as this set. But each camera is different. See my SL and 50 Lux review HERE .
So even with missing that SL a bit for those very shallow noctilux like moments, I was not regretting my X1D purchase at all. Instead, I truly started to appreciate what the X1D brought to the table over 35mm full frame (the things I already spoke of like dynamic range, rich true 16 Bit color, huge cropping potential, gorgeous B&W conversions, better low light, and then the body itself). Also, the size and weight of this X1D with the 45mm f/3.5 is so nice. It feels so so good in my hand.
BOLD STATEMENT ALERT: It’s the best feeling camera I have ever owned, so right there it says a lot.
The 45mm is not a fast aperture lens, so you will not get the extreme shallow DOF but it still delivers a nice look and vibe. You can get a shallow DOF with a Leica and a 50 Summilux that will appear more cinematic, (see the same image below in my Leica 50 Lux review HERE). But this image, while not as “wow” up front as the Leica has a look more like film IMO. They were shot on different days, different times of day as well and different lighting.
Click it for larger!
A New but Similar Experience
I have come to realize this camera is so much different than shooting a Sony, or an Olympus or an SL.. but not that much different than shooting a Leica M or even Leica Q.
Yes, a Leica M! Now, I am not talking of the physical experience as the M is one of a kind due to its rangefinder. But if you use this X1D in manual focus, the speed, the way you approach photography, the slowing down of the process, the firing off one shot at a time, nailing the shot the 1st time…it is very Leica M like. I should say “the process” is very M like. As much as I love the M10 and M system, these days my eyes have taken a turn for the worse, and I find it tough to focus with an RF. With the M10 I was missing a few shots, and yes, I am aware of diopters but after years of M shooting, dealing with RF’s that go out of alignment yearly and with me missing quite a few shots due to that RF, I decided once and for all to drop the M from my personal collection. I still love it, adore it and recommend it to anyone else (with good eyesight) as it is a special camera that does more than take a photo. It teaches, it inspires and it just has a beauty about it with its style and build (The M). It is also just about as pricey as the X1D once you add a 35 or 50mm Leica lens, probably more expensive to be honest.
At the Lost Leaf shooting the band T.O.S.O
But yea, the M sounds a lot like this X1D in some ways when shooting..namely, the experience. One difference is that the X1D has autofocus, and has only a few lenses available at this time. So the X1D is not getting all raves from me. Lack of lenses for those who NEED a choice is all part of a new system, or owning one. Many of us went through that with Sony when they introduced the A7 series. Three lenses and then the waiting game. Today Sony has released a slew of lenses and we have crazy choice, wether it is from Sony or a third party. There is no shortage of lenses for Sony these days besides a couple on the extreme long tele range, and those are coming soon.
The good news for the X1D is that Hasselblad already has new lenses – A 30mm, 45mm, 90mm, and 120mm with 2-3 more planned to arrive soon. So the owners of the X1D have nice choices to start, with more on the way. I really want to give the 90 and 120 a test. Hopefully soon I can.
The richness, the color, the deep blacks, the overall rendering is fantastic.
The X1D has an Electronic Shutter?
Yes indeed. The last firmware update brought this feature to this camera, before that it was only the leaf shutter in the lenses (which sync up to 1/2000s). You can select which shutter you want to use in the simple menu. Either use the Leaf shutter in the lens, or the new electronic shutter at up to 1/10,000 S. This opens up the camera to adapting older lenses and possibly other lenses. So this is cool that this was added, all through firmware. The limitation with the electronic shutter is you are limited to 3200 ISO. So if you are in low light shooting higher ISO, the leaf shutter will be the only one you can choose.
Also, there are is a flaw I found with the newly implemented Electronic Shutter but Hasselblad tells us of this, so it’s not like I discovered something new. It has the worst case of the Rolling Shutter effect I have ever seen. Any movement while snapping the shot using the Electronic Shutter and you will get jello city:
YOU WILL GET JELLO IF YOU HAVE THE ELECTRONIC SHUTTER ACTIVATED AND MOVE WHILE YOU SHOOT!
Now, I did not move on purpose, I thought the shot was already fired! But I guess it wasn’t.
You can use the electronic shutter and have amazing results, just do not move too quickly after you fire the shutter. Fire, count to 2 and move ; ) I would only use this option if I was in full sun, and needed to shoot wide open. I shot a few frames using this mode and it worked fine. So do not let the image above scare you, as it was MY fault not the cameras.
The cool thing is Hasselblad has really been working hard since the X1D was launched to make it better and better. They are not just talking, they are doing and I feel they need to as if they flub this up, it could be a disaster for them. I think they will keep in working to make this camera better and better, and today, as of this writing my X1D is flawless and issues and bug free. I spoke of a control wheel bug in part 2, but it has never resurfaced. Even if it did, I saw a fix that take 3 minutes to implement that was posted by Hasselblad in a forum. Just going into the service menu and clicking an option. But overall, my camera has been perfect. No freeze ups, no need to remove a battery, no overheating (though it may get warm after extended shooting), no slow or missed AF, no sluggishness, etc. It works just as I would expect a compact medium format camera to perform..no, scratch that, it performs much better than I ever thought it would perform.
The color of the X1D is fantastic. VERY accurate indeed. This scene below is just about perfect, spot on for the way it looks in reality.
So where does this X1D fit in? How does it compare to my other cameras?
I own a Sony A9 that I love. I own an Olympus PEN-F and EM1 MKII that I also love. A few lenses for each. I use them, depending on what I am shooting or doing. The X1D is a step up from all of those in IQ but it is not as huge as one may think. Especially in today’s social media Instagram world. With medium format we will get high res, so if you print HUGE it will have an impact. The way most of us share images today, through social media, and the internet, most of what this format offers is wasted. I will admit that as it is true. I can get close with my A9, EM1, Pen-F and I know this. But again, it doesn’t stop me from wanting and loving this X1D. It’s a strange phenomenon that I have seen a few other reviewers going through. Maybe it is because this is the worlds 1st and only true walk about hand held medium format camera that is light and small. That must be it.
For me, it is much more than the sensor and output when I purchase a camera. I have already mentioned this before but it is also about the experience, and the WAY it works and forces me to slow down. It’s a little bit mental and emotional as well but Hasselblad did indeed want this to be a walk around kind of camera. It is first of its kind, and even with the Fuji GFX out there, nothing on the market is even close to what the X1D is. It all comes down to the fact that it is a take anywhere camera that you can shoot in any light, any place, anywhere. It can be used as a day to day camera, easily, as it is mirrorless and it is small and light and extremely simple and built for the photographer.
NO, it’s not for action. NO, it’s not for continuous AF scenarios. I see it as I see most Leica’s. As a life camera. A memory maker. An artists camera. Those with a vision will appreciate this piece of kit. Portraits, Still Life, Landscape and yes, even Bands performing in dark clubs. When you get a chance to travel the world and see gorgeous scenics and shoot them, nothing will compare to this camera under its price point for what you will get out of it. It’s a bold piece from Hasselblad and I can not imagine that they sell a ton of these as it is such a specialized tool that one has to really LOVE for what it is, not just love its output. Even if you do love it, most of us can never dream to pay this kind of cash for one. So this camera will see limited hands. I just hope it catches on enough for them to lower the cost down the road. I think it will. If more of the younger generation realize that not every photo opp is about speed, or about FPS or about continuous AF then it will. Kind of like we have seen a resurgence with Vinyl records, maybe this generation and the next will start to appreciate what a real camera is and can do, and maybe, just maybe, they will put the phones down for a while. One can hope.
So while there are other cameras that come in much cheaper, that can get semi close to the IQ, and some that cost the same in 35mm world, none really get quite there to match the X1D. None get even close in the way this camera shoots and makes you feel when shooting it. Maybe a Leica M but thats it ; )
Click for larger!
TIME FOR A CRAZY COMPARISON WITHIN A REVIEW!
I posted this in a separate post last week, but in case. you missed it…
Here is a triple shoot out between the X1D with 45 f/3.5, the Olympus PEN with 25 1.2 Lens, Sony A9 with 28mm f/2 and for fun a RX100 MKIV. Not a scientific test by ANY means but will show the output of each. The Olympus comes in at about $2,400 but can’t shoot in the dark very well, so no go for my night owl sessions ; ) The Sony comes in at around $5k and can shoot I the dark but not with the finesse of the X1D, and the Hasselblad, GULP, $11,700 can do it all. Dark, Light, and with a special look to the output, or what I feel is the most filmic of the bunch. It’s also more enjoyable to use.
Each photo must be clicked on to see it correctly. Each is labeled.
I have to say, the Hasselblad looks the most filmic, the Olympus the most cinematic, and the Sony, the most digital. The Sony even blew some highlights and I tried to recover the best I could (in the BG). If you look at these on a large proper display you will see what I mean. If. you are looking on your phone or iPad, then you probably will NOT see it. That goes back to what I said above. In todays world, there is no non pro who needs a camera like this as the way we share images, even me, right here, proves it to be overkill if we just go by IQ standards.
The Olympus looks great here but that lens is special, very special. It has a Leica Glow going on, and it is Micro 4/3! The small sensor, and not even the Olympus PRO Model. The Hasselblad looks the most “filmic”. It reminds me more of film than the other two but maybe I am equating that look with a Medium Format look, as I used to view so many Hasselblad 500 series prints 15 years ago that to me, were the pinnacle of film results. The Sony..hmm. Now, if I did not compare it to the other two, I would have though it was great. But in this side by side the Sony does indeed appear more digital looking with an off color. The RX100 looks a bit more “dirty” and I feel this would make the best street shooting combo, for typical street shooting, not street portraits. Color was the least accurate.
Color? The Hasselblad nailed it. The Olympus came in a close 2nd and the Sony lost that one, with the RX100 looking the most off. You may have a preference in color here but the X1D was as close to reality as it gets. I could live with any of them in reality, since I do not do paid jobs. BUT in part 4 I will get into something special that happened while shooting the Hasselblad which will make my decision to purchase, the right choice for me.
I have never shot with a camera as beautiful as this Hasselblad X1D. I guess “Made in Sweden” really means something. It is the most beautiful camera I have ever touched. In my eyes anyway. It also feels just about perfect in my hand. Better than any camera I have used in the past. With it’s great feel and light weight, it’s a camera you just do not want to put down. Seriously.
I will be 100% honest. I thought I would regret this purchase immediately. I usually have buyers remorse when spending a lot of cash for something if I am not 100% thrilled with it. So far, I am having none of that with this camera. That tells me how much I am really enjoying it.
I will tell you that once you step into something like the X1D or Fuji GFX, the medium format “look” will and can seduce you. It has a smoothness about it, a creaminess about it, the way the images just have so much dynamic range, giving a feel of a “naked” image. Where my Sony, or my Olympus or even Leica (to a lesser extent) feel like they have a layer of clothing on, the X1D images feel NAKED. Pure. Fresh. Delicate. Hard to put my finger on but it offers up that next level of quality. I also enjoy the 4/3 format when shooting with MF sensors. I am not chasing sharpness, many cameras and lenses can do that. Once you get to an extreme level of sharpness and perfection with a lens the images for me get boring and sterile. I am pleased to see the 45mm f/3.5 has just the right amount of sharpness and character for my tastes. No disappointments at all with the lens besides the vignetting it brings out of camera. I feel at this price point it should be better in that regard. When using the free Phocus software, it fixes that instantly, so for me it is acceptable. The good news is that it renders in a way that gives back smoothness, richness, great natural color and just the right amount of sharpness and insane detail. Let’s not confuse detail with sharpness as to me they are two different things.
So the look I get from the X1D is so satisfying, it is also a camera that I can grow with. Here I am and even after 20 years of shooting I still learn every day. This camera, much like a Leica M, can teach just by the way you have to use it.
So what else can I say about using the X1D for day to day shots? It’s a bit extravagant, sure, but so is a Sony A9, Leica M, Leica SL, and so on. if one enjoys it, and can afford it, that is all thats needed.
One more thing I want to delve into with the X1D is its simplicity. I love it for this. As for those negative reports on this camera..again, I just do not get it. At all.
TECHNOLOGY IS GROWING AT A RAPID PACE…BUT IS THIS A GOOD THING?
For me, the answer is “not always”. Technology is really getting insane, and IMO there is an over saturation of it in cameras. I feel that too much of it can ruin the experience of using a camera.
For me, going back to basics is refreshing. A Body, A Sensor, A Shutter Button, Simplicity in control.Two dials. No need to figure out some complex menu or features or color modes or time laps or things of that nature. Anytime you give me a camera that is simple and back to basics, and it performs, I will love it more than something with 100 features that I will never use or need. Some cameras today try too hard to be too much. They are filled with fluff, features and weird modes to create a selling point or new feature never before seen. Sure, some are useful and awesome and show us how cameras are progressing but it is never “needed” to create a beautiful picture. Give me the basics any day, and that will always be more enjoyable. If Olympus or Sony decided to make a high end bare bones back to basics camera for true photographers, I feel they would sell quite a few to guys like me. Beautiful design, only the necessities and quality build and output. I mean, BASIC. But hey, that camera is already here and in my hands and it is called the X1D. I just wish it was half the cost. That’s my only hangup with it. While cheap for medium format digital and what it is, it’s still priced way above where I would like to see it. Imagine this body at $4399….WOW. It would sell like hotcakes. Like a Leica Q on steroids.
OH YES! Thats’s it! It is much like a Leica Q on steroids. Mirrorless, sleek, EVF, striking design, but with a huge sensor and improved quality.
This image was fully edited using filters, noise, etc to get the look I wanted.
At the end of the day, the X1D is that camera I have been longing for. Simple. Beautiful. Iconic. The performance is stunning. As I said in part 2, I have had zero issues with AF performance. It’s as fast as I need, and I also like using manual focus as well. But that was all discussed in part 2, so if you missed it, click HERE.
Oh Yea! The Specs and Details of the X1D
I have been so excited about the camera I realized I did not do the normal “review” stuff in part 1 or 2! I assumed most of you reading already knew what this was, but maybe some of you do not. So in that case, let’s look at the specs of the X1D. If you are wondering the sensor in this camera is about 2X the size of a full frame 35mm sensor like what we have in a Sony A9 or Nikon D850.
- 50MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS Sensor
- 16-Bit Color, 14-Stop Dynamic Range
- Hasselblad Natural Color Solution
- Full HD 1080p H.264 Video at 25 fps
- ISO 100-25600, Shooting Up to 2.3 fps
- Central Shutter: 60 min to 1/2000 sec. 1/10,000 using electronic shutter.
- 2.36MP XGA Electronic Viewfinder
- 3.0″ 920k-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
- Dual SD Card Slots; XPan & Square Modes (these modes are not yet implemented as of this writing)
- Built-In Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 Type C
So yes, this camera shoots HD video at 1080P, has a mic input, and headphone out. I would use it in manual focus only though if shooting video AS THAT is the only choice ; ) The sensor is made by Sony and is the same sensor used in the Fuji GFX and Hasselbalds more expensive HD6. This camera, unlike the Fuji offers 16 Bit color and is limited in ISO to 25,600. The Fuji can go higher in extended modes. The EVF is comparable to what is in the Sony A7RII.
So that’s the tech specs. The touchscreen display is huge, and fluid with a nice contrast and detail. It also has a very nice and modern SIMPLE menu system which I love, and we never need to go into it after we set it up to our liking, which took me 2-3 minutes. Simplicity is the name of the game and that is indeed refreshing.
A few words about speed.
This camera is not about speed as I already mentioned. It’s not about continuous shot to shot, nor is it about machine gun rapid fire, where you pray you get a shot you like just by firing away at 20FPS. This camera does have blackout when you take a shot, through the EVF. It’s there, yes. It’s a one shot at a time camera IMO. So do not expect this to be like your Nikon or Canon or Sony, it is not. This slower process did not hurt me any way in use. In fact, it helped me. It makes you work more for your image and results and when you nail that one shot, you feel like YOU did it, and not the camera, or luck. It’s a rewarding thing for sure.
So remember this is medium format digital. If you look at the roots of MF digital, you will see this is the most portable, sexiest, and fastest AF Medium Format digital camera ever created. It may lack the bells and whistles of the Fuji GFX but it also lacks the size, and the drab appearance. The Fuji is no speed demon either, but that is the nature of this beast we call Media Format digital. As long as you know what it is, and what you are getting into if you decided to go for a MF body, and you have realistic expectations of what it is, you will be thrilled with it. In the case of this X1D, if you rent one, or try one for a day or two beware…you will not want to let it go.
At ISO 25k, this looks a lot like film to me…
GET READY FOR PART 4
Part 4 will have the more photo samples and a new video/vlog shooting the camera at Oak Creek Canyon in AZ. It will have my final word, a demo of the menu system, and my thoughts and concerns about my purchase of the X1D. But so far, I am enjoying it tremendously. The price is a shocker especially for me but I remind myself I have owned Leica’s that cost more, and loved them as well. With a casual purchase of something like this one also has to think about the value dropping… as ALL digital bodies drop in value rather quickly. Depreciation is a SOB when it comes to technology and cars. As long as this body lasts at least 10 years without breaking down, I would sleep well as it will still do what it does now, just as well, in 10 years just as a Hasselblad 503 does well past those 10 years. While I do not see Hasselblad releasing a follow up for a long time to come (this is a good thing), I do know they are dedicated to upgrading it via firmware. Even the new Square and XPan modes should be coming soon. So far the firmware updates they have released have transformed the X1D from what it was when it started to ship, which was a slow buggy camera with issues, to what we have today. It is now a pretty solid and bug free machine (at least mine is) and that is awesome. You do not see such dedication to firmware updates very often like this (Olympus is amazing with this though).
So part four will be my final part and should arrive in about a week.
PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!
Hello to all! Since 2007 I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.
To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!
If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.
Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).
So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.
B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.
Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!
One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.