X1D – First impressions

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So here it is. After awaiting almost 3 months, Hasselblad X1D is in my hands.

When I first had a chance to test it out at Bando Camera in Seoul, in September, I knew I wanted it but I didn’t think I will be able to have the capital to buy it. But I had my pre-order in just in case, and what do you know. I was summoned for few commercial projects that abled me to save enough money for it. Guys at Bando always liked my photography so they called me up when the items were finally shipped here in Korea. I’ve heard less than 20 of them made its way here, so I guess I was fortunate.

First few things I’ve noticed when I bought it. I took it out right away to the streets. First, it is heavier than you think. The body is very compact for its size, but it’s not as light as the size would make you think. What is really heavy is however, it’s the lenses. I think this could have been a true innovation if they could get the lens size a bit smaller as well but I guess you can’t have it all. 40mm lens is best for its size, but the other lens I’ve got, 90mm, is way too big, and it’s only 90mm(70mm in full frame sense). And while talking of the lenses, one thing that surprised me was this. It is incredibly hard to mount/unmount lenses. It is not smooth at all. You really have to use a lot of power to swing the lens around. I hope they fix this problem down the road. I guess it’s ok in a studio situation but if you’re out on the street and it takes 2-3 minutes just to change a lens, that’s gonna be a problem.

With that small problem aside, I loved it from the get-go. I stared to hang out with the guy every day. And, that was last week. To be honest, with miserable weather and condition Seoul displays during winter time, I didn’t get to use it fully in its potential. But I did get some images while wandering around the city. Although they are not up to my standard, quality wise, I think it can display what it can do a little bit. Let’s see the pictures first. Here it goes :

 

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I know most X1D shooters will still be using it for studio environment, and some of them in more of commercial, editorial situation, where you will have control of what or who you’re shooting of. I do landscape photography sometimes as well, but mostly I’m a street photographer at heart, and this is a field I’m hoping to use it on. Which will be difficult and challenge in a way, for its size and also its slow focusing. But, I love the challenges. So I’ll be working hard to find a way to maximize its potential.

With that being said, here are some downsides I’ve noticed of the camera :

  1. Focusing is indeed pretty slow. You can say it’s fast for its format, but compared to DSLRs, it’s really slow. I once used Leica X, and that was a slow camera. X1D focusing speed is about the same with it. Also, its focusing points are very limited. You can pre-set where to focus but that doesn’t help in the streets. You don’t know where subjects will lie until you see the moment unfold in your eyes.
  2. It doesn’t focus well in low light situations. This was a bit surprising to me but I’m not just talking about night time. Just around sunset time it won’t focus well. Inside a cafe where most cameras will focus without a problem, it has some problem here and there. It does have a guiding light feature. Although I would never use it, being a street photographer that I am.
  3. The camera sensor gets dirty so fast. I figure it’s a problem with mirrorless systems, but I’ve noticed those little spots on my photos after 1st day of using it. I understand when you change lenses it’s inevitable. That’s why I wish they had sensor cleaning feature built in. I think I’ll try to learn how to clean on my own. That will save me during long travels where there will be no Hasselblad agents.

 

Well by now you might be thinking maybe I regret this purchase. But I am not. Absolutely not. My main camera is Leica M and I know a thing or two about working with a camera with disability, so to speak. M systems are cameras with so much cons, and yet I use it because I enjoy the way it photograph. I enjoy manually taking pictures. I love taking full responsibility of my photographs, not putting the weight on the camera. X1D is also a camera with many limitations. It doesn’t do somethings that other, even cheaper, cameras do so well. But I don’t think that is the point of X1D. I see a lot of potential in carrying medium format on the streets, having it on the go. Image quality and color is something I’ve been very impressed with. And I see bright future in these new lens systems. It doesn’t show here online with these resized images, but when you see these photographs zoomed in 100%, the quality is amazing. I can’t wait to print some photos shot by this guy. I sometimes print my works at 60×40 inches for my exhibitions, and I’m sure X1D will shine in those moments.

In the end, I must stress this again. it’s only been a week. I need more time to test, and see fully what it can do. I will be on 7 months trip to South America this spring, and that’s when I plan to use this guy at full speed. Until then I will be spending the winter in Seoul, trying to get used to all of its goods and bads. Will be keeping you posted. Stay tuned!

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