Hasselblad has made some of the finest cameras since the 1950’s, and their newest camera looks like it fits with their reputation for quality and simplicity. The recently announced X1D stands out from all other medium format cameras because it is mirrorless and includes all the latest technology treats I’ve come to rely upon. Today I got my hands on it at Pro Photo Supply in Portland, OR, and I’m ready to share my initial impressions. You can check out all the specs here, so I’ll tell you about the stuff you don’t get reading the brochures.
To start with, if you’ve never shot with medium format cameras (digital or film) you should head over to www.lensrentals.com and get your hands on a camera right now. It’s a whole different view of the world, and ultimately it’s the reason I sold my full frame cameras. When I consider full frame and micro four thirds cameras there’s just not that much difference in the size of the sensor. Stepping up to medium format is truly full frame and is so attractive. Just look at the size of the sensor compared to the full frame nikon in the picture above.
It Feels Good
For US$9,000, the X1D should feel really good in your hands, and it does. It has a deep grip on both the front and the back so it’s a very positive grip that helps ensure you won’t drop it, and I think it’ll sit more stably in your hand. The buttons are logically placed and easily reached. One thing about Hasselblad digital cameras compared to other brands is that there’s an economy to the design and user interface. There are not a lot of buttons, there’s not a swivel screen, there aren’t function switches all over as you’ll find littering the surface of other cameras. It’s milled from aluminum, which means they start with a solid block of aluminum and literally carve the body out. It is slightly heavier than other cameras which use alloys with molybdenum, but my impression is that it’s much more durable. Other camera bodies are fairly brittle and will crack when dropped. My experience with aluminum is that it’ll dent when dropped, rather than break, and that should protect the innards better, too. Even the grip material feels like it’s going to last a lifetime.
I’ve owned 25 DSLR’s and Lumix cameras in the last 7 years, and while most of them would still be shooting if I had kept them, this camera feels like I’d never need a different camera and it’ll still be shooting when I pass it on to my grandchildren.
It shoots video, which I think will be really intriguing since the depth of field could be razor thin. Importantly, it has jacks for both a microphone and headphones. This is essential so you can hear exactly what the sound being recorded is like. It’s got two SD card slots.
It has wifi built in so it can communicate with a smartphone app and provides live view, shooting controls, and image preview directly to your phone. Tethered shooting is built in, and it has HDMI and USB3 jacks. The LCD is sharp and bright, and the viewfinder is a nice size and seems to be sharp and clear (it’s currently programmed with auto gain always on, but I’d like to see a Constant Preview setting like I have in my Lumix bodies).
It’s terrific that its longest shutter speed is 60 minutes, not a mere 30 seconds like most DSLRs. Shooting star trails and other long exposures without having to use a timer on my phone would be great.
One of the coolest features is that it works with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, so you can use any Nikon speedlight with it and even control remote units with a commander on the camera. That means you can also use your pocket wizards made for Nikon with it. I suppose that means we won’t be seeing a medium format camera from Nikon, but it makes lighting with this camera really accessible.
What’s really incredible is that Hasselblad has an awesome mirrorless camera before Canon or Nikon.
Am I Buying One?
Not yet. There are currently only two lenses built for it specifically, a 45mm and a 90mm (33mm and 70mm equivalent on full frame). A 24mm equivalent is coming soon, but I’d like to see something longer for portraits. Lenses for the other Hasselblad bodies can be used with adapters (if it has focus peaking, that’ll be great). It’s a costly system to get into, but it really seems like a camera that would last a very long time (or at least until SD cards are no longer viable–but the same thing happened with film). I often joke that the problem with buying the best equipment is that you can’t blame your tools for making poor photographs anymore. But the feel of this camera and the wonderful pictures it makes in medium format having me considering it.
Just don’t tell my wife I’m considering it.