The world’s first compact mirrorless digital medium format camera has arrived.
Weighing less than half that of a conventional digital medium format camera, the mirrorless Hasselbad X1D packs a whopping 50MP sensor, and is a potential game changer in the world of high-end photography.
No doubt inspired by the emergence and success of the various mirrorless camera designs that many camera manufacturers have adopted, the X1D is handmade in Sweden (a Hasselblad tradition), and brings a new level of usability and accessibility to the realm of medium format cameras.
I sat down with the first ever Hasselblad Master, Chase Jarvis to discuss his thoughts on this new camera, and how he feels it will affect the world of professional photography.
What is your experience with Hasselblad medium format cameras?
“I have shot a lot of in-studio sessions on Hasselblad cameras, and in 2006 I was given the first ever Hasselblad Master award in Sweden. Hasselblad cameras have always created gorgeous images – the files are smooth and buttery. Everyone wants these files, but it’s the box (camera body) that has so often been the problem. They are delicate and bulky, to the extent that you don’t feel like you can take them anywhere.”
Why is this a potential game changer?
“It’s the box. Hasselblad cameras have always had amazing dynamic range. They capture skin tones, highlights and shadows in a way that most cameras don’t even come close to. But you can’t take them where they’re not designed to go. They can be moody and temperamental – and the belief has been that such a camera was only for a specific use-case. It was too “precious” to bring on location shoots.
This represents a move for them, into a direction of a much broader use-cases. Putting the incredible power and range of a Hasselblad into a compact mirrorless body, has the potential to change the way that these cameras are used. I think that’s what they are going for with this.”
Who do you see this camera being for?
“This camera is for an image maker who really values the quality that is possible with a medium format sensor in a package that suits a broader set of use-cases.
As a company, it’s clear they are trying to be more useful by attracting more of the modern, adaptable part of camera culture. So speed + accessibility is key.
It’s less about landscape and nature photographers, and more for the studio photographer who wants to stand out. This new camera addresses the importance of form-factor: if you are more likely to pick it up and bring it with you, you are more likely to use it. It embraces a larger cross-section of the market by being more culturally accessible.”
What does this mean for professional photographers?
“I think it is less relevant to the pros who shoot on medium format already. They are already in this ecosystem. It’s more of an on-ramp to attract a wider user base, by expanding the potential use-cases for this type of camera. Giving professional portrait, studio, and commercial photographers who shoot on DSLRs access to this ultra-high quality image file.
What does this mean for an average or amateur photographer? Well not much really. An average user doesn’t need this. However, when you get to this level of photography, it can be awesome. For the hobbyist or aspiring professional, it has the potential to make medium format seem more within reach by adopting a more familiar form-factor.”
After looking at the specs, do you see any potential drawbacks?
“Unfortunately yes, however most of them are based on my feelings about mirrorless cameras in general. The digital viewfinder provides a really good approximation of an optical viewfinder, but it’s still an approximation. As a photographer, this has always made me wary. There are some subtle use-cases of focusing that a pro knows all too well, and that’s what makes this a compromise in my mind.
This camera is definitely trying to feel future-forward – so it’s easy for people to drool. However there is a whiff of doubt about this actually being meaningful. For example, why do we need 50MP? What are the benefits of having that large of a file?
To me, what you are really buying is the dynamic range, and better math. This is where Hasselblad excels. But will it actually compete with the leading full-frame DLSRs (at half the price)? The jury is still out…”
If you could get your hands on one today, what would you shoot?
“That’s an interesting one. I would have to say a location-based portrait session, like in the park across the street. I would be very interested to test out the skin tones and dynamic range of the whole system.”
This video of the new X1D is visually stunning (but I would expect nothing less):
Let us know what you think. Does the world’s first mirrorless medium format camera inspire you to reach that level, or are you not impressed?
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