There’s a new kid on my block. It’s black, it’s Swedish and it scares the poop out of me.
After many months of pining and making co-author Philippe’s life misreable with my constant grumbling about my A7r2’s colours, it was time to man up and put my dollars where my mouth is. Now that I have, I’m about to make Philippe’s life miserable with constant worrying instead. Let me explain.
Black to the future.
The first part’s easy. I was really lucky to find a used X1D in black, my favourite colour for it. It looks purposeful but discrete. The dark finish removes all bling from the camera (not that the silver version is blingy or ugly, it’s gorgeous and modern, but I like it even more in black). This is what the camera looks like. Is that stealthy or what ? That explains the black.
So, why back to the future and why the worry?
For one thing, this camera is a retro tradeoff. It gives me a slightly larger excellent sensor, better calibration, leaf shutters that distribute wear over many lenses and – in theory – make it better with flash, build quality that qualifies as class-4 weaponry, often nicer accoustics, a prefered (by me) , more relaxed, 4:3 aspect ratio and a menu system that – shock – is actually pleasant to delve in to (except you rarely have to).
Oh, and very high resolution lenses.
What I lose is equally substantial. First, enough money to eat for a century. Then, some extra weight (a gain, but a loss, you get my reasoning), IBIS, 2 stops of highest shutter speed (1/2000s instead of 1/8000s), fast AF, battery life, CaptureOne (which, in spite of being fussy to use delivers extarodinary results).
Oh, and very high resolution lenses.
The lenses and the PP process explain the worry.
In the left corner, the Hasselblad XCD range. Very stylishly designed, AF, very neutral, incorporating a leaf shutter (in various stages of quieteness), and crazy sharp. Here are the MTF curves for the XCD 3.5/45 lens, the cheapest in the lineup.
As you can see, it’s just as good wide open as shut down. That’s a range you can safely call future proof.
The tiniest details in an image are at the limit of visibility when their contrast is more than about 3-5%. And Rayleigh’s diffraction limited criterion places a stricter cutoff at 9%.
It’s easy to see you can probably squeeze two more sets of lines on that graph (80 lp/mm & 160 lp/mm), below the 40 lp/mm one and above the 5-9% mark, even accounting for exponential deterioration. So you can expect this lens to resolve 300 pixels/mm. On a 44mmx33mm sensor, that’s a resolution of 13200 x 9900, ie 130Mpix. Add a bit to take Bayer loss into account and those lenses will be just fine with a 150 megapixel sensor (although the user’d better have a steady hand. Forget sex and drugs and rock’n’roll).
Distortion figures are mostly excellent. And in-camera aberration control (of which a surprising amount is done) ensure image quality from the lenses is absolutely top notch. Particularly from a big-pixel, laid-back 50Mp sensor.
In the right corner stand Audrey (Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZM) and Hubert (Zeiss Otus 1.4/85). In my mind, Audrey is the best lens money can buy. Bar none. I’ve yet to find a person, landscape or other scene that lens didn’t make more beautiful (to be fair, I don’t photograph politicians). It’s responsible for 90% of my photographs and those you find in my articles on DearSusan. As for the Otus 85 … well, it’s also the best lens money can buy. But it takes a lot more money and a lot more strength to wield. Still, though, a killer lens.
Both of these make a photograph come alive in a way that’s not the same with the XCD lenses (so far). The thought of losing these two has given me enough arguments to resist the pull of the X1D for months (that, and the sordid need to eat).
It turns out, though, that adapters exist that will let me use Hubert (Otus 85) and other lenses with enough coverage, on the X1D. Now, the Distagon 1.4/35 ZM doesn’t cover the sensor area, so Audrey is lost. But the Otus 85 does, and very brilliantly so. Hubert lives. Now, the camera turned up less than a day ago. All I have to offer are photos of the garden … But, nonetheless, the Otus 85 on the X1D (actually a multiple frame shot, as the crooked roof rudely reveals so alliteratively) truly rocks:
So … it’s not all bad. The XCD 45 is turning out to be a very elegant performer and the Otus is there for those rare moments when dreaminess becomes compulsory.
Which mainly leaves post-processing as a source of worry (mainly, because reliability is also constantly at the back of my mind …) CaptureOne, for all its clunkiness, delivers excellent results. Particularly in B&W, which has become my goto mode of expression over the years. Lightroom doesn’t come close with Sony files (not last time I checked, anyway).
The situation is different with X1D files. Phocus, Hasselblad’s official PP software is pleasant, easy to use and efficient. But sorely lacks in monochrome options. However, LightRoom does a good job with those.
Still, though, so far, with different lenses and a different PP process, I’m finding it difficult to get results that really feel like home. There’s some slight nervousness and slight lack of subtlety that still maintains that little flame of worry alive in my solar plexus. First world problems, right?
So what’s next?
A bit of traveling lined up for next week will allow me to get to know the camera more and test the lenses in various conditions. Of course, I’ll be reviewing everything here. My native lenses, my adapted lenses (remember those old Leica R gems ?) and – hopefully – more XCD lenses that Hasselblad might be kind enough to lend me.
As mentioned in the previous post, there will be a lot of frantic selling going on as I try to run faster than the bank manager. My Sony A7r2, possibly (and regretfully) my C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM (if it doesn’t cover the sensor), 2 Leica R lenses, my Elmarit-M 90/2.8, my Distagon 2/25, HiFi amplifiers, my children, the kitchen sink.
Right now, here’s me in that weird state of jubilatory stress. I’ve temporarily named the camera Mjollnir, after Thor’s hammer of immense power but that very few can wield. I’ll keep a log of how this relationship evolves. But how do you find the photographs so far? Cheers!
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