Hasselblad X2D 100C: Incredible resolution, beautiful imperfections
After releasing two previous models, Hasselblad seems to have finally nailed the compact medium format camera with the X2D 100C. With a 100-megapixel back-illuminated sensor that doubles the resolution of the last model, it promises exceptional image quality and a stunning design. However, it also has limited autofocus capabilities, no video, and a hefty price tag. So is this just a luxury item, or is it good for serious photographers?
My professional photographer friend Nathanael Charpentier wanted to find out. He was interested to see if the X2D could help him take more creative pictures compared to his current Sony A1 and A9 cameras. At the same time, he was looking to use it in select situations to complement, rather than replace, his existing setup.
The X2D will obviously work well and take great pictures in a controlled studio environment, but Nathanael wanted to test it in more challenging scenarios like live events. As such, he photographed a theater group, some professional scenarios, musicians and an evening out – with his Hasselblad and Sony A1 for comparison. I also took it myself to test in low light, for landscapes and more.
Body and treatment
The X2D is bound to draw comparisons with Fujifilm’s 100-megapixel GFX 100S. On the one hand, Fuji’s model has more advanced technology such as AI autofocus with eye and face detection. However, the Hasselblad offers a better industrial design, handling and build quality.
Physically, they couldn’t be more different. Where the GFX 100S looks like other Fuji mirrorless cameras but bigger, the X2D is sleeker and more modern. It has almost the same design and controls as the X1D II and X1D first introduced in 2017, with some improvements. This is great, as the body is beautiful and practical. However, there are some usability features.
Gallery: Hasselblad X2D 100C | 23 Photo Gallery: Hasselblad X2D 100C | 23 photos
The control layout is sparse compared to the GFX 100S and most other modern mirrorless cameras. There are front and rear dials for the main settings, along with ISO/white balance, mode, power, exposure lock, display and menu buttons. They are generally responsive and have a high quality feel.
It is relatively light for its category at 895 grams, but still quite heavy. Fortunately, the large, non-slip grip is pleasant to hold and makes the X2D comfortable for all-day sessions. Ergonomically, it’s generally easy to use, but I missed having a joystick to move the AF point. This must be done using either the screen or the numbers, which can be difficult.
The menu system is just as simple. The main settings are available on one screen and everything else has its own category, such as focus, exposure and general settings. Again, it’s easy to use, but some additional manual controls would help if you need to make adjustments on the fly.
Where the X1D II had a fixed screen, the 3.6-inch one has a 2.36 million-dot touchscreen. It’s the only way to change many settings, so thankfully it’s bright, sharp and responsive. It tilts up, unlike previous models, but only 70 degrees which is insufficient for very low shooting angles. It’s also slightly blocked by the large extended viewfinder (EVF) when looking straight down.
Speaking of, the OLED EVF is another strong point. It has a sharp resolution of 5.76 million dots with a refresh rate of 60 fps and a large 100 percent zoom. It even offers an electronic diopter adjustment for people who wear glasses, which proved to be effective and kind of cool. Setting it up is like taking an eye test, as the words come into focus.
On top of the CFexpress Type B slot, the X2D has a built-in 1TB SSD, enough to hold over 3,000 RAW and JPEG shots. It is easily fast and spacious enough to hold and transfer large images. I’ve never used the CFexpress slot except as a backup – but it’s also nice to have a high-speed card slot for quick transfers.
At 420 shots, battery life is better than previous models, but still on the low side, and that figure is pretty accurate in our experience. Fortunately, it supports PD 3.0 fast charging up to 30W, so you can fully charge in about 2 hours and use it on AC power in a studio. However, I would recommend additional batteries and the optional dual-battery charger, which costs an additional $155.
If you’re shooting in the studio, you can use the Phocus app (on Windows or Mac) for remote triggering and organizing shots. It offers exposure bracketing, but doesn’t have a live view or any way to change settings.
Finally, while the X2D 100C is well made, Hasselblad doesn’t say whether it’s weatherproof, so for landscape shooting in bad weather, the GFX 100S might be a better choice as it’s rated by Fujifilm for protection from dust and splashes.
Nathanael: My first impression was about the handling. I found the ergonomics to be very good. It’s quite heavy, but has a great grip, so you always have a good grip on it. It was easy to change key settings like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, but moving the autofocus point can be a little difficult. Once I got used to the controls, I was able to shoot very quickly.
With a new processor, the X2D starts up much faster than before (2 seconds compared to 4 seconds) and is significantly faster overall over the X1D II. Hasselblad also has three new V-series lenses (38mm f/2.5, 55mm f/2.5 and 90mm f/2.5) that are designed to focus three times faster than previous models when used with the new Hybrid AF system of X2D.
Speed isn’t what the camera was built for, but it can manage around 3.3 images per second (in 14-bit mode only), which isn’t bad considering the 215MB RAW frame size. Still, photographers won’t buy this as a sports camera and will most likely only use it in single-shot mode to get full 16-bit images.
Where past models only had contrast detection autofocus, the X2D finally has superior hybrid phase detection AF. The implementation, however, is not ideal. The single small AF point was often not accurate enough for the extremely shallow depth of field. And apart from a setting to make the focus point slightly larger, there are no other AF options like area, etc.
Eye and face detection is also not available, although Hasselblad has indicated that it will come in a future update. Engadget has reached out to the company to find out when that might happen.
In any case, Nathanael wasn’t too worried about perfect AF and often preferred manual focus, and it works very well. Like other mirrorless cameras, it has a zoom system that kicks in when you manually operate the focus ring. However, it’s the best implementation I’ve seen – the high resolution of the sensor allows for a great 100 percent zoom, and it’s very clear on the high-resolution display. At the same time, the improved focus clutch on the new V lens makes fine focus adjustments quite easy.
Hasselblad’s famous mechanical leaf shutter built into the lens keeps noise and vibration to a minimum and allows flash sync up to a maximum speed of 1/2000. As with Fuji’s GFX100s, the electronic shutter isn’t really usable for most moving subjects due to the extreme rolling shutter.
Finally, the X2D is equipped with a new stabilization system developed from scratch by Hasselblad for the large sensor. It allows for a claimed blur reduction of seven stops, compared to six for the GFX 100S. This allowed us to take sharp photos at shutter speeds as low as a fifth of a second – not true with such a demanding sensor.
Nathanael: I shot almost exclusively in manual focus to begin with. It didn’t bother me because there are some tools to help a lot with this. When you rotate the focus ring, it really zooms in and you can clearly see the focus. Later, I learned all the features of the autofocus and figured out how to make it work better, so I started using it more often. In the end, I was mostly getting sharp shots using a mix of manual and automatic focus, depending on the situation.
Gallery: Hasselblad X2D 100C sample image gallery | 28 Photo Gallery: Hasselblad X2D 100C sample image gallery | 28 photos
The X2D’s biggest weapon is the new 100-megapixel, back-illuminated sensor – likely the same one used in Fujifilm’s GFX 100S and its H6D-100C. For reference, the pixel size on the X2D is 3.76 micrometers, the same as Sony’s 61-megapixel A7R V. You can shoot JPEG, 10-bit HEIF or 16-bit RAW photos.
Hasselblad says the dynamic range exceeds 15 stops, which is more than any camera I’ve ever tested. The company also uses what it calls “Natural Color Science” to deliver accurate and pleasing hues.
All that said, the X2D delivers the best images I’ve ever seen straight from a camera. Color rendition is excellent and certainly images have more sharpness and detail than almost any other camera on the market. This is aided by the new XCD V series lenses, which deliver exceptional sharpness right to the edges of the frame.