#1227. My thoughts on the Hasselblad X2D

By pascaljappy | Review

Sep 07

Is it a dream come true, or just another boring camera in a string of boring quantitatively-designed cameras in a suuuuper boring quantitative-driven market?

Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

This, above, is how a camera should be judged. Can it help a photographer produce good images? Images that the author feels proud of. All the rest, at least for amateurs, is blah blah blah.

So where does the Hasselblad X2D stand, compared to the X1D? Is buying it going to make my images better? Is the user experience going to be more inspiring and pleasant? Is it going to expand my shooting envelope? Or is it just going to cost me more in purchase, memory and processing power ?

It’s early days, yet. And I still don’t know what to think of this launch. So to help potential buyers, and myself, largely myself ๐Ÿ˜‰ , better make a decision here is a list of features with commentary and one of the following 3 ratings : BRILLIANT, OK, and GET A LIFE.

 
Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

OK, the 100Mp elephant in the room. My initial gut feeling is most certainly GET A LIFE. All those people getting excited about the 100Mp really need to give me a use case. Just one. Anyone who’s seen an X1D file at 100% knows that the one thing this camera doesn’t need, it’s more resolution. Those files, at 200% are sharper than anything else I’ve used at 100%. More resolution is just more energy, storage … totally wasted.

But …

The camera comes with new features, including IBIS, that might have been available only with this sensor. And maybe, just maybe, in this ridiculous market, maybe Hassy needed a 100Mp camera to survive. So, although I see no use for it and many drawbacks, I’ll give the new resolution an OK.

Also, a rumour stated an average file size of 206Mb, which is more than double the average file size of the X1D, at double the resolution. What’s going on here? If there are image quality improvements with the quantity increase, that could be great news. I don’t expect Hassy to be sending me a review sample, particularly as I don’t intend on asking for one after my rather lackluster exchanges with the new PR team (I used to have a great relationship with the previous team). So, confirmation will have to come from outside and possibly a rental. Moving on.

 
Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

5-Axis 7-Stop In-Body Image Stabilisation. My understanding of IBIS was that smaller sensors are easier to stabilize. Someone at Hassy disagrees and has produced many quantum leaps in technology. My X1D is a supremely stable camera. Its grip is fanstastic and the body is heavy. So I can routinely hand hold 2/f shots, sometimes more, if my last G&T was a long time ago. IBIS was never one of my priorities for upgrading. But if it’s there and it works as advertised, that’s amazing. That would bring me to 2^7 x 2/f. So, essentially 1 second exposures with a 250mm lens. Ummm … okay. Given the creative avenues this opens up, I’ll give this a tentative BRILLIANT, with a pinch of wait and see.

Phase Detection Autofocus. Technically, I don’t know, or care, what that means. The current AF is slow and noisy. But dead accurate. If the new one is as accurate and faster, cool. I mean, everyone is in such a hurry, these days. How about a quicky, darling, is the name of the game in photography today. Everything has to go fast. I don’t care for it, but it doesn’t bother me. Let’s rate that OK, with a hint of brilliance, given it can help grab different types of images.

1Tb Built-In SSD. To the best of my knowledge, Pixii and Zeiss (ZX1) were the first to offer this. And not one part of this isn’t BRILLIANT. No cards, baby. Game changing simplification of process.

 
Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

16-bit colour, 15-bit dynamic range. Native ISO of 64. All three excellent claims. For now, I’ll stick to OK, because it is so easy to promise and under-deliver in those departments. We’ve seen it over and over again (though not with Hasselblad). But, if true, that alone is worth the price of admission for me.

Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution. I don’t know what that means. Colours, and highlight transitions on the X1D are very good, though not great. If this has been improved in any meaningful way, then defo BRILLIANT. If this is just words on a page, well … Again, only comparisons and possibly a rental will tell me.

Touch Tilt display. I’m not the target audience for this, but it’s still a BRILLIANT addition.

 
Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

More pixels in the EVF and rear screen. OK. Why not? I’d much rather keep the old ones and pay less for the camera. Ditto blackout time. Plenty of people who have never used the camera complain about its blackout time. I don’t ever realize it’s there. Who the heck cares about blackout time? This ain’t a sports camera. So, OK, though I’d have kept the previous stats and some change, if asked. Globally, GET A LIFE, bordering on OK.

Phocus Mobile 2 & iPhone/iPad tethering. Here again, I smell more than a whiff of Pixiiness ๐Ÿ™‚ Whether the associated app is any good I cannot say. But the camera’s UI is brilliant, so I have no reason to doubt the app’s will be. Fast connect via WiFi or USB-C, easy, efficient, sharing of images. If the promise is met in real-life, that is UTTERLY BRILLIANT.

New lenses. Faster (cool), smaller (okayyy, how?), sharper. Most of those promises are mutually exclusive. So either Hassy has upped the game significantly over the summer or, bold claims? The fact is that current lenses are really good and the company enjoys a stellar reputation with optics. So those new lenses must be something special. The fact that they again have an aperture ring only stabs my heart with the depressing reminder that mine don’t (what what whaaaat were they thinking ????????). But it’s great to see them back. So, globally, a resounding BRILLIANT.

 
Shot on a Hasselblad X1D & XCD 90 lens
 

My initial evaluation of the rumours surrounding this new iteration of Hasselblad’s brilliant X1D concept (a Mamiya 7 for the digital age, ironically enough) weren’t that positive, really. What’s the point of playing catch up with Fuji, 2 or 3 years too late? Why focus on quantitative evolution when that is so obviously throwing the whole industry off a cliff?

Besides, with the launch of the urbanite 907x, I was kind of hoping the X2D would become the outdoorsy cousin, rubberised, with good video and 300 meters of survival rope in the strap (I kid). That’s obviously not the case.

But, the new camera certainly isn’t playing catch up to anyone. It’s bringing a lot of interesting ideas to the world of “medium format”, it looks gorgeous, and it seems set to open up huge swathes of shooting envelope for creatives to explore. I’ve no idea whether I’ll be able to test/review one (though I would love to), let alone afford one (the price is seriously hefty), but I sure wish it lives up to all the bold claims, as this would make for an endgame camera for 99% of photographers. Kudos Hassy!

 

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Serves you right – this is the kind of article I love best!

    Photo ##01 – not the kind of “subject” that would inspire me – but I LOVE the image for its shadows & highlights, contrast, etc. Only after saying “yes yes yes”, and scrolling down, did I find you took it with the X1D, so that appraisal is completely unbiased.

    “This . . . is how a camera should be judged. Can it help a photographer produce good images? Images that the author feels proud of.” I quite agree. It’s not the X1D OR the X2D that takes the photo – it’s the guy holding it – ask Ansell Adams! Confession – my latest camera is Nikon’s Zfc – because it’s quirky. And they don’t seem to be ready yet, to supply me with a Z8II. But boy oh boy, quirky or not, it takes damn good photos! Oops – correction – it enables ME to do that! Or something. Well you started this – you sort it out!

    100MP – not your scene – but that’s no reason to infer it can’t be someone else’s, just because you have what you need. Smacks! Personally – MOST (not all) of the time I’m quite happy with something more like 25MP, but then those shots don’t wind up the size of a double bed sheet. I’d drop “brilliant/ OK/ get a life”, and use “brilliant for some/ irrelevant for others”.

    Image stabilisation – grab it! I loved my Zeiss Contarex because its sheer weight, coupled with a smooth shutter button, gave the stabilisation I needed. Anything that adds to stabilisation is worth grabbing – especially as lenses grow longer – but also with close up work. What the hell’s the point of 100MP or 200MP, if stabilisation is not up to the same standard? We cannot always plug the “beast” onto a tripod!

    Super duper AF. I get more of a buzz out of that on my D500, or the Zfc. When I scale up to FF, it’s usually on a different type of subject, where I’m happy with my Otus lenses and NO AF. I think this one gets chucked in a kind of “lucky dip” basket, where we each choose what works best for us. But in saying that, I have to concede that nobody can choose it, if the desired level of AF isn’t there in the first place.

    1TB built-in SSD. What happens when you fill it? Pull the spare X2D out of your camera bag? Just kidding – you’d never get 5,000 frames in one day’s shooting! But seriously – I do like the security of having 2 cards/dual card slot. I had one RAW card collapse on me, when I was on tour in the south of France, and no chance of getting to a camera shop where I could buy another one, so I limped home on the JPEG card. Apart from that issue – yes, the SSD is BRILLIANT.

    (For anyone who cares, sometimes the JPEG card yields the better image, sometimes it’s the RAW card, mostly they’re an even match.)

    Touch/tilt display – takes a bit of getting used to – but yes, brilliant. Especially now that I’ve passed 80 and no longer like to get down on my knees! But for heaps of other shots.

    More pixels on the EVF and rear screen? Most already have quite enough. I’m more concerned with being able to identify the edge of the image I am going to capture, as distinct from the image on the screen or in the EVF. I like to be QUITE sure I know where those edges are, and don’t find they’ve been chopped off when I start going through the images on the computer.

    New and/or better lenses – agreed.

    Overall – making a good camera better – albeit at a price we can’t all afford is not a “bad idea”. To stick to the terminology used in that classic of English literature, “1066 & All That” – it is a “good idea”. Because cellphones have ripped the guts out of the camera market – and I think quality has to be the way forward. There’s nothing Apple or the others can do, to keep up with MF cameras in this league – any claims that they can or do would have to be prosecuted for “false, deceptive or misleading conduct” in the promotion of their products. And, in the meantime, some of us prefer to have a better result than a cellphone could ever hope to produce.

    • pascaljappy says:

      The worry with IBIS is (1) sloppiness. Without it, you have to be diligent about technique. (2) In early days, it messed up the pixel sharpness of photographs that didn’t require its presence. These days, I’m guessing the technology has matured and, anyway, the Hassy UI is good enough that you can just switch anything on or off in a second.

      100Mp comes with serious issues in post processing power requirements. Anyone buying a camera will want to post process. Well, average Joe’s laptop ain’t gonna cut it. I run a top of the line Macbook Pro with all the new chips, memory, … everything, and that works hard on 50Mp files. So 100Mp really needs a solid use case to pollute our daily lives.

      Hassy didn’t disclose what SSD they are using. But today’s best SSD have a reliability that makes mountains look unstable. Cards are flaky, and many have conked out on me. With a good SSD on board, I would never touch a card again.

      As for GET A LIFE, I stand by my choice, when it comes to such banalities as some people decry online. Really, when a camera is this good, people who whine on about EVF pixel count really need to get a life, I think ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Cheers

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        My experience with EVF isn’t broad. I only have two mirrorless, one Canon Power Shot and the other the Nikon Zfc. They’re scarcely “representative” – but I really don’t like the Canon one, and rarely use it.
        From what little I do know, I think by now you would be absolutely correct. There should be nothing left to complain about, with the current range of EVFs.
        “Each to their own” – but I’d vote with you on 100MP – some would jump at it – I really don’t think it would do much for me, and probably cause more probs than it would solve. Over 100MP, you’re not just going to have probs with the computer – some software programs out there simply will not handle them. I’m not in the business of “name & shame”, but I do have several on this computer right now that simply “fail” with that load – ok to DO the processing, but you cannot – CANNOT! get the programs in question to save your work. And it’s not for lack of grunt on this computer, either!
        Personally – I vary between HF/25MP (roughly) and FF/45MP, and I have no need for the extra. Although I do get jealous when I see your shots with the X1D, Pascal – LOVE the detail in the shadows & highlights!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Thank you, Pete. Like you, I think the ability to retain information in the shadows and in the highlights is faaaar more important than gobs of resolution. But that’s just because we like to make images, not collect bragable gear ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jeffrey Horton says:

    File size increases from not just double the megapixels, but from X1D’s 14 bit files to X2D 16 bit files?

  • John Wilson says:

    The deal breaker for me is the price differential with the GFX system and the greater variety of lenses for the GFX … the new 20-35mm is a killer. It will cost about 35% more to put together a three lens kit than with the GFX. But they are also different in “architecture”. The deciding factor will probably be your style of photography. Were I in the market the GFX would get my money.

    HMMMMM … A GFX100S in IR … HMMMMMM!!! Now there’s a thought.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, the price is steep. Out of reach of many who could benefit from the camera’s qualities, sadly. But it’s also a luxury product, the build is incredible, as is the UI. Just like you, I’m not sure I’d be happy paying those prices for it, but it does have some aces up its sleeve.

      What the GFX brings to the table is superb video and an outdoorsy vibe that is complemented by great zoom lenses. Althoug the video mentions it was created for explorers, I was hoping for more of an exploration orientation.

      It can’t be easy being a manufacturer with everyone bringing his own dreams to the table ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    One of the driving urges I have had in pursuing ever higher pixel counts is, โ€œHow do my lenses perform on a sensor that is double or triple what my M body has?โ€ Unfortunately for me, the answer was; โ€œUnless it is a Leica, the working envelope will not be as big as you hope.โ€ Buying an SL2 has proven to be expensive for me. Not in the price of the body, but with the additional lenses I have been getting to play with. I have decided that the SL cameras may be the closest thing to a full frame universal digital back that we are going to get.

    For you, I would think a question that would slow the urge to buy the new camera is; โ€œDo my lenses perform well enough to support 100mp?โ€ Being Hassleblad lenses I would say yes, as good lenses are always good. Though, the announcement including three new lenses does induce some doubt; even if they are only needed to take advantage of the new AF capability.

    From things I have read around the web, the emergence of 100mp from Hassleblad does not mean you are now under gunned. The image quality difference between 50mp and 100mp is determined by the lens in front of the sensor. A first rate lens on 50mp will outshine a mediocre lens on 100mp. Unfortunately for GFX, there seems to be considerable sample variation in how the lenses perform, so I am not enticed to consider sailing on that ship.

    The one feature that slows my enthusiasm for the X2D is the tilt screen. For me it is not enough. Getting the SL2, which has a fixed rear screen, has really shown me how much I use the tilt/swivel screen on my Panasonic G9. Like Pete, knees inhibit working low and I like to use portrait orientation. So some method to look down on the screen in portrait orientation is a necessity for me. If the SL3 had only this upgrade I would seriously consider trading for it.

    Good luck deciding and have fun when you try one.
    PaulB

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, Paul.

      My objection to more pixels is mostly that the “improvement” isn’t always one from a technical point of view (though, in this case, it does seem like it is) and it comes at a cost. It’s not that I don’t want it. I just need other things far more than the extra pixels. Such as digital that finally learns how to deal with highlights like film did half a century ago ๐Ÿ˜‰

      You know, my guess is this will not come from high-end cameras, but phones and computational photography. However, that is a story for another day.

      Four of my five lenses should do just fine on the new sensor. The 45? I don’t know. Probably closed down a little, but maybe not at ful aperture. The new lenses are smaller, which is harder to design without loosing quality, let alone better quality. My (nearly certain) hunch is that they are here to allow faster AF, not higher quality.

      The fun part about this all is that we each want something different from our camera ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope the SL3 brings you your swivel screen. FOr what I’m looking for, mostly fun and good looking images, I’m about to look elsewhere ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers,
      Pascal

  • Mike Gorski says:

    I really have had to think about the X2D! (I think it should have been called that, the โ€˜X2D!โ€™)

    I have one camera, the X1D II, and one lens, the XCD f2.8 65mm.
    (BTW I love the grip on this camera and its user interface, I doubt the X2D! makes material improvements on those: and theyโ€™re really essential to my enjoyment of photography).

    I shoot 99% of my images from a coracle (a small flat-bottomed boat) on my (usually) not too unforgiving local river. As, when I pick-up the camera I lose control of the boat, I set a shutter speed of 1/320 (summer), 1/400 (winter). Also, as the river is mostly tree-lined – and, at this time of year, the willow-herb and nettles run about 2 meters high – the early morning light down on the water can be a bit patchy: so – certainly for the first couple of hours after sunrise – my ISO tends to hover around 1600.
    Given all that, as far as I can tell the image quality Iโ€™m getting isnโ€™t so bad it needs fixing.
    And even if it did I donโ€™t think 100 megapixels would cut it.
    Plus I am never going to print images on a Big Boy scale.
    Plus IBIS is useless when you arenโ€™t photographing from a fixed point. PD AF too come to think of it.
    Plus the day I forget to put โ€˜film in the cameraโ€™ so to speak is the day I really will have to seek-out some professional advice.
    No, funnily enough what I like about the X2D! are the improvements announced to the viewfinder and display. I think Iโ€™d be much more confident using manual focus with the new spec, and, as the touch-tilt would allow me to balance the camera on my knee, Iโ€™d finally be able to explore the view from just above the water.
    Maybe not at the new price though.
    Maybe.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Mike,

      Unrelated: the way you describe your photography really makes me want to see the resulting images ๐Ÿ˜‰

      You know, I was quick to dismiss the screen qualities. Because they don’t bother me as they are, and I’m so used to them that the limitations go totally unnoticed. But, you’re right, in manual focusing scenarios, the improvements would probably help significantly.

      The faster AF is nice to have, for my type of photos, but accuracy is far more important to me.

      Like you, I’ll let the price sink a little bit before pulling the trigger (if that trigger ever gets pulled, because other options are also worth investigating).

      Cheers, thanks for the interesting comment.

      • Mike Gorski says:

        Hi Pascal
        Because I can’t seem to upload an image for you, here’s the link to my site
        https://www.yellowknee.co.uk
        Thanks for your time, and this interesting site.
        Mike

        • pascaljappy says:

          Thank you, Mike. Those are lovely. We have similar areas in the Camargue, and close to Brittany (Briรจre) that you would enjoy if you come to France, one day. But they are quite difficult to be allowed in. It’s refreshing to see photographs of those places. Cheers

  • Omar says:

    I wonder whether the image quality is substantially (as opposed to just marginally) better compared to the M11’s and I’m not just talking in terms of mpx. Sure, its 100 vs 60, but for me it’s the rendering that I look for, and on that I still find myself drawn to M series glass, especially shot wide open. I’ve shot with both the X1D and the M10 and while the colours and ‘expansive’ rendering of the medium format sensor were great (the image was very detailed, dynamic range was incredible and it appeared to have ‘room’ to breathe), it just felt a little sterile. In contrast, the Summilux rendering (both the 50mm and the 27mm) of scenes especially with people just appeared more organic, more lifelike with more depth. Bokeh was much more appealing as well. Can’t really describe it. Not sure if anybody else has felt that way as well. But yes, the X2D is an intriguing camera and perhaps the new lenses do make a bit of a difference. Still leaning towards an M11, though, and basically for that glass! Thanks for the article!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Omar, I agree entirely with you. At that elevated level of performance, it is entirely a matter of personal preference, particularly in glass. And I wish the market as a whole would understand that, and provide appeal rather than extra performance that noone really needs. Still, the market is dominated by buyers of gear, with actual photographers a small minotirty in that lot. So manufacturers will continue to bore us with more pixels and ISO, I guess.

      The Summilux is a wonderful lens, so elegant and classy. Hasselblad glass is much more objective, and doesn’t add personality to te image. That was my reason for buying it in the first place, so that it would provide a blank canvas for my post processing. But I’m finding myself more attracted to the gorgeous lenses from Zeiss and Leica, lately. The ZM 35/1.4 has long been a favourite of mine, as were the summicron 50, several Elmarits and Summicrons, and the Otus 85 and 25.

      I hope you enjoy whatever you choose ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers.

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