Hasselblad X1D - Hands On Impressions

Today's look at the Hasselblad X1D is just a first impressions look, as I only had the camera in my hands for a few hours Saturday morning. Phil Cohen (the owner of the beautiful beast) and I met at a little coffee shop to talk photography and trade cameras for a walk through town. For the swap, he had my Sony A7R II with the ZEISS Loxia 2/50, and I had his Hasselblad X1D with the Hasselblad 3.5/45mm. I'll give you some usual specs, then some impressions on how it felt walking around the town of Portsmouth, NH with it. I didn't set out to take "keeper photos" on this walk as I wanted to just get a feel of how this camera operated. But I do have some raw samples from the day at the bottom of this post, as well as a compare shot to the Sony A7R II. 

 Hasselblad X1D Review (First Impressions)

Hasselblad X1D TECH SPECS

Phil's Hasselblad is the silver edition, which he purchased with the 3.5/45 lens as well as the 3.2/90 lens. He brought them both for our talk, but I only shot with the 45mm, as I am pretty sure that when I buy this (eventually), that will be my first lens.

For this day, I did not find the 3.5 maximum aperture to be limited and I really enjoyed the bokeh wide open. But keep in mind, I was shooting in bright late morning sun. Also, my tech specs won't jump into the details on this lens. 

The rear LCD touchscreen is large, and beautiful. I wish more manufactures took the time to design such an intuitive and fluid menu system. It took almost no time to figure it out. I'll detail that below, but wanted to mention it as one of the technical milestones of this camera. The X1D takes two SD cards on the left side of the body and writes to either one or both at the same time. The top body dial recesses, and clicks to pop-up and adjust. Once adjusted, you can sink it back down so you don't screw with your settings. The buttons are minimal, and to the point. There are a few quirks, which I will get into later, but first, onto the specs of the X1D:

IMG_20180317_121348.jpg
  • Mount: Hasselblad XCD System
  • Dimensions: 5.9 w x 3.9 h x 2.8 d in
  • Weight: 25.6 oz / 725 g (body only)
  • Sensor: 43.8 x 32.9 mm CMOS with IR filter / 4:3 aspect
  • Total Pixels: Approx. 50 MP (8272 x 6200 pixels) / 16 bit
  • Screen
    • 3.0" 920,000 dot touchscreen LCD
    • 24-bit color
  • Viewfinder
    • 2.36M-dot (XGA) Electronic Viewfinder
    • 100% coverage
    • Eye sensor
  • Light Meter: Spot, center-weighted, center spot
  • Mode: Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual
  • Autofocus: Contrast Detection
  • White Balance: Auto, Cloudy, Shade, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Manual
  • Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0EV in 0.3EV steps
  • ISO Range: ISO 100-25600 
  • Shutter: 3600"-1/2000 s
  • Flash Sync. Speed: 1/2000 sec.
  • Image Types: JPEG, RAW+JPEG, 14-bit RAW, TIFF
  • Cost: $6495 on Amazon (March 2018 - body only)

The first thing you notice when holding this camera is design. It truly is as beautiful as you see in photos, and remarkably comfortable to hold in the hand. Unlike the Sony A7R II, where my pinky "floats" below the body due to the small size, the Hasselblad has a man-sized grip - being over an inch taller - and all four fingers grip perfect. And that's great, as I was scared s&!*less about dropping his camera! It's bigger in all dimensions than the Sony, but doesn't feel that big. It rests very comfortable in my hand. I'd consider buying it just for that feel.

 Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 + My Own Color Adjustments

Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 + My Own Color Adjustments

Using the Hasselblad X1D

I really enjoyed shooting with the camera - keeping in mind its purpose in life. The X1D is not a sports or action camera. It's a methodical camera, great for casual street, architecture, landscape, low light, portraits, products, and more. If you want to spray-and-pray, this isn't your body. It needs to be treated more like its film grandfather, the 500 series, in my humble opinion. But if you think of it this way, it's really fun.

Power

Powering up the X1D is slower than your average modern camera. If you aren't rushing to take an image, it isn't a big deal. We're just talking seconds. I'd say 6 +/- seconds the 3 times I powered it up from the off state. From what I read, there is a calibration it does at boot, and it just takes time. I didn't find this to be a pain - just boot up as you head out the door.

 Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 4

Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 4

The camera quickly goes into stand-by mode to protect the battery while you walk around. I think the default is to 10 seconds (adjustable), but there's a bit of delay when you half-press the shutter to wake it back up: 2 +/- seconds before the EVF snaps back to life. In other words, not used for decisive moments.

For this image to the right (edited, not raw) the VW was actually at the stop sign when I half-pressed the shutter. But by the time the camera woke up, he was already mid-way through the intersection. I didn't have time to frame the shot, just held the body in front of me and hoped for the best - just didn't want to miss this guy. But this gives you an idea of what you can miss if the camera isn't awake.

If you aren't shooting a ton of photos, I think the battery could last most of the day without a problem - similar to what I get from the A7R II. I think Phil walks around with a couple spares, just in case. And that's how I treat the A7 as well.

Shooting / Buffering the X1d

While we're talking black-outs - please note this is rated only at a 1-2 fps camera. I think it's closer to the 1 fps side of the fence but I only tried bursting once. While the camera is writing to the buffer, the EVF shuts down and you get a short black-out. Just a couple seconds, but it's there and there's not much you can do while it writes the file. If you're rapid firing, the EVF is shut off after the first shot and you're more or less hoping your framed until the buffer catches up and the EVF powers back on. My take, don't try to spray! It has the "flaw" if  you will, of lag seen in early digital cameras.

One of my favorite things (of all things to like) is the shutter noise when taking an image. Some folks complain, others love it. I am in the love it camp. When you release the shutter, there are 3 clicks for closing the f-stop, opening the leaf shutter, and resetting the live view. It does seem a little long and drawn out, but at the second click, your exposure is done and you don't have to wait for the 3rd to move the camera.

 Hasselblad X1D read menu

Hasselblad X1D Viewfinder and LCD

Though slow to wake up, the viewfinder is gorgeous and bright. And is also home to my major complaint about the camera. There is no histogram while shooting - only after the shot. I shoot digital only using the histogram, so not having that available had me missing a few exposures the first go - popping some highlights and clipping some shadows. Hopefully, Hasselblad will listen to their users in the forums and fix that. Other than that, the viewfinder is quite nice to look through. It does display some useful information, noting which buttons you are blindly clicking on-screen.

The LCD (sadly non-tilting) is the home to their intuitive menu system, and perhaps a top 5 thing about this camera. The touch screen is sensitive, but not active while looking through the viewfinder. Switching ISO, shutter, ISO, and aperture through it is a dream. The large-font menus roll up and down allowing you to quickly scroll to all your settings. The LCD is also very bright and gives a great representation of the images in playback (here, you can overlay a histogram to see if your exposure was right).

Autofocus vs Manual Focus

I tried the camera in both manual and autofocus modes. Autofocus is fairly quick in my book. With the Hasselblad 3.5/45, I could focus from near to far rapidly and accurately. One of the gotchas as of this writing, is that you can only select one focal point of the 35 available. It didn't seem like a smooth process to switch points, but then again, I didn't play much with them.

Manual focus is engaged by pressing the AF/MF button on top. The viewfinder now shows the MF assist lines and can enable a MF assist digital zoom. While walking with it on Saturday, I preferred MF over AF.

Raw Samples

Here are some straight from the camera samples. Again, I didn't take a ton of photos, this was more for the feel and use of the camera, but at least you can see what kind of files come straight from this camera.

 Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 3.5

Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 3.5

 Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 6.4

Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 6.4

 Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 3.5

Hasselblad X1D + 3.5/45 @ 3.5

Above is a quick before/after edit of a X1D file. Below is a not-quite accurate compare of the Sony A7R II with the ZEISS Loxia 2/50 shot at f/2.8 versus the Hasselblad X1D with the 3.5/45 shot wide open. Both raw files and base ISO. (A 35mm lens on the Sony would have been more accurate).

Final Thoughts

While I really enjoyed using the camera, I am not really in a hurry to pick one up. My use of digital is 99% done for web and I wouldn't be taking advantage of the full power of the Hasselblad. So it's hard to justify the still nearly $10,000 price tag for the edition I want (4116 Edition) when I have a pretty amazing A7R II in my hands. If I didn't have the A7R II today, then I definitely see me picking this camera up. It fits like a glove for the way I shoot. Slow and methodical and give gorgeous large files.

I'll need to take it out for more than a morning to get a better idea, but these are my initial thoughts. Thank you again to Phil Cohen for letting me take this out with him for the morning, and trusting me to hold it. Check out Phil's work on his website at philipcasecohen.com and on Instagram at @thedailyportsmouth.