True colours, dynamics range and sharpness.
Have you ever held an Hasselblad X1D in your hand? If you have, you know that it feels fantastic. It feels so solid and firm creating confidence in it as a tool and yourself as a photographer. That on its own could be a reason to buy it, but it gives much more. However, there are also limitations you should be aware of before spending the money on it. If interested to find out more, here are some of my learnings from using it for about three years.
Some benefits first.
The colours straight from the camera are beautiful. They look true to the subject and still rich in a natural way. This with one of the widest dynamic range of any camera gives you so much better starting point to edit the picture to a final edition. Lifting the shadows from nearly black and finding the colours there amazes every time.
The user interface is the best I’ve seen in any camera. It’s like from another world compared to the traditional interfaces. It’s simple and very intuitive having still all you need. Yes, the functionality was very limited when the X1D came out and the SW had some bugs too, but after several new SW versions it worked like a professional camera should. Regular new SW releases is a major plus to Hasselblad clearly showing their commitment to develop and fix the issues based on the feedback they get.
And the lenses. I have wider experience of only two lenses, the f3,2/90 and f3,5/45 and they both are so sharp. Due to the aperture of 3,2 and 3,5 they don’t give the strongest bokeh, but they give so much details. I also tested the XCD 1,9/80 and 2,8/65 for few days, but didn’t see any benefit in buying them in addition to the 90 mm and 45 mm lenses. Your needs might be different, but I was very happy with the lenses I had. I used them mainly for portrait shoots, but they would suit many other kind of photography very well.
X1D is also relatively compact in size and it looks like it could compete with the other mirrorless cameras on the market, but it’s not like the other’s. It’s limited in a number of ways and whoever considers getting one should be aware of the following limitations.
Main thing is the speed in a number of ways. It’s shutter delay is significant when compared to the best mirrorless cameras and especially to my favourite camera Sony A9/A9II with a mechanical and an electronic shutter. X1D itself doesn’t have a mechanical shutter, only electronic one. XCD lenses have a leaf shutter which closes first, and then opens and closes again for the picture. In slow pace shooting it doesn’t matter, but at first I moved the camera before it had managed to take the picture. I first missed some street shots because the picture was taken clearly later than pressing the button. I had got used to shooting with fast Leica SL and Sony A9 and thus it took time to remember it with the X1D. Some lost shots, but I got it in the end. It was also slower than Leica M240 and M10 which I had used for several years. Both Leica’s are similarly slow if you use the EVF, but without the EVF, they react quite fast like a camera to my taste should. The X1D II was slightly faster than X1D, but still relatively slow.
Now you might think that there is the electronic shutter, but unfortunately it has it’s issues too. It’s also “slow”, but in another way. I don’t know the exact speed it can read the sensor, but it’s so slow that you easily get a disturbed picture with unfocused or “twisted” subjects. This happens if the camera moves or the subject moves. I tried it few times for street photography, but wasn’t happy using it. This was also the reason why I didn’t consider using it with Leica M lenses which I love for street photography. For architecture and landscape pictures with a tripod X1D was perfect though.
Related limitation, at least to me, was the lack of image stabiliser. Having a 50 Mpix sensor and shooting in low light with lenses having the lowest aperture 3,2 or 3,5 was not a good combination. Yes, the noise levels are low in the X1D so you can shoot with relatively high ISO, but it doesn’t help if the camera moves even a little while shooting handheld. Living in Finland and shooting many times in low light meant that I couldn’t consider using the X1D for street photography or handheld in general. As a reference, I love the Sony A9/A9II and it’s 5,5 stop in-build image stabiliser. My little hand shakes don’t limit me at all when shooting in low light and with longer shutter speeds. This was also the biggest reason why I changed from Leica SL to Sony A9. Both excellent cameras, but if interested to find out more about them, please read my earlier blogs.
Some handheld example shots I’ve taken, and not shaken. :)
But X1D with XCD lenses has a feature which Sony A9 or most of the other cameras don’t have (Leica Q1/Q2 has though) and that is the leaf shutter and its flash sync speed up to 1/2000 s. It means that you can shoot with flashes benefiting from their full power. You can shoot in most of the situations aperture wide open and with no need to use ND filters. Modern cameras like Sony A9 and flashes like Profoto together have a high speed sync feature (HSS) and that enables the same, but at the same time the flash power goes down the faster the shutter speed is. So if you shoot mainly with flashes and outdoors, X1D could give a benefit.
I could go into many other technical and practical details about the camera, but the above mentioned issues in good and in bad are the ones I would like to raise. I loved both the X1D and X1D II for portrait shoots with flashes and using a tripod, but that’s it. The sensor is the same in both. I never learned to like them as a camera for anything else and thus I sold them last summer. Lack of business due to corona was a big reason, but when I considered which gear I really need, the Hasselblad was the one I needed the least. So all in all, think twice before getting the Hasselblad X1D or X1D II. Be also aware that once you take it into your hand, you could fall in love with it. I did at least. I also changed X1D to X1D II hoping that I would use it more than the first version due to it being little faster.
So Hasselblad X1D and X1D II are perfect cameras for many use, but not all and that makes them special. In the end too special for me. :)
Some example portrait shots taken with the X1D and X1DII. Enjoy the full size JPGs. :)