The Hasselblad X1D File

Remember? THEME was the first photography site to report on a pretty groundbreaking camera from Hasselblad coming up. That was back in March. The official announcement of the “game changer” Hasselblad X1D-50c with medium format going mirrorless didn’t disappoint. Hasselblad on June 22, 2016, presented a mirrorless 50MP medium format camera with EVF, ISO range of up to 25,600 and a body that makes good old 35mm DSLRs “look bloated,” as Ming Thein writes. The X1D (specs) gets new lenses, is fully back-compatible with all 12 existing H system lenses and with a price tag of $9,000 might not be for the fainthearted, but don’t we all know gear lust. If you’re a Pentax medium format or any medium format user for that, this new “poor man’s Leica S2” might make a whole lot of sense.

+++ You can order the Hasselblad X1D-50c and lenses from B&H Photo and Adorama.

The X1D takes the exclusivity off medium format. It is pure reduction, without compromise. The camera is straightforward and easy to use, giving the image quality of medium format into the hands of a new generation of Hasselblad photographers who appreciate the advantages of portability combined with creativity and an iconic brand renowned for optical excellence.

Hasselblad X1D-50c -- world's first compact mirrorless digital medium format camera
Hasselblad X1D-50c — world’s first compact mirrorless digital medium format camera

The size comparisons, however, aren’t they a bit mean. And Hasselblad fully enjoys to play this card:

By opting for a mirrorless design, we were able to take our 50MP CMOS sensor and pack it into a footprint smaller than most full-frame 35mm cameras. For the very first time, photographers have a camera that is no larger than a small format rangefinder, but offers the quality that only Hasselblad medium format can give.

Moore's law taking mirrorless to the next level.
Moore’s law, in photographic terms, taking mirrorless to the next level.

Along with the camera, Hasselblad is launching a new line of autofocus lenses for it. Two, a 45mm and 90mm, will be available at the camera’s launch this summer. The new lenses have integrated shutter mechanisms and can shoot up to 1/2000th of a second.

Technical and optical state-of-the-art ingredients aside, this camera is a feast for the eyes candy. The camera maker’s atrocious Italian Design Center is closed down, the Swedes go back to their roots. Nah, the X1D is not a rebranded Fujifilm, and CEO Perry Oosting categorically said during launch it’s also not a rebranded Sony, nor will we see a cheaper variant from one of those companies in the future.

This doesn’t mean Hasselblad knows what Fujifilm or Sony are up to on the medium format front. He’s rather suggesting you can’t offer such quality at a better price, so why would they even think about competing. Hasselblad’s pricing of the X1D clearly aims for new mainstream mass market they haven’t yet catered for. The pricing, even though expensive compared to DSLR gear, seems bold, but likewise are Hasselblad’s X1D sales projections. They aim for quantity.

Hasselblad X1D

Interestingly, the product bears the clear signature of Hasselblad’s new global creative director Pär Heyden who is responsible for product design as well as brand execution for market communication. Heyden is the former brand design director for Volvo, and one can clearly see the camera’s utilitarian and functional design with roots in premium consumer goods. The X1D is not just another camera. It’s a work of fine design, of clean ergonomics and purist minimalism.

Even more so, the high-end camera appeals to the casual user — at least that’s what Hasselblad marketing suggests. Look at the Hassy X1D photographer wearing jeans. They eagerly want the mainstream market:

Hasselblad X1D

Hasselblad X1D

How cool is that. Without optical compromises. A slim camera with a flange distance short enough to permit adapters for other lenses, from pretty much every system it seems. It seems. With the shutter built into the lenses, there has either to be a firmware update proving an electronic shutter or we get adapters with built-in shutters…

Here’s what others say about the X1D, with the latest post added on top of this listing. Ming Thein:

I suspect that a lot of potential H5D and H6D buyers will be going X1D (…) This is definitely a new step for medium format, and at least something technological innovative; the industry quite desperately needs a kick in the pants like this. There’s bound to be some pain and attrition: better to be the leader than scrambling later.

DP Review:

Inspired by the brand’s iconic design heritage, the camera is ergonomic and compact, offering a handling experience unlike any other. Handmade in Sweden, the X1D combines Scandinavian sensibility with beautiful performance. Like the iconic V System, the X1D seamlessly combines portability with excellent optical quality for which the brand is renowned (…) The X1D has been created with passionate photographers in mind, opening up Hasselblad to a new generation of creatives. Ideal for those who want to create the highest quality medium format images with a straightforward and easy to use camera that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Imaging Resource says Hasselblad hopes to change the game and put the power of medium format into the hands of more photographers:

Considering its unique position in the marketplace as the only mirrorless medium-format camera, the Hasselblad X1D is in some ways without any competitors. It provides its larger sensor and medium format image quality in a body that is actually smaller and lighter than some high-end full frame DSLRs. Two things are clear: digital medium format photography just became a lot more portable and Hasselblad is keen to be the company that changes the game.

Fstoppers highlights the X1D has nothing in common with it’s namesake, the Canon 1D X. Both are top of the line cameras with high price tags. However, the just-announced Swedish handmade camera is medium format and does without pentaprism:

Since its transition to digital, medium format has been thought of as bulky and heavy systems for high profit commercial jobs or for wealthy photographers. Despite the attempt of Leica to create a smaller camera with the S series, no real alternative to the Hasselblad H and Phase One DF/XF has found a place on the market. However, this might change today with the brand-new Hasselblad X1D (…) It will also be interesting to see if and how Phase One and Pentax will react to this announcement. Phase One bought Mamiya a few months ago, and we might be tempted to dream of the Mamiya 7 being brought back to life with a hint of digital magic in it. This would make for a very captivating game between the two Scandinavian companies.

“Medium format and mirrorless is the future of the high-end camera market,” states EOSHD, and slaps Canon and says the X1D “sets a direction”:

Hasselblad have realized this early.

Mirrorless cameras, the associated technology and medium format, are the logical progression of upscaling current camera technology, a progression that a patents war won’t stop.

Canon file a lot of patents, but having lived in Berlin for a while now, I understand why the Germans might have beaten them to it.

Perhaps caught out by these incredible form filing skills, Canon’s response has been to hold back on releazing an alternative technology to Arri’s dual-gain architecture for the time being and the rumours of their high-end mirrorless camera came to nought, along with rumors of their high-end medium format system.

The Verge calls the X1D a photography nerd’s dream camera, with medium format leaving the studio, saying “it’s a damn cool camera.” First hands-on impressions:

I’m still taken aback at just how compact it is. It’s close in size to a Canon Rebel, and could easily fit in a shoulder bag or hang from your neck all day. Shooting with it is like shooting with most compact SLRs or other mirrorless cameras; it’s just that you’re shooting with an image sensor significantly larger than anything else.

An ideal camera for on-location portraiture, however:

The camera is not fast. It takes a long time to boot up, a long time to write images to its dual SD cards, and navigating the interface isn’t exactly smooth. The autofocus system is slow and ponderous, and you can hear the lenses cranking away as they rack back and forth trying to lock focus. This is definitely not a camera for sports photography or any fast action.

+++ You can order the Hasselblad X1D-50c and lenses from B&H Photo and Adorama.

  • I really got exited as many others (my GAS got active again :-) ),

    ….till I recognized, that the camera has no shutter!

    No chance to adapt any DSLR lenses like tilt/shift or Otus :-(

    ‘The new lenses have integrated shutter mechanisms and can shoot up to 1/2000th of a second.’

    As said, they need one!

    Mings answer to my post about the shutter:

    ‘Let’s see if there’s an electronic shutter in a future firmware update…’

    and on an other comment:

    ‘And the leaf shutters in the lenses will still hit 1/2000s and offer full sync at that speed’

    There is never a problem with leaf shutter, they always open for the whole film/sensor area.

    The price is exiting, but if you consider, that the sensor is old (two
    years or more) and you don’t have any moving parts in the camera,
    production of a box with sensor, processor and finder could be very cost
    effective

    • Explains how the keep the body that slim while pushing up the complexity and price of lenses. They certainly won’t fear strong third-party competition.

      They might even come up with shutter adapters with built-in adapters.

  • Diglloyd writes:
    Hasselblad Central Lens Shutter — Able to accelerate to
    open and close exceptionally quickly and reliably while also using
    minimal power, the central lens shutter mechanism offers numerous
    advantages for photographers. Namely, flash sync is possible at all
    shutter speeds up to 1/2000 second. The shutter is also in a ready state
    at all times for near instant response and it causes virtually no
    vibration at longer exposures. Additionally, it is durable and rated to
    beyond 1,000,000 exposures.

    BTW: this is also a great wall against any adapted lenses from other cameras!

  • Brad

    Maybe they should have partnered with Fuji. It sounds as though this camera is on the same learning/developmental path as the X-Pro1 at release with regards AF speed, card write speed and general usability.

    Given the low volumes that this camera will undoubtedly sell in, I hope that Hassy is prepared to invest in the software development and take a page from Fuji’s book to issue firmware updates to improve the function and usability over time.