By pascaljappy | Monday Post
With a number like 747, I’d have hoped to write a jumbo article but work and private life ‘unexpected events’ sucked all the free time out of that one. Instead of that, however, let me help you time travel. To the past (week) with a new slew of linked collected by kind contributors and myself. And to the future, with a very first whiff of the upcoming rolling review of the Hasselblad X1D superstar camera that landed on my doorstep last Wednesday, courtesy of DHL, while I was 500 miles away and no one else was home. The box stayed out in the sun and through the night, no one signed to acknowledge receipt, and it’s a minor miracle it was still there on my arrival. Nice work. Hasselblad, on the other hand have been more than charming throughout all of our dealings (more about which later) and I really can’t wait to take this camera though it’s paces.
Before we start with the others, please read this one first: Photo Ark: Stunning Photography And An Urgent Call To Action From A 21st-Century Noah.
Hasselblad X1D, very first thoughts
Since you’ve read this far, it would be remiss not to discuss my very first impressions (literally based on 30 minutes of use). A much more thorough review awaits.
Of these 30 minutes, the first 20 were full of doubt. The camera felt cumbersome and slow. Then, I understood how to use it (it isn’t slow) and relief replaced doubt. Then I saw the files and, well … let’s call it love at 30 minute sight. I’ve compared photographs from the Sony A7rII with excellent Zeiss glass, admittedly the best IQ money can buy South of the X1D price point. Philippe offered his friendly point of view on the comparisons.
On some photographs, the two are very close and choice comes down to very subjective factors. In a blind test, Philippe prefered all of the Sony files shot outdoors in morning light. My preferences went both ways depending on the shot, leaning mostly towards the X1D. Indoors, in more tricky light conditions, the two are not even remotely close. SOOC, the Hassy files are clean elegant full of light, and the Sony’s look muddy and off colour. I know that Sony by heart and there’s no doubt this could be corrected in PP. But in tricky light, the Hasselblad wins hands down.
With some little “assisted-introspection” (ie a conversation with Philippe), I’ve come to realise what the appeal of the X1D is to me. I told Philippe the overwhelming feeling using that camera is “At last. A digital photographic camera”. You know that sense of relief when you’ve been waiting for some solution to a problem for too long and it suddenly is here.
First , the interface is very nice. I’m not much of an AF fan, but love how easy it is to disconnect or reconnect based on subject. I love the focusing aids, the menu system, the rear screen, the dials, the build, the feel. Everything about this camera is tactile joy. Ergonomically, it’s a camera, not a computer that happens to take photographs when it’s not busy making video and wrong decisions for you.
And that’s the second point. By far the least subjective and the most important. This is a photographer’s tool. It doesn’t make decisions for you (well, except for the AF). The two photographs above are most revealing. The Sony did the best it could to balance the light between dark and shadow and did a pretty great job of it, using the sensor’s huge DR. The X1D did no such thing. It exposed for the subject and burned the living daylights out of the rest (and note how gentle that transition to pure white is). To me, that is far preferable. All of my X1D shots so far have been almost perfect. But only when I didn’t mess up. Again, two images will explain this perfectly.
With the focus and metering on the magnolia, the flowers are clearly overexposed (SOOC, remember) and the photograph is flat. But with the focus and light metering on the flowers, the picture comes alive with extraordinary depth, volume, texture … The Sony’s best effort saved me from over-exposure but never matched the best X1D file. Excellent performance if you like a chunk of aluminum and silicon to hold your hand. I don’t, and relish the thought of an old school camera that puts you in complete control while delivering image quality straight out of the box on a level that I have never seen before.
Things I don’t like? Yes, kind of. AF being at the top of the list (accurate but slow). But I’ve realised most of my dislikes were just linked to my misunderstanding of the camera. So let’s just focus on the great positives for now. The X1D has a lot of those going for it.
Anyway, enough chatter from me. Here you have my initial samples and links from the week. Thanks to all who contributed and comment. Talk soon and stay tuned for a full review of the X1D.
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According to the rules of boxing, you are not allowed to deliver two knockout blows in one match. Shame on you! 🙂
First you knock me flat – deck me on the canvas – with this one: “it’s a camera, not a computer that happens to take photographs when it’s not busy making video and wrong decisions for you”
Then you come back and do it all over again – with this one: “This is a photographer’s tool.”
Sigh – now I’ll have to scrimp & save, till I can afford to buy one, too. Ah, well, we can’t have everything, so I guess I will just have to make do with what I’ve got.
Did you REALLY need to sprinkle my battle scars with the regulation photo** of the cat?
** [dear reader – in case you’ve not been paying attention, it seems that the regulation photo of a bicycle, in postings on DS, has moved over for the time being and been displaced by a new regulation photo of a cat – Pascal will supply further details, upon request]
I’m really sorry about that Pete 😉
Kristian – there’s more to the article on Samsung and sensors than meets the eye. There’s a hint of it, in the description of Samsung’s recognition of the slow death of the bottom end of the market, as cellphones increasingly substitute for basic cameras. I don’t doubt that there’ll still be a market for the cameras at the cheaper end of the range – pocketable ones, point & shoots, and so on – as not everyone likes using a phone and a heap of people still want a “camera”. But not the huge range and volume of them that we’ve seen over the past 2 decades.
But more telling is the fact the real spend on “research” (and, therefore, development) is at the other end of the market. Major players are jockeying for a position – just when a lot of the pundits predicted the opposite and queried Hasselblad’s release of the X1D, there’s a sudden upsurge in interest in MF digital cams. Lurking in the background is the “new sensor” recently invented by the original developer of the sensors we all use, capable of capturing individual photons – with the genius behind it all saying never mind, he doesn’t think anyone will ever market it. Will they? Won’t they? Will someone step up to the plate because they find this concept impossible to resist, along the lines of that famous remark of Oscar Wilde’s – “I can resist anything except temptation”?
Just when we were all realising that further improvement was impossible, because no matter who developed and sold what, we’d never be able to see the difference, here it is, already appearing on DS – “with the focus and light metering on the flowers, the picture comes alive with extraordinary depth, volume, texture …” and Pascal has been swept off his feet in 30 minutes! I am now wondering what he will say next, after a whole 60 minutes with this cam. And where the rest of us will end up. As wave upon wave of these cams start to hit the market.
There is also the Fuji-Panasonic and other organic sensor projects.
And sooner or later we’ll have sensors based on quantum dots. (Or is that what the individual photon detection is about?
Plus what’s still behind closed doors.
( There is room for big money here, just consider the savings in telescope time astronomy can make with a more sensitive sensor technology – although they need somewhat different specs than us ‘togs do.)
So we have a race for who’s first with a practical alternative with big enough advantages over CMOS, for large sensors (or small, or possibly both).
And a race for which technology makes production of larger sensors with a significantly smaller discard rate possible.
Kristian, I didn’t understand your last paragraph – do you mean large sensors at the moment have a “higher” discard rate than small sensors? I would have expected people (eg Pascal & Ming Thein) using larger ones (‘blads, Fuji GFX, Pentax 645Z, PhaseOne, Lomography, whatever) are likely to be people who have a lower discard rate.
The single photon sensor intrigues me – I’d love to see it, but I imagine I’ll be dead long before it hits the marketplace. Who knows? – the inventor (Eric Fossum) has already said it is unlikely ever to find its way into cameras, but things change. Rapidly, in this high tech area.
Sorry for being unclear and for the late answer,
I meant the rate of discarding sensors during manufacture, which is rumoured to have decreased but is still said to be significantly larger for large sensors.
Pascal that is not the video, I meant the “Lets shoot” series that starts with this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coDyhM1i8tg
That video is in the same play list and also quite interesting, it has a happy ending because the best image wins in the end.
By the way did you have to wait till you got a new cat before you were allowed to get the X1D? 😉
So the Hasselblad X1D. Well congratulations on the acquisition, I am looking forward to hear more (and see more)
about your experiences with this camera.
Hi Joakim, it’s just a loan from Hasselblad 😉 But I’ll publish a report sometime next weel. Cheers, Pascal