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What is medium format in photography?
This term labels all cameras with a bigger sensor than the standard full-frame 36 x 24mm (3:2 ratio) . There are two „standard“ medium format sensor sizes - the full medium format sensor is 53.4mm x 40mm (4:3 ratio) and the crop medium format sensor, which is the heart of the X1D, is 43.8 x 32.9mm (4:3 ratio) with the resolution of 50 MP. Although the medium format cameras are not widely used, they are becoming more and more popular. What are their main advantages?
- Dynamic range – Thanks to its bigger physical size, the sensor is able to capture more information and you can recover more details from the highlights and shadows without any noise. Most of the modern sensors (FF and APS-C) have 12-14 EV. The dynamic range of the X1D is 15 EV!
- Resolution – There are many cameras with high resolution sensors, but medium format has one big advantage. Thanks to the larger sizes of the individual pixels, it can capture up to 60% more light.
- Colors and sharpness – The resolution and sharpness are truly amazing even on very large prints. The color rendition is very natural, that’s why the medium format cameras are often used by product or fashion photographers.
When I shoot a high dynamic range scene (eg. sunrise or sunset) with my full-frame camera, I always make 2 or 3 exposures which I manually blend in Photoshop. I make one exposure for the sky, one for the foreground and one for the sun if it is too bright. I did the same when I was shooting with the X1D, but to my surprise I used only one exposure, which I processed in Lightroom. I lifted the shadows, pulled the highlights back, used several grad and radial filters and it was done! You can see the original RAW image and the final image below.
Original RAW image
Prime lenses for top image quality
Together with the X1D, Hasselblad introduced a new line of XCD lenses. I used the XCD 45mm f/3,5 and XCD 30mm f/3,5 and I was more than happy with their optical quality. The crop factor of the X1D is 0,79x, so the FF equivalent of these lenses is 35mm and 24mm respectively. There is also a 90mm and 120mm lens, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a recently announced 21mm f/4, which suits my needs perfectly.
Camera for a traditional landscape photographer
Even before the trip I knew that this camera would be great for landscapes. The aluminium body of this medium format mirrorless weighs significantly less than most of the conventional FF DSLRs.
Handling of the X1D is quite simple and intuitive. You basically control everything on a big touchscreen LCD in combination with several buttons. I really like the design of the command dial, which pops up when you push it. When you set what you need, you push it back down. It’s simple, elegant, and you can operate it easily with one hand. The electronic viewfinder is bright with a great refresh rate. It also features focus peaking, which can be very helpful, especially in harsh light when you can’t see anything on the LCD.
I was quite surprised that the camera is really slow, especially when powering-up, so I probably wouldn’t recommend this camera for wildlife and sport photographers. It‘s not an issue for me as I shoot mostly from tripod and take some time before I release the shutter anyway.
The image quality is unsurpassed and that’s what matters to me.