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Hassleblad or Hasselbad: Hasselblad X1D II Usability Issues and Bugs (updated with more reader comments)

After three years of seeing several usability issues of the Hasselblad X1D go unaddressed (one of which is rationalized as “as designed” so I was told), I feel obligated to point out what I deem to be bad design.

With any camera brand, the red line is anything that either wrecks my work or impedes it, particularly when fixing it has no downside for anyone*. When I lose shots due to flawed design that is one thing, but when it is not given top priority to be fixed, contempt becomes appropriate.

Hasselblad X1D II Usability: Blacked-Out Live View with Self Timer Wrecks Field Usage

Hasselblad X1D II Usability: Lack of Magnified Live View Focusing Wrecks Efficient Field Work

And that’s setting aside the intensely frustrating autofocus errors, camera freezes and long exposure camera hangs I have been having and continue to have.

When I worked with the Fujifilm GFX100 in April, I had ZERO such issues. Zero, zip, nada. And the battery life is 3X longer and the GFX100 has a 4-way controller instead of Rube-Goldberg dial operation (scrolling with two dials, restricted to 90° movement).

* A user setting could be made available for any operational feature in which different behaviors could both be desirable depending on usage, but the examples above have no legitimate alternatives, nor do other cameras have such distinctly idiotic design.

Attempting to shade the lens — X1D II blacks-out Live View with self timer
f8 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 100; 2020-06-10 19:17:42
Hasselblad X1D II 50C + Hasselblad XCD 35-75mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 28.7mm equiv (35mm)

[low-res image for bot]

David W writes:

As you know I am a subscriber and have commented in the past on your clear and straightforward viewpoint as it echoes my own perspectives on life. I have to be careful because, although I am British, I am aware that there are interpretational differences between American English and British English.

So - your review of the X1D II. It seems to me that your irritation with the software glitches are a minor consideration when compared with your admiration of the lens and image performance. To use a metaphor I once test drove a Ferrari (many years ago). I borrowed it for a day from the local dealer who supplied the many German cars we had bought. It was red, beautiful and somewhat like an animal. It was also filled with cheap plastic switches and nowhere to put anything. It seemed fragile and somehow in need of a lot more care than I could offer. I said all this to the dealer and explained that this was not a car I could use every day to go about my business. He was horrified and said that this was not the purpose of owning a Ferrari - this car was something to be admired and cherished and keep safe - and in the meantime carry on driving your Mercedes.

I feel the same way about the X1D. Having retired from using photographic equipment in my business I want a thoroughbred that has quirks maybe but produces superlative images (usually) and is a delight to own and use. If I wanted a reliable work horse I would be using a Nikon D850 or in different circumstances a Hasselblad H6D-100C or a Sony A7R IV or a Canon EOS 1DX.

In my opinion the quirks and foibles are a part of owning a beautifully designed and crafted piece of equipment. I have had two of these cameras and share your frustration with certain aspects of their operation but, in the end, I just prefer what they do and how the images look to what I used before.

DIGLOYD: I respect everyone’s right to choose a camera on a rational or irrational basis, as a tool or as an accessory each person in his/her own discretion deems appealing for any reason at all. But I review cameras based on the assumption of a camera being a tool for a professional or similar. Professionals need bulletproof reliability and high image quality and so on.

And hell yes I’d much rather lug around the Hasselblad X1D II and its XCD lenses rather than a Fujifilm GFX100, though half the pixels is a sorry price to pay even if everything else were comparable.

BUT... losing images day after day including some of my best ones is not “minor”, and lens performance (XCD lenses are superb) is meaningless when the image is not captured. In some cases, I am having to show sub-standard images because the camera failed on me when the light was just right. And due to violent winds for most of the week, I am running out of time with the loaner period. This is a pro job for me and thus every malfunction and make-work anti-feature that results in lost images is disastrous. What pro can tolerate such losses in any context? I had to draw upon goodwill capital to get this gear (THANK YOU B&H Photo) so I am doubly irritated that I am now under time pressure due to images losses. Hasselblad has not been able to get me even a spare battery!

Metaphors and analogies (“Ferrari”) are not an argument, not persuasive and with that particular analogy I would say it is the epitome of inelegance to have beauty on the outside but not on the inside. But even that is a bad analogy because the core function of the Ferrari to me would be the racetrack and were I rich—well, repair it and have fun over and over again. So it’s a really bad analogy IMO.

If you or I glom onto something to satisfy an irrational (emotional) need, that is fine as there are such situations and in no way do I imply that this should not also apply to cameras, but that is very much a personal choice and not review fodder. And in the case of humans—physical beauty vs brains—brains wins every time for me.

Getting zero shots of my daughter climbing Mt Whitney with me in 2018 with the X1D is a minor tragedy because that day is gone forever and can never be repeated—all I have is iPhone images of that day. So I rue the decision to take the X1D that day, suffering the consequences of the load on my back so severely I could not even turn over in bed that night—and zero pictures with it—pain with no gain. Is my loss any less important than the loss of professional reputation should a camera fails during a wedding or other critical shoot?

I do not do cheerleader reviews, and I report on all aspects of the camera as I expect a professional would need to know. Should I review gear on the basis of emotional appeal, other than expressing the appeal tangentially where it is warranted? I think not. I have given the Hasselblad XCD lenses their due praise (best in medium format!). But when the camera fails to better capture the image and trips me up over and over it has failed at the most fundamental level.

'Beauty' is only an aspect of elegance. Elegance precludes form over function design choices. Hence the sharp edges on the Apple iMac 5K and the lack of a SD card slot on the front of the machine—not elegant, definitely not beautiful for usage. Which is the whole point for me with a tool.

The Hasselblad X1D II chooses form over function and the sad thing is that this need not be so—while the absence of a 4-way controller cannot be fixed without a new model, at least some of the issues I discuss could be resolved with a firmware update. Why not insist on seeing the faults fixed and moving the camera towards elegance? That is at the core of my criticism—I am OK with seeing faults, but not OK with seeing them fester. When Hasselblad tells me that the inability to focus in magnified Live View is “as designed”, what I hear is a cognitive commitment to a rationalization of the ignorance of a key feature. Everyone loses.

Bottom line here is that the difference between a good product and a great one is elegance. The Hasselblad X1D II lacks elegance by lack of attention to function. Half of that can be fixed with a firmware update, but after 3 years, I wonder what is going on over there.

Alfred C writes:

I am with you on critically looking at the “exotic” little Hasselblad MF camera.

There is no comparison to a race-anything tool elsewhere. It isn’t by a mile, as it is neither nor.

If one wanted the ultimate tool for image quality, one would lug around a H6D100 or the IQ 4 150 on something, preferably having a couple of them for back up strapped to an assistant and a donkey for the tripods and the lenses. Sounds familiar to any pro I would guess.

Gear has to work, period, or you compensate (redundancy) if you can if the one goal you are after is all important annd the fault isn’t design. Gear from a traditional camera manufacturer now owned by a very deep pockets drone manufacturer has to work ergonomically and electronically. There are preferences for ergonomics (I am cool with my Leica SL2, you are not, a technical camera can never be quick etc. etc. ...), but there are absolutely no excuses for software failures and electrical issues.

As for Hasselblad, It doesn’t work ... anymore. Case in point - l received the 907 plus back a few weeks ago. New “immense” firmware update installed (for lenses, too)

- WiFi doesn’t work
- AF much slower than on X1 and hunting even in bright light.
- No AE-L not even planned as per Hasselblad answer (or DJI ?)
- Screen unreadable in bright light
- Eats batteries like candy
- Back doesn’t properly work on 200 bodies, takes a picture whenever the camera is woke up, I.e. half press for exposure

... and probably “and so on” but I have gotten tired of trying.

BTW- all verified at the local dealer.

I am using the back on 500 series V bodies ... and my Fuji Gs with all sorts of lenses. My H6D100 never gave me issues in years. That works, hands off from the rest.

And find a Sherpa 😎

Best, Alfred

PS: Great XCD lenses, yes, but likely cannot be used on any other body (not optimal to begin with) as the flange distance is amongst the narrowest. Bummer ... Dead end.

DIGLLOYD: sounds spot-on.

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