If you’ve been shooting pix with a cellphone so long you’ve forgotten what it was like to hold a serious film camera, the first thing you’ll notice is the satisfying feel of the Hasselblad X1D-50C. It’s not the weight (just 1.6 pounds), nor the size (5.9 x 3.85 x 2.79 inches). But it is the feel of milled aluminum that comes with hefting this first-of-its-kind, medium-format, mirrorless digital camera. The reassuring click of the shutter, the solid action of the mode dials, everything about this handheld evokes the legend of Hasselblad, the brand that has been mounted to military aircraft and made the first trip to the Moon 50 years ago.
Next, you’ll appreciate the large CMOS image sensor (50 megapixel), which delivers acute photos with accurate colors from a package about the size of a typical SLR camera. Then there’s the breadth of options (shutter speeds range from 1/2000th of a second to 60 minutes). When it’s time to print your images, you’ll feel confident enough to enlarge to 8 x 10 inches (and far bigger) without sacrificing picture quality.
Based on its lofty caliber and price ($9,000, extra lenses range from $2,700 to $4,500), this Hasselblad gets compared often to performance cars like Ferraris and McLarens, meaning it’s a luxury purchase, indefensible as an everyday drive. But a more apt comparison would be to a Rolls Royce. It’s built for comfort and not for speed. You’ll find yourself taking the time to compose portraits and landscape shots. In fact, its slow reset action suffers while shooting sports and other action shots. (A planned addition of a zoom to its suite of lenses is not yet available.)
One thing that Hasselblad wisely cribbed from the modern cell phone is the ability to navigate a menu that sits on the back of the camera with finger swipes. It also includes an onboard GPS. There the comparisons end. The X1D won’t help you to insert house-of-mirror images on your face for Instagram. Then again you don’t buy this camera to take selfies.