Hasselblad’s game-changing medium-format camera

The X1D is both smaller and lighter than a DSLR

Image: Hugh Threlfall

There have been a handful of truly game-changing developments in photography: the Kodak box Brownie in 1900; the Leica I in 1925; the digital camera – for which paternity is shared by many, including Sony and (few know this) Apple – in the 1970s and 80s.

Although it was to become the best and most expensive professional camera from the 1950s to the present day, the Hasselblad, developed in the 1940s by the Swedish bird photographer Victor Hasselblad, has never quite made my game-changers list. It does now, though, with this astonishing and beautiful, handbuilt-in-Gothenburg, portable medium-format camera, the X1D. This, for me, is a whole new genre of camera.


We make a fuss about digital cameras with a 35mm x 24mm full-frame sensor (based on the size of a 35mm film frame), but the X1D’s 50-megapixel sensor is 44mm x 33mm – the same Sony component as found in enormous, pro Hasselblads costing and weighing double or more. Yet the X1D, while not pocketable, is smaller and lighter than a DSLR camera and performs even better, especially for portrait or landscape photography.

I had a chance to play with the X1D before it was released and the results were simply superlative. I would give anything to take it away on a trip with me, and it makes me want to rephotograph everything I’ve snapped before. The user interface is by far the best – and easiest – I’ve ever seen; you just swipe around the big, clear screen and choose your settings. The handgrip – of which Hasselblad’s CEO Perry Oosting, formerly of Vertu, tells me dozens of variants were tried – is perfect. The balance of the X1D is also a joy; the way a camera sits in the hand is of primary importance, and Hasselblad has got this just right. I should also add that this is an exceptionally handsome piece of kit.