Hasselblad X1D II 50C Review

The Hasselblad X1D 50C was the first ever medium format mirrorless camera. As you've probably worked out, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C reviewed here is its successor

Review

Friday November 8, 2019

By Ben Gallienne

Our Verdict

The Hasselblad X1D 50C was the first ever medium format mirrorless camera. As you've probably worked out, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C reviewed here is its successor. Like the original model, the X1D Mark II has a 50Mp sensor that measures 43.8 × 32.9mm. Crucially, its mirrorless design means it's far smaller than a DSLR medium format camera. In fact, it's smaller than some full-frame (35mm format) DSLRs.  While the 50Mp sensor is the same as the one in the original camera, the electronic viewfinder and touchscreen on the Hasselblad X1D II 50C have both increased in resolution. In addition, the camera has been given a general speed-boost.  Some may be disappointed that the X1D II doesn't have a 100Mp sensor, but the image quality is very good and the improvements are worthwhile. It’s not ideal for shooting action, but it’s a great camera for high-end documentary, street and landscape photography.

The Hasselblad X1D II is available to order now from Wex Photo Video in the UK, BH Photo Video and Adorama it will ship from July.

Read our Hasselblad X1D review

Introduction

Hasselblad is a respected camera brand that’s known for making high-quality products. When medium format cameras were commonly found in enthusiast photographers’ hands, Hasselblad was an aspirational brand.

The switch to digital technology put the price of Hasselblad medium format SLRs well beyond the reach of most enthusiast photographers. And many pros.

However, the X1D II 50C has a much more accessible retail price. It’s certainly not an impulse purchase, but it’s a shade less expensive than a flagship DSLR like the Nikon D5. Its mirrorless design also makes it more portable and easier to use than Hasselblad medium format DSLRs.

Read more: What is medium format in Photography?

Features

Hasselblad has kept the core of the X1D the same as the original camera’s but addressed some of the requests for improvement. The new processing engine and reworked electronics, for example, mean that the X1D II is much faster than the original camera. The start-up time, for instance, has been decreased by 46%. Also, the live view image has a refresh rate of 60fps, up from 30fps. That means the view is smoother and less laggy.

Hasselblad has also increased the maximum shooting rate to 2.7fps, up from 2fps. That may not sound a lot, but it comes with an increase in the burst depth from 7 to 10 shots. Meanwhile, Hasselblad has upgraded the dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots to UHS-II.

Inside the Hasselblad X1D II 50C is a 43.8 × 32.9mm 50Mp CMOS sensor. This is the same sensor as is in the original X1D but as I mentioned, it’s paired with a new processor and refreshed electronics. As before, it’s claimed to produce images with up to 14 stops of dynamic range.

Sensitivity may be set in the range ISO 100-25,600 while shutter speed can be set to 60min to 1/2000sec with flash synchronisation throughout.

As before, images may be saved in raw or jpeg format (or both simultaneously). However, the Mark II is capable of shooting full-resolution jpegs whereas the Mark I can only record small files. Video capability is said to be coming, but is not available at launch.

The OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) has had a resolution boost up to 3.69million dots. That’s up there with the best from Sony and Nikon, but doesn’t match the 5,760,000-dot resolution of the EVFs in the Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R.

As with the original camera, Hasselblad has given the X1D II a touchscreen. This is now a 3.6-inch, 2.36-million-dot unit and it seems huge.

In addition to Wi-Fi connectivity, the X1D II has a GPS unit built in. It also has a USB-C connection that can be used to tether it to an iPad Pro or for battery charging. Hasselblad’s free app (Phocus Mobile) allows remote control of the camera complete with remote exposure adjustment.

Specification

  • Sensor: 50Mp 43.8 × 32.9mm CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: Hasselblad X
  • Viewfinder: Electronic 3.69million dots OLED (Mag 0.87x)
  • Screen: 3.6-inch 2.36-million-dot touchscreen
  • Max continuous shooting: 2.7fps (raw)
  • Focusing: Contrast detection AF with 117 selectable points
  • Shutter speed: 68 minutes to 1/2000 s with XCD Lenses. 1/800 s or 1/2000 s with HC/HCD lenses, electronic shutter 68 min to 1/10000 s.
  • Files: Hasselblad 3FR RAW, Full-size JPEG
  • Memory: Dual SD UHS-II card slots
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB-C, GPS
  • Dimensions: Complete camera with XCD 45 mm lens: 148 x 97 x 125 mm [W x H x D], Camera Body only: 148 x 97 x 70 mm
  • Weight: 650g body only, 766g body, battery and SD card, 1230g with XCD 45mm lens, Li-ion battery and card

Read our Fujifilm GFX 50R review

Build and Handling

Medium format DSLRs need a huge mirror, so taking that out enables the camera to be made much smaller. In fact, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C is smaller than a full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D810. And it’s a heck of a lot smaller than double-gripped SLRs like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1DX II

Hasselblad has used the same body for the X1D II as it did for the original X1D. This means it has a rectangular shaped body. There’s also a deep, comfortable grip and the metal construction makes it feel solid without being too heavy. It’s a nice size for everyday photography.

Oddly, the X1D II’s menu has an option for video shooting, but if you select it, an on-screen message makes it clear it’s not yet functional.

The X1D takes around 8 seconds or more to start up. The X1D II 50C takes nearer 4 seconds. This much better but still a bit on the slow side. If the camera goes to sleep, it takes a fraction too long to start-up. Just at the point that you think the camera isn’t powered-up, the screen comes to life.

Controls

The exposure mode is set via the pop-up dial on the top plate. This is a really neat way of creating a lockable dial. If the dial is down in can’t be rotated. A press on the dial pops it up ready for us.

Front and rear dials allow the shutter speed and aperture or exposure compensation to be adjusted.

There’s also a button to access the menu, another to playback images and another to toggle through the view options.

Touch-control

Although there are a few buttons and three dials, Hasselblad makes good use of the X1D II’s touchscreen.

The on-screen controls can be accessed by swiping down on the screen. You can then navigate the menu and select options with swipes and taps on the screen. It’s easy-peasy to use.

If you don’t like the arrangement of the menu icons, you can change it just by dragging them around on the screen with your finger. It’s similar to how you arrange apps on a smartphone and I wish more cameras had this functionality.

Conveniently, you can use the screen to set the AF point on the X1D II while you’re looking in the viewfinder. The screen is very responsive and you can get the AF point where you want it quickly with only the odd correction necessary. You can also specify the area of the screen that you want to use for this to avoid your nose taking control.

While I like the fact that the AF point can be set via the screen, I think the a camera the size of the Hasselblad X1D II 50C should have a joystick. Joystick-control tends to be more precise and it avoids some of occasional errors that occur when using the touchscreen.

Read our Fujifilm GFX 50S review

Read our Phase One IQ3 Achromatic Review

Electronic viewfinder and Screen

I’m pleased that Hasselblad has boosted the resolution of the EVF. It’s now very clear and looks natural. Apparently, the colour gamut and contrast of the EVF and screen have been increased and it gives an accurate preview of the final image. The screen and the viewfinder also have plenty of detail visible when you zoom in to check sharpness.

A sensor also detects when you are looking in the viewfinder and turns off the main screen. That’s not unusual, but it’s handy.

The 3.6-inch 2.36-million-dot touchscreen feels huge and it’s perfect for reviewing images. However, as it’s fixed and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is very good, it makes sense to use the EVF whenever possible for composing images.

Performance

Hasselblad has worked on the camera’s power consumption and I’m told that it’s now feasible to leave the camera in standby mode so you don’t have to start it up as often, thus saving time. Apparently, the battery life has been boosted to around 270 images but in real-world testing, you get nearer 400 images from a single charge.

Thanks to its electronic improvements and new processing engine, the X1D II’s AF system is faster than the original X1D’s. However, it can’t match the Fujifilm GFX 50S, 50R or GFX100 for speed. And in slightly gloomy conditions, it’s still slow. I even have a few shots with missed focus.

Browsing images direct from the X1D 50C is a pleasurable experience because it renders colours well and the auto white balance system copes nicely with artificial and natural lighting.

Furthermore, the metering system takes most things in its stride. There are a few occasions when you need to dial in a little exposure compensation, but as the EVF and screen show an accurate representation of the exposure, you can get it right before taking a shot.

Read our Fujifilm GFX1oo Review

Image Quality

Although the X1D II 50C has a new processing engine, Hasselblad hasn’t made any bold claims about improvements to noise control or image quality. To be honest, that’s fine with me. The results from the X1D II 50C are fantastic. The level of detail at ISO 3,200 is very impressive.

The results at the top sensitivity setting, ISO 25,600, can also be very good but it depends upon your subject. A complex image of an autumnal woodland, for instance, looks good with just a bit of grain. But if you have more uniform areas, you’re likely to spot chromatic noise in the raw files. Meanwhile, the finer detail of the Jpegs can look a bit smudged at 100%.

However, the magenta cast that was an issue with the original X1D’s images at ISO 25,600 seems to have gone.

Dropping down to ISO 12,800 or 6,400 naturally results in better quality images than ISO 25,600. However, areas with dark fine patterns present a challenge. The fabric of blue pin-stripe suit is softened in Jpegs or has noticeable coloured speckling in raw files. I would aim to make ISO 3,200 the maximum whenever possible.

Read our Fujifilm GFX 50S review

Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images

Hasselblad X1D II 50C

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Verdict

I liked the idea of the X1D when it was announced, and I love the images that it produces, but it had a few quirks and shortcomings that disappointed me. Hasselblad appears to have ironed those out with the X1D II 50C. I didn’t get any warnings about the need to pop out the battery. What’s more, these improvements come at a reduced price.

At around 4 seconds, the start-up time is still a bit slow, the wake-up time can be unnerving and the AF system still isn’t the fastest, but the X1D II 50C’s handling is excellent and the image quality is lovely.

A lot of people were expecting the X1D II to feature a 100Mp sensor. Perhaps an X1D 100C is yet to come, but I’m quite pleased about what the X1D II 50C has to offer. The image quality is great, there’s a nice balance between detail and file size and the price isn’t crazy.

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