Hasselblad created quite a bit of buzz when it released the Hasselblad X1D-50c in June of 2016. With its 44x33mm image sensor, 2.36 MP electronic viewfinder (EVF), dual SD card slots, 3″ touchscreen LCD, built-in Wi-Fi, leaf shutter, a super lightweight construction weighing only 725 grams with a battery and a very compact size, the X1D looked absolutely stunning both in terms of its specifications and its stylish design. Hasselblad priced the camera at $8,999 MSRP at introduction, which when compared to the traditional Hasselblad prices, looked like a bargain for the first time. Hasselblad called the X1D a “groundbreaking” camera and a game changer – pretty bold, but valid statements given “the world’s first medium format mirrorless” status. Despite the fact that the camera was delayed a number of times since its announcement due to high demand, I was able to get a hold of a sample unit back in March of 2017. So this review is based on 4 months of heavy shooting with the camera in different shooting environments.
Together with the X1D-50c, Hasselblad also announced two new lenses specifically made for the camera – a 45mm f/3.5 (~36mm full-frame equivalent) and a 90mm f/4.5 (~72mm full-frame equivalent). These are the two and only lenses I used for evaluating the camera in the field and in my lab.
The Hasselblad X1D-50c might be the first of its kind, but its sensor is definitely not – we have previously seen it on another medium format camera, the Pentax 645Z. Although the 50 MP medium-format sensor is excellent in every way (as I have described in my Pentax 645Z review), Sony simply decided to resell existing sensor technology to three different manufacturers: Pentax, Hasselblad and Fuji. So whether you are looking at the Pentax 645Z, Hasselblad X1D-50c or Fuji GFX 50S, they all share exactly the same sensor. And although Fuji claims that they “customized” the sensor to yield superior image quality, I personally could not see any noticeable differences in quality, as noted in my Hasselblad X1D-50c vs Fuji GFX 50S comparison article. So at the end of the day, it all boils down to differences in camera systems. The Pentax 645Z is a large and heavy DSLR with a good selection of lenses already available – it is a fairly mature medium format system. The Hasselblad X1D-50c is a lightweight and stylish mirrorless camera with a total of 4 leaf shutter lenses available at the moment (and three coming later on in 2017). And the Fuji GFX 50S is also another mirrorless medium format camera (although with a focal plane shutter) that was announced after the X1D-50c, with a total of 5 lenses available at the moment, with more on the way. I have been fortunate to have used all three, so everything I say in this review is based on my extensive experience with these particular cameras. It is also important to point out that I will naturally be comparing these systems against each other in the review, so there will be a lot of mentioning of Pentax and Fuji (and especially Fuji, since it competes directly with the Hasselblad). Let’s get started!
1) Overview and Sensor Size Comparison
While the Hasselblad X1D-50c technically has more resolution than any other full-frame camera on the market (the closest in resolution is the Canon 5DS / 5DS R), it is not the resolution, but the sensor size that plays a huge role in the overall image quality of a system. Generally, larger sensors have better handling of noise, potentially better dynamic range, better colors and with the right set of lenses, can produce beautifully rendered photographs. At the end of the day, sensor size certainly does matter, but the big question is, how much of a difference is there really between medium format and full-frame sensors? Take a look at the below illustration:
Unlike “APS-C” and “full-frame”, “medium format” does not strictly define one particular size of sensor. As you can see, the sensor on the Hasselblad X1D-50c (just like on the Pentax 645Z and the Fuji GFX 50S), is significantly smaller compared to the medium format sensor found on the Hasselblad H6D-100c. One should understand that moving up to “medium format” can differ quite a bit depending on what size of medium format sensor one chooses. There is a huge cost premium involved when moving up to the largest 53.5mm x 40mm sensors too (for example, the Hasselblad H6D-100c retails for $33K, far more than what the X1D-50c goes for). Think of the X1D-50c sensor as a crop-sensor medium format, because that’s what it is really…
When it comes to overall sensor size, it is also important to point out the physical size difference between the above-mentioned cameras:
- Full-Frame is 236% as large as APS-C and typically 2x-4x as expensive
- Medium Format Small (Hasselblad X1D-50c, Pentax 645Z, Fuji GFX 50S) is 167% as large as full-frame and typically 3x-4x as expensive
- Medium Format Large (Hasselblad H6D-100c) is 149% as large as Medium Format Small and 3x-4x as expensive
As you can see, moving up in sensor size costs a huge premium and the larger you go, the less value you get. Considering that one can get a new camera with an APS-C sensor for around ~$500 nowadays, does it make sense to move up to a Hasselblad H6D-100c that costs $33 thousand dollars? Even if the latter has a 586% as large of a sensor, the cost difference is a whopping 6,600%, which is mind-boggling. For most people, this is simply a huge waste of money. Now considering that the smaller medium format sensor is only 167% as large as full-frame and yet it is 2-3 times as expensive compared to something like the Nikon D810, one wouldn’t get the same dollar per sensor inch value as say when moving from an APS-C to a full-frame camera. Hence, such a move would not make much financial sense for most photographers out there.
However, for those who want to have the best image quality and do not mind the much higher price premium, medium format cameras certainly do have an edge over full-frame cameras. For example, Hasselblad X1D-50c’s pixel size is 5.3µ, whereas the Nikon D810 has a pixel size of 4.88µ. Not only does the latter have less resolution, but it also has smaller pixels, which gives a fairly noticeable advantage to the X1D-50c. The difference is certainly visible in images, but it is very marginal. While jumping from an APS-C sensor to medium format would be huge, moving up from full-frame to medium format is not going to show night and day differences in image quality. And that’s expected, given the relatively small difference in sensor size between the two, as shown above.
2) Hasselblad X1D-50c Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 51.4 MP, 5.3µ pixel size
- Sensor Size: 43.8 x 32.9mm
- Resolution: 8272 x 6200
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-25,600
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- Leaf Shutter: 60 minutes to 1/2000
- Storage: 2x SD slots (UHS-I only)
- Viewfinder: 2.36MP XGA Electronic Viewfinder
- Speed: 2.3 FPS
- Built-in Flash: No
- Autofocus System: Autofocus metering via contrast detection; Instant manual focus override
- Autofocus Points: 35
- Focus Modes: AF-S and Manual Only
- LCD Screen: 3.0 inch TFT type, 24 bit color, 920K pixels
- Touch Functionality: Yes
- Battery Type: Rechargeable Li-ion battery (7.2 VDC/3200 mAh)
- WiFi: Yes
- GPS: Yes (must be mounted on the hot shoe)
- USB Standard: 3.0
- Weight: 725g (Camera Body and Li-ion battery)
- Dimensions: 150 x 98 x 71 mm
- Price: $8,999 MSRP
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Hasselblad.com