This Is the Weirdest Camera I've Ever Loved: The Hasselblad 907X

It's not cheap and it's not perfect, but this camera makes me feel like a better photographer just by holding it.

Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022
Andrew Lanxon
5 min read
Image of a hasselblad camera on a marble surface

The Hasselblad 907X and 55mm lens.

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Hasselblad's new 907X CFV 100C camera is extremely expensive. It's slow and sometimes frustrating to operate and lacks features like in-body stabilization or any kind of video shooting mode. Yet somehow I find it to be the most creatively inspiring camera to use and it's the camera I'd most want to buy if I could justify its price tag. 

The camera body itself comes in at $8,199 and I tested it with three main lenses: The XCD 55mm f/2.5 V Lens ($3,699), the XCD 90mm f/2.5 V Lens ($4,299) and the brand-new, wide-angle XCD 25mm f/2.5 V Lens ($3,699). The cost of my test kit came to the princely sum of $19,896.

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That's a lot of cash for a camera that I found to have a number of quality-of-life drawbacks. There's the slow and sometimes unpredictable autofocus and the awkward shutter button. The control ring is small and difficult to operate, requiring you to also hold down a shift button if you want to adjust exposure compensation. 

Image of two people and two dogs on the beach

Taken with the 55mm lens. Edited in Lightroom. 

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Then there's the fact that there's no mechanical curtain to protect the gigantic image sensor, meaning it's exposed to all the elements every time you change a lens. Don't even think about switching lenses on a windy day on a sandy beach, unless you want to spend an hour removing dirt spots in Photoshop and then have your sensor properly cleaned.

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There's no viewfinder, so you'll be composing images solely using the LCD display, which under bright conditions can be difficult to see. You end up feeling like your compositions are more "best guesses" than properly considered images.

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Then there's the lack of in-body stabilization, something you will find on Hasselblad's X2D camera and which would allow for much sharper images when hand-holding at slower shutter speeds. With 100 megapixels of resolution, there's no hiding even the slightest of blurriness. 

Panoramic image of a house with mountains behind.

The XPan mode gives a wide panoramic view, which I loved playing with. Taken with the 90mm lens, edited in Lightroom.

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I'd typically expect all these issues to put me off, especially considering the price. Yet somehow this camera managed to cast such a spell over me that any negatives simply seemed meaningless against how I felt when shooting with this thing.

I've sprinkled a variety of example images throughout this article, but you can head here if you want to see even more.

It helps that it's stunning to look at, with a boxy design that harks back to Hasselblad's earlier medium-format film cameras like the 500CM. The LCD display tilts up, encouraging you to hold the camera more at waist height, looking down on it as you would those older cameras. It's made with chrome and leatherette materials, which feel incredible to hold, and its surprisingly compact size means this is a medium-format camera I've been able to have hanging round my neck all day without feeling like I've strapped a ship's anchor to myself. 

Image of a man in a fishing hat drinking a cup of tea.

With 100 megapixels of resolution, details on this camera are superb. Taken with the 55mm lens, edited in Lightroom. 

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Then of course there's the image quality. That large medium-format sensor not only offers a huge number of megapixels for pin-sharp details, but it also allows for superb dynamic range, meaning highlights can be kept under control and shadow details can be lifted without any loss to image quality. I've put the camera through its paces on remote Scottish islands, in picturesque fishing villages and in the heart of Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh and I've been impressed with the images I've captured at every step.

 I particularly love shooting using the XPan crop mode, which produces wide panoramas with the same 2.70:1 aspect ratio as Hasselblad's old XPan film camera. It's a unique way of shooting, and I found many occasions when this panoramic format really lent a fresh view to a scene and allowed me to compose in an entirely new way. Sure, you can just apply a panoramic crop to any camera's image in Lightroom and get ostensibly the same result. But there's something about visualizing it on the back of a camera and capturing it in the moment that feels infinitely more satisfying, especially when using the new 25mm lens, which gives a wide-angle view thereby giving more room for those narrow crops. 

Image of a man sitting on a sea wall with his back to the camera.

One of my favorite images taken using the XPan format. I love how the wide view emphasises the negative space around the subject. Taken with the 55mm lens, edited in Lightroom.

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I suspect too that I like this camera not in spite of the aforementioned issues but possibly because of them. The slow autofocus and somewhat clunky physical control forces a slower, more methodical approach to my photography, meaning each of my images has to be more considered. I return from a location having shot far fewer images than I might've done using my usual Canon R5, but each of those images is more likely to be a "keeper" rather than simply being culled in the import process. 

Don't get me wrong, I've taken about 2,000 images with the Hasselblad in my few weeks of testing. But I've still found I've been firing up the camera only when I feel the scene definitely warrants the photograph. I notice I've been more selective of my images and more critical of the potential scene in front of me before deciding whether to set up the shot, which in turn has resulted in better-quality images. 

Image of a man sunbathing on a harbor wall.

A sunbather on a harbor wall. Taken with the 55mm lens, edited in Lightroom. 

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The argument is, of course, that the Hasselblad has no real part to play in this -- it's simply a mental state that could be achieved with any camera. I could simply slow down my process with my R5 (maybe use only manual focus, to force a more methodical style with an otherwise lightning-fast camera) and probably I'd see an improvement in my overall quality.

But whether it's the slower way of working, the top-down retro box design, the shiny Hasselblad logo, the company's deep photography heritage or the numerous, "Oh wow, is that the new Hasselblad?" comments I've had from passing photographers, I've found there's something truly inspirational in working with this camera.

Image of a person photographing the aurora on a phone

A person photographs the northern lights over Edinburgh. Taken with the 25mm lens, edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. 

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I see it on my desk and I want to take it back out to capture more. I've been imagining the locations I want to take it to, the photo projects I want to produce with it and the galleries I'd like to create of images I've shot with it. It's a camera that seems to want to take beautiful images every bit as much as I do. 

Two people sit on a sea wall eating food from paper trays.

Two people enjoy a seaside lunch. Taken with the 55mm lens, edited in Lightroom.

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I bought the Canon R5 for purely practical reasons; high enough resolution, image stabilization, video skills. It was a box-ticking exercise that resulted in me having a very capable but otherwise uninspiring camera. I feel it's like a plumber buying a Ford Transit van for work. It has to be big enough, reliable, economical. And though it's a great work tool that gets them from A to B, it's probably not the vehicle they dream of driving down the Italian coast. A classic open-top Ferrari? Now we're talking. 

Image of a person using binoculars to look at a boat in the harbor.

A person looks out at a stunning view on Canna, Scotland. Taken with the 90mm lens, edited in Lightroom. 

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The R5 is my van: practical, ideal for my professional photography, but it's not the camera I dream of.

The Hasselblad 907X is my Ferrari. A dream item built for one thing only: The love of photography.