#769. Monday Post (17 Sept 2018) Of landscape photographers but landmark cameras. Why the Hasselblad X1D is a landmark camera!

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Sep 17

There are good cameras, there are remarkable cameras, and there are landmark cameras. For example, the Nikon D850 does everything very well indeed, at levels unthinkable just a couple of years ago. It is a remarkable camera, as DS contributor Dallas can attest to. That said, it is not a landmark camera, in the sense that there is no « before D850 » and « after D850 ».



In recent years (maturing digital technology), landmark cameras start with the Canon 5D. Full-frame, lottsa pixels (12Mp), a good, solid DSLR. It redefined prosumer cameras.

The Canon 5D II was another landmark camera. Not because it had even more pixels, better high-ISO performance, etc., which it did, but because it was the first good stills-cum-video camera. Again it redefined the prosumer camera. Proof of that is that all other brands are now walking in the 5D’s footsteps, such as the Canon 5Dx, Nikon D8x0, or the Pentax K1.



Another landmark camera was the original NEX 3/5. It combined what compact cameras offered (EVF, always-on LiveView, small size) with the capability of a « serious cameras » (APS-C sensor). It innovated in combining large sensor and small body size, and, with its very short flange distance, it allowed many non-native lenses to be adapted on it.

That same recipe was then applied by Sony to a FF sensor, and gave the A7x family. A very significant market success, and a family or remarkable cameras, of which the original tandem, A7/A7R can be called landmark cameras. Again proof of that is that Canon and Nikon (and, it seems, very soon Panasonic as well) are shooting for exactly the same target as the Sony A7x, and with the same weapons, too. The convergence of mirrorless FF cameras around the original Sony spec is very similar to the convergence of the prosumer DSLR along Canon lines.

I contend that the Hassy XID is no less significant a camera, even if it serves a smaller market segment.

Prior to the Hassy, the « luxo » segment knows 3 product groups.

  • the Canon 1Dx and Nikon Dx, large, überfast DSLRs, almost exclusively pro cameras, with very high ISO capability but low-ish resolution.
  • the Pentax 645x and Fuji GFX, offering smaller medium-format sensors for about the same money as the group above, also DSLRs on steroids, but designed with high-resolution and image quality in mind rather than pro use
  • the Leica M and SL. One rangefinder and one mirrorless camera, neither sporting performance metrics that justify hefty price tags. On the other hand they offer brand image, exclusivity, manufacturing quality, and a shooting experience, as well as access to superb glass at superb prices, that « do it » for Leicaphiles.

At this stage, a short digression is appropriate. Of all cameras mentioned above, the Leica M stands out as the only one to forsake autofocus in favor if its rangefinder (manual) focusing system. But mirrorless cameras make it much easier to focus manually, thanks to in-viewfinder magnification. The increasing age of customers in the prosumer and luxo segments means that un-magnified manual focusing is getting harder. Hence Leica’s move to AF with the SL at the same time as Zeiss’ first AF glass, the Batis range.



So, with this competitive landscape, what does the Hassy X1D offer that makes it a landmark camera ? Simply, it combines the winning formula of the Sony NEX and Alpha series (large sensor relative to compact camera body) in the medium format segment, and the winning formula of the Pentax 645x and Fuji Gfx (medium-format high-resolution, high IQ), and Leica M and SL (brand image, exclusivity, manufacturing quality, shooting experience). And it adds of its own: brilliant design, superb user interface with touch screen.

In other words, the Hasselblad XID takes the recipe of the most successful « new » family of cameras, and adds the best of Leica, and then some other goodies of its own (though not innovative per se).



Quite simply, it is no longer possible to offer less in the segment, else why not get a Hassy. Why compromise on resolution, like the Leicas ? To get a glamorous, storied brand ? Hasselblad offers that as well. Why be stuck on old-world camera design like the Pentax and Fuji ? To get superior, MF IQ ? The X1D has that as well. And so on.

So, while it does not offer by itself a single innovation, the bringing together of all the best features that the others have to offer does make it a landmark camera in my opinion. Quite frankly, Leica should consider themselves hugely lucky that the too-early-to-be-ready release of the Hassy has led to a rocky start. Because now I wonder what Leica stores can say in favor of a SL Vs. a X1D. Final proof that the Hasselblad X1-D will go down as a landmark camera is that Fuji will release very shortly the GFX 50R (if rumours are to be believed). Which incorporates the same Sony 50Mp sensor in a small camera form factor relative to sensor size, in full mirrorless implementation. And, because Hassy are hard to beat on performance and shooting experience with the X1-D, with a very low price tag for medium format. Beware, Pentax!



And all of this without taking into account a single one of the considerations that made Pascal fall in love with the Hassy. Just sayin’…


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  • Dallas says:

    Excellent article Philippe, I agree totally the 8*0 series cameras were not groundbreaking even though I have owned all 3 models. I’ve been very happy with them all, the 850 is a huge step forward from the 800.

    MF some of the net say will take over the DSLR, lets wait and see. The Hassy has appeal, but at what cost other than money of course.

  • David Mack says:

    Good Morning;

    Thank you for the reassurance of owning my D850. I just reviewed DP comments and comparisons to Fuji MF, D850 and the X1D and for the quality of my photography, lack of audience, target demographic, and constant pursuit of improved IQ with hard work, practice and classes; its still not worth the price. All of the gadgets on the common market product are really useful and offer a wide variety of uses for us mere mortals that do this for a hobby and occasional sale. For that price, I want to be able to shoot most anything except sports and fast action wildlife. I’ll wait for a few more renditions before I fully deplete my children’s inheritance. LOL. Not to mention, how does that quality transfer to print? That 850 looks pretty good right about now.

    David Mack

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Pardon my curiosity, Philippe – are you trying to wind Pascal up? – sneak up behind him, while he’s tempted, and push? 🙂

    MF is wunderkind, but it comes down to “horses for courses” in the end. I’d love to have the Hassy – and one of those Foveon things Sigma makes – and maybe change from the D7200 to a D500. Oh – and of course it’s now mandatory to have a mirrorless. But it won’t happen because I can’t afford it, and even if I could, I don’t know where I’d put them all.

    But I do use the junk I have – and instead of having attacks of GAS, I aim for attacks of creativity. If I don’t have “the” gear for what I’m doing, I try to work my way around that, with the gear I have, instead. And the curious thing is this – it’s very satisfying. Probably far more so, than an attack of GAS and an empty bank account.

    • NMc says:

      Come on Pete get with the programme!

      Pascal’s GAS is having a long slumber far away in a remote tower guarded by a dragon.

      Meanwhile he is testing his levels of printing satisfaction for the spiritual and moral awakening this can bring him. The only thing that will change this situation is a great review of a mysterious rumoured mythical Zeiss camera, if that happens then the guard dragon is mincemeat. 😉 Regards Noel

      • pascaljappy says:

        Oy you !

        I am awakened enough to attain perfect print clarity, even using files from the MZC (mythical Zeiss camera). The sound of perfection is the brr brr of a P800 printhead.

  • NMc says:

    Interesting theory, but we have to wait for a new generation of FF mirrorless to see if it is a landmark camera by what gets emulated.

    It is all above my pay grade, but from what I have read the Leica Q maybe the landmark camera. It introduced a well implemented modern digital user interface to high end camera, rather than the somewhat archaic patched up digital interface from your first digital alarm clock, with vestigial film era controls floating a haptic purgatory.
    Regards Noel

    • pascaljappy says:

      Please, pleaaaaase, tell me you’re not talking about the X1D. You can’t break my heart twice on the same day. Even my A7r never managed that 😀

      • NMc says:

        Pascale, I am talking about what should already be in the existing digital cameras that I can afford; up to date interfaces. No hurt feeling allowed.

        In many ways the cheaper cameras have no excuse because they are all already highly iterated control schemes that are aimed at less experienced users. The low turnover specialist cameras from non-electronics companies seemed to have put the big boys from consumer electronics companies to shame. Anyway maybe Ricoh will come up with a lust worthy object for me, if they are still in the game?

        • pascaljappy says:

          Just kidding, Noel (as I was in my reply to your hilarious other comment).

          It completely baffles me that mainstream manufacturers aren’t borrowing more UI hints from the indutry that is taking over their market at such an alarming rate: smartphones. Honestly, watching the photo industry is like reading a Dilbert comic. And you’re right, the best hope we have is in the lower volume companies such as Hassy (one of the reasons for my pining over the X1D is its far more intuitive UI) and Ricoh. I do hope both stay in the game for a long time, although it seems harder every day …

  • André says:

    In summer I took the X1D for a spin, a neck-to-neck shooting with my mate’s H-system Hassy. I liked the X1D for its menu system and image quality. The manual focus was fine and accurate as well. What I was sorely missing was a cable release. The remote app on the iPhone is not a serious alternative (numb fingers in cold weather…). The X1D needs a cable release!

  • Peter says:

    I have the X1D, the Leica Q, and am about to pick up the Leica SL for the second time (I had and sold one last year – the huge and heavy zooms did not appeal to me that much). The X1D is fantastic for the reasons you mention, but it is slow, and my fantastic M lenses don’t work that well with it using an adapter (the edges are smeary and the electronic shutter on the X1D is slow and produces rolling shutter effects sometimes). I just traded some stuff for someone’s used SL so I can get the most out of my M lenses, PLUS I can pick up some AF lenses if I want to, including other manufacturers lenses like Canon, etc. using an adapter. Moreover, with the new L alliance, I expect to see Panasonic and Sigma AF glass coming for the L mount soon. That has a big appeal to me. The X1D, SL and Q all have brilliant designs and are simple and pleasurable to use.

    I still will use the X1D as often as I can since I love it, but the SL will provide the ability to use my Summiluxes to their best in very low light or when I want that particular look, plus I can have much faster operation and much faster AF when I get AF lenses for it. But the X1D files are the best I have ever seen come out of a digital camera.

    So to me the SL will be a complementary system to the X1D.

    • philberphoto says:

      Peter, Most prosumer (in actual fact, GAS-heavy amateurs, in the XIXth century sense of the word) ‘togs are now headed for 2 systems, or are there already, except you, who have 3!. The very weaknesses of the X1D which you mention make that almost mandatory. Thhis, in my opinion, does not mean it is not a landmark camera. Yesterday there was a “leak” by a pro using the Zeiss ZX1, and what does he compare it to? The X1D.
      That said, the Fuji GFX 50R and its super aggressive pricing, including in bundles with lenses, presents a serious commercial challenge for Hasselblad, even though it is quite a different sort of camera which happens to use the qame sensor. Hopefully, and maybe thanks to its DJI hookup, Hasselblad can fight back, and more of us can enjoy the greatness of its files which you extol.

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