The Hasselblad X1D – First Take

The Hasselblad X1D – First Take

I am often accused of taking photography seriously. It’s absolutely true! For me, photography is my entire life. It embodies my personality, the way I see, feel and function. It is my way of having a conversation with the world. I view it as a serious craft, which requires complete dedication or as Burk Uzzle put it,“Photography is a love affair with life.”Yes, I am having an affair.

Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I write a review of any camera, I take it seriously and I take it very personally. Such a review is an absolutely biased and unhinged view of the tool. Some cameras and my seeing click right away, others remain foreign or even unpleasant despite my good intentions to make it work. One example is the GR-line. Many of my friends cherish this camera as one of the best they have ever shot with. We somehow never connected. There is no connection.

Any first impressions or full reviews are always a sort of diary of my encounters with a specific camera. I am not overly technical as a photographer so I don’t spend much time obsessing about technical specifications – in fact I don’t have much interest in such debates. I take a camera and start feeling, connecting, framing, composing. It works or it doesn’t. It’s that simple.

There is one more thing. I am not a brand ambassador of any manufacturer or have any contracts with anyone. I am 100% independent and everything I write is exactly what I think. I respect companies that send me gear for a review without any preconceived conditions. It shows that they believe in their product. I simply don’t work for those who would like to put any restraints on me.

Let’s get to the Hasselblad X1D.

It is one of those cameras when our first encounter went extremely well. The very moment I grabbed the X1D, even before I put the batteries in, it felt good.

First, I was surprised by the size of this camera. The lightning-fast thought went through my head: “Is it really medium format?” It is similar in size to the Leica M10 or Fujifilm X-Pro2 but with a beautifully shaped grip. In fact, the grip is so well designed that I took off the always-annoying strap and held the camera in my hand.

After shooting for months with the GFX50S, I had to find my smaller camera bag to carry the X1D and I loved it. It was like carrying an APS-C-sized camera but it is medium format!

Another pleasant surprise was the battery compartment – there are no plasticky and flimsy doors – you just insert the battery and it clicks into place. There is no way for it to fall out by chance. Then, if you need to change it, just pull a lever and it retracts. Push it slightly, and you’re done. I really admire such thoughtful design. 

 

Before I headed out on the streets of Vancouver, I had to set up the camera. As with every new tool I had to be open-minded. Sometimes we get so used to the way we do things that we automatically refuse different solutions. Having said that, my first slight annoyance came from the lack of an aperture ring on the lens. I knew right away I would miss this feature. Then I dived into the menu system but this time I got a pleasant surprise. The menu appears to be simple and intuitive. For example, to format the memory card you tap “storage” on the touch screen and the first thing you see are two cards represented by two stretched out rectangles. The arrow points to the associated physical button on the right to perform the actual formatting. Simple and to-the-point.

As I was setting up the camera, I noticed that all I needed was there but more importantly, all the other stuff that I never use or need is notthere. This is very important. As technology develops and new functions are added to please the always hungry-for-more high-tech crowds, the number of options are ballooning to truly staggering numbers. No wonder some cameras have a 300-page manual! Come on, I’m a photographer! I just want to take an image.

After the setup, I went out to shoot. As mentioned earlier I already liked the reduced weight and size of my equipment. For the first few minutes, I was confused about whether I had my X-Pro2 or the Hasselblad medium format with me. Yes, the camera is that small.

Then I started shooting. Immediately, warnings from my photographic peers popped into my head. The “come on, this camera is so slow” was the most common one. Slow!? Well, if you don’t tell anyone, I will make a confession: I actually like slow cameras. I remember when the original X100 came out everyone complained how slow everything was. It was never slow in my opinion. I have to admit that I am very slow photographer – in fact much slower than most of the cameras out there. Yes, you press the “On” button and it takes a moment for the camera to start. What the beef is all that about? I am not photographing Formula One races or waking up in the middle of the night with a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture an alien spaceship flying over my house. That’s not the way I work. You might call me the slowest street photographer in the world.  

Then, I was ready to craft some imagery. When I test cameras I never shoot so-called test shoots such as benches, telephone poles or people sitting in the park. I approach the session the same way I would for a serious day of photography in the field. The reason I do that is because I want to see how the new tool fits my way of seeing and crafting real-life imagery.

 

So here we go. I took the first few images. Then another warning from my friends came to the fore: “You will hate the blackout.” At this point I felt quite ashamed. What am I going to say? If I tell everybody that I actually like this blackout time I will be in serious trouble. Olaf goes berserk? My answer – a long time ago! Yes, I do like this blackout time – a lot. As I mentioned earlier, I take photography seriously and there is a strong philosophical component to it. I am not going to even try to explain this phenomenon. When I am working, after long and deliberate framing considerations, I finally press the shutter button. I hear the sound and my viewfinder blacks out for a moment. For me it is the culmination of the extensive process of crafting an image – the great finale if you will. I sometimes close my eyes and take a deep breath. This is the moment to hold, cherish and celebrate. The pause the X1D delivers is part of the process, not a distraction.

As I started shooting, the fluidity of this process was superb. Once everything was set up I focused on observing, seeing and framing. It was a ruthless visual execution. With Auto ISO and in Aperture Priority Mode, I mostly played with exposure compensation assigned to my rear scroll wheel.

That’s exactly the point. The light, portable, fluid camera got out of the way very quickly and allowed me to do my seeing. On the first two days, I took the images presented below.

Regarding the image quality – as someone who has been shooting with the GFX50S, which uses the same sensor, quality is absolutely stunning.

There will be a full review of the X1D coming to the Medium Format Magazine, including more imagery, in-depth analysis of my whole experience and everything I like and dislike about this camera. I will also share with you who I think would enjoy this camera the most. Would I want to own one? Stay tuned! I might also have an opportunity to shoot with the brand new GFX50R, which would be very fitting.

In the meantime, enjoy the imagery and let me know your personal experiences with this camera.

 

2018 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

It is finally happening!

It is finally happening!

It is finally happening. The Medium Format platform and the accompanying Medium Format Magazine are here!

It was only two years ago that digital medium format photography was the privilege of a very few mostly commercial and fashion photographers who could justify spending the equivalent of a new car to purchase a medium format system.

All those years, most of us could only admire, lust and dream. Whether we admit it or not, the appeal of digital medium format was always there. Now, this fantasy is rapidly changing to reality. The spectral hand of innovation and competition has brought us brand-new medium format tools. In fact, we have reached the point when many of us could sell our collection of lenses and cameras and enter this no longer exclusive world of digital medium format photography.

When I made my own entrance to this exciting new world, one thing struck me right away. I felt lost and deluded. Other than a few occasional articles about digital medium format photography, I couldn’t find any place on the internet or elsewhere which would guide me in those crucial first steps. I needed a place to call home, where I could find like-minded individuals for whom the craft of seeing was no longer just a hobby. Furthermore, the availability of materials to navigate these exciting but very different waters were scarce or non-existent.

I soon found that I wasn’t alone in this search for knowledge, inspiration and companionship. Whether we are seasoned pros, advanced amateurs or beginners, learning about the precision and craftsmanship that medium format demands is something that bonds us together.

This union prompted me to create a new home for medium format photographers like you and me. We knew from the start that the only right name for this new home must be MediumFormat.com. Then the idea of the Medium Format Magazine followed, sort of naturally, not out of necessity but rather as the side-effect of my passion for visuals and words.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. As I talked to numerous industry leaders, writers and photographers the idea became clearer: a clean website with high-quality, curated and exclusive content from the best medium photographers in the world.

At a glance, you notice that there is free content on the website grouped in three sections: NEWS, GEAR and VISION. As we progress, you will find something new, informative and inspiring every week.

However, if you decide to go deeper into the world of medium format photography I urge you to join us and become a member. You will find truly unique and exclusive content. At the centre of this membership community is the monthly Medium Format Magazine. This is not just another online magazine. From the start, we wanted to create a premium publication with exclusive content presented in a clean, beautifully designed format without the clutter of ads and sales pitches.

We also offer our members live and immersive webinars by the best medium format photographers in the world. Already, the first webinar is scheduled for October 20th with Ming Thein.

Then there are the education and inspirational publications, written for and accessed exclusively by the members of our platform, centred on digital medium format photography.

This is just the beginning.

My team and I are looking forward to your feedback, thoughts and suggestions. How can we make this new home for medium format photography welcoming, informative, inspiring, interesting and alive? We will be reading all your emails and considering seriously every suggestion. In fact, if you would like to contribute to the magazine or the website please don’t hesitate to contact us. Let’s build this new world of medium format photography together. Thank you for visiting and I hope you will join our community. Please make sure to leave us your email address so we can stay in touch.

Have great light and seeing,

Yours truly,

Olaf, editor-in-chief

50 Shades of MF

50 Shades of MF

Gear-related discussions are everywhere. They usually take the form of Camera A vs. Camera B. In recent weeks, with the announcement of some new medium format cameras, the debate turned into APS-C vs. Full Frame vs. Medium Format. When I started shooting with medium format cameras, I quickly realized that framing this discussion in terms of “versus” is a major mischaracterisation of the subject and most of the time leads to fallacious conclusions. I believe that the right way to approach this subject is with the word DIFFERENT. Medium Format is a tool which clearly differs from the APS-C and Full Frame tools. As such, it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

For me personally, one key advantage is something that’s difficult to describe especially in an era when your work is artificially compressed to fit the technical requirements of a social media frame.

Here is what is the most appealing to me when working with medium format. I can capture and depict light in multiple dimensions and with variety, which I was not able to do with my other cameras. A new, sort of grey area has appeared – 50 shades of it! Yes, this is the visual sphere which the cellphone crowd will not give a damn about but I do! I call them transition strokes when light changes, bends and submerges into coexisting elements in the image. In most cameras, this metamorphosis is rather abrupt and loud. In the medium-format camera, it takes the form of “melting” (I stole this word from Patrick La Roque :)) as if there was no border – no beginning or end. Your eyes wander without interruption between shadows and highlights. The light becomes liquid and perpetually spills over. This allows the photographer to blend light and shadow in a way that was not possible before. It reminds me of recording and listening to music.

There are musicians who can compose music in so many dimensions that the sound transcends the instruments. These recordings carry a spectrum of sounds such as background noises or even the singers’ breathing that elevate the listening experience quite dramatically.

In this month’s Medium Format Magazine our contributors present their views on the subject “Why Medium Format?” Each editorial presents unique and thought-provoking arguments in the use of medium format. What are your thoughts?   

Interview: Fujiguy Billy Luong

Interview: Fujiguy Billy Luong

Following the successful 2018 Photokina, there is no question that Fujifilm is not holding anything back in the medium format market. With three major medium format cameras: GFX50S, the most recent GFX50R and the upcoming GFX100, the company is quickly becoming a big player in the segment. This decisive move is especially compelling, as most other major brands have decided to pursue the full frame market.

We wanted to find out more about the thinking behind this interesting move, the development of the G-sensor cameras, and get to know Billy – one of the most recognizable faces of Fujifilm.

Below please find an excerpt from an exclusive interview for the first issue of the Medium Format Magazine.

Is there a separate team at Fujifilm working on medium format versus the standard X series when it comes to design technology and things like that? Are these two separate teams or are you together on both systems?

The development of each new product is always led by a senior marketing product planning person and each has a role in the development of that product and line-up. Let’s say we would have someone assigned to the X100 series and we might have a different product planner assigned to the GFX system. Although the teams work together, the overseeing is generally done by one product planner. As the product becomes more important or/and has more technical challenges, the more senior product planner is assigned to the project. But in general a senior manager oversees the line-up both for the X series and GFX.

It appears that the original GFX was aimed at commercial, fashion and landscape photographers. Were you surprised that so many serious amateurs bought the system? And what was the biggest surprise for Fujifilm in terms of the adoption of this camera?

When we developed the GFX50S we started with a small group of professional photographers around the world that specialize in this format. We worked with fashion, portrait, landscape, street and studio photographers. The goal of the GFX50S was to develop a system that appealed to a wider audience. Medium format in the past was very niche and expensive but we wanted the system to be used by everyone, so we developed the GFX50S to be more a system-style camera. We wanted to attract not just the traditional medium format users but customers who were completely happy with the DSLR but wanted better image quality, so we developed the GFX50S to be expandable. If you wanted lightweight, you could remove the electronic viewfinder included with the camera. If you wanted to shoot in the studio we offered a tilt adaptor for the GFX50S that allowed you shoot in the traditional way. And we ensured the camera was weather resistant so you could take it out of the studio and shoot in situations where medium format may not have been thought possible. 

We understood who we were appealing to and knew that the biggest growth would be someone coming from DSLR who wanted to improve the quality whether it’s a good dynamic range for landscape or greater resolution and image quality for architectural work. So it was important that the system would appeal to a wide audience.

The GFX50R was designed for something different. We knew the mirrorless medium format was still very important to maximize handling while ensuring that the system was as lightweight as possible and that it was still weather resistant. The GFX50R was targeted to serious photographers as well as enthusiasts who wanted to have the best image quality.

To read the full interview please refer to the October issue of the Medium Format Magazine. You can become a member here.

 

First Impressions: Fujifilm GFX 50R

First Impressions: Fujifilm GFX 50R

The shiny white box was a bit smaller than the original GFX box I remember – and lighter. Inside were the usual bits & pieces including cables, strap, charger and the camera body itself – which was smaller that I imagined! It lacked the bulk of the first GFX. Indeed, in my hand, it was a perfect fit! 

After testing the pre-production model of the X-Pro2 for months and now owning two of them, I am very familiar with their look and feel. So when I held the GFX 50F for the first time, there was an instant familiarity – this new GFX has the same look and feel as the X-Pro2, only a little larger.

The back of the camera is pretty similar to what we are used to with Fujifilm cameras with the exception of the absence of the circular function/selector buttons. This reduces the buttons to only a few – still within easy reach of my thumb and my muscle-memory. 

The 51.4 MP sensor is the same as its predecessor so I knew the files would be large, highly detailed and with a beautifully wide dynamic range. The earlier GFX lenses are also designed to be used with this camera. Working on GFX files is a joy – so much sharpness and detail. If you need to retouch any images, then there is a ton of information with which to work.

As for actually going out and using the GFX 50R, it is less bulky and more discrete – no larger than your average DSLR. You can certainly use it for street photography without feeling like you are lugging something obtrusive around. I did not have the new 40mm pancake lens at the time of testing, so I can only imagine that that would be a perfect lens for street photography making the camera even smaller and lighter.

Being mirrorless, it is quiet, save for the soft sound of the shutter. When shooting in quiet situations, you won’t give yourself away like you would shooting a DSLR. Together with the understated styling and quiet operation, it is a great combination when you want to shoot indoors at a wedding ceremony or other occasion where discretion is required!

Wandering about at 2:30 am in a farm field with only a sliver of moonlight, the GFX is easy to operate in the dark with only a few buttons to feel for. Once my 2-minute exposure was dialled in, it was pretty quick to set up, level off and shoot others before moving on, flashlight in hand, to compose many scenes under the stars.

Returning to Toronto in the early morning, hunting for shadows and little pockets of light, the GFX was light enough to easily hold up to my eye and remain there until a cyclist or pedestrian passed through the scene. Being discrete the camera looks to the average passerby to be nothing special – this is one of its greatest features – that it looks plain and not very “shouty” like a busy DSLR which may draw attention to itself.

Over the years, I have photographed in areas where larger cameras often drew unwanted attention – so having a small black box with few features is perfect for me. People won’t notice it – and that’s a good thing in my opinion. What they also won’t see are the large and beautiful images that this camera creates.

I am not sure how much this camera will cost in stores, but I know it will be priced less than the first GFX due to some of the refinements and new styling. This will put a medium format camera in the hands of a lot more people who will appreciate the larger files for creating highly detailed and rich prints for commercial and other client work where large files are needed and when enlargements will be printed.

The big question for me after spending a bit of time with the new GFX is, will I purchase one? An unquestioningly, hell yes! The look, feel, ease of operation and of course, the files all come together to make a camera that ergonomically fits both my hand and the way I shoot.

Sunrise at the Green Monster lift bridge in toronto. EXIF: FUJIFILM GFX 50R; GF32-64mm; 36.20mm; F/5.0; 1/500 sec; ISO 500

You will find an in-depth review of the GFX50R by Spencer Wynn in the first issue of the Medium Format Magazine. Also, make sure to check out Spencer Wynn’s work at https://www.spencerwynn.com