Hasselblad X2D vs Leica (Workshop)
Thanks to one of my loyal Patreons I can bring you this first impressions review of the new 100MP Hasselblad X2D medium format digital camera. As a Leica photographer it will be a Hasselblad X2D vs Leica evaluation, comparing the X2D to Leica cameras I normally use. I get to use the Hasselblad camera during my Leica workshop in Spain.
If you’re new here welcome! My current cameras of choice are made by Leica, the Leica SL especially. This post will be my first impressions of the new Hasselblad X2D camera as a Leica user. My YouTube review of this camera is also linked in this article. Let’s begin!
Styling and Build Quality
The Hasselblad X2D is one very pretty camera, even as a Leica user. I think the premium build and feel of the X2D is on par with Leica cameras and this speaks volumes. Other brands such as Sony, Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Panasonic feel cheaper (and that makes sense as they are positioned as less expensive cameras).
Love the grip/ Ergonomics
I had zero complaints with the Hasselblad X2D camera design and I prefer the grip and slim body to my much loved Leica SL. The Hasselblad X2D battery and release is near identical to the Leica SL series cameras, the Leica Q2 and new Leica M11. Great to see.
The Hasselblad X2D has a big bright touch screen menu layout which is simple to use and easy to navigate. The design is different to Leica menus but just as straightforward.
Tilting LCD screen
The Hasselblad X2D screens tilts for those that use a tripod, shoot from the hip or enjoy shooting from low angles. The X2D screen offers two positions, 40 degrees and 70 and degrees. (You’ll see the screen tilted in the video linked below*). I didn’t feel a need to tilt the screen at any stage for shooting handheld portraits but I checked how it worked. The LCD screen itself is big and beautiful giving a very clear image. Better than what I’ve experienced using Leica cameras. Great colours too!
My history with Hasselblad
I’m not a stranger to Hasselblad cameras. I’ve owned or still own the Hasselblad xPan, Hasselblad SWC/M super wide, Hasselblad 500cm and Hasselblad 501c film cameras. I had the Hasselblad H3D-31 with the 31MP digital back and 645 film back. Now I use the near identical Hasselblad H2 with the same 645 film back. Great camera!
4×3 sensor format
One obvious difference when shooting with the digital medium format Hasselblad compared to full frame cameras like Leica and others is the different sensor dimensions. Full frame digital cameras like the original 35mm film cameras give you a 3:2 aspect ratio. The medium format digital Hasselblad X2D gives you a a 4:3 ratio (the same as Micro Four Thirds cameras). I thought I loved the standard 35mm format ratio but I found the 4×3 sensor dimensions easy to compose and fun to use.
100MP Hasselblad X2D
Technology has moved on a lot since my 31MP CCD back on the H3D body. The Hasselblad X2D gives you huge 100MB files which is double the 50MP resolution of the earlier Hasselblad X1D-50c and X1D II 50c cameras. It even gives you 1TB internal memory which far exceeds the 64GB of internal memory in the new Leica M11.
The question is, do we need 100MB files? Billboard photographers might say yes but for me it just meant having to order a new external hard drive before I could even process the camera files. The large file size slowed down my older computer so bare that in mind if you are buying this camera. You may need to budget for the camera and a new computer. Then there are the Hasselblad lenses to consider too.
I had the opportunity to use the Hasselblad XCD 55mm f2.5 lens and Hasselblad XCD 80mm f1.9 lens. I loved the clutch design on the new Hasselblad XCD 55mm lens and the Hasselblad branding style taken from the early Hasselblad film cameras. These are just two of many Hasselblad lenses available for the Hasselblad X system so do some research to see what lens might suit your needs the best.
55mm lens – Hasselblad XCD 2.5/55V
On a standard full frame camera a 55mm lens equates to a 43mm focal length. This is one beautiful lens with max shutter speed of 1/2000. Here are a few sample photos using this lens on the Hasselblad X2D.
80mm lens – Hasselblad 80mm f1.9 XCD
The Hasselblad 80mm f1.9 XCD lens is the fastest lens currently available for the Hasselblad X2D camera. 80mm equates to 63mm in full frame terms so very nice for portraits. Here are a few example photos using this lens. Check out the full specs of the Hasselblad XCD 80mm f1.9 lens.
Smallest lens for Hasselblad X2D?
If you want the smallest lens setup for the X2D system check out the Hasselblad XCD 45mm f/4 P lens. (I don’t have experience with this one but I love the size and weight).
Nice design features
As a Leica photographer that still uses a 2015 Leica SL camera, I’m used to charging the battery via a dedicated battery charger. The Hasselblad X2D can be charged via a standard USB-C cable which is a lifesaver if you don’t have the charger. This was the case for me one night in Spain. In addition to charging you can also transfer the photos to your laptop via the same cable. In more practical terms, this means you are able to carry a USB power bank on big trips and charge the camera as you travel inside your bag.
The camera feature I missed the most on the Hasselblad X2D was the lack of a black and white preview mode/ film simulation. I have my Leica cameras almost permanently set to B&W preview as I shoot mostly in black and white. There is no option to do this with the X2D. I shoot cameras with basic settings only so didn’t notice other features that were lacking. Apparently the X2D is missing numerous features including no continuous autofocus. I was using single shot autofocus (AFS mode) so didn’t miss it.
If you’ve used Leica SL cameras you’ll be aware of the small joystick on the back of the cameras. This is how I control the single focus point while having my eye on the viewfinder. It’s also what I press to zoom in to check critical focus. With the Hasselblad X2D there is a hack you can use where you use you finger on the rear LCD while looking through the viewfinder to move the focus point. I prefer the Leica SL cameras in this regard.
What you see is not what you get
One surprise I had when shooting with the Hasselblad X2D was the exposure I saw through the electronic viewfinder was different to the image captured. I’m used to exposing by eye (from the image displayed in the EVF) with my Leica cameras (rightly or wrongly) and the resulting image is always identical. I clipped the highlights on a number of photos using the Hasselblad as the resulting photos were brighter than what I was seeing. Please note this might be dumb user error but it caught me out.
Limited maximum shutter speed
If you enjoy using fast lenses in bright conditions you’ll be disappointed by the limited maximum shutter speed of 1/2000. That’s not quite true as it will depend on which lens you are using. The Hasselblad X2D uses leaf shutter lenses so the shutter is built into the lens and not the camera body. You can get shutter speeds up to 1/800 or 1/2000 with HC/ HCD lenses but if you use XCD lenses you can get up to 1/4000. I’m used to shutter speeds up to 1/16000 on the Leica SL which means I now never need to use ND filters. You will need a neutral density filter when you use fast lenses such as the 80mm f1.9 on a sunny day.
Hasselblad X2D lens adapter
I didn’t get a chance to try legacy lenses on the Hasselblad X2D via an adapter so I can’t confirm how good the viewfinder is for manual focusing non-autofocus lenses. The Leica SL series cameras really shine when using them with vintage lenses as the viewfinders are so good. I would expect the X2D to be great too based on the big viewfinder.
Hasselblad X2D – Summary
So as you may have guessed my Hasselblad X2D first impressions are very positive. I was more than happy using the X2D instead of my usual Leica SL cameras when using the AF lenses. As mentioned, I can’t confirm the manual focus experience using older lenses but if I get a chance to try this in the future I will be sure to report back to you.
Watch the Hasselblad X2D review on YouTube
Note, I didn’t have a rare safari version of this Hasselblad X2D, it was just the lighting when I took the photo. See above photos for the true colour.
MrLeica Hasselblad X2D Presets
To process my Hasselblad X2D RAW files I developed my usual MrLeica Lightroom presets for the Hasselblad X2D. All photos shared in this article are edited as RAW + preset unless stated otherwise. If you are interested in any of my MrLeica Lightroom presets you can find them here.
Need Leica Presets?
Hasselblad X presets for Lightroom (X1D and X1D II)
Note, if you use the earlier Hasselblad X1D or X1D II cameras you can still apply these presets to your photos but I developed them around the X2D files. (I often mix and match my Leica presets across different camera files).
MrLeica model photography workshop in Spain
This was the first model photography workshop I’ve ran in Spain and it was a huge success. I’ll definitely offer more workshops here in the future. Spain offers fantastic weather and a different landscape to what I’m used to in the UK providing near unlimited photo opportunities. If you want to organise a private 1:1 workshop in the Alicante region of Spain as Hidde did just get in touch.
Hidde, one of my loyal Patreon supporters flew in from the Netherlands with his wife for the week. A huge thanks to him for bringing his Hasselblad X2D camera for me to try (and in addition to this, a Leica SL2, Sigma Art 85 f1.4, Leica Summicron-SL 35mm f2 and Plaubel Makina 67 film camera) (plus more I didn’t get chance to test!)
If you enjoy model photography check out the video I made for the Sigma 85mm f1.4 L mount lens (shot on a Leica SL2). I was using them in Spain during the model photography workshop.
Hasselblad X2D Portraits
Here are a few more Hasselblad X2D portraits/ model photos from the multi-day model workshop in Spain. A big thanks to our beautiful models too. We had a great time.
Hasselblad X2D vs Leica? Am I switching?
So the question is, will I now be switching to the Hasselblad X series system? The answer is no. I don’t need the higher megapixels from the X2D sensor (or earlier versions). 24MP suits my current portraits and workflow needs. If there was a 24MP Hasselblad I might be tempted but I think I’ll stay with my trusty Leica SL for now.
Investing in Leica or Hasselblad
The question is, are Leica or Hasselblad worth the higher price tag? I would say it depends. For Hasselblad and Leica used film cameras, I think yes. The prices go up year on year with demand. (This might not be the case in 20 years time but I think we are OK for now while film is still in demand and available-ish!). Hasselblad and Leica lenses without electronics bought used hold their value well. Lenses with electronics less so, such as Leica SL lenses and modern Hasselblad lenses for H and X systems. Used Leica cameras hold their price a little better than used digital Hasselblad cameras from my observations. Both will retain their value better than popular consumer brands (that release a new camera every six months).
Buying new Leica and Hasselblad cameras might not be the best investment in money terms but I think it’s less about the money. If you work a long hour high stress job and get a salary to reflect that these cameras may give your some enjoyable creative downtime to look forward to. If you can afford them I say go for it.
What do I invest in?
After quitting my career and becoming a full time YouTuber/ Blogger I don’t have endless money (well I never had) so I try to invest my money into gear wisely. My preference is buying interesting lenses (metal and glass, no electronics) that I can shoot on film and digital cameras. As you know, I love Leica cameras but I prefer to buyer older digital camera bodies once they are at a huge discount. Currently I use the Leica M240, Leica CL, Leica SL and Leica Q. I then invest in nice lenses instead to keep my creative juices flowing.
So do you need the latest digital camera?
Answer, probably not! Think of your favourite famous photo.. it was probably shot on film. If you love new gadgets and the additional functionality they bring then I can see your interest in the latest digital cameras. Perhaps you enjoy shooting in the dark or with near instant incredibly accurate autofocus. If you do then buy Sony (haha). Leica Monochrom cameras such as the new Leica M11M are great in low light compared to colour sensor cameras. Neither Leica nor Hasselblad offer lightning fast autofocus and both brands usually lag behind when it comes to offering the latest technology. What they do give you is a premium build quality feel.
Leica and Hasselblad cameras are a real joy to use because of their simplicity and premium feel. This is true of their older models too. I shoot digital cameras like film cameras. I only really need ISO, aperture, shutter speed and to be able to see to focus accurately. For this reason I’m OK with older premium cameras.
I guess cameras are like cars. If you buy a premium brand car, let’s say a Ferrari, does the age matter? I think no. When you buy a 10 year old Ferrari you still get to enjoy the same premium brand and it still puts a big smile on your face. (Sometimes the older ones are nicer. The Leica M9 CCD camera comes to mind for you Leica fans!)
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