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Hasselblad X1D-50C: Sensor Size and Pixel Quality

Hasselblad X1D-50C

Get Hasselblad X1D-50C at B&H Photo.

The Hasselblad X1D-50C utilizes a 50 megapixel sensor (presumably by Sony) that is 67% larger than a 35mm full frame sensor. The larger sensor means larger pixels which should deliver a higher S/N ratio, all other things being equal. That is, lower noise and better color discrimination should result.

Sensor size and the resulting pixel area are not the only considerations however: the quality of the electronics “wrapped around” the sensor also matters, as well as whether top-bin sensors are used. One also presumes lossless RAW of some form. Done right, the X1D-50C possibly has even higher per-pixel quality than its pixel size implies by itself. The stated 16-bit color and 14-bit dynamic range crudely covers all those ideas; real pictures have to confirm the story (or not).

Compare the relative sensor size and pixel pitch for an idea of potential image quality:

  35mm full frame Hasselblad X1D-50C
Sensor size (mm): 36.0 X 24.0
Nikon specifies 35.9 X 24.0, other brands 36 X 24
43.8 x 32.9
(1.22 X 1.37 times larger)
Sensor area: 864 mm^2 1441 mm^2
(67% larger)
Pixels W X H: Nikon D810: 7360 X 4912 = 36.1 MP
Pentax K1: 7360 X 4912 = 36.1 MP
Sony A7R II: 7952 X 5304 = 42.2 MP
Canon 5DS R: 8688 X 5792 = 50.3 MP
Future Sony?: 10392 X 6928 = 72 MP
(3:2 aspect ratio)
8272 X 6200 = 51.3 MP
(4:3 aspect ratio)
Pixel pitch: Nikon D810: 4.9 µ / 23.8 µ^2
Pentax K1= 4.9 µ / 23.8 µ^2
Sony A7R II: 4.5 µ / 20.5 µ^2
Canon 5DS R: 4.1 µ / 17.2 µ^2
Future Sony?: 3.46 µ
5.3 µ / 28.0 µ^2
Pixel area: 17% to 67% larger

Numbers don’t make it as obvious as this simple diagram. But also observe that the increase in horizontal resolving power is relatively modest, and depends greatly on how good the lenses are (sharpness, field curvature, possible focus shift, etc). For those who prefer a 4:3 aspect ratio however the increase is much larger (32.9 vs 24 is a 37% increase vs 21% horizontally).

Hasselblad X1D-50C

Versus Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode

I am certain that the Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode drastically outperforms all 35mm-format digital cameras in image quality to the extent of being the greatest image quality advance in years. Field shots provide ample support for that assertion. The downside is that K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode is strictly limited to motion-free constant-light situations, as numerous mutilated field shots have confirmed for me (in effect, one gets only a single exposure if motion effects are corrected, and if motion correction is not used, the effects are awful).

I posit that K1 SuperRes mode will at the least match, and likely outperform the X1D in both noise and dynamic range, since the K1 SuperRes mode has in effect 4X the light gathering power (4 exposures in SuperRes mode in effect gathering light as if it had 9.8µ pixels). Moreover I suspect that the K1 will even outperform the X1D in resolving power (in SuperRes mode). Since the X1D like most cameras is still a (crummy) Bayer matrix camera—there is no getting around how inferior that is to true-color RGB pixels a la K1 SuperRes mode. However, I have yet to see images from the X1D-50C, so consider it a theory to be confirmed. As well, lenses are a factor.
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