The Hasselblad X1D: Dance Photography with the 90mm f/3.2 XCD Lens By Joe Marquez

The Hasselblad X1D: Dance Photography with the 90mm f/3.2 XCD Lens

By Joe Marquez – See his website

(See Joe’s 1st User Report on the X1D as he used it for Birding HERE)

Can the Hasselblad X1D with the 90mm f/3.2 XCD lens handle a dance performance?

And the answer is …. depends.

Yesterday morning a dear friend sent me a note asking if I could photograph a Japanese Butoh dance performance at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Butoh is a non-traditional Japanese dance that is not easily defined. It is performed in white body makeup and consists of free-form movement seemingly in slow motion. Despite this last-minute request, I saw it as a good opportunity to test the X1D.

As always, click on any image to see a larger much better version

As usual I made plenty of mistakes. I shot wide open at f/3.2 as planned but unfortunately my shutter speed was unnecessarily too high at 1/2000 sec – as was iso at 400 to 800. I could have easily shot at half or a quarter of these values.

Oh, and it rained. But no worries as the X1D is weather-sealed.

The most serious X1D limitation to dance photography is the lack of continuous auto-focus and tracking. And I am certainly not good enough to focus and track movement manually. My technique is keeping the focus point positioned in the center and recomposing as needed. For stationary or slow moving dancers the X1D focus speed is sufficiently fast and accurate and my hit percentage on this day was more than acceptable.

Now if the dance performance was faster-paced or consisted of erratic movement then without a doubt I would have struggled. For example, I would never use the X1D for a ballet performance. At least I don’t plan to use the X1D for ballet.

Finally, I just can’t get over how nice it is to work with raw files from the X1D and 90mm lens. The dynamic range and iso performance of the sensor exceeds my Nikon D810 and Sony Rx1rm2. And the 90 flat out produces some beautiful images. I fully acknowledge the benefits of the upcoming 120mm XCD lens, but for now I am pleased with the rendering and handling of the 90. Would love to keep testing the X1D at more dance venues.

Boom! Just got a request to shoot a bellydance convention next week. Seems like a reasonable opportunity. Not sure if readers here at Steve Huff Photo would be interested in such things. We’ll see.

Thanks again Steve for allowing me to present a few photos and my thoughts on the wonderful X1D. Hopefully, more to come.



  1. Hey Steve– You’ve reviewed the D850 and own this camera. What are your thoughts on the performance and image quality of both? I understand the frame rate and auto focus deltas, I’m interested in your perception of the image quality and D850 raws vs X1D raws. Thank you!

    • I have not reviewed the D850 ; ) I was going to but did not feel like spending $400 renting one with some decent glass for a week. The D850, for me, would be a non starter. I am SURE the IQ, speed and capabilities are as good as it gets in DSLR land but for me, it is MUCH too large, bulky, thick, and I much prefer a great EVF to a great OVF. So if I did review it it would be like “Fantastic camera, if you want a DSLR. But for me, I will keep my A9 and Olympus and X1D”. I will say that no 35mm sensor can beat a medium format sensor for IQ – Not in DR, not in Color, not in ISO (can get close for ISO though, almost equal in some cameras). To me, what is most important in a camera is feel, size, weight, simplicity, and THEN IQ. IQ today is good in all cameras so I now find cameras that work for me in all other ways. But even the D850 will not beat the X1D if you are using it for serious portraits or landscape or probably in near dark conditions. Will it get close? Probably. The A7RII get close. So all depends on the type of camera you enjoy shooting. For pro work even, would all depend on what you shoot. The Nikon would cover anything, the X1D no action.

      These are two different cameras, and appeal to different audiences IMO. To anyone who would lust after a D850, the X1D would probably not be something they like and vice versa. Also, the X1D AF is fantastic. Snappy and no issues here. Again, not for action but for walk around, street, portraits, landscape, etc – very nice AF.

  2. “Just got a request to shoot a bellydance convention next week……Not sure if readers here at Steve Huff Photo would be interested in such things.”

    I’ll speak for everyone here.

    Great shots Joe.

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