Hasselblad makes world’s first mirrorless medium-format camera

Here's something you don't see every day. TR photo enthusiasts will be plenty familiar with the concept of the mirrorless camera by now. These next-gen shooters do away with the bulky mirror box and prism assembly of the good old DSLR for an electronic viewfinder and on-sensor autofocus. Those improvements usually lead to wafer-thin bodies like those of Sony's Alpha lineup, or smaller camera systems in general, as one might get with a Micro Four Thirds body from Panasonic or Olympus. Fabled camera maker Hasselblad is taking the opposite approach today with its X1D system. It put a huge sensor in a tiny body to create what may be the world's first medium-format mirrorless camera.

A little primer, first: medium-format cameras use film or sensors that are larger than the standard 36-mm by 24-mm area of "full-frame" digital or 35-mm cameras. The larger image sensor of medium-format digital cameras can result in images with better dynamic range and more detail than those smaller formats can provide, since the pixels on the image sensor itself can be both larger and more numerous.

The 43.8-mm by 32.9-mm sensor on the X1D is 40% larger still than that of a full-frame DSLR's, and Hasselblad packs 50MP onto its area. That means each pixel is 5.3 μm square, 8% larger than the 4.88-μm pixels on Nikon's already-well-regarded D810—and there's 28% more of them to work with here. The X1D can store its 65MB raw image files on a pair of SD cards. It can also shoot 1080p, H.264 video at up to 25 FPS.

Despite the large sensor, the X1D is just 5.9" wide by 3.9" tall by 2.8" deep (150 mm by 98 mm by 71 mm) and weighs just 1.6 pounds (725 grams ) without a lens. That's actually smaller and lighter than the D810 and many other full-frame DSLRs.

A new camera system means new lenses, and Hasselblad's latest will launch with two: a 90-mm normal lens, and a 45-mm wide-angle. Both of these lenses use integrated leaf shutters with speeds ranging from 60 minutes to 1/2000 of a second. They can also synchronize with flash at all of their rated shutter speeds, a useful feature for shooting with flash in broad daylight or for fast action.

Since the X1D is a mirrorless camera, it uses an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead of an optical one. Hasselblad uses a 1024×768 EVF in the X1D. It's paired with a 3" touch LCD on the camera's rear panel that can be used in a live view mode for composition without placing one's eye on the viewfinder. The touch screen also provides a familiar interface for changing the camera's wide range of settings.

The one pain point with this camera might be its contrast-detection autofocus system. Compared to the fast phase-detection systems available on many DSLRs, smartphones, and even other mirrorless cameras, contrast-detect AF tends to be slower and more troubled by moving subjects. Anybody who's tried autofocus with live view on a DSLR is likely familiar with this problem. Most people probably won't be shooting action with this camera, however, so potentially slower AF is likely an OK price to pay for the X1D's presumably excellent image quality.

Of course, a big sensor comes with a big price tag. The X1D body will carry an $8,995 list price, and its lenses will doubtless cost multiple thousands each. Consider that the company's professional medium-format systems can cost north of $30,000 each, though, and the X1D starts looking like a bargain. For the lucky few able to afford one, this camera looks like it could offer an amazing blend of image quality and portability. The company didn't say when it would begin shipping the X1D in its press release, but Hasselblad endorser Ming Thein says shipments will begin in late August.

Comments closed
    • anotherengineer
    • 3 years ago

    Ha ha ha

    Sir……..my camera is worth more than your car………………….

    • davidbowser
    • 3 years ago

    Damn you Canon! Give me a mirrorless body for my EF lenses!

      • Airmantharp
      • 3 years ago

      Lock your mirror up. Look! It’s mirrorless!

      (note the sarcasm, but this is really the only difference aside from the EVF otherwise needed to provide eye-level viewing)

    • krazyredboy
    • 3 years ago

    “so potentially slower AF”

    Did anybody else read this wrong, at first? I will admit to not knowing a lot of the acronyms and initialisms in the internet world today, but I know what “AF” means. Granted, I do know that that was not the actual statement being made and that it meant “Auto Focus”, but I thought it was pretty funny.

    • Spunjji
    • 3 years ago

    Contrast detect is more accurate than PDAF in an absolute sense, so for this camera’s likely uses it does make a fair bit of sense not to bother wasting photosites on phase detect pixels.

      • Airmantharp
      • 3 years ago

      You’re right, but they’re not exclusive- the best systems, from many different makers, combine the two to provide snappy and highly accurate focusing- see Sony’s EyeAF for a modern example that can put a fast f/1.4 lens in focus on a subjects eyes with relative snap. And Sony is hardly the only company working on this technology; it’s safe to say that every company working on mirrorless products is working to make combined PDAF, CDAF, and other technologies like Depth to Defocus more effective in terms of accuracy and speed.

    • TwoEars
    • 3 years ago

    Do. Want.

    • lycium
    • 3 years ago

    PC Hardware Explored?

    Don’t get me wrong, this is interesting tech, but I miss the good old TR articles about CPU and GPU tech.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 3 years ago

      Don’t get me wrong, I like CPUs and GPUs, but they are getting pretty damn boring nowadays. I wouldn’t mind at all if TR just dropped “PC Hardware Explored” sub line altogether and branched out (as long as its not all into smartphone/tablets/phablets, which are also pretty damn boring).

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 3 years ago

      If you look at the front page, you’ll see that we’re still very much about PC hardware.

      • hiro_pro
      • 3 years ago

      anyone planning on processing a 65mb raw file is probably on this site trying to build a machine that can handle the load. i can only image getting ten layers deep in photoshop on that image file.

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        Yeah, I smiled when I saw that. I remember when the only way you good get close to that kind of file size was with a high-end drum scanner that cost a lot more than what this thing does. Crazy to think about carrying something like this around back in the days when SD cards were measured in MB.

      • Crackhead Johny
      • 3 years ago

      But now you have so much aggregated news/press releases instead!

    • Shambles
    • 3 years ago

    Even my entry level DSLR will record 1080P30. In the era of UHD video you’d think they’d be putting beefier hardware in the thing that costs more than most people cars.

      • Airmantharp
      • 3 years ago

      This isn’t a handicam 😀

      • UberGerbil
      • 3 years ago

      I’m surprised they bothered to offer any video recording features. For the target market, it probably doesn’t matter much at all.

      • Sam125
      • 3 years ago

      Don’t ever buy a Hasselblad, everyone and I mean everyone will try to steal, bringing out the inner ghetto in the people around you.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 3 years ago

    Where are the wood handles.

    • chµck
    • 3 years ago

    With 50MP, you would think they could squeeze in a few dozen phase-detect AF sensors.
    Does anyone know if they fab their own sensors or if they buy it from sony/toshiba/etc?

      • Airmantharp
      • 3 years ago

      These are stock Sony sensors, used in a broad arrangement of current medium format designs. The technology is akin to the 36MP 135-format sensor used in the A7R, Nikon D8x0 bodies, and Pentax’s new K-1. Great performance, but not setup to do real AF work like the sensors used in the A6300 and A7R II, or say Canon’s DPAF technology.

      • drkskwlkr
      • 3 years ago

      It is not a simple matter to squeeze a phase-detect AF sensor on a mirrorless camera. Phase detection requires a part of the image to be projected onto a separate surface; this is fine when you have a mirror between the lens and the sensor/pentaprism and can split and direct the beam towards different sensors (Exposure Meter, White Balance, AF…), but there is no place on a mirrorless to do that.

      The best Hasselblad could do is team up with Canon to use the technology of their dual-pixel imagers which use parallax to detect focus (i.e. work similarly to phase-detect AF).

      But the contrast AF is the smallest problem with that camera; the whole affair is an excercise in pointlessness. True, medium format sensors can have big resolution while still keeping the pixels big enough so that the image quality does not start to suffer from diffraction until smaller appertures like ƒ/11 or more, but on the other hand, for any apparent focal length the depth of field of the medium-format sensor is way more shallow than that of the Leicas format, and a photographer is required to shoot at smaller appertures to achieve the same result.

      Also, a large sensor requires a large lens that can project a large image circle out. The short flange distance (the distance between the rear lens element and the sensor) means the lens must employ an additional group of thick elements which translates into extra weight. When you have more weight, you need to hold it good, and that is why a small, heavy handheld camera is impractical.

      A larger sensor makes sense in a digital camera constructed like the large format cameras of old that can move the imager plane independently from the lens axis. I wonder if we will ever see any of these…

        • Airmantharp
        • 3 years ago

        There are plenty of effective on-sensor PDAF systems available, including from Sony who supplied this sensor.

          • drkskwlkr
          • 3 years ago

          Fine but as I said lack of phase-detect AF is the least problem of that particular camera.

    • sreams
    • 3 years ago

    This could have been interesting as a video camera. A 1080P at 25fps limit is pretty disappointing. So a 50MP camera can only shoot 2MP video?

      • chµck
      • 3 years ago

      They could probably release a firmware update that allows higher fps, like sony did with the a6000.
      I imagine trying to do 4k video with this would burn the sensor in no time.

        • Airmantharp
        • 3 years ago

        This is doubtful- the sensor must support the readout and the electronics must also be able to handle the data flow. Hassy likely skimped here due to the increased cost, battery draw, and thermal requirements that are at odds with their minimalist design philosophy.

          • UberGerbil
          • 3 years ago

          Yeah, the hardware almost certainly doesn’t support it. And almost none of their actual customers will miss it.

            • Airmantharp
            • 3 years ago

            Well, to be sure, other systems with this sensor (Pentax for one) do support a higher level of video, but I’d be fairly certain that Pentax users are only ever so more likely to care about that.

            We’re still a generation or so away from having sensors (whether they be Sony, Canon, or Samsung) that can properly support full readout at high framerates, that are backed by electronics and storage subsystems that can actually make the data useful.

      • spiritwalker2222
      • 3 years ago

      Yes the 25 fps is disappointing. And so is the price for me.

        • UberGerbil
        • 3 years ago

        Clearly you’re not the target market for this, on either point.

      • sluggo
      • 3 years ago

      The target market for this camera will think little of spending the money for a true video camera, if they need one.

    • WhatMeWorry
    • 3 years ago

    And with Moore’s law it will be $800 in ten years. 🙂

      • MarkG509
      • 3 years ago

      Well cared-for Hasselblad’s go up in price as they age, not down.

      Source: my brother does photography.

      • UberGerbil
      • 3 years ago

      Uh, no. Very little of what contributes to the price is subject to Moore’s Law.

      • Crackhead Johny
      • 3 years ago

      Well it worked on Maybachs.. wait no it didn’t.

      Moore’s law has nothing to do with paying for a status symbol.
      While a ‘blad is considered the best by many, you can get similar sharpness out of a Rolleiflex so if you are buying one you will want to be able to return the blad after comparing it to your rolle and discovering the improvement is so slight as to not be worth the bazillion extra dollars.

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    And the price is nothing compared to the [url=http://gizmodo.com/this-hasselblad-camera-used-on-the-moon-just-sold-nea-1550241803<]used market[/url<]

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      In fairness to the camera, it was taken to the moon. Good gravy.

        • davidbowser
        • 3 years ago

        Yeah. Hasselblads, in general, are not the “I just want to take some pics of my kids” cameras. That one is simply a collector’s item.

    • Firestarter
    • 3 years ago

    pocketable medium format cameras, now that’s a thing I wasn’t expecting

      • UberGerbil
      • 3 years ago

      What kind of pockets do you have, man?

      (Ok, if you remove the lens, and put a cap on the mount, I could probably get it into the cargo pockets on some of pants/shorts. But I don’t think it would be comfortable and I certainly wouldn’t want $9K of camera banging around on the outside of my leg.)

        • Firestarter
        • 3 years ago

        well it’s a bit of a stretch

          • Shobai
          • 3 years ago

          what, like elastane?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This