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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