Hands-on with the surprisingly small Hasselblad X1D

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We get our hands on the Hasselblad X1D mirrorless medium format camera(Credit: Simon Crisp/New Atlas)

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The Fujifilm GFX 50S might be the mirrorless medium format camera everyone is talking about at the moment, but it's not the only one – we recently got to spend a bit of hands-on time with Hasselblad's X1D. Read on to see what we made of it, and why we're even more disappointed now that we'll never be able to afford one for our kit bag.

When Hasselblad announced the X1D earlier this year, we were instantly smitten by the surprisingly small and modern-looking camera. However, with a body-only price of around US$9,000 we knew we were never going to own one ourselves. As such, we couldn't help swinging by the Hasselblad stand at Photokina to have a quick play with one.

Though most people will see the X1D as a large camera, anyone who has shot medium format in the past will realize just how small it is. The mirrorless design means the camera is considerably slimmed down compared to devices like the H5D-50c, or the Pentax 645Z. In our hands the X1D even felt smaller and lighter than full frame cameras like the Nikon D5.

This is great news for the professionals it is aimed at, as removing the bulk makes the camera a lot easier to handle when out of the studio. However, the X1D still boasts a level of build quality which impresses the second you pick it up. The modern and minimalist styling of the camera also works even better in person than it does in the PR shots.

The first thing we did when we were handed an X1D was to take the lens off so that we could marvel at the 43.8 x 32.9 mm 50-megapixel CMOS sensor inside. Looking at how big this is in comparison to the camera makes you realize what an impressive feat of engineering the camera is.

Once we'd finished ogling the sensor we mounted a 90-mm F3.2 lens and started snapping away. The clean and minimalist interface of the X1D makes it as simple to use as any other camera in manual mode, and the rear touchscreen is quick and responsive. The 920k dot resolution is a slight letdown, but nothing too serious. Meanwhile, the large and bright 2.36-megapixel electronic viewfinder is great for composing shots.

As you'd expect if you have previous experience of medium format cameras, focus speeds are nothing like those you get from a high-end DSLR or even compact mirrorless camera. That said, the AF was consistently accurate, which is something you need when shooting with such a big sensor and wide aperture glass. With a top shooting speed of 2.3 frames per second, the X1D is no sports camera, but is happy chugging along at this pace.

Our impressions of image quality are based on reviewing shots on the back of the camera, as we weren't able put our own memory cards into the dual SD slots. But, it's safe to say image quality is outstanding. We were blown away by how great shots looked when zooming in. The combination of a medium format CMOS sensor, 50 megapixels, and the new Hasselblad XCD lenses, really shines. We'd love to have taken some RAW files back with us to test.

While medium format cameras have traditionally struggled at high ISO settings, the new breed of cameras with CMOS sensors have been much better, helping them get out of the studio more. The X1D falls into this category, and we were able to dial the ISO up to the maximum of 25,600 and still get usable results. We didn't shoot any video during our tests, nor were we able to test the Wi-Fi capability of the camera, which allows users to preview shots and control it wirelessly using Phocus Mobile on an iOS device.

For us, the Hasselblad X1D was one of the most impressive cameras on display at Photokina. And it wasn't just us, as there was a constant queue of people lining up to try it out and marvel at the image quality. Unfortunately for Hasselblad, we doubt many of them are in a financial position to invest in the X1D. But those who can justify spending $9,000 on a camera before you add a lens, are in for a treat.

The Hasselblad X1D is available now.

Product page: Hasselblad X1D

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