The Move to Medium Format: First Impressions of the Hasselblad X1D50C
Blog posts, it appears, have been rather thin on the ground for the past 18 month or more. Sometimes the routine happenings of everyday life seem to take over, leaving little or no time for being creative in any sense.
Not "being able" to be creative then leads to the problem of not "feeling" creative when the opportunity does arise and I'm able to get out with my camera.
Towards the end of last year, I made the decision to get another camera with the thought that it might spark my interest and get me out and photographing more regularly. Rather than rush into buying something similar to what I already had, I started to look at what other types of cameras were available, whether they could do anything differently or better than the Canon 5Dmk3 that I already had. The choice of cameras available was mind boggling.
It was while visiting DigitalSplash in Liverpool in October last year that I finally got my hands onto something brand new to the photographic world:
A mirrorless camera.
But not any old mirrorless camera, a medium format mirrorless system. It was different to anything I'd used before, but it felt great to hold in the hand, seemed simple to use, had fantastic image quality. Could this be the way to go?
I wandered around looking at all the other equipment on offer, but I kept being drawn back to this one camera. After much deliberation, not to mention a few phone calls, I decided to take the plunge and place an order.
It took three months to arrive, newly released, a Hasselblad X1D 50C. Three months of reading all the pre-release information on how fantastic it all was going to be, and when it did come I couldn't wait to get out and try it for myself.
After the first few days my impression was, "What on earth have I done"? I felt a bit the same way when I changed from being a Windows PC user to an Apple Mac user.
I seemed to struggle with the live view mode, struggled with the view finder, seemed to struggle with everything. It was so different to anything I had used before. I found it incredibly frustrating, disappointing even. The camera frequently flagged up card errors, or software errors and needed to be switched off and on again.
I felt like I had made one very expensive mistake.
Errors apart, one of the things I found most different, apart from the user interface, was the depth of field. Compared to a full frame SLR the depth of field was much shallower for any given aperture, all to do with the size of the sensor. Things which seemed second nature before seemed no longer to apply to the Hasselblad. I think I was a little 'scared' of it also, if that is the correct term, but I persevered. I deliberately left my other camera behind and just concentrated on trying to get to grips with this new machine.
Eventually, things started to improve, the camera firmware was updated adding some nice features that were lacking on its initial release. I discovered that the SD cards I was using in the camera, some I already had, were not compatible. I found myself spending less time wrestling with the camera and more time concentrating on the photographs.
Now finally, six months or so on, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with Hasselblad, I'm no longer scared of it, it is just another camera, just different to any camera I have used before, and different in the technical quality of the images it is capable of producing. They are stunning. The optical quality is amazing as is the 14 stops of dynamic range. I have got used to having an electric view finder not an optical one, used to the way the camera controls work, used to getting it set up so I can create the sort of images I'm after. Hasselblad has continued to work on the firmware which has so far managed to alleviate some of the software bugs.
It will never fully replace my Canon DSLR, but is an addition to my photographic arsenal and I look forward to sharing some photos I've taken with it.
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