Hasselblad X1D-50c Review

By Joe Burns Wednesday 20th Dec, 2017

As a self-confessed secret photography nerd and gadget fiend, I was ecstatic to be given the chance to shoot with a Hasselblad camera recently. Having jumped feet first into the world of photography around 7 years ago, I quickly developed a fascination with the premium brands and the technology behind them. 

The pinnacle of this comes in the form of a Hasselblad camera and lens combination. Many people may never have heard of the brand, so if you need to quickly know the extent of their heritage, well, their cameras were used on the Moon. Need I say more?

In the days of film, we were all familiar with the 35mm format. Those classic cartridge style reels we put into plastic pots and had developed were the staple of birthdays, christmases, and holidays in the summer. But 35mm wasn’t just used by average consumers; pro’s used it every day too for sport, journalistic, documentary and studio photography. Every keen photographer will tell you that 35mm film is still fantastic, and a large market for “real” photography remains today.

But as we all wound on the standard sized 35mm negative film, there were others out there handling something a little more advanced. Medium format film, typically twice the size of 35mm film used with cameras such a the Hasselblad 500C, allowed the user to capture images that had a far larger resolution, whilst having more flexibility in low light conditions and a greater creative freedom with unique depth-of-field characteristics. 

These days, the convenience and versatility of digital photography has been embraced by Hasselblad, and most recently, in the shape of the X1D-50c which I was lucky enough to use on a recent shoot at St James’ Market and Crombie with Adam.

Not only does the X1D maintain a medium format sized sensor producing 51MP images, it does this within a mirrorless mechanism and compact body handmade in Sweden. Regular interchangeable lens digital cameras typically feature a mirror that flips up when you press the shutter button. This mirror allows you to see the image in the viewfinder to compose the shot, but a mirrorless camera uses a digital viewfinder instead, so there’s no need for a mirror to flip up and down, therefore the camera can be made smaller overall. 

Don’t be mistaken though, this Hasselblad is still a fair size, and it has a solid weight to it too, but this combined form factor makes for a camera that feels sturdy, reliable and substantial. The luxuriously crafted metal body is accompanied by robust plastics and rubber, with clicky buttons and dials for ease of use and a confidence in build quality. 

To keep up with the modern demand for intuitive controls to match the phones in our pockets, the X1D has a bright, high-resolution touch-screen display at the rear which makes navigating through menus and settings a breeze. Everything is laid out clearly and this is vital when you need to get that shot in the nick of time. Photos can be reviewed with a pinch-to-zoom interface on-screen, and the digital viewfinder makes composing the photo in the first place so easy even in a dark environment. 

Did I mention the looks of this thing? Well this is far removed from the huge cameras Hasselblad are known for, but there’s certainly no compromise for cramming all the technology into a compact body. Yes there are other medium format mirrorless cameras available now, but i think it’s fair to say the X1D outdoes them all in the aesthetics department. From every angle, this camera has been designed with a high-end, luxury style in mind that looks timeless, sophisticated and desirable.

Using this camera constantly surprised me with the results I was getting on first try. In a dimly lit shop, I was able to capture an extensive level of detail in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows across the frame. The depth-of-field in the 90mm lens was fantastic and far surpassed my expectations, allowing me to separate the subject from the background in situations simply impossible with my usual camera. 

You’ll want to look after this camera though, it’s pricey and even though it’s really well made, you don’t want to risk any damage to the sensor or lens as it’ll be a costly repair! We recommend specific camera insurance, especially if you want to make the most of the compact form-factor and take this outside or on holiday.

At the moment, there’s a choice of 30mm, 45mm, and 90mm standard lenses, with a 120mm macro lens on offer too, and we’re told Hasselblad have plans to release more options in the future. 

Visit hasselblad.com for more info on prices, or perhaps consider renting one before you commit to writing a story about why you can’t go on that family holiday next year.