Stress Testing the Hasselblad X2D Across India
And announcing $21,500 of giveaways!
If you enjoy reading this post, feel free to like or share it so more people can discover it on Substack.
The Hasselblad X2D has been on of the most surprising and rewarding cameras that I’ve gotten to test over the last few months. And look, when you’re talking about an $8,000 digital medium format solution, you’re really speaking to a very small group of photographers but there are some innovations here that I feel aren’t talked about enough in the imaging space.
I put this camera to the ultimate test where it would sit in a key position for my personal documentary work. And after many weeks of pushing it in all types of environments, there are three things that Hasselblad overdelivers on which ultimately dictates whether this system is right for you: optical performance, user experience—and what I wanna jump into first—image quality.
The Image Quality
Colour science is an interesting thing because we all end up guiding an image in a specific direction through editing. You craft a story with how you add and remove colours. But I would be doing an incredible disservice if I didn’t say how damn good the colours are straight out of this camera.
I’ve used all kinds of cameras and systems and everyone has their version of reality. Some more truthful than other. This image profile sits at the top when I think about colour accuracy. Skin tones have never felt more spot on. Greens feel healthy. And while the blues might come in with a touch more vibrancy, they don’t feel unnatural. Whether it was another photographer or just a casual, I was always met with amazement when I showed people how colours were being rendered on this camera.
They call it the Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution or HNCS, but they could’ve just called it reality because that’s what it feels like. You know, I came in with a healthy amount of skepticism because I’m thinking, “Okay, how good is it really?” Turns out it’s really f*cking good. In a country like India where I’m bombarded by colours, it’s refreshing to know that my starting point is gonna be the best I’ve ever seen.
Now on top of accuracy, you also have the overall quality of the image where the depth and contrast come together to produce something that’s almost larger than life. With the right positioning, you can land these images that feel theatrical in nature. With a a sensor that’s about 70% larger than full-frame, you have the opportunity to produce powerful photos that feel uniquely different. And I say opportunity because you still have to think like a photographer to position this sensor in right environments.
You can capture 16-bit RAW files that pack an incredible amount of colour information and in the best conditions, up to 15 stops of dynamic range. If you’re a pixel peeper, you can punch in and see all that wonderful micro-contrast that brings your subject to life.
The ISO ranges from 64 to 25,600. I found myself either sticking to 64 or setting the ceiling to 1600 and letting the camera decide. While you can get a great image at higher ISOs, I felt like to get the best of what this camera can do, I wanted to shoot at the lowest ISO my environment would allow.
Oh, and in the event you want a more manageable file to edit and share, the latest firmware allows you to record high-efficiency image files as well.
The opportunity to capture the most true-to-life representation of what’s in front of you is—at least if you’re asking me—the main reason you’d look to invest in a camera like this. Especially if you spend much of your work capturing portraits, still life, landscapes, and architecture, you have a body here that often delivers that HOLY SH*T! experience right after you press the shutter.
The User Experience
The user experience of the Hasselblad X2D might be one of the most criminally underrated aspects of this imaging tool. Let’s start with the physical experience first. You have this angled, pistol-grip that is deep, natural, and allows all your fingers to wrap into the camera; it doesn’t sit flat.
The shutter button is positioned perfectly and delivers a satisfying click without any hesitation. On the top you have a colour LCD that shows critical settings but what I love is that when you camera is plugged in to charge, it’s always on and telling your the battery life. It’s because of this that I found myself—more than any other camera before—charging this camera like my phone where I would just plug in a USB-C cable. And just like a phone, a single press of the power button puts the camera in a sleep mode immediately. I love this!
There’s two customizable buttons on the top of the camera but I found myself perfectly happy to leave them to Mode and an ISO/WB toggle. Side note, it would be cool for other companies to have one or two shortcut buttons operate as a toggle for two features instead of just one. Kudos to Hasselblad for figuring this out.
On the front of the camera, there’s the obvious lens release button along with another shortcut button. I have this set up to toggle the new face detect autofocus mode when I know I’m going to take a portrait. This has worked incredibly well in the field. I didn’t see any of that nervous hesitation where the camera would see a face and then not see it after slight movement. If your subject is lit, this camera will recognize the face. I spend much of my time capturing people with all kinds of complexions and of various ages, and not once did this camera struggle to acquire focus of their face. Again, if they’re lit its gonna see them.
Now back to the body! Because the shutter for this system always sits in the lens, much of the body of this camera is a slim block of metal that keeps the entire thing feeling like the size of a premium full-frame camera. At 900g, this camera isn’t super light but because of the design—where the centre of gravity sits closer to the grip and battery—it feels lighter and more comfortable than most cameras of similar sizes.
There are two command dials on this camera to control your key settings. The rear dial can be pressed to activate a shortcut. For me, I set this up to toggle the focus point where I can then use the dials to move my focus point up-down or left-right. This camera has no directional pad, so moving that focus point is done via this method or the far more accessible touch screen.
On the back, you have the exposure and focus lock buttons, but just beneath that is a clean design where your thumb can sit without the worry of activating a menu or shortcut. This is great. The back LCD feels massive compared to most digital cameras where 3.6” and 2.36M dots make for a beautiful viewing experience. It’s something that caught the attention of casuals where it just made the image pop even more. The back LCD does have some tilt to it, but it doesn’t hit that magical 180-degrees which left me wanting more in some environments.
On the side of the LCD, you have four navigational buttons for playback, confirm, cancel, and menu. It’s an easy system to move through made even easier by how f*cking good the touchscreen is on this camera. More than any camera I’ve used, this feels like using my iPhone. You can swipe and scroll through menus without hesitation. I really hope more companies aspire to this level of speed and accuracy when it comes to their touchscreen capabilities.
There’s also the 5.67M OLED viewfinder with 1.0x magnification and a very comfortable entry point for your pupil. It’s one of the most immersive viewfinder experiences I’ve used. As easy as it would be for me to drive up the word count of this review talking about how great this viewfinder, I’m just gonna tell you that it’s f*cking phenomenal and leaves nothing to be desired.
I guess I kinda did drive up the word count there, didn’t I?
Wrapping up the design, you have switch-release mechanism for the battery of this camera and two doors on left for the CF Express Type B card and USB-C cable.
So, that’s the design and build of this camera along with what I think about it. But let me also take a moment to highlight the Hasselblad User Interface which has to be the easiest menu system on a camera to date. It’s an iconographic menu system that clearly tells you where things are and there isn’t this complex triage of sub-menus to keep you guessing.
All of this comes together for one of the most enjoyable pro photography experiences in the market. Now, let’s jump into some more of the specifics of what this camera can do.
The Key Features
This camera delivers a staggering 1Tb of internal storage. You don’t need a memory card to work with this thing. Unlike other solutions, I found myself using the internal storage of this camera as the primary destination and sending high-effeciency images to the CF Express card. When I wanted to download photos, I would just plug in my camera, choose mass storage, and both the internal and memory card would show up as drives on my desktop. From there, I’m a drag-and-drop away from starting my editing process. But there’s also something else worth talking about: the Hasselblad Phocus app.
To my surprise, the Hasselblad Phocus app on iOS is amazing! After you’ve done the initial pairing, whenever you open the app and the camera is on, you see a pop up that asks you if you want to connect. It’s that easy! Thanks to the advanced Wi-Fi chip, you connect fast, reliably, and can start transferring these massive raw files with ease! The app is quite feature rich too.
You import images from camera to app and from there you can edit your files with a healthy amount of tools and then save it to your album. With the iPad, you can even treat this as a wireless tether tool where your client can be reviewing the images as they come in while you’re shooting, cable free! I especially love the ability to add Hasselblad borders. It’s just a neat little feature to add some class to your image… Or maybe just flex on your haters, haha.
I have to mention the image stabilization on this camera because it really is fantastic. You can handhold shots at 1/25 or 1/10 of a second and get incredible images. The 7-stops of image stabilization feels true to spec and works incredibly well in the field.
Autofocus on this camera is good for the subjects that a camera like this would excel at: portraiture, still life, landscapes, architecture. Paired with the new 90V lens, I found it to be plenty fast and not show any crazy hunting. The phase-detect system works reliably in well-lit environments. Where it struggles is when there’s a noticeable drop in contrast and just very low light. As a medium format solution, this autofocus is plenty good.
When it came to battery life, I found it to be more than reasonable. I would go about two days between charges; sometimes three. Now, it’ll come down to how you use this camera. I use it in a way where I would leave it on—albeit with a sleep mode—and capture about 100-150 images per day. The one day that it came near zero was about half way into a third day without charging. This is all to say that I don’t think most people will take issue with the battery life of this camera. And if you do, well there’s always the USB-C charging to ease the pain.
I should also mention that this camera has no video features. And thank god. This is a photography tool through and through. Hasselblad doesn’t shy away from that. What we have is something that’s focused on creating the best images possible.
So, how can this camera get better? I’d love to see an easier way to use and manage custom profiles. Right now it sits about two options too deep. I’d love to see this come to the first menu where you can tap an icon and choose a custom profile. I’d love a faster way to move between street and studio settings.
I’m sure it took a monumental effort to bring reliable face detection to this camera. I’d love to see that evolve to bring continuous tracking so that you maintain focus between shots. It’s not a major drawback for how I’ve been shooting, but I feel like the engineers in Sweden are doing some great upgrades over the last year, this might be something they can figure out too.
Next is something a little crazy but hear me out… Hasselblad colours are f*cking amazing. What if they took their experience and proficiencies and introduced 1 or 2 other colour profiles like an Alexa camera, where the raw data of the sensors is going through an alternative pipeline to create a wholly different look? I would love to see one filmic and one black & white profile that you could use to create a different kind of story in the field.
Again, I know this sounds crazy but I’ve been so impressed at what the Hasselblad colours can do, I’d love to see what the team could create if the task was to do create something more original.
If I’m talking about the next version of this camera, I think there are some key ways you could make a noticeable improvement. I’d love to see the LCD tilt all the way flat and having the option to use both command dials as shortcuts.
No d-pad will bother some people but it didn’t affect how I used this camera, but what if the next version had this trackpad that was also a button that you could engage for navigation and gestures. Maybe this is a little too out there, but just a thought on evolving how users interact with the technology.
It would also be great to see some dynamic resolution changing where you could use the entire readout of the sensor but choose a 50 or 25MP file instead, if only for those instances where the workflow is more mobile and social.
And this camera is built like an elegant tank. I never hesitated about taking it in the rain or dust. But I would love to see some more prominent messaging around weather resistance in the future, even it is to just give a little more peace of mind for users.
With a host of new, premium lenses that deliver exceptional optical quality from edge to edge, the Hasselblad X system is a premium imaging solution that will exceed expectations for those that want reference style images. Or to put it another way, if you want to take the most accurate representation of what your eyes are seeing, I think this is the best system under $15,000 to do it with.
The Hasselblad X2D is a precision tool that delivers a result that’s only matched by its user experience. It places an incredibly high-priority on the idea of getting a great image and feeling incredible while doing it. I need to stress how exceptional the software integration feels. It makes for a camera that you want to create and share with often. There are no awkward, technical hiccups that stifle the flow of creativity. You just point, shoot, and share.
For those that find themselves in a position where they have the luxury of picking any tool for their storytelling, this is a camera that will appeal most to portrait, still life, landscape, architecture—and if you’re like me—documentary photographers that demand the best result in the moment and have the time to craft a shot.
So, where have I landed with this camera personally? I genuinely loved it more than I thought I would. When I got the opportunity to test drive this over several cities around the world, I didn’t think it could keep up. I thought the colour science wouldn’t be much of a selling point. And I thought the autofocus would struggle far too much for my line of work.
Well, I was f*cking wrong. On all counts.
This is an extremely versatile kit that didn’t weigh me down. The colours out of the camera are astounding, especially when it came to the representation of skin. And the camera kept up for everything I needed it for. Look, the truth is if this camera didn’t do what I needed, I would’ve just left at home or in the hotel most of the time, and delivered much stricter qualifiers on who this camera is for.
But, it truly exceeded my expectations. It overdelivered. Because of how it’s designed, it made me want to keep using it. And truth be told, that’s probably the best thing I can say about the Hasselblad X2D.
November Contest Winner…
Congratulations to the winner of the Moment Strohl Mountain backpack.
You’ll be receiving an email with details on getting your prize. Enjoy!
Huge Contest for December!
Each month, I run a contest for the Church & Street community and try to feature something that I think people will appreciate. To celebrate our first 1,000 readers, we’re doing our biggest giveaway to date!
For December, we’re giving away $21,500 worth of credit on the Moment store.
$500 shop credit for 3 lucky winners
$20 shop credit for the first 1,000 to enter
All you have to do is be a member of this community and create an account for the Moment Store (so you can receive the credit).
If you already have a Moment account with the same email as the one you have here, you’re already entered. For the rest of you, make sure your subscribed to Church & Street and sign up to the Moment Store here. At the end of the month, I’ll be selecting 3 winners that will receive an additional $500 each to the Moment Store.
Once again, this contest is void where prohibited by law. Good luck!
My thanks to the team at Moment! Not only for this contest but for being the longest supporter of my work online. They’re a lean team of passionate creators that truly believe in supporting other creators on their journey. Whether it’s a new camera, lens, workshop, or just some great articles, visit ShopMoment.com today.
I’m back home after a ton of photo adventures around the world. December is a month where I really wind down the photo work and start reflecting on what the year has brought me. It’s also the month where I start mapping out what I hope to execute in the year to come.
As a result, the next few posts may not be so photo-heavy but I think it’ll speak to some topics that I think you’ll enjoy as a creative. Anyway, that’s enough for this week. See ya next time!
Thanks for reading Church & Street. Be sure to leave any thoughts or questions in the comments and if you really enjoyed this post, share it with your circle ✊🏾