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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Happy with Hasselblad

better late than never

in Hasselblad , Wednesday, December 22, 2021

It’s taken a while: I bought into digital medium format with the Hasselblad X1DII some 18 months ago, and it has taken me that long to get comfortable with it, and start enjoying using it as opposed to feeling like I was testing it, or even fighting with it.

Actually, a comment from one of the YouTubers I occasionally follow out of boredom chimed with me, in a reverse sort of way. He said that with digital medium format landscape photography you almost always have to focus stack. I wrote something similar I believe, some blogs back. Well, that’s an illustration of what I mean by fighting with medium format. Shallow(er) depth of field is a characteristic of medium format, it contributes to the whole look. My reply, now, would be that if you want infinite depth of field for your pixel peeping, then choose a suitable format, like APS-C or Micro Four Thirds. I’m pretty sure medium format film shooters don’t focus stack - does Michael Kenna focus stack? I don’t think so. Salgado? I doubt it. Of course if the real underlying reason for going with digital medium format is to have Yet More Megapixels, well, go ahead, fight with it.

As mentioned here, I finally managed to get out to the Verzasca valley with the X1D. As far as I’m concerned it was a great success, although the results haven’t exactly gone viral on Flickr. Using the 21mm lens gives a pretty good impression of an XPan 30mm lens too, so the XPan kit may well be edging closer to the door, especiallxy given the quite remarkable offer I received for it recently. Honestly - it’s not worth it.

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Hasselbad X1D pretends to be an XPan

It is very difficult to clearly quantify what I get from the X1D over Olympus Micro Four Thirds. I certainly don’t want to denigrate the latter, but somehow the X1D photos seem more realistic. The slight improvements in dynamic range, in resolution and colour accuracy all add up to more than the sum of the parts. In some situations MFT photos give me a slightly artificial feeling, although the benefits of that system are still a very strong argument.

If it ever becomes possible to travel again, I’m still not sure I would take the Hasselblad kit, but for “local” work, in situations where I don’t need high flexibility or low weight, it is now my default system.  And I’m keeping a close eye on the secondhand market for a 135mm lens.

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Hasselblad X1D, one year later

should it stay or should it go?

in Hasselblad , Wednesday, September 22, 2021

It seems like only yesterday that I confessed to the Mother Of All Gear Acquisition Syndrome lapses, my entry into the Hasselblad “X System” (to be precise the second coming of the X System, the title having previously been used for the XPan).

Actually it was more than a year ago, so it seems about time that I return to the confessional and explain how it’s all worked out. I now have an X1DII body and three lenses, a 45mm, 90mm, and most recently a 21mm. However it still feels like I’ve hardly used the camera. So far it has not been on any dedicated photo trips (well, neither have I), and has really only been used locally. I backed out of a trip to East Greenland due to general uncertainties, and a late decision to switch a cut-down Olympus kit for my holiday in Lofoten turned out to be a very good idea. So truly it hasn’t been put much to the test yet, and it certainly hasn’t yet earned its keep.

One thing is for sure, the X1D is a beautifully designed camera. It fits in the hand like a glove, and just like the Olympus E-M1, I can hold it by the grip, dangling it from my fingertips. The physical ergonomics are superb, and the menu and touchscreen interface are a masterclass in good design. The only thing missing for me is tilt/swivel screen. Of course it has been totally eclipsed by the Fuji digital medium format series: Fuji wins out on price, on range, and is very much boosted by the sect-like Fanclub the company has skilfully cultivated. There is very little online community to be found around the Hasselblad system. However, even in Fuji dominated discussions, every now and then comes a guilty admission that maybe the X1D (and 907x) is a little bit special.

I’m no reviewer or pixel peeper, but even I can see that the XCD lenses are absolutely stunning. Certainly the best I’ve ever used. They give a subtle sense of volume to photos, as well as almost infinite but somehow velvety sharpness.  The Olympus Pro lenses are also astonishingly sharp, but with a certain harshness. How much of that is down to the huge difference between the sensors, or to the lens design, I can’t say, but I suspect is is a bit of both.  Of course the XCD lenses are significantly heavier, and there is nothing to touch the flexibility of a lens like the Olympus 12-100 f/4.

Processing the photos is a little awkward: first of all there is a little weirdness with image formats. The camera saves raw files in “3FR” format. Although this format can be read by several applications, including Lightroom, DxO Photolab and Affinity Photo, it cannot directly be read by Hasselblad’s own Phocus. Phocus “imports” 3FR photos and converts them to FFF format. As far as I can tell the significant difference between 3FR and FFF is that Phocus edits are stored inside the FFF file (as opposed to the more common method of using a “sidecar” file). This does actually enable seamless transition between Phocus Mobile for iOS (excellent) and Phocus desktop (quirky). But since FFF files also embed Hasselblad lens corrections, they cannot be processed in DxO Photolab, as this application’s main USP is to apply its own lens corrections.  So it is all very confusing and clumsy. To add to this, Phocus has very, very restricted file import functionality, so very little custom renaming, no pattern-based folder selection, etc.  My solution is to use Phocus to import to a working folder, converting to FFF, then rename and move these FFF files into my standard structure using PhotoSupreme, then repoint Phocus at the relevant folder. It works, but I have to keep my wits about me. I then generally do exposure and some colour edits in Phocus, and finally export to 16bit TIFF, which in turn I may work on in CaptureOne and/or Photoshop. Actually, I find that X1D files generally need very little tweaking, which is a relief.

Note, you can bypass all this nonsense by working with 3FR files directly in Lightroom (or Photoshop), but I’ve stopped actively using Lightroom.

Reading through the few web forums where X1D owners gather (for example hasselbladdigitalforum.com or to a lesser and diminishing extent, getdipi.com), one could build an impression that the system suffers from severe reliability issues. Well, fingers crossed, I haven’t hit any such issues yet, and one does need to consider that satisfied customers rarely complain.  Again, I’m not sure why there is so little web activity around the system, but possibly it attracts photographers rather than camera geeks :-). If the activity on the secondhand market here in Switzerland is anything to go buy, there is an active community.  Secondhand XCD lenses sell fast, and at near retail price - unfortunately!

The X-System coexists well with my Olympus gear, especially as they both have my preferred 4:3 default aspect ratio. Obviously the Olympus kit is comfortable in a much wider range of scenarios, for example lightweight travel, but more importantly longer focal lengths.  The maximum native focal length so far available in the XCD lens range is 230mm, which works out at something like 178mm in full-frame equivalence terms.  Just the Olympus 12-100 gives me 200mm equivalent - and it’s a zoom. There is only one XCD zoom, a very limited 28-60mm equivalent, and it costs 1 arm + 1 leg. Another huge benefit on the Olympus side is of course stabilisation, although to be fair the Hasselblad leaf shutter approach means that hand holding is quite practical at fairly low shutter speeds. Having said all that, much as I enjoy and admire the results from the Olympus cameras, in terms of colour, tonal smoothness, and definition, output from the Hasselblad is quite clearly streets ahead.

Here is a fairly random selection of photos - they are largely all in the “learning the camera” category, as so far sadly I haven’t shot a coherent project with the X System. All photos are pretty much as shot, with minor adjustments in Phocus.

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I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not answerable to anybody but myself for my photography. The Hasselblad X System is insanely expensive for somebody on my income, but then again my peers spend far more money on cars that they buy mainly for enjoyment. And I did mostly fund it by selling off other stuff. I enjoy using the X1D, although I would prefer it if it had a little more flexibility, and I’m also longing for opportunities to really put it through it paces. So, for the foreseeable future, it stays.

 

 

 

Car Parks

pay and display

in Hasselblad , Monday, June 14, 2021

I’m still not really sure that the Hasselblad X1DII is for me. This is convoluted with the fact that I’m not really sure any more that photography in general is for me.  However, inspired by an article I read on the web, I decided to take the X1DII along with me on a shopping trip last Saturday, and dedicated half an hour so to taken a few photos.

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Needless to say, photos of car parks, whatever their compositional or other merits may be, are not going to be of much interest to anybody but photography nerds, either from the point of view of comparing resolution of brick walls, or from an appreciation of water towers or other concrete structures. Otherwise, anybody seeing this stuff (which is nobody, so far), is essentially going to be thinking, if not saying, WHY are you photographing that stuff???

Why indeed. I have no idea. I’m somehow attracted to these forms and the contrast they make with bits of nature poking into the frame.  I didn’t actually make a terribly good job of it, there was one shot in particular when I missed a key component - then again I doubt anybody else would notice. I have no “photo buddies” to chat about this stuff with either online or in the real world, and it really is getting to feel completely pointless.

As far as the X1DII is concerned, the impressive resolution obviously doesn’t really show through here. However, the delicacy in colour rendition and tone transitions I think does show, as does the dynamic resolution under the glare of midday sun. What you can’t see here - I hope - is the endless fight against sensor dust, which the X1DII is completely unprotected against. A far cry from the Olympus “Supersonic Wave Filter”.

This one’s from a different car park.

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The X1DII appears to be a solution looking for a problem as far as I’m concerned.