On June 19, 2019, Hasselblad announced the X1D II 50C, an evolutionary second edition of the mirrorless medium format X1D 50C. When the original X1D was announced in June 2016, it was the world’s first mirrorless medium format camera. Since that time, Fuji has introduced its GFX line of mirrorless medium format cameras, including the 100-megapixel GFX 100. See my post on the original X1D 50C here and my comparison of the GFX 50S and the X1D 50C here.
Now that I’ve had the X1D II for a few days and have used it in the field, I’ll offer my first impressions. Just first impressions. Not a comprehensive review. And not a scientific A-B comparison of RAW files from the original and new edition. For the most part, my impressions are based on my primary use of the camera – landscape photography. I don’t use flash, shoot JPEG, shoot video, or photograph stuff that moves rapidly (for example, birds in flight, soccer games, or unruly kids). Since I’ve been using the X1D for over two years, my findings and opinions are strongly biased by my experience with the original camera. New entrants to the Hasselblad X community may experience discoveries or have observations that I omit or gloss over.
Here’s the June 2019 Hasselblad announcement:
From my 2017 post on the X1D:
Despite its quirks, the Hasselblad X1D-50c is a strong contender for my favorite camera ever, even though I’ve only used it for a few months. It’s by far the most fun camera I’ve used recently and one of the easiest to use both hand-held and on a tripod. The image quality straight out of the camera is superb, with very little processing required. Assuming Hasselblad comes through with firmware updates that fix known bugs and add missing features, my medium format journey has reached a happy place.
Over the past two years, Hasselblad has, through firmware updates and hardware repairs, fixed many of the shortcomings of the original camera. Even so, the X1D 50C remains slow to start up, awake from sleep, “laggy” (another way of saying “slow” or “unresponsive”), and misses key features that Hasselblad’s competitors offer at lower price points.
So what’s in the new edition that makes it special? Here’s a short list of features that are most important to me:
- 3.69-million dot EVF with faster refresh rate
- 3.6-inch rear touchscreen with higher resolution and responsiveness
- Faster processor resulting in reduced start-up time, faster frame rate, reduced shutter lag and black out time
- In-camera GPS versus hot-shoe mounted GPS accessory in the first edition
- USB-C charging (and tethering)
The menu tree has also been restructured and “prettied up”, with consistent fonts and icons.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of the X1D II 50C is its price – $5,750 compared to the $8,995 asking price of the original.
In the Box
The contents of the box may vary by country. In the US, here’s what was in the box:
- X1D II 50C camera body with battery
- USB power adapter
- Shoulder strap
- USB-C cable
- Battery cap
- Documents (In the Box, Disclaimer and Safety Guidelines, Warranty Leaflet)
EVF and LCD Touchscreen
The EVF and LCD differences aren’t revolutionary, but are definitely welcome. The 3.6-inch rear LCD image is HUGE, and its resolution when reviewing images for composition and sharpness is immediately obvious. The responsiveness of the touchscreen has been significantly improved. It’s faster and doesn’t require several touches to invoke a command.
Tip: Add the Touch icon/Shortcut to the Main Menu in order to disable the touchscreen for AF point selection when you don’t need it.
I accidentally changed the AF point several times before I realized what I had done.
The EVF is also much improved over the original X1D, with a 3.69-million dot panel and a faster live view refresh rate compared to the 2.36-million dot panel in the original X1D. The result is a smoother workflow in the field when composing, focusing and shooting.
The overall camera speed (image review, writing to an SD card, black out between shots, frame rate, etc.) has been improved markedly. Start-up time has been considerably reduced, as can be seen in this short video I shot to show the comparison between the X1D (left) and X1D II (right).
Start up is not instantaneous, but much better than before. That translates into fewer missed shots waiting for the camera to be ready.
I can’t detect an appreciable change in AF speed, especially since AF speed varies from lens to lens. For landscape photography, the speed of both the old and new versions is OK. RAW shooting speed in Continuous drive mode has been improved to 2.7 frames per second. UHS-II SD cards are now supported. It would be difficult for me to validate Hasselblad’s specific quantitative claims of speed improvement (start up time reduced by 46%, continuous shooting sped up by 35%, and the live view frame rate increased by 62%), but my subjective opinion is that the camera is definitely “snappier”.
The organization of the menu system is now more logical and the icon sizes and fonts are consistent. After several firmware updates, some of which added features, the original X1D’s menu tree had become cluttered and appeared to be the product of several independent designers, each using their own font sizes and sense of organization. Now field use of the camera is simple, easy to navigate, and intuitive. The X1D II also extends the navigation of the menu to the EVF, making it easier to make menu changes in bright sunlight.
One very useful addition to the Main Menu screen is the organization of drive modes into a single Drive Mode panel. The Drive Mode panel is accessed by touching the Drive Mode icon/Shortcut:
The Drive Mode panel enables the selection of Single and Continuous modes (both of which were selectable in the same way in the original X1D), as well as Self Timer, Interval and Exposure Bracketing modes (which were spread over several menu screens in the original X1D). Once a drive mode is selected, its options are selectable from the right side of the panel.
The shutter release is more “touchy” than before. The half-press takes some getting used to. I found myself taking a photo when I had only intended to use the half-press to bring up live view on the rear LCD or EVF. I’m not complaining. I like the feel of the shutter more now than before.
Look and Feel
The physical size of the X1D II is almost identical to the original, with possibly a small height increase comparing hot shoe height to hot shoe height. The contour of the camera hasn’t changed and the control surfaces (buttons, wheels, PSAM dial) are all in the same familiar places. So there was no learning curve required to become familiar with the feel of the camera in my hand. My compliments to Hasselblad for not changing the camera form factor, something that I had feared leading up to the official announcement. For me, a major appeal of the X1D (beyond stellar image quality) is how it feels in my hand and how easy it is to use. It’s also a gorgeous piece of industrial design.
The new version uses the same 50-megapixel 44x33mm Sony CMOS sensor as the original. From my brief use, I’ve observed that the image quality of the X1D II 50C matches or exceeds that of the original X1D. I haven’t done any scientific A-B comparisons of IQ (and don’t have any plans to do so), but I’m sure that other reviewers will do just that. From early test shots, the IQ of the new camera is outstanding and meets my expectations.
To many, it wasn’t a big deal when Hasselblad revealed that the original X1D would not have in-camera GPS, after announcing that it would at Photokina 2016. It was a big deal to me and I complained about it to Hasselblad. Later in the product cycle, Hasselblad released a GPS accessory that mounts in the hot shoe. The accessory works but adds to the profile of the camera, is easily knocked off and lost, and is just another thing to remember and pack when planning a trip. I geotag photos for my own future reference and to facilitate trip planning.
The X1D II has in-camera GPS, so the hot shoe GPS accessory is no longer necessary. After limited testing, both indoors and outdoors, I’ve found the GPS function to be fast to acquire satellite lock, accurate to within a few feet of my location, and not intrusive. It just works. The downside is that, when turned on, the GPS function drains the battery faster. So when it’s not needed, turn if off.
Tip: Add the GPS icon/Shortcut to the Main Menu to easily turn the GPS function on and off without having to go “menu diving”.
The camera has WiFi but not Bluetooth (yet). Bluetooth is specifically mentioned in the Disclaimer and Safety Guidelines document which leads me to believe that Bluetooth is in the camera but not enabled initially. Or the spec could be associated with the in-camera GPS.
The lack of Bluetooth is not a problem for me, but may be for others. There were rumors that the X1D II would have Bluetooth since there was a report of Bluetooth certification.
The “Handmade in Sweden” engraving is still there. And on the underside of the camera, there is “Made in Sweden” next to all the certification symbols. No change from the original camera even though there had been speculation that the X1D II would be manufactured in China by DJI.
Kudos to Hasselblad for the USB-C tethering and charging feature. And for finally incorporating a legitimate remote cable release feature (via the Audio In port) rather than relying on owners to deduce that function by trial and error.
By the way, the Really Right Stuff L-bracket for the original X1D fits the new one perfectly. The color of the bracket is black, not graphite grey, but it fits.
If you use LCD protectors on your camera(s), I recommend the BROTECT® AirGlass® Glass Screen Protector. It’s glass, not a plastic film, and does not interfere with the use of the touchscreen.
Why change things that aren’t broken?
There are a few changes that I don’t like. They fall into the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category. For me, they affect the usability of the camera and are, in my opinion, not simply cosmetic.
First, the new camera’s grip material is different and less “grippy”. I like the way the original camera “sticks” to my hand. The X1D and X1D II are designed to be easy to use hand held and the shape of the grip and the position of controls are identical in both. But the grip surface wrap has been changed to what appears to be a generic, less textured material that is similar to that found on many DSLRs and other less expensive mirrorless cameras. As a result, the X1D II doesn’t inspire the same confidence when hand holding the camera as did the original. Although I haven’t used it extensively, the grip could even become slippery when wet or when held in a sweaty hand. This change may have been made to reduce the overall cost of manufacture or to make the grip easier to keep clean, but it cheapens the look and feel of the camera.
The lettering/icons on the control surfaces (buttons and PSAM dial) are more difficult to read, especially in low light or at an angle, compared to the original silver/chrome version and to the 4116 version. On the 4116 version, the lettering on the controls is white on black. The new lettering is black on graphite grey (or “space gray” using Apple’s color terminology). I’m not a big fan of the graphite grey color compared to the black 4116 version or to the original silver/chrome version, and the new lettering choice doesn’t provide enough contrast.
Looking straight down on the top control surfaces (buttons and PSAM dial) in good lighting:
And viewing at an angle, as would be the case if the camera is mounted on a tripod:
I’d guess that the Hasselblad designers would point out that the controls are very simple and minimalistic, and that all settings (including the PSAM dial) can be viewed and/or adjusted from the rear touchscreen. Or they’d argue that a comparison to the 4116 version is not an apples-to-apples comparison. I’d argue that white lettering against the graphite grey background would have been better and would not have sacrificed the “Scandinavian design aesthetics”.
In all honesty, after a short period of use, muscle memory takes over and the contrast of the lettering isn’t as important. It’s not a deal breaker for me.
Going further with my nitpicking, even the “Hasselblad” lettering on the front of the camera body is difficult to read when viewed at an angle or in low light.
For some, who put black tape over the brand name of their camera to be less conspicuous, that may be welcome. For me, it’s not. After all, Leica doesn’t hide the red dot.
Finally, as Vieri Bottazzini pointed out in his excellent first impressions review:
For some strange reason, Hasselblad decided to change the previously perfect implementation of the countdown visible on the LCD during a long exposure, and this time definitely for the worse. The X1D used to let you see the countdown, together with a battery indicator and the genius “Finish exposure” feature, during the whole exposure and no matter how long that was.
The Hasselblad X1D II, instead, only lets you see the first three seconds of countdown, turning then off the LCD and showing you again the last three seconds of it. During the rest of the exposure, all you get to confirm you that the camera is still working is a green blinking of the status light on the bottom right of the screen.
While the change in behavior may have been made to reduce battery consumption, it cripples a truly useful feature of the original camera. Vieri has suggested this workaround:
During a long exposure, when the screen goes off, to wake it up again just wave your hand in front of the EVF’s proximity sensor, and the counter will pop up again (for three more seconds only, alas) without having to touch either the shutter release button, or the camera in general.
I know the workaround works and have tried it with my camera, but a menu option to keep the countdown screen visible through the entirety of the exposure would be very helpful for those of us who shoot long exposures.
First, let’s revisit my X1D “wish list” from early 2017:
It’s also missing some features that I either depend on or use routinely with other cameras:
- Live histogram; determining correct exposure is difficult without a live histogram in the EVF and Live View
- Distance and DOF scale; neither the lenses nor the camera have distance and/or depth of field indicators, making the determination of hyperfocal distance difficult
- More and smaller AF points; 35 is barely OK; there have been reports of AF errors with the XCD 90mm lens and wide apertures, as stated earlier
- Auto ISO in M mode allowing the user to set the aperture and shutter speed and have ISO “float”
- Review captured image (referred to as “Preview” by Hasselblad) in the EVF; reviewing on the rear LCD is difficult in bright sunlight
- Select minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO
- EXIF information for Exposure Bias and Lens tags; the EXIF is “sparse” and doesn’t contain some essential tags
Highlighted in green are those features that were added to the original X1D via firmware updates. In addition, Hasselblad fixed bugs and quality issues that plagued early adopters (wonky control/scroll wheels, cracks in the SD card door hinge, random blackouts and shutdowns, “No SD card” messages, etc.).
To Hasselblad’s credit, the new camera does not exhibit any of those bugs (so far) and is as stable as any new camera I have used in the digital era.
There are some omissions in the v1.0.0 firmware that suggest firmware updates in the not too distant future. The video features are MIA (as Hasselblad alerted ahead of time). The firmware will likely be updated soon to include the XCD 35-75mm zoom lens, slated for release in October. There may also be a firmware update associated with the release of Phocus Mobile 2. Bluetooth is conspicuous by its absence but mentioned in the camera’s documentation. An update to allow the long exposure countdown timer to be continuously visible on the rear LCD (as a menu option) seems like a no-brainer.
Since late 2016, two of my persistent feature requests have been 1) a live histogram and 2) some sort of distance indicator (in the EVF and rear LCD) since the XCD lenses are focus-by-wire. Now three years later, those two features are still missing and seem to be “givens” in every other mirrorless camera.
Other mirrorless cameras, including the Fuji GFX lineup of medium format cameras, have in-camera automated focus shift or focus stacking features that greatly aid the in-focus capture of scenes with both near and distant elements. And most of the 35mm full-frame and medium format cameras have face and/or eye-detect autofocus. Those two features would definitely add to the X1D II’s appeal. They’re on my new “wish list”. I’ve given up on hardware changes like adding a joystick for moving the AF point and navigating the menu.
This is the camera that Hasselblad should have been released in 2017. The X1D II is a strong incremental improvement over the original X1D and has features and speed that were missing from that first attempt.
While this compilation of my first impressions hasn’t mentioned the Hasselblad XCD lenses, the XCD lenses I currently have in my kit are among the best I’ve ever used, without exception. They match the camera perfectly, render landscapes beautifully with exceptional edge-to-edge sharpness. And they are designed with the same “Scandinavian design aesthetics” as the camera. I highly recommend Vieri Bottazzini’s blog for reviews of the XCD lenses.
Updating what I wrote in my first article on the X1D, I expect the X1D II 50C to become my favorite camera ever, displacing the X1D. It’s a fun camera and easy to just pick up and use, either hand-held and on a tripod. The image quality straight out of the camera is superb, with very little processing required. My medium format journey remains in a happy place.
Here are a few images (processed using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic v8.4 and Adobe Photoshop CC v20.0.6) to illustrate the image quality, color rendering and the camera’s versatility. All of my observations are based on camera firmware v1.0.0. All of these photos were taken hand-held at Raleigh’s Historic Yates Mill County Park.
Hasselblad and Phocus Mobile are trademarks of Victor Hasselblad AB.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop CC are trademarks of Adobe Systems, Inc.