A Midnight Stroll with the Hasselblad X1D and 21mm f/4. ISO 25k.

A Midnight Stroll with the Hasselblad X1D and 21mm f/4. ISO 25K.

By Steve Huff & Brandon Huff

See the video below of my and Brandon shooting the X1D Late Night

So last night I hung out with my Son Brandon. He asked if I wanted to go shoot at a couple of local music clubs and hang outs. My usually hang out, the Lost Leaf in Phoenix AZ was on the list, as was the Rhythm Room. He wanted to shoot with his old school Minolta film camera, and the X1D he has been really wanted to shoot with…for a while.

Since I still have the brand new 21mm f/4, we decided to do something different with it, and to be honest, something I would never recommend using it for. Late night, low light high ISO shooting.

Yea, you know…most normal folks would take this lens and use it for landscape, real estate interiors… you know, normal things this lens should be used for. BUT this was just for fun, and since we were going to go hang out, I said “why not”? lol.

So away we went with my Sony A9 and 18mm Zeiss Batis in hand to shoot some video, along with the X1D and 21mm f/4. If you missed my quick report last week with the 21mm, you can see that HERE. It’s a beautifully made lens. Not too large, not too heavy, and really, for a wide-angle lens that gives us a 17mm equivalent in 35mm it’s not large at all. It feels much nicer than the 45mm and more in line with the beautiful 30mm.

The X1D is a camera that some hate, and some love. There’s no way around it. I mean, it seems many see it as a normal mirrorless and do not understand WHY it costs $6500 for the body only. Hell, a Leica SL is $6000 for a body only and is 35mm, not medium format. I will say (again), that the X1D is the best feeling, most well made constructed piece of art I have ever held in my hands. Yes, it is a camera but also, I see it is a work of art. The most beautiful design, IMO, ever.

The things I adore about the X1D (and I have written a ton about this camera in my 4 part review on these pages) is that it is like two cameras in one.

We get a beautiful medium format 50MP sensor with the greatest Dynamic Range and high ISO low light performance of any digital camera ever created. It can be used like a typical medium format camera, in a studio for beautiful portrait work, fashion work or whatever one normally uses medium format for. Landscape? Sure. The X1D offers a unique color signature as well, which I find to be fantastic. Much different from Sony, Leica, Nikon, etc.

ISO 25,600 – Zero Noise reduction

So we get a full-fledged medium format camera. But we also get more.

We also get a small, lightweight, easy to use and simplicity every day mirrorless camera. Yep, this can be used for street shooting, for everyday shots, or for anything and the cool part? It will give your images a unique look. Yes, there is a look to medium format images, especially when taken in good light. In the past I did a side by side with a Sony A9 in low light, and even at ISO 25K the Hasselblad edged out the Sony when it was under 10k ISO. I have never seen more DR from a camera than I do with the X1D, so the files are incredibly hardy and we can pull out shadows as much as we want.

So for the $6495 we pay for the X1D body, we are getting two cameras, and both of them are beautiful. With so many firmware updates fro Hasselblad this camera has been improved so much from the 1st days. It still has quirks like a slow start up, and it really will not AF in really low light with its more basic contrast detect AF….BUT, manual focus is nice and easily achieved. I wish it had a higher res “Leica SL” style EVF but it is what it is.

So we head out for a night of father and son adventure…

We left the house at 10:40 or so, and landed at the Lost Leaf at around 11:30PM. After walking around town a bit, and letting Brandon shoot the X1D, he was really starting to dig it. Now, I expected him to have issues with it, as again, not everyone likes this camera. Then again, Brandon loves old school film camera and medium format, so  guess I really should have known he would love it, even with its little quirks.

BTW, Brandon took one shot at ISO 12800, and then we bumped it up to ISO 25,600 for the rest of the night. So these shots are all in low light at ISO 25,600. Sort of a torture test and one I would not recommend for “serious’ shooting (as in paid gigs). But it does show what the X1D is capable of. 

As we talked around at midnight it was quite nice. The weather was nice, warm, but nice. Without the sun beating down on us it was no problem hanging out for as long as we wanted or needed. Brandon switched the X1D to manual focus immediately as he found out quick that the AF in low light is not the greatest. Compared to my A9, the AF is seriously much slower in low light. So manual focus was the way to go, and it was fun shooting with the X1D in this way. We took turns talking shots, and decided to head into the lost leaf with a lens that one should never use at the lost leaf ; )

All shots at ISO 25,600, 21mm f/4. A few have some Noise Reduction.  Some have none. 

These shots, to me, appear dreamy and almost film like. ISO 25,600 has a way of rendering these scenes in an interesting way, and for what the subject matter is, I would not say it harms the photos, but instead creates a unique look and feel and vibe. At ISO 25k you have to be really careful with exposure and since this was Brandon’s 1st try with the X1D EVER, he did blow some highlight. The Dynamic Range of the X1D is drastically reduced at this high of ISO, so for max DR, always shoot at base ISO or near it.

In any case, we were having a great time, father son bonding… awesome. Now that Brandon is 22 years old we can go hang out, have a beer, shoot some. bands and hey, even make a video about it all ; )

We plan to do more of these videos (see the video at the top of the page) soon.

Looking at these photos one may say “these don’t look like medium format photos”. Well, in some ways they do not, but look at the extreme situation we were in. Low light, maximum ISO, a slow f/4 lens, and a wide angle. ; ) The fact that a Medium Format body can even do this is quite astonishing. This is worst case scenario here, and even at it’s worst the X1D is very very good.

One may say, “You cold have shot your Sony A9 or A7III and had better results”  – and to that I would say, well, sure, maybe. I did do a side by side with the A9 in my original X1D review and the X1D won every time, even when the ISO was much higher than the Sony. But the Sony and even Leica SL can be used here with fantastic results. What the X1D brings to the table is joy of use, inspiration when using it, and that jackal and Hyde thing I mentioned earlier. It is like two cameras in one. An everyday take anywhere mirrorless that excels in DR, color and low light and also a Studio camera for pros, where resolution and rendering is king. There’s nothing like this camera on the market, even today…no, the Fuji GFX is not like the X1D.

So after shooting the new 21mm lens all week, and in ways that most would never even dream of using it, I will say I LOVE this camera just as much as I did when I reviewed it. The lens is fantastic and would love to see someone use it for landscape and interior work as this is where it will excel. It’s another winner from Hasselblad, and a welcome addition to the X1D lens lineup.

Buy the X1D at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the new 21mm f/4 at B&H Photo HERE




  1. Hey Steve: Strongly considering the X1D. Sounds petty, but the only issue holding me back is lack of support for Capture One, for tethering and processing. Dumped LR 18 months ago and have not looked back. I have no interest in Phocus for processing/tethering. I believe there is software that would convert the X1D raws to generic dng files, which Capture One would inport, but I’d still not be able to tether using that workflow. Just wish Phase One and Hasselblad would play together regarding software.

    • I have way too many cameras here currently. I go back and forth, and this way I can see what I prefer for my various tasks. For video, I would use an A7III but I never did order one so I am using the next best thing, the A9 (which is faster with AF but has less DR). The a7III is backordered for a few weeks right now, everywhere, otherwise that would be my one main Sony body as for the money it can’t be beat. All of the new Sony’s are fantastic and they are about to finally have some competition from N & C. Soon.

  2. I sit here writing this trying to decide between the Hasselblad X1D, Sony A7r III, and Leica M10.

    As an guy getting older, my eyes are not what they were. I sometimes need a bit of help focussing. I have been shooting for 40+ years and switched from Large Format and Medium Format film to a Leica M240 a number of years ago.

    I now wish to get the best IQ possible for architecture work and street/travel, but do need at least focus peaking.

    Decisions, decisions. I did get to hold and try the X1D and my lord, it keeps me up at night knowing that I will never be as fulfilled as I was when showing my Hassy 203FE with 50mm f/2.8 FE and 110mm f/2 FE lenses. The best camera I ever owned and sold more images with that camera than any other.

    So now, in 2018, what is a guy to do?


    • Honestly between those three I would take out the M10. It’s great for street but IMO the X1D would beat it for architecture as would the SL. The SL is my fave Leica body made today, but I only use it with small M glass. The SL has the best EVF made today as well, and is easy to focus (if using manual). My top 3 cameras are (in no particular order) the Leica SL, X1D and Sony A9. BUT the A7rIII would be better for most. They are all different yet all fantastic in performance. The X1D, if using AF, is slow for street. It’s EVF is older tech as well and not like the A7RIII or SL. There are many great cameras available these days but in the mirrorless realm, these are the top 3 IMO. The X1D battery life is average so you would need 2-3 of them for travel. The Sony battery is best, last longest and equals three X1D batteries. Tough choice, I know.

    • Hi Mike,
      I am confronted with the same eye problem and have abandoned now the MF camearas (e.g. M10).
      I owned the Sony A9, and although it is a fantastic camera that creates great results I did not really enjoy shooting with it. Menus are horrible etc….
      After I tried the X1D I was sold. Got first the silver version, sold it and got the black 4116. As the X1D is so portable, I use the HB not only for landscapes but also for street. Nice feature is that I can use my Leica lenses and focuspeaking if I really like to do this.

      Be aware that a X2D might be coming soon, but the advantage is that you can find some very good offers if you search the internet.
      Good luck with your decision

  3. I wasn’t reading this as a review: it seems to me a completely fascinating account of an evening out with a camera you both enjoyed. And the enjoyment comes across. Thank you both.

  4. Steve, You may wish ( or not ) try the Fuji GFX system. I looked hard at the X1D here in the UK but on every level the Fuji beats it. Better AF for a start. Traditional layout with ISO/Aperture/Time trilogy all with manual buttons. More ( and cheaper ) lenses.

    Everyone gets a connection with different cameras. I find it hard to bond with Sony cams – the menus and functions seem to “digital” to me. I grew up shooting film on Pentax and then Nikon FM and F2. Shooting GFX is a natural extension of that.

    For me the Hassy wants to be modern and “new’ with its design and function, but using it feels “old” in terms of tech because it is so slow and clunky. You kinda pick it up and expect an iphone experience. You see it and imagine it will be fast and modern and zippy. But you don’t get that. So it left me confused.

    Anyway. Each to their own and I am very happy that the X1D is clearly boosting your mojo and helping your creativity ! It is even bonding father and son ! That’s not a bad achievement for a camera.

    Happy shooting from England. We even have a heatwave here the last few weeks… 🙂

    • I have tried the GFX system , twice, and did not like it at all compared to the X1D. For starters, MUCH too large for what I do, and use cameras for. Second, low light performance is not nearly as good even though it uses the same sensor, and third, lenses are larger as well. I love the layout of the X1D, which I see as one of its strengths. In my four part review I talk about all of this. But I am not a fan of the GFX, and the X1D is one of my top two fave cameras of all time. Thank you.

  5. Steve, Thanks for the great review. My X1D is on its way from B&H as we speak and yes I used the website link. I’m looking forward to using the X1D as I really enjoy landscapes. I’m starting with the 45mm which I hope will hold me for at least a year. I understand that quite a few more lenses will be released by Hasselblad so I’m going to have a wait and see attitude while letting my credit card cool down from excessive heat this past week!

    I will keep my M9 as that is a great camera as well.

    Note: I expect the next version to be a X2D and not XD2 that you referenced in your video and text above. Thanks!

  6. I like that u and Brandon are hanging and doing stuff like this together. Very cool.

    what film Minolta is he using? I happen to have a few…

  7. Loved watching this. I recently lost my Dad unexpectedly and way too early. We loved to go out and take photos together. Really nice to see you both doing this.

  8. I like the new FE mount Siggys at 1.4 on the Alphas for low light stuff. With the Alpha’s IBIS, I doubt you’d ever need to exceed 3200 or go slower than 1/100. The Blad feels more like a tool for landscapes and architecture.

  9. Thanks for the continuing followup on the X1D. You provide helpful insights into what it is like to use this camera – which probably is on the wish list of many of your readers. Even though my A9 probably best suits me for most of my shooting, I still keep entertaining the idea of getting the X1D. Back in the days of film, I briefly owned a used Rolliflex and loved the IQ so I know that medium format can deliver something special. My hesitation to purchase comes from uncertainty about how much I would use the X1D vs the A9. I can usually justify spending a lot of money on something but only if it will get a lot of use. Perhaps by the time I make up my mind, there will be an X2D which will push me over the edge and I’ll just dive in.

    • Thanks! Yes, I am sure an XD2 can not be too far away. Maybe a year or two. If they upgrade the EVF, battery, speed and keep the sensor at 50MP (I would not want this camera to be 100 MP) and price it at $5995 they would have a hit on their hands.

      • I think an H2D will end up with that 100mp sensor….which I think would destroy your ‘Jekyll and Hyde’analogy. A 100mp body would essentially turn it into a studio camera.

      • You are practicle like most of use Steve on the x2D when comes to pixels, I could not agree more with 50. But Hasselblad does not make their sensors and sounds like the next medium format from Sony will be 100 megi pixils and hope their not going to use this sensor over again in X2D, although it could be useful if they did on the cameras price. Being much lower.

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