Michael Erlewine

Hasselbld X1D: Learning Curve

7 posts in this topic

Right now, with the X1D, I am learning to take photographs, as in: the process. I am not quite there with the camera enough to capture my ‘impressions,” at least not yet. And it’s not just the learning curve I’m talking about either, but the entire process, in particular getting the focus and the aperture just right. This will take some time.

 

The process involved in using the X1D is more involved than the simplistic camera it is made out to be. Since I tend to use LiveView, outside and in sunlight, this requires some kind of optical viewfinder to block the sunlight and offer some magnification. I started out with the Zacuto Z-Finder, hanging from a lanyard around my neck. However, the Z-Finder is so robust that its heaviness proved distracting. So, I switched to one of the ELVID viewfinders that, while not as good as the Zacuto, are so very light that I even forget I’m wearing it. Still, it is sharp enough and magnifies adequately to work just fine. I don’t need the extra clarity offered by the Z-Finder, at least not with the LiveView screen on the X1D. I can see to focus via the magnification “star” button.

 

Meanwhile, I am still very put off by the fact that LiveView switches off automatically after 15 seconds. This is not helpful when setting up a shot with the X1D, so I have no idea what they were thinking. However, I have been assured that this LiveView problem is fixed in the next firmware update, so I can wait for that. I am getting too old to always be the sacrificial lamb at the altar of technology, even (or especially!) with a Hasselblad.

 

I will leave it to others to comment on using the X1D for sports or walk-around shots. I may get to that, but so far that has not happened. I do have to keep remembering to have the timer on, since often (but not always) it turns itself off when I turn the camera off. Perhaps someone could tell me how to set it and have it on permanently. Since there is no hard-wired remote cord, I am stuck with the timer or using Phocus on my iPhone, which is just one more stone around my neck to carry around.

 

I am happy with the color on the X1D although I do find myself looking to NIK’s “Color Efex Pro 4” to tweak the removal of color casts from time to time. As mentioned earlier, at this stage in my learning curve I am just taking photos with the X1D, not actually creating them yet in my style, although I am getting close.

 

I am more or less happy with the lenses and understand that they may be working to improve the focus shift of the 90mm lens. I do everything with manual focus, and that is working OK. As for stacking, no problem, but I have not attempted large stacks, only what I call short stacks of maybe 3-4 layers. Like all cameras, this one takes some study, coupled with learning to use a medium-format lens, such as it is.

 

There is no doubt that I move more slowly with the X1D compared to the Nikon D810, and it is not just because it is a new camera to learn. In large, being more careful and attentive to process is good for me, and the X1D demands this if I want good results. So, I am into it.

 

Things I would like: Aside from leaving LiveView on, I would like a wired or IF remote and not have to haul around (and be careful of) my iPhone with Phocus software to be a remote. No thanks!

 

I would like a separate button to return to LiveView other than trying to guess how much pressure to place on the shutter release without accidently taking an unwanted photo. That is a pain.

 

And I would like my 30mm lens to arrive, which they took the entire money for but have yet to produce. As for batteries, when I asked the fellow at B&H when my two extra batteries would come (this about a month ago), his answer was July, which I couldn’t believe. So, at GREAT expense, I found and bought the first two batteries to come up on Ebay, giving me three. That is enough for now... I hope.

 

As for repairs, I have not needed any, but I did call the Hasselblad Bron center in New Jersey and they explained that they try to repair things there; otherwise they send them overseas. So, I’m crossing my fingers.

 

And finally, I am waiting (like many) for the release of the 120mm Macro lens in June, since that is the lens I need for most of my work. I don’t do much macro anymore, but I do a lot of close up. That’s the state of the situation with the X1D for me.

 

A shot with the 90mm, lightly stacked. Not there yet, but working on it.

B0000756-90-777.jpg

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Fascinating journey, Michael, but it seems to be a lot of trouble for an, as yet, deferred reward.

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1 hour ago, Anthony said:

Fascinating journey, Michael, but it seems to be a lot of trouble for an, as yet, deferred reward.

 

 

Attention to process, IMO, is never too much trouble.

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I have had my new Hasselblad X1D on the back burner for a couple of weeks, while waiting for a lens that I can do close-up work with. Instead, I have been doing close-up photography with my trusty Nikon D810 with and without the Cambo Actus. And I have been getting some great shots.

 

But I thought to just do a little X1D shooting, getting as close-in as I can with the 90mm and 45mm lenses that I have for that camera. So, I took a few stacked photos, making just short stacks of several images.

 

I was a little shocked to see the IQ of the X1D images, compared to the Nikkor lenses I have been using, like the Otus 55mm APO, the El Nikkor 105mm APO, and some others. There is a sense of space and light with the X1D that is pretty much missing from the Nikon images. Hmmmm.

 

There is a darkness and almost a viscosity to the Nikon images that is not there in those from the X1D. I almost feel naked when I look at the X1D images, or it’s like walking from a darker room out into the sunlight, so much space and transparency.

 

Of course, I don’t have any close-up lenses for the X1D, as mentioned, not yet, so if I did that would “close me in” to good degree and make things more equal. But, right now, I am impressed anew with the quality of the Hasselblad images.

 

And I also see the challenge of MF in terms of focusing and putting images together. Because the lenses are not fast, there is little depth-of-field; everything is mostly in focus. And I guess the larger photosites gather more light. So, the X1D is definitely for a different kind of photography than the more impressionistic photos I tend to take. I will continue to do those on the Nikon D810 and on the X1D, who knows? I’m going to have to learn that as I go.

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Meanwhile, back in the jungle (so to speak), I continue to vet the Hasselblad X1D. I’m long past the time-period I could return it, so it’s mine. Right now, the X1D is limited by the lenses available to me. I’m not about to buy the adapter to mount the old and too-bulky Hasselblad lenses, not to mention the T/S adapter as well. I had bought one to try out (120mm Macro), but it was HUGE, so I sold it back on Ebay.

 

IMO, the X1D sensor is a better sensor than my D810, but the lenses (90mm and 45mm) are not better lenses than, say, the Zeiss Otus 55mm and their APO kin. So, who wins out? Well, so far (in my use) the Otus lenses win out and that means the D810 is still the camera I am most-often reaching for. This could change if I had the XCD 30mm and especially when the XCD 120mm Macro finally shows up, if that lens is up to speed.

 

I find the Hasselblad X1D easier and easier to use. As for any focusing issues, I find myself not using the focus points at all, but just double-tapping the point on the LiveView screen I want and magnifying that. For me, that works great and I can drag the magnified point around with my finger to where I want it. It is so easy. However, I do find myself automatically trying to tap on the LCD screen of the D810, which tells me that I like this approach.

 

Right out of the chute, the color of the X1D seems better than what I can get out of my D810. The images of both cameras have to be color-tweaked, but to my eyes the X1D color is much closer (or at least somewhat closer) than that from the Nikon D810.

 

I’m not a techspert, but lately I have been doing my own form of testing, comparing the X1D and the D810, using many hundreds of tests. Looking closely at the results at many f/stops, I find the quality of the Otus lenses beat out anything I can get in terms of fine detail from the X1D 90mm lens, although I am sure most folks could care less to even look. Yet, if they did, that is what they would find.

 

I am so used to the X1D by now that (aside from the LiveView turning itself off after 15 seconds, which should be soon fixed) I find the X1D very easy to use. In fact, anyone could use it, including more technical folks like me. Haptic-ally I like this camera. And since I finally got a bunch of extra batteries, that helped a lot. Do keep in mind that I am only using the X1D in manual focus mode. I never use autofocus or almost never.

 

I have yet to do any family walk-around shots or things like that. Right now, I am trying to duplicate my standard type of work, and have not come up with a match. It is getting obvious that the X1D has qualities of its own and means a shift to seeing what this camera can do outside of what I’m used to.

 

 

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SELLING MY X1D

 

After shooting some 1100 or so shots with the Hasselblad X1D system, I have decided that it is not what I need for my work. I’m sure, many will point out that I don’t get it, but I am only trying to “get it” for my own work. It’s embarrassing to admit this, after all my praise, but at my age, who cares? I have put my X1D system, including the 45mm and 90mm lenses, plus the lovely RSS L-Bracket and 5 batteries for sale on Ebay under my nickname ALLMUSIC.

 

Although there are a number of druthers and small reasons for giving up the camera, the two main reasons are:

 

(1) The lack of lenses I need now for the camera. I have waited months for the 30mm and, of course, probably will would have waited for the announced 120mm Macro, as well. This is summer, and now is the time I need those lenses. As a close-up photographer, neither the 45mm or 90mm can get me close enough, especially since there are no extensions available.

 

(2) And secondly, having very carefully done hundreds of test shots for overall sharpness, I am, despite what others say, disappointed with the degree and kind of sharpness I can attain with the X1D system and their lenses. Please don’t ask me to prove this. It’s just my opinion.

 

No one is more sorry than I am, and perhaps selling this system is a stupid thing to do. I lose a bunch of money. Or, is it that I’m hooked on the Nikon system and how the D810 works? I am not arguing that the D810 IQ is better than the X1D, but only that what I am able to get from the X1D is not worth what I have to put up with to get it. And, of course, there are all the great lenses I have that will never work on the X1D, but that is a minor thing.

 

And finally, for me and the work I do, the X1D is just not ready with what I need. I should have waited for perhaps the second edition. And, I can always get another copy, should an X2D comes out. Meanwhile, I will wait for the rumored 46 Mpx D820 and have to be happy with that. I have TRIED to love this system, but I can’t get there from here.

 

I will say that the X1D haptics are extraordinary and that, if I wanted to afford what for me would basically be a $20k system, I would keep it. The system is easy to use and I love the touch-screen of the LiveView.

 

So, there you have it. I report this because I owe it to those who have read any of my other comments on this system. C'est la vie

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Nothing wrong at all in selling a camera that doesn't do what you need it to do for you and in a manner in which you'd like to do it, Michael.


I might shortly be reporting the same thing about the Sigma SDQuattro-H that's imminently due - who knows? Suffice to say that over the past 46 years I have used more than just a few systems, some on two different and widely separated (by time) occasions, and I always am very easy to shift should another system better suit my needs.

 

I always seem to also have more than one camera system/brand at hand as well, something that's been the case since my second year in photography. I see no problem at all (other than the exppense that usually results) in swapping out of a brand or system the moment it becomes clear that it is no longer what you need, or indeed realising that it never was. 

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