The Hasselblad X1D2 Review. Small Medium Format Matures.
By Steve Huff
But looking back, that original A7 was clunky, slow, had slow AF, single card slot and it was like an infant compared to the new A7RIV. What I mean is, the camera matured over the years and blossomed into a beautiful (if not a bit overloaded with features) camera body. Even the earlier A7MKII had everything improved with function and speed. Less lag, faster AF, etc.
Hasselblad has sort of done the same thing as Sony here with the X1D MKII but has even took it a step farther as they have reduced the price of this camera in a serious way. Most likely due to competition from Fuji and Sony.
The first X1D was and still is a sight to behold. It had many drooling over it just due to the design, build quality and the fact that it said “HANDMADE IN SWEDEN” right up top. See my multi part written and video review series on the original starting HERE.
The X1D to me is like a work of art when it comes to camera design and build quality. It’s something you can not describe in words or in video and one has to handle one to understand how nice it is. In fact, to me, it’s the most beautiful digital camera ever created. But style does not always equate to performance. When the 1st X1D’s (Mark I) were sent out to new owners many were disappointed as there were glitches, slow menu scrolls, strange behaviors and very slow performance. It was like a beta product and it upset a few owners. I never tried an X1D with the early firmware but from what I heard it wasn’t too fun.
But that X1D transformed over time with many firmware updates. Hasselblad was listening and doing as by the time the last firmware was final for the original camera it performed like an all new camera compared to the 1st version of the firmware but Hasselblad still new they had to do better to make this amazing camera faster and without any glitches and to impress those looking into medium format.
Image Quality was NEVER in question with the X1D nor was the design. Those were exceptional and still is exceptional. In fact to this day I have yet to work with a RAW file like I get from the X1D and using their own Phocus software made these RAW files even nicer. So I was thrilled when Hasselblad announced the MK2 and KEPT the sensor and design of the original. Phew.
Sometimes when a MKII comes out the sensor seems to not be as good as prior versions, so newer is not always better. I feel when you have a sensor that works so well, and already has plenty of megapixels, then it should be kept in a camera and the X1D2 does indeed have the same sensor as the original which is in fact, a sensor made by Sony. They are the leader in sensor tech so makes sense there is a Sony sensor here.
X1DMKII with the 30mm f/3.5. This lens will be like shooting a 24mm f/2.8 on full frame 35mm. Click it for larger.
The new MKII of the X1D. How has it improved?
This can not be a 8,000 word review or even a 5 part review like the original because the MKII is in fact, still an X1D MKI in most ways. The same body (thank you), the same sensor (thank you) and the same operation within the menus and how the camera is used. Same battery as well. So this post will only talk about the improvement made and if I think they are worth jumping into a new MKII.
The price. Amazing as the X1D was not cheap when it was announced. I believe I paid $12,000 for the X1D and 45 f/3.5 and I had no regrets at all, which was crazy as I often regret big ticket items like this. Thew new X1DII comes in at $5750 for the body only which is around $4000 less than the original. A massive price reduction while making improvements… A WIN.
Three from the X1DII and 35-75 Zoom Lens. More about this lens can be seen HERE.
What has been improved? Speed.
Hasselblad has put in a new processor for enhanced speed and usability. IN fact they say there is now a 46% improvement in start up time. That’s pretty good and after testing I say that is about correct. It seems about twice as fast to start up.
No more glitches, no more weird dials not functioning and we now get a HUGE LCD (best LCD I have used in any camera) and a new EVF (which after comparing side by side with the latest Sony A7MKIV has proven to be rather nice).
The EVF is large and while not the highest resolution today it is still coming in at 3.69 MP. It’s an OLED EVF and looks much nicer than the one in the MKI. In fact, if you love a great EVF the one here is fantastic. Again, not as crisp as the newer 5-6 MP EVF’s but it’s good and I had no issues using it whatsoever.
The new LCD is huge!! It is a 3.6 Inch LCD with 2.36 Million pixels and still retains the touch screen ability. The touch screen is now silky smooth and glitch free and offers a 30-40% increase in speed across the board. It’s nice to use this camera now without any slowdown, glitches or problems. Refresh rate of the new LCD and EVF is now 60 FPS vs 37 of the MKI. Therefore, there is a significant improvement here.
I originally thought there was an improved to AF speed but I think I was wrong. I was shooting with the new 35-75 Zoom lens and it seemed quicker and with a much more quiet shutter inside the lens. When I switched to the older 30mm f/3.5 the old AF speed was there, which for me is still A-OK but for some, it will still seem slow if comparing to something like a Sony A7MKIV. With that said, it’s a hell of a lot faster than a Phase One ; )
So AF speed can improve with different lenses but the X1DII still only offers Contrast Detect AF. But remember, this is medium format that can be an everyday carry camera (if using a small prime like the 30 or 45) and it’s one that can be used for street, portraits, night shooting and anything besides fast action or sports or wildlife. Those three things have never been in medium formats skillset and that doesn’t change here.
The new color of the X1DII is also nice. It’s like a space grey (Apple) or steel grey (Leica M9) and looks quite nice. It’s understated and not as loud as the silver version though it does appear to be less flashy. If flash is your thing, the grey doesn’t pop as much as the silver. No more black, and I loved the black version. But with this price discount with improvements who can complain about color? I like the new grey. It’s sharp.
Three more using the new 35-75 Zoom. Click them for larger!
USING THE NEW X1DII
So Hasselblad sent me the new camera to test out for a couple of weeks along with the new 35-75 Zoom (which I only had for 3 days or so before having to swap it for the 30mm) and the Zoom was smaller than I thought it would be. While large and heavy, it was an impressive zoom lens that did not extend when zooming. So the size doesn’t extend and remains the same. The Zoom is nice, and is not out yet but can be pre ordered at B&H Photo HERE.
The Zoom was nice but I am a prime guy with a camera like this, and when I swapped out the zoom for the 30 I was like “AHHHH” as the weight went down, the balance was perfect and I just enjoyed the 30 more for my tastes. The Zoom is remarkable but the prime, for me, was perfect for every day use.
Three with the 30mm f/3.5 which is my fave XCD lens right now. See the lens HERE.
Walking around with the camera I appreciated the new lag free experience. Menus were silky smooth, touch screen was responsive and dials were all solid and working smoothly. The new LCD is impressive and LARGE and made the new A7RIV LCD look small in comparison. Best LCD I have ever seen on a camera. While the AF was quicker with the new zoom, with the 30mm it was the same as it was on the original. Not bad, not amazing. Somewhere in the middle. For medium format though, it’s impressive to be able to walk around and take this camera anywhere and everywhere. It’s slightly taller than an A7IV and in reality not much larger.
There is also no mistaking the 50MP Sensor here. I am so glad Hasselblad did NOT go with the 100 MP sensor here. IMO, I would not have had nay interest in it if they had. The sensor for this body is just about perfect and 50MP offers more resolution that anyone would or could ever need. I just do not get these MP wars. I remember being thrilled with the old 4MP Nikon D2Hs back in the day, even making large prints that were gorgeous!
So for me, I am a 24MP guy for full frame 35mm format and a 50MP guy for Medium Format. I find these resolutions offer the best of ISO noise performance and speed.
Two with the 30 f/3.5 – click for larger
Either way Hasselblad has some serious competition in this segment. Fuji has already released three of their Medium Format cameras and one in a slim profile. The new Fuji comes in at $10k and is selling very well for what it is, even on backorder! But that camera from Fuji is $10,000 and not built to the same standard as the X1DII (yes, I have now held both in my hand and know many who have and we all agree here). In fact one reviewer I know recently had the new Fuji for review and during his review a knob broke off. He also said the Fuji just felt cheap to him for the cost. Side by side, the X1DII wins in design and build and size but it doesn’t have the 100MP of the new Fuji. So personal preference. Many love Fuji and I feel there are things Fuji does better and things the X1DII does better. Size is one of them, build is another, and usability another.
LESS IS MORE
I say it often. Less IS more. This is true when it comes to anything in life. For me, I want my camera to be simple, to be easy to use, fun to use and one that does not give me deep extensive menus filled with nonsense I would never need or use. I spoke of this in m original X1D review so be sure to read THAT review for the meat of what this camera is about. The new MKII is also continuing on with the LESS IS MORE philosophy. NO frills, just a photographers camera. Wether you shoot in studio, on the street, in a club…this is a camera that can work well for you.
Not all will love the X1DII as some will still compare the specs and speed to something like a Sony A7RIV or Nikon Z6. This camera is not the same as those cameras. This camera will offer you a different vibe and look. A different feel as it’s a different format. Larger sensors will offer nicer IQ. Period.
Three more with the 30 f/3.5
Compared to the new Sony A7RIV 61 MP Beast?
Sony has just announced the new A7RIV at the time of this writing. I was able to fly out to NY to test it and did a few shots side by side with the X1DII. The Sony is relevant here as it offers 61 Megapixels of resolution though the sensor is smaller. Here are my thoughts though not conclusive…
- The Sony is smaller but not by much. Shorter basically but much more cramped with buttons and dials than the Hasselblad.
- The Sony is feature rich, and has Eye AF full time for photos and video now. It’s amazing AF capabilities are the best I have seen.
- The Sony will have longer battery life, a sharper EVF and smaller LCD but it’s fast, high res and capable of shooting anything.
- The Sony will be the much more versatile camera here but the menus leave a lot to be desired IMO.
- Sony has more megapixels than the Hasselblad but on a smaller full frame sensor. Hence, most likely more image noise at higher ISO.
As for the X1DII vs the Sony…
- The X1DII is built nicer, feels nicer and looks much nicer.
- The X1DII has a much larger sensor.
- The X1DII is simpler. Less clutter and only offers what a photographer needs.
- The X1DII offers better color, richer files and the medium format look that we can not 100% replicate with 35mm.
To me, images are so much more than resolution and sharpness. In fact I put those things on the bottom of my must have lists when I buy a camera. What gets me is usability, joy of use, quality of the files, weight, build, size, and function. ALL cameras are wonderful today with IQ but not all are equal in the usability dept. The X1DII beats Sony in build, feel, design, menu system, LCD size, Sensor size, and image quality overall. While the Sony gets close, it’s not quite the same as the feel we get from a larger sensor camera such as this or even the Fuji GFX series. With that said the Sony is $3499 so comes in for over $2200 LESS than the X1DII and offers much more in regards to features like 5 Axis IS, Eye AF video and photo, Pixel Shift for a 240MP resolution, and the list goes on.
Quick Comparison – Sony vs Hasselblad – NOT Scientific but we can see the minor differences here. Top is Hasselblad and Bottom is Sony. The Sony A7RIV had the 24-70 GM lens at 24mm and f/2.8 which is what the XCD30 f/3.5 gives us (equivalent) so perfect…click for larger. I tried my best to match them in this comparison for color. What do YOU think?
Someone asked me at the Sony event…”If you could only have one, which would you take?”. I hesitated…thought…and said “I’m not sure just yet” as the Sony was impressing me highly. Then I thought more…and more…
and by the time I shot with both more I decided that I would take the X1DII only because it offers more of what I like and need. I already have my video cameras and smaller mirrorless systems, so having a large sensor makes sense for me to add to that, to have a different look and feel.
I owned the original but sold it when I had an inkling a MKII was coming.I truly enjoyed the first version after the firmware updates. The MKII is now polished and with its new processor, much snappier in overall performance. For me, the perfect X1DII set would be the camera with the 30 f3.5 and the gorgeous 80 1.9 (review here of that gorgeous lens). Would be a crazy expensive purchase as all three would set me back around $14k. Not gonna happen. If I were loaded, sure..but as it is I considering the new MKII with the 30 alone. I may take the plunge as when I send my review unit back I will miss it. Dearly.
A few more samples using the 30 and 35-75…
Should you Upgrade?
If you bought the original and enjoy it, do not feel like you MUST upgrade. If the MKI s working for you without issues, there is no point to upgrade. The new MKII will not bring you better IQ, better AF or a better body. Those things are all the same in the MKII. Rather you gain improvements to make your experience more enjoyable. Nicer EVF, LCD and faster start up and menu scrolls. Previews using touch and pinch and zoom are smooth and fast.
The X1DII is a mature X1D. It grew up some much like the old Sony’s grew with each successor.
So if you have no issues with your original, there is no need to upgrade.
On the other hand, if the original appealed to you but you held off due to reports of slow dodgy and glitchy operation, then have no fear as the MKII is gorgeous in all areas and has none of the issues of the first. With the new price point the X1DII is amazingly attractive to many more buyers. Competition is good as it drove the price down and we now get the X1D we all wanted for a much nicer price. A win for Hasselblad.
Some will talk trash about this new MKII and say things like “It has the same sensor” or “It still uses contrast detect AF” and to those I will say yes, you are correct! But I see using the same sensor as a GREAT thing as it is an AMAZING sensor! It doesn’t need to be swapped as it has no weakness. As for contrast detect, well, it is what it is. This is not a camera to shoot sports or sprinters. It’s not for fast action shooting and yes, it still has the worst rolling shutter I have ever seen in a camera (only when using the electronic shutter for photos) and it’s not an all in one video/photo machine. It’s a handheld, small, lightweight beautifully crafted medium format digital camera that offers 50MP of resolution and a astonishing dynamic range.
Top image with the 30, bottom two with the 35-75 Zoom.
Video is useless with this camera IMO for 90% of projects but it’s still an amazing stills camera for those who want a real photographers camera. It doesn’t feel like a computer, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, and the build, design and feel is as good as it gets in the world of cameras.
Here’s the rub…For $5750 or less you can buy many nice cameras. Sony A9 (review), Sony A7RMKIV (first look), Canon 1dXMKII, Nikon D5, Fuji GFX 50S or R, a used X1D, Leica SL, etc. So competition is fierce here.
Buying a camera like this has to be done with your brain and your heart. You MUST feel it. You MUST want it. YOU MUST ENJOY USING IT. For me it speaks to both my heart and my mind as it has ALL I need in a camera for my PHOTO needs. For some reason when I look at an X1D file I see a more natural look, more emotion, more feeling. It’s crazy how a camera can render so differently than another but due to the huge sensor we see more DR, nicer falloff, and nicer more natural color. No harshness.It’s a step up in IQ from almost all 35mm format cameras, and a larger step up over APS-C and M 4/3. It comes at a cost though, and this is a camera that will still be in a niche category.
For me the X1DII is a winner for what it is and who it is for. It is really not meant to be compared to any DSLR or any MIRRORLESS camera as it is so different than what those cameras stand for and do. It’s a more niche product and a dream camera for many and the best thing I can say about it is that it takes us back to the days of shooting an old Hasselblad. It feels good, it feels right and when you open the files you are wowed by the textures, richness and naturalness of the scene. Reminds me of when I used to look over shots taken with an old medium format Hasslebald 500 series and when you crank the ISO up on this guy, it even sort of replicates the look of film I many ways when shooting in black and white. Beautiful!
The X1DII is now cheaper, faster and improved and you can order one or read more about it at B&H Photo HERE.
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