6.24.2016

I read that some "professionals" are considering replacing their 35mm style cameras with the new Hasselblad X1D. I almost spit out my coffee because I was laughing so hard...

Photograph from "James and the Giant Peach", a Zach Theatre production.

People say zany and inane stuff all the time. And, in the field of photography, they love to conjecture about what "professionals" might buy or want. But usually the commentators do so in flights of fancy and with few facts or evidence...

A case in point is the suggestion, made in many corners of the internet, that Sony, Nikon and Canon better beware!!! A new cowboy is riding into town and he's packing ---- medium format!!! And, since it is only almost three times the price of the best, current pro 35mm style camera on the market (the Sony A7R2; according to DXO) there is the idea that hordes of amazingly wealthy, working camera professionals (because, you know, it's a lucrative career path) might just weigh up the apples and oranges and go for the power, glory and obvious superiority of the medium format choice.  Not so much in pursuit of better photos but to differentiate themselves from all the other well heeled, working photographers out there. You know, to differentiate them--- in the eyes of their clients...

The assumption is that they'll dump the Nikon D810s and the Sony A7R2s (and whatever Canons) and embrace the mirrorless, contrast detect-only AF, snail pace frame per second Hasselblad X1D --- and its two amazingly flexible lenses, in order to make their businesses rock and roll. Even as I read the first volley in this line of reasoning I was busy trying to keep from spitting out a mouthful of coffee because I was laughing so hard. 

While there are professionals working in a lot of different marketing segments most of them have a large intersection on the Venn diagram of needs when it comes to cameras. One of my main concerns is that I always have an identical (or close to it) back up camera. If a camera breaks and needs to go back to the tender mercies of the camera company's repair department, or gets stolen, I need to have a second body so I can finish the job, get up tomorrow morning and go out to shoot again. In all the pro systems based on the 35mm size sensors you can get a similar body at a lower price point to play the role of "safety net" for you usual shooting camera.  For me the Sony A7r2's first line of back up is the A7ii. But I can follow that up with an a6300 and then the a6000. All the cameras can use the same lenses, have the same basic menus, deliver the same color family characteristics and, miraculously, all use the same batteries.

If I ante up for a round-the-world-shooting-extravaganza I can do so with a back-up body from Sony and still spend less than $5000 for camera bodies. Really good camera bodies. Nikon and Canon users can do the same thing. If you put together a second body for the new X1D and you've spent $18,000 before you've even sprung for lens #1.

But speaking of lenses, it seems that the world of photography on the web has done a 180. Now lens choice is not an issue. When Sony was kicking everyone else's butt, last year and this year, all I ever read on the review sites was....  "Well, the sensors and the camera are incredible but....there are only 14 or 15 Sony lenses and maybe 25 to 30 third party lenses to use with the system--- how sad and tragic for the pros..."  But, of course, Sony photographers can cherry pick from all the major lens lines with help of inexpensive adapters. Heck, I can even use my 1970's era Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar on the A7R2. They opened up the  mount. It's an open system.

But don't try mounting that V lens for your old Hasselblad on the X1D body because: a. It won't fit. b. It won't actuate. You might be able to physically mount it, when and if someone comes out with an adapter, but without an electronic link to the lens shutter the only two things you might be able to do with the package is to look through the finder and maybe shoot some video. Some 1080p video at 30fps. You know, like video from four years ago....

So, if only a handful of very, very expensive lenses will work on this new model how much business can we do with the two current lenses? Not much. The longer lens is too short and the shorter lens is too long. A lot of us make a living shooting portraits and we need something between 110mm and 140mm to get a decent head and shoulders portrait without the dreaded foreshortening effect. But that's not even in the cards for the next lens in the X1D pipeline. That would be a 24mm equivalent which leads me to believe that the camera system might be aimed at the highly affluent part of the market that shoots real estate interiors for realtors and brokers. Which might make sense give that the camera uses CD-AF and who knows what the follow focus or fast lock on capabilities of the camera really are... But let it lock onto the details of a high rise condo kitchen and then --- stand back!

Of one thing I am fairly certain; it will be win a gold award from Digital Photography Review. Why? Simple! It has everything that every working professional truly needs to make great images in the fast breaking imaging world of today. It has wi-fi AND a touch screen. And everyone knows that Barney and Company prize those two attributes to a much greater degree than the boring stuff like: great color, high sharpness, beautiful tonality, etc. Just as long as we can stroke the rear screen and get a reaction from the camera we'll have their whole-hearted buy-in.

I have no doubt that the camera is as beautifully designed and finished as the dashboard of an Aston Martin Lagonda and it will have much appeal to hipsters of a certain coupon clipping class. But every pro worth their salt would trade all of that for: Accurate and quick focus. The lenses they need in order to get the jobs done while honoring their unique vision. The ability to have back-up gear. The ability to use a wide range of lenses readily available in the market. Etc.

On a more positive note: I read that the battery is big and powerful. And I like the choice of the mini-HDMI port instead of a micro-HDMI connection. Oh, and the engraving that will tell every pro, every time he or she uses the camera, that it was handmade in Sweden. Got it. Hermes scarf anyone?




12 comments:

JustinPhotoArtist said...

I nearly spit out my coffee reading your post. Thanks for the insightful comments, and the laughs!

George Beinhorn said...

Now, this is the kind of high-end gear review we peons need, with our tiny fast-focusing plebe-cams.

Paul said...

rofl

Gato said...

Nice! Nailed it, I do believe.

David Zivic said...

First, it's new "Sheriff" riding into town, not new "Cowboy". When I went from Nikon D700 with Nikon lenses to Sony A7r with Zeiss lens the level of resolution i was achieving made me really proud of my efforts. I suspect this Hasselblad would raise that bar even more......well worth the added cost from a personal satisfaction point f view. Being an amateur and justifying the cost becomes the issue. I will gladly do it if my financial situation improves, but If I were a working professional who is obsessed with resolution and detail like You and Gordon Lewis the decision would be made for me.
The exterior cosmetics and ergonomics seem to be Stellar, like a fine Italian Sports Car. I really like the size.....like getting the quality of an 8 X 10 in a package only slightly larger than the size of a full frame mirrorless.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I love your take. As usual your argument is sound and isn't influenced by the hype of the web. The only counterpoint I can think of is that for a current owner of a Hasselblad medium format camera maybe this new system does provide them with an "economy" backup they currently don't have. The lack of the shutter in the body does pose the lens compatibility issues you highlighted but it would seem reasonable that an adapter which includes a shutter would be a straight forward engineering exercise. Opening compatibility for legacy medium format glass but also keeping open the possibility of having a smaller lighter option using the new lenses as they become available. Doesn't mean the whole thing still won't crash and burn but maybe there is some value in there. Just a thought. But then again I shot M4/3. I'm just hoping the new GH?? gets the new 5-axis stabilizer or the new EM?? figures out video =)

Paul Hodgson said...

On an aesthetic point I do think it's attractive.

I still wonder how much the H brand adds to the price.

As for actual performance, welloyd, that'll have to wait until launch but I suspect it'll be excellent. However, I've seen the mockup illustrating sensor size differences between 35ff anxiety this mf sensor. It's bigger but not by too much.

TMJ said...

It reminds me of the body, of one of my all-time favourite cameras, the SWC (and later variants), except it doesn't have an (equivalent) 38mm Biogon lens attached. However, I can see a hotshoe where you could place the finder......

TMJ said...

David made an interesting comment about 'quality': does that mean resolving ability, etc. or the visual aesthetics of the image (irrespective of subject(?

The problem is that a 10x8 image will always look different because the 'standard' lens for 10x8 is around 300mm which gives it a different aesthetic look. Also, from experience, a very well taken and exposed 10x8 image, when scanned using the best equipment by someone who knows what they are doing, is capable of exceptional resolution.

Also, the X1D is going to have to be supported by a very good stand/tripod, which are neither small nor light, at which point the dangling it off one hand capability becomes a trifle irrelevant.

Nick Davis said...

Well I hope they do, Kirk. As a working pro I wouldn't mind a Nikon D810 at a knock down price!!! By the way David, most of the work I do is for the web so the first DSLR I had, a Fuji S2 had more than enough resolution (blasphemy I know). The big and significant change for me has been dynamic range and the general malleability of files.

Michael Reed said...

there are advantages to larger sensors. can't get around the physics. but, at the same time can't avoid economic realities. cost of going large is geometric, not linear. that something Hasselblad can't get around. I believe this new camera is their effort to stay alive. Yes, the price for their new camera is quite high, but hugely less than their other cameras. Price actually looks reasonable when compared to them. 4k video may be a firmware update. time will tell. they pushed out this camera without 4k and other goodies to try to stay relevant in today's market, to have a product while they still can.

From a working photographer perspective (which I agree with), there are some very expensive shortcomings with the X1D.

this camera is a niche camera. will it keep Hasselblad alive? Only time will tell. this camera will rob sales from their other lines, but they needed to do it vs some other company

Kodachromeguy said...

Now, Kirk, I think you were being grumpy when you commented on the new X1D. Of course professionals will not discard their 24x36 cameras in masse and use the new Hasselblad instead. Two lenses will not cover enough situations, despite the noises and drivel that you hear spouted from "photographers" on Dpreview. But the Hasselblad is a cool niche camera, and I hope it is a success for them. I really wish them well. And if they would make a lens with coverage like their old 38mm Biogon, they might attract a number of architectural photographers.