When you think about how cumbersome the gear was in the early days of photography, it's boggling how much camera you can pack into a shoulder bag today. Hasselblad ups the boggle quotient with its X1D, the first medium-format model that can fit comfortably into a midsize camera bag. Normally, medium-format cameras have big bodies in part because of the size of the mirror they need to accommodate. By going mirrorless, Hasselblad cut the weight in half, producing a schlep-friendly camera that professionals and well-off enthusiasts spoiled by large-sensor photo quality may be wiling to pay a premium for.
That premium runs to about $9,000 or £5,990 for the body, $11,300 with the XCD 45mm f3.5 lens or $14,000 with both the 45mm and XCD 90mm f4.5 lenses. (Pricing for the UK and Australia wasn't available for the kits. The US prices convert to £7,685 and £9,520, or AU$11,975, AU$15,040 and AU$18,640.) Though the company is shipping the lenses for the X1D, it will also offer an H lens adapter so that you can use all of Hasselblad's H-mount lenses with it. Keep in mind that using the larger lenses can defeat the purpose of the compact mirrorless body.
X1D series launches with the X1D-50c, essentially an adapted-for-mirrorless version of its HDC-50c, and two new lenses specifically designed for the X1D's mount, dubbed the X mount. An interesting side note is the reason it took so long for the camera to become a reality. According to a Hasselblad representative, the lack of the necessary money and vision stalled the development of a medium-format mirrorless. It wasn't until about two years ago that the powers-that-be at the company stopped worried about cannibalizing sales of its pricey reflex (mirrored) cameras. Where TPTB go, investors follow.
It's roughly the same size as the full-frame Leica SL -- which is huge for a mirrorless -- or a cheap dSLR like the Canon EOS Rebel T6/1300D, but smaller and lighter than Hasselblad's HDC models. The X1D-50c incorporates the same 42.8x32.9mm, 5.3-micron-squared-pixel sensor as the HDC-50c, but couples it with an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one. While the 50c-size sensor isn't large for medium-format, it's certainly larger than that of a full-frame camera. Its benefit lies in providing more control over background blur and much larger pixels for a greater dynamic range; 14 stops, as with the other Hasselblads.
In fact, many of its specifications match that of the reflex (mirrored) model, including the touchscreen and interface, 1.7-2.3fps burst speed and 1080/30p video recording. It's dust- and weather-sealed, with an ISO range of ISO 100-ISO 12800 and dual SD-card slots.
It's pretty well designed, too, with a comfortable grip, excellent touchscreen, large electronic viewfinder and pretty well-designed dust- and weather-sealed aluminum body. The mode dial is cleverly designed; you pop it up to rotate it and push it down flush with the body to lock. There's a quiet manual mode that suppresses the aperture noise by stopping it down.
While most of the manual controls operate via the touchscreen, there are a few direct-access buttons for sensitivity, white balance and focus, plus front and back adjustment dials.
The biggest potential disappointment is the autofocus, a contrast-based system that reps couldn't provide any details on, and one that isn't as snappy as I'm used to. The lens itself seems slow-moving and hunts a bit before locking. The camera's also pretty slow to start up, which is typical of medium-format cameras. That usually doesn't matter as much in a studio where most medium-format models are used as it does for the more knockaround shooting you expect to do with the X1D. That may pose a challenge for Hasselblad as it takes on smaller, far less expensive full-frame models like the Sony A7R II, which produce excellent photo quality in more feature-packed, faster designs.
Still, I can't wait to head out street-shooting with it. Availability starts at the end of August or beginning of September, though I've already seen preorders available via some specialty outlets. Start saving now.
Editors' note: This story has been updated since its original publication with hands-on photos, video and impressions.