A Relaxed Shooting Experience
Rated 5 out of 5
For my style of shooting, I like lots of pixels. For that reason, I started using a Hasselblad X1D2 medium format camera recently. It provides the sharpest images of any hand-held camera I've ever owned. It is also the slowest digital camera I've ever had. The focus speed, shutter rate and processing time makes for a more relaxed photographic experience. There's no rushing things with the Hasselblad. I have the 45mm and 21mm lenses - both are excellent. If something comes at me unexpected, then I may miss the shot. But the shots I get are great. I'm pushing the envelope using it for street photography, but it's a joy to shoot with.
Craftsmanship at its best. No stabilisation, slow focusing.
Rated 4 out of 5
Buying an X1D is just like buying a Leica. Both are sources of aesthetic and sensual pleasure (not all cameras provide that feeling... although there is a subjective component to that, agreed) as well as participating in a long tradition of high-end craftsmanship (including lenses) and bare-bone camera technology (just the essentials). Image quality is also why one may invest into such products (both cameras and lenses). There is also an irrational aspect in such a move: pleasure, undeniable pleasure.
Now in terms of caveats: 1-the autofocus is slow (understatement for some) and sometimes hesitant, but manual focusing is easy; 2-a 50 Mp sensor without stabilisation makes sharp hand-held pictures a challenge under 1/250s (and ISO are ok until 800, beyond that noise starts to creep up (and dynamic range decreases noticeably). My solution: I use a monopod for slow speeds.
Pluses : as said above top image quality including color (Sony sensor + Hasselblad software and lenses); easy interface: essential settings at the tip of the user's fingers (aperture, shutter-speed, ISO, White Balance) both on camera and touch screen; compact and efficient combination with very affordable and good 45 mm f. 4; very pleasant experience shooting and editing.
Hasselblad and Leica are two brands that split audiences, and not just because of their list prices (a key factor though let us be clear) but that said ultimate craftsmanship, image and lens quality have a price. I must say that before using either of them I had strong objections... that vanished once I used them for some extension of time.
Plenty of quirks, but incredible for the right situations
Rated 4 out of 5
All-in-all an incredible camera that I'd recommend to anyone capturing still or slow-moving subjects who wants a Hasselblad sensor and lens but doesn't want to decide between a new luxury vehicle and any of their H-series cameras. It does have some quirks and rough edges that I wish Hasselblad had polished a bit more, for a second-revision camera, and you should consider how much they would affect you before purchasing.
For context, I purchased the XID II with the XCD 45P f/4 lens. I bought it to use in addition to my Nikon D800, and was specifically looking to get a mirrorless full-frame camera, which meant my options were Hasselblad or Fuji.
Onto the camera. Let's get this out of the way: it has some issues. Some of them are specific to this model, some are prevalent in most mirrorless cameras.
1. Autofocus is really bad. I know this is a mirrorless problem, but combined with the higher density lens internals than I'm used to from Nikon, the focus feels sluggish and barely works in low light or low contrast situations. The focus, despite being lens-internal, feels, sounds, and performs like Nikon's screw-drive lenses, in case you've had the pleasure. In short: no sports photography with the XID II. That's ok, it's not what it's for. This has been okay for me because of one thing: focus peaking. When you turn on manual focus (don't worry, you can still press the AF-D button to activate autofocus when this is on) the display and the viewfinder will show you the edges that it detects in the image. This turns something I never used (full manual focus) into something I use all the time, so all-in-all not a negative for me but definitely something to consider. A picture of this display (with the colour set to cyan, which is configurable) is included.
2. The lack of a folding display is annoying. Hasselblad is famous for from-the-hip photography, which is not possible with the XID II. I almost went with the 907X for this reason alone, but I wouldn't be able to do the same thing holding the camera above my head, so I decided to forego it entirely. Given how standard this has become on most digital cameras, mirrorless or not, it's surprising that this one has a fixed display.
3. The boot time is pretty slow. It takes a couple of seconds to get to a shootable state from being turned off. It doesn't seem to use much battery when it's sleeping and the wakeup time from that is about half a second, which is fine for my use-cases. Again, no sports photography, but I do definitely feel this compared to the Nikon which is pretty much instantaneously ready.
4. Battery life. I've gotten way, way too used to having to charge my camera once every couple months. As with other mirrorless cameras, there's a ton of energy being used to continuously capture video and run the display that DSLRs don't have to deal with. Again, something I knew going in, but it's something you should know too.
5. Other Hasselblad lens compatibility. This is not an issue for me, as I do not have the financial priviledge of already owning a bunch of Hasselblad lenses. HOWEVER. This camera, like most every high-end mirrorless camera, does have a physical shutter... kinda. It's in the lens - more specifically, it's in the X-series lenses. This is how rolling shutter is prevented. If you use any non-X-series Hasselblad lens, rolling shutter is going to be a problem for anything moving. The delay is like 300ms (or 3 in shutter-speed-number language) - it will be unusable for anything moving at all. There was another review noting this and I wanted to clarify that it isn't always an issue, since it gave me pause and I had to read the accessory spec sheet to realise that it wasn't a problem for standard lenses.
6. Video. If you are really looking for a dual-purpose photo + video camera, do not buy this camera. It shoots 2.7k (glad I bought a 50MP sensor) up to 29.97fps (really). Look at any other new mirrorless camera and they almost undoubtedly shoot 4k @ 60fps (which usually implies things like 720p @ 240fps, if you're into that kind of thing). This was not an issue for me - phone video has gotten plenty good for my purposes - but I know lots of people who are looking into mirrorless because of the usually-excellent video capabilities. If that's you: look elsewhere.
7. The electronic viewfinder is bad. They are bad on most every mirrorless camera. It's hard to make tiny screens with lots of pixels. That's ok, I mostly use it in very bright environments and it's more for framing and focus peaking than anything.
8. No automatic screen brightness. This feels pretty absurd for a new camera. My 9-year-old D800 has auto-brightness. I don't see any ambient light sensors on the body, so I doubt this is a firmware-update-fixable issue either. Seems like a really silly thing to miss on a high-end second-revision camera. Oh well.
OKAY. That was a lot. I know. This does not look like a 4-star review for a $6k camera. I KNOW. Nevermind all that. Here's the good stuff:
1. The SENSOR. For me, the sensor alone undoes every single quirk and negative of this camera. Dynamic range is probably 2-3 stops short of high-end film, but is basically there. The colour reproduction is incredible (also very film-like). Noise is truly non-existent at ISO 100 but you'd be hard-pressed to find noise issues up to ISO 800. As with most sensors it gets worse from there on up, but pretty comparable, and I don't usually find myself above ISO 400.
2. Metering... works? I don't know if I got too used to the D800's (very bad) metering but wow, I can actually trust what it's telling me. This might be a mirrorless thing, where they're able to do more colour analysis and adjust for e.g. greens and browns. Whatever they're doing, I like it.
3. Focus peaking. Okay, I talked about this as a solution for a negative aspect of the camera, but it's also SUCH a positive. I largely shoot in manual focus now, which is something I never did before because (even with the full-frame viewfinder of the D800) I could never trust my eye to see whether some tiny piece of something was truly in focus, and the in-viewfinder focus indicator was way too binary - it was hard to really get a sense of when you were coming into focus and where the focus was really, well, peaking. A picture of this display (with the colour set to cyan, which is configurable) is included.
4. Lens is SHARP and essentially distortion-free. Again, I'm using the XCD 45P f/4 lens. This is both the (currently) cheapest option and, from sample images on their website, seemed to have the least internal reflection and chromatic aberration issues. Side note: Hasselblad rocks for posting raw images from all their X lenses, please look at those before getting whatever lens you're thinking of getting. Doing so completely changed my mind about the first lens I wanted.
5. Resolution and medium-format. This is the first time I've really experienced tack-sharp. I've always had issues with the clarity of images coming out of my old full-frame camera. Pixels in focus were never tack-sharp, so even though the sensor was ~36MP, the real performance of the thing was closer to ~24MP with how blurry even the sharpest areas were. I would assume this is an issue of sensor size + the glass diffuser over the sensor, but I'm no expert. This is not true with the X1D II. If you shoot stable and in focus, you WILL get tack-sharp images. You will pick up pixel-wide edges. It's amazing. I was hesitant going from ~36MP to ~50MP, since it's not a huge jump, but it ended up being a much bigger jump than anticipated.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps you make a decision!