For years medium format cameras were confined to studio spaces with occasional excursions to theme-rich locations. Medium format was a persona non grata in street or travel photography due mostly to its size and slow operation. The problem was partially solved with the release of the original Hasselblad X1D, which was a very portable medium format system. Indeed, the latest iteration of this camera, the X1D II 50C is a very capable, street and travel camera.
In 2018 Fujifilm released the GFX50R. With its rangefinder-style design, the camera could finally be taken out and used on the street. The only missing part was a small, pancake lens which would make the system extremely portable and light. With the release of the GF50mm F3.5 lens R LM WR, Fujifilm finally offered a whole street and travel photography package.
The lens weighs only 11.82oz or as Fujifilm describes it: “less than a can of your favourite soft drink.” So together with the GFX50R, which weights 27.3oz (with one battery and card) it gives you a total of 39.12oz or just above 1kg – not bad at all for an entire medium format system!
Given that this new lens is weather-sealed, the GFX50R plus the GF50 F3.5 R LM WR become the medium format equivalent of the X100 series.
In other words, those who like to travel light and shoot street photography can now grab this new combo and enjoy medium format quality without the usual weight and cumbersome size. Our contributors and I will be testing this lens extensively so stay tuned for our imagery and reviews.
Make sure to check out an excellent review by Jonas Rask here and a great video by Patrick La Roque here.
Fifty years ago, on July 20th at 20:17 UTC American commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong was equipped with a silver Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) paired with a Zeiss Biogon 60mm F/5.6 lens and 70mm film magazine. The second camera, with a Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens, was used to shoot from inside the Eagle module. Michael Collins had the third machine onboard the command module Columbia in lunar orbit. Due to stringent weight requirements, only Michael Collins’ camera returned to earth.
In New York, Medium Format Magazine recently participated in the special event announcing the brand-new modular system comprised of the 907X digital camera and CFV II 50C digital back. The special black edition of those units is the beginning of a major launch of this innovative system rooted in the rich history of the brand.
Key features of the 907X Special Edition include:
Large medium format 50MP CMOS sensor
Up to 14 stops of dynamic range
Captures 16-bit RAW images and full resolution JPEGs
High-resolution 3.0-inch 920K dot touch and tilt screen
Smooth live-view experience with a high frame rate of 60fps
Focus peaking, enabling more accurate focusing (especially advantageous on the manual-focused V System cameras)
Intuitive user interface with swipe and pinch touch controls
Internal battery slot with the option to recharge in-camera via the USB-C port (same battery used on the X System)
Dual UHS-II SD card slots
Integrated Wi-Fi and USB-C connection
Portable workflow with Phocus Mobile 2 support
One of the most important pieces of information for medium format photographers is the price of this special edition release. The 907X Special Edition is $7,499 or €6,500. Why is it important? Given the special edition version of the camera, we can assume that the regular version, which will be released later, could be priced even more attractively introducing the Hasselblad system to a new generation of photographers and enthusiasts. We will be covering the system as it becomes available for testing.
Hasselblad provides a link where you can download the images taken on the lunar surface with the HDC and read the original 1969 press release. You can check it out here.
Also, for those of you who would like to learn more about the history of Hasselblad, make sure to check out Take Kayo’s article, “The Ingenuity and Serendipity of the Hasselblad V-System,” in the July issue of the Medium Format Magazine. Take Kayo guides us through the history of Hasselblad’s camera development which will impress you and help you to appreciate the latest announcements from this iconic brand.
The news from the Hasselblad event last week left me hopeful and excited about the medium format market. Having a marketing background, I am interested in how the market is changing and how the major companies are playing their hand. I want to see their long-term allegiance to me as a customer plus a decisive, long-term game plan so I know there is a committed company standing behind the products I invest in.
Two things captured my attention at the Hasselblad event. First, Hasselblad has lowered the price of the X1D II 50C. Although there is always a danger in competing on price, I actually think this strategy is an opportunity for Hasselblad. If they play it well, it can still allow for stratification of specialized high-end gear for professionals but will bring new customers and renewed prestige to brands that remain unreachable for most consumers. Leica is a great example. They aren’t selling $999 intro cameras, but at $4-6K the market is opening up enough to feel achievable someday compared with a $40K Hasselblad or Phase One. (Note: after writing this I saw that Leica has just announced an intro rangefinder at sub 4K!)
The second thing that excited me was the deep connection to Hasselblad history and the brilliant play on nostalgia! Hasselblad has the opportunity to use their reputation for high-end cameras (they have had 100+ MP for years!), and if they can build an on-ramp into their ecosystem for younger professionals who will build their career on that system, then I think they stand to win long term. Basically, they should play the Fuji game plan in reverse, they have the high end market chops already. Fuji has been smart at making new cameras look retro and focusing on the “feel” of the camera and the “feeling” of shooting with it. They made the rangefinder cool again with the medium format 50R.
I think Leica may be the only company with an equal or greater claim to nostalgia than Hasselblad so they should use it the way Leica does! When I was young and saw a photographer walking around or shooting in the studio with a V-series Hasselblad it was the epitome of cool, or as cool as we photographers can be! The beautiful chrome lines, the sound of the viewfinder popping open and the commanding plop of the shutter…for me, it’s a visceral and romantic feeling working with those cameras. And you knew if someone had that camera, they were serious and committed, and had an aura of creativity and fresh visual thinking. So there is no question in my mind that the idea of the new modular retro system is a great one, of course, if Hasselblad delivers on its promises. Just imagine seeing those cameras with a new generation of photographers, looking down into their finders exploring the world in that way, or carrying the recognizable black and chrome digital body and lenses to travel lighter. The entire Instagram would blow up with photos of digital creatives looking down their viewfinder—a marketing hallmark on its own. If they priced it in the range of the current, entry-level medium format offerings like the GFX50R I would buy it myself, buy a couple of lenses over the next couple of years, and then I would be all in. And when I upgraded next time, I would have used the Phocus software, and it’s not such a leap! I would be a customer for life.
Did I mention I could use all of my older V-series gear and body, which gives me so many creative options?
If on the other hand, their target market is the retired “bon vivant” in their video, he may buy it but we will never see it on the street, and he will keep it with his other expensive cameras until he puts it on eBay in 10 years’ time as a retro camera. At that point, in my opinion, Hasselblad will have missed the opportunity to remind a new generation of what it meant and what it felt like to shoot with a Hasselblad.
I’m not ignoring the X1D II 50C, and I think it seems like a robust camera from the first tests with the pre-production model, but I don’t think it’s an emotional and compelling purchase-driver like the CFV II 50C AND 907X. Instead, it’s a stylish option in the ecosystem and a balance for those who like the nostalgia the brand is creating but want a more contemporary package or traditional feature set. My point here is that they don’t need another good camera because they have that! Hasselblad needs to create a compelling reason to buy and an entry point to the Hasselblad system, and personally, I don’t think the X1D II 50C can do the work alone even with the new pricing structure. But the new CFV II 50C and 907X can do it big time! Although this introduction may not be overly profitable initially it would certainly bring a new wave of customers who, with time, will keep upgrading and buying more and more expensive products. That is priceless.
After years of working on the GFX system, it appears that medium format photography is reaching a wider audience. With this awareness of the power of this larger format, what do you think is the future for the medium format mirrorless?
In the last two years we feel the GFX system has widened the market. The new GFX100 brings a new era GFX with IBIS, PDAF, large format 4K/30p with 100M sensor. So we hope and expect 100M is more popular as one of highest resolution level cameras. It reaches a wider audience.
The design of the GFX100 is very different from the GFX50S or GFX50R. Notably, most dials have disappeared from the top plate. Did the same team that worked on the GFX50S and GFX50R work on the new GFX100? What was the reasoning behind the changes?
It’s the same team. We have two reasons behind the changes:
Minimizing the body size and weight with IBIS, Shutter, and two batteries.
For the professional scene we know the need to change still and movie more quickly in the studio or in any environment. Dials sometime limit the quick change.
There are lots of NEW in this medium format camera: the worldʼs first in-body image stabilization in any medium format camera, first on-board Phase Detection Hybrid AF and first 4K/30p video. Why was it important for the Fujifilm team to implement these solutions in medium format?
Old medium format cameras had limited use in the photographic market with high image quality. But now we have many new technologies to produce mirrorless system cameras with the experience of the X-series. Then we tried to produce the best performance digital large format camera for still and movie even compared with the 35mm format mirrorless cameras for wider use in the market.
Designing this new 100MP BSI sensor, what can you tell us about the difference between it and the previous 50MP sensor other than just megapixels? How will this sensor differ from the competition?
BSI structure has two big benefits in both quality and speed.
BSI photodiode can receive light with even more oblique light incidence. It will be better especially at corner quality with fast aperture.
BSI supports backside wiring; the new copper wiring at the back will support fast reading out from sensor of 100M pixels signal or 4K/30p video signal.
Was it so difficult to implement IBIS along with a larger sensor? Was there a need to design a new co-processor to work with IBIS, or is it basically the same one used in the X-H1? Is it basically the same core system as the X-H1 that has been made larger for medium format, including a shutter dampening system?
The basic system is almost the same especially in terms of the detection of vibration. But because of sensor size and weight, stabilization torque and distance are definitely harder to adjust and manage with more power. Even the shutter dampening system focal plane shutter is totally different for motion and shock. We spent a long time optimizing every system just for the GFX100.
Is it safe to assume you are using the X-Processor IV in the new GFX100, especially to handle the improved AF and video features? Are there any other performance enhancements that this processor can offer the GFX100that is not possible on the X- T3/X-T30 due to sensor size/megapixel limits? For instance, 16bit colour depth for the image files: is this due to the more powerful processor along with the new BSI sensor?
About the “X-Processor IV” — originally, we had started to develop both X and GFX systems. Both systems can bring out 100% performance anyway. And for GFX the number of pixels is totally different from the X-series. So if the same scenes were taken by both systems the level of pixels will be different. One pixel for X is 4 pixels for GFX100. But our processor will process them with optimizing image quality.
Even though pixel shift is not available at launch, can we expect this feature to be added by a software update in the future? In addition, will there be any other new computational photography features?
It will depend on demand. But we can’t say anything now even about other features.
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Last year I had the opportunity to shoot with the original X1D for the first time. Even before I put my hands on the camera, I received a few emails warning me that the original X1D was slow, so not really useful on the street. Regardless, I took the X1D on the streets of Vancouver and…I really enjoyed shooting with it. Go figure!
The three reasons I liked shooting with the original X1D were portability, design and image quality. You can read about my findings here. When I describe a camera, I can’t be impersonal, nor do I pretend to be. I don’t trust reviews that pose as impartial or unbiased. Photography is an intimate, personal experience. I pick up a camera and find out if it complements my way of shooting and seeing. I connect with the camera or I don’t. It’s that simple. Therefore, my thoughts in this article are simply mine. Other members of the Medium Format Magazine may have different opinions. That’s fine.
When I heard that, during my trip to New York, I would be able to try (very briefly) the brand new X1D II 50C on the streets of New York I got excited. I was eager to find out how this new iteration of the camera compares to the original and whether it still matches my shooting style.
This is exactly where I must begin. I have been shooting, studying and teaching photography all around the world and one thing I have always been amazed by is how paranoid and fixated some of my students, and the internet in general, are about speed. I never understood this inclination to hurry. Sometimes it feels as though everyone is after pictures of hummingbirds racing each other on the Daytona racetrack. How strange! Especially so, when this narrative doesn’t match images posted on blogs and forums.
Yes, I understand there are some areas like sport or bird photography which require a certain functionality and speed, but for most types of photography even the slowest cameras are absolutely fine (being slow has its own benefits). For me, photography is a painfully slow craft requiring attentiveness, observation, creativity and articulate framing, including so-called street photography. Great imagery requires time, thought and patience, all in short supply in today’s world.
Maybe that’s why I enjoy shooting with medium format.
The moment I touched the new X1D II 50C I was glad it was exactly the same physical design as its predecessor. The size of the camera itself is something I really liked. The X1D II doesn’t feel like medium format camera at all. Even today, as the medium format market is evolving so drastically, the X1D II is still the smallest medium format camera on the market by far. You really want to pick it up and shoot with it.
All the materials and buttons are top quality. There is no doubt you are holding something expensive and special. The new graphite-grey exterior looks absolutely stunning. Once you wrap your fingers around the grip, the camera stays firmly in your hands. I am one of those people who dislike camera straps and the X1D II with its firm and comfortable grip is among the most comfortable to hold in the hands for hours.
As I navigated through the X1D II the next thing that caught my attention was the size of the LCD screen at the back. It is huge and bright. At 3.6-inch 2.36-million-dots this touch display feels so right on the medium format camera. You want to use it, review your imagery, interact with it. Strangely enough, despite its huge size the LCD doesn’t ruin the overall design but rather complements it.
Then naturally I press the “on” button and find the start-up time is definitely faster than the original X1D. No, it is not lightning fast by any means, but it is an improvement, to be precise, 46% faster according to Hasselblad. As I press buttons and play with settings, the entire experience feels so much faster and more fluid. The new processor certainly makes a difference.
Then I bring the camera up to my eye and a larger EVF is a welcome addition with 55% more pixels than its predecessor (1024×960 vs. 1024×768). I keep playing and notice that now I can fiddle with the menu system in the viewfinder.
THE STREETS OF NEW YORK
As we leave the Hasselblad headquarters, cloudy skies threatening rain await us. The X1D II 50c and I have only about two hours and that has to be enough, for now. As we start exploring the SOHO district, I first try to check the autofocus, which feels more accurate and faster. No, it is not a huge improvement, but it is enough for me to notice.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a young man smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, so I approach him and ask for a portrait. He kindly agrees and I take a few portraits of him. Then we move on. As I walk by some store displays, I am attracted to reflections in the windows and try to align two visual dimensions with mixed results.
Then we continue until I notice a distinctive window with columns hugging it on both sides. I raise the X1D II to my eye and work on framing. What I really like is the large EVF with all the info displayed at the bottom in big clear letters without blocking the image.
I settle on very tight framing. With such a big LCD I am tempted to take a look, again. I quickly remind myself that I have very limited time and I need to know the camera better. Of course, this fiddling with new gear goes against my nature as I can see stills all around me—it is New York, after all.
So I start scrolling through the images I‘ve taken so far using the touch screen. I smile. I really fancy this big, bright screen. Then I dive into the menu system again and I like the new lettering and improved spacing. The X1D already had one of the nicest and cleanest menus in the industry. The combination of projected menus and real buttons on the right works really well. At this point, it is clear to me that Hasselblad approached the X1D II with the intention of not messing it up with things that worked but rather focusing on issues that needed their immediate attention.
Around the corner I look inside an artistic studio and I notice a statue of a woman bathed in gentle light, which that day was in short supply. What a pity, I quip. Regardless, I like the framework of the windows and I want to use it as a framing help. I totally forgot that my time with the X1D II was very limited and immerse myself in crafting this one image for far too long. I like the results, but I have to pick up the pace. How fitting, in the always hurried and busy New York.
At this point I decide to test the autofocus in action shots. The plain stage provided by a uniform wall should do. A few meters away I notice vapour escaping from a grate in the ground—that would be a nice addition, I reason with my inner self. I position myself so people would walk into my frame. The first character doesn’t fit well with my visual storyline. A few minutes later I see a distinctive gentleman walking firmly along taking big resolute steps. This gives me an opportunity to catch the action. I raise the camera to my eye, wait and press the shutter button at the exact moment. Eagerly I check the result on the screen and yes, my timing was right and so was the camera’s response. We are doing well.
Just then my watch sends me the warning that I have to head back to return the camera. I oblige. On the way back I see many more photo opportunities. I try to muster some optimism. I feel I am just starting. Both the X1D II and I are connecting and enjoying ourselves.
I reluctantly head back. Suddenly my camera turns off. How strange, I think. After all, it is the pre-production model and things often get interesting when working with pre-production versions, regardless of the brand. I quickly realize that isn’t it. I simply need to change the battery. Wait! Where is the replacement battery, which the folks at Hasselblad were so kind to prepare for me? I think and start sweating. It hits me hard. When we picked up the camera, I already had one large bag with me, so I left the Hasselblad bag with its replacement battery in the office. I can’t believe it.
Well, there is a price to pay for your own dizziness. Now I will be walking back for about an hour with the brand new X1D II 50C in my hands and unable to take a photo. Maybe a selfie? With my iPhone? No! Definite no!
At least I can gather my thoughts about the X1D II and the medium format market in general.
The first thing that comes to mind is the topic of pricing.
The new, improved model is priced at US$5,750 or EUR 5,000. This is massively less than the price of the first iteration of the camera. Clearly Hasselblad has positioned the X1D II as an entry model to the Hasselblad medium format world and not far from other medium format cameras in this price range. Given the same sensor and minor improvements, this was a natural move. It leaves space for one more product which would fit into the previous X1D spot and be priced around the US$10,000 mark. Well, let’s stop speculating.
Of course, the much lower price has angered some users, but this is a road toll we need to pay to ride this fast and exciting highway of medium format innovation. Who knew medium format would start invading the higher-end full frame offerings? Think about it! You pay slightly more and instead of a BMW 3, you get a Porsche 911! Not bad at all. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I talk to many photographers who own bags of full frame cameras and lenses and suddenly the elusive medium format has never been that close.
I have already written about the X1D II being the most portable medium format camera on the market. It appears that Hasselblad is working hard to complete the entire experience, finally. As someone who travels a lot, I always drag my MacBook with me. Yes, I tried many ways to bring just my iPad Pro with me but there was always some problem. No one has so far produced a wholesome travel solution where I could upload my RAW files to my iPad, process them and share them efficiently. Yes, Adobe is working on the iPad version of Lightroom, but it is not out yet.
After a brief encounter with the Hasselblad Phocus Mobile 2 I think that Hasselblad may be on the right track. I could import my RAW files directly to the iPad, process them and share without any fuss. I haven’t had enough time to play with the software so I cannot say how well it works but I liked the simple and intuitive user interface and it appears that the RAW files, despite their size, were transferring quickly.
Of course, it is logical to assume that a medium format camera so small and portable would be a global travel companion and I think that matches this philosophy with built-in GPS.
All right, my short but eventful adventure with the X1D II 50C is over. I really enjoyed the camera and I am looking forward to shooting the final production version soon. This time I will make sure to have more time and pack an extra battery. Speaking of batteries, despite the new processor, larger screen and overall improvements, Hasselblad says the battery life should stay roughly the same. Not bad at all.
We finally got back after an adventurous time with the Hasselblad X1D II 50C. After returning the camera, we headed for a cup of coffee. As we took pleasant window seats in a corner cafe and started chatting about the camera, the sun peeked out of the clouds, hugging the streets with beautiful light. I could easily have got upset but strangely I didn’t. Out of nowhere I started reciting the words to Sting’s song “Englishman In New York.” What a strange day indeed.
The Medium Format Magazine will have extensive and exclusive coverage of the camera from every possible angle by our contributors and staff. We will share our findings and provide you with analysis of the medium format market, following this important release.
For those of you who are already shooting medium format or considering buying their first medium format camera, we invite you to subscribe and get immediate access to the latest and all past issues of the Medium Format Magazine and highly regarded PDF Exclusives publications.
There is no question that many Hasselblad X1D-series users long for a zoom lens to complement the system. Just announced, the zoom lens promises to deliver performance-matching prime lenses. Per Nordlund, Hasselblad lead optical designer, said: “This really is the best lens Hasselblad has developed —its performance is extremely high, competing with our prime lenses. I can even go so far as to say that it’s probably the best zoom lens currently available on the market.” Hasselblad points out the quick autofocus and internal focusing, which keeps the lens’ dimensions constant. Here is the link to the official announcement. We will bring you more information, including a full review of this lens, once it becomes available.
You will find the full press release and more information on Hasseblad.com
The Medium Format Magazine will also have extensive and exclusive coverage of the lens from every possible angle by our contributors. We will share our findings and provide you with analysis of the medium format market, following this important release.
For those of you who are already shooting medium format or considering buying your first medium format camera, we invite you to subscribe and get immediate access to the latest and all past issues of the Medium Format Magazine and highly regarded PDF Exclusive publications.