Not way back, touring with a digital medium-format digital camera meant packing your gear right into a devoted Pelican case and crossing your fingers that the airport baggage handlers paid consideration to the a number of “deal with with care” stickers plastered to the surface. However in 2016, Hasselblad launched the X1D-50c, the world’s first digital medium-format mirrorless digital camera. Benefiting from a downsized sensor (in comparison with conventional medium-format dimensions), the digital camera physique was in regards to the measurement of a full-frame DSLR, with lenses that have been significantly smaller than these of different medium-format methods. It was the journey digital camera for the business studio photographer, or the high-end accent for rich tech fans for whom a Leica simply wasn’t unique sufficient.

However for any digital camera system to essentially work for journey images, it must have ultra-wide-angle lens. The brand new XCD 21mm f/4 is Hasselblad’s first such lens for the X1D, and the corporate’s widest-ever lens. We not too long ago had the chance to take it on a three-week journey to southern Spain, capturing the final humid days of the Mediterranean summer time, to see how nicely it carried out in the actual world — and if touring with a medium-format digital camera is actually one thing price doing.

The massive image

With a full-frame equal focal size of 17mm, the XCD 21mm is geared for landscapes and structure, and is simply the form of lens you’d need on such a visit. With all the XCD lenses, Hasselblad has clearly tried to emphasise the compact nature of the system. That is under no circumstances a pocketable digital camera, however the lenses might have simply been bigger, and the 21mm isn’t any completely different. 

Constructed with 13 parts in 9 teams, together with two aspherical parts, the lens manages to keep up a size of simply over Four inches and weight of 1.32 kilos. Wanting on the glass, it doesn’t look like an ultra-wide angle; the entrance aspect appears far too small to for one of these lens, notably when it has to cowl such a big sensor. This does include a picture high quality trade-off — vignetting is sort of sturdy — but it surely implies that carrying a medium-format digital camera system with you is not the chore it as soon as was.

The XCD 21mm permits you to shoot the X1D in environments you beforehand couldn’t.

XCD lenses, then, are usually not themselves the promoting level of the system. Moderately, their fundamental function is to make the X1D digital camera as approachable and usable as doable. In every other system, it’s simple to argue that the lenses are what matter most; right here, it truly is in regards to the digital camera. You shoot the X1D since you need its huge decision and expansive dynamic vary, and every new lens permits you to deliver that into a brand new scenario. That is exactly what makes the 21mm f/Four so essential — it permits you to shoot the X1D in environments you beforehand couldn’t, and environments wherein it occurs to carry out fairly nicely.

In actuality, most photographers will likely be touring with a couple of lens of their baggage, however we had simply the X1D and the 21mm tucked into our Wandrd Prvke 21 backpack. If we needed to decide only one lens to make use of over an prolonged time frame, an ultra-wide most likely wouldn’t be our first alternative. However there may be additionally one thing liberating about being compelled to make use of a single lens, notably when it’s not a zoom. Freed of the burden of alternative, you possibly can focus solely on framing and discovering the topics that work on your setup.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

After all, working with a lens this extensive really makes the framing course of considerably tough. It’s exhausting to chop out undesirable parts from the scene when the lens sees a lot to start with. This requires you to place in additional thought, extra effort — however that is precisely what the X1D was designed for. It’s a sluggish digital camera from the start, and whereas that’s typically seen as a unfavorable, that lack of velocity received’t have an effect on you in any respect when working with this lens, in the best way you’re meant to.

To make sure, this isn’t a setup for informal journey images, not that anybody trying on the mixed value of $12,750 would assume it was (the lens is $3,750 by itself). However it makes for an extremely rewarding expertise whenever you take the time to get it proper.

Picture high quality

For landscapes, the extensive angle of view means you’ll typically seize broad areas of each floor and sky, and the distinction in publicity worth from one fringe of the scene to the subsequent could also be fairly giant. That is the place the intense dynamic vary of the X1D comes into play, because it permits you to get well element from shadows and highlights that simply isn’t doable with smaller sensor cameras. In actual fact, have been it on a lesser digital camera, we might not have praised this lens a lot. However the X1D makes it shine.

As we alluded to above, the scale restraints do come on the expense of picture high quality in some areas. Vignetting may be very sturdy, and never simply on the widest apertures. Even at f/8, there’s a very noticeable distinction between the publicity on the heart of the body and on the edge. Distortion, too, is sort of obvious — though, not likely any greater than anticipated for this focal size. 

Luckily, Each of those flaws are simply corrected in publish, so it’s not an enormous subject, however fixing distortion will lead to a slight crop, and correcting vignetting might enhance noise in some conditions. For the aim of this text, we’ve left lens corrections turned off in all pattern pictures.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

As for sharpness, nicely, it’s completely very good — because it must be to benefit from the X1D’s 50-megapixel sensor. At f/4, there’s a slight drop off towards the sides, but it surely’s remarkably gentle. As all the time, stopping right down to f/Eight or f/11 will sharpen the sides proper up. Must you not want such a large area of view, there’s loads of decision to crop, so the lens is probably a bit extra versatile than you would possibly assume. The X1D could also be two years previous, but it surely by no means ceases to impress us with how a lot element it captures.

A journey photographer’s dream setup

Whereas it received’t prolong the X1D’s attain past its costly area of interest, the 21mm f/Four is a superb addition to the rising lineup of XCD lenses. It makes the X1D significantly extra versatile by opening it as much as the world of wide-angle panorama images, the place the digital camera’s medium-format sensor feels proper at house. Sure, you may get wider lenses on full-frame, however you received’t get the decision or dynamic vary of the X1D.

The lens opens the digital camera to the world of wide-angle panorama images, the place medium format feels proper at house.

Regardless that it stays bigger than many smaller-format mirrorless fashions, the scale and weight isn’t so dangerous you can’t carry it with you for a full day of capturing. The X1D actually is a journey photographer’s dream digital camera now, each within the sense of how good it’s, but additionally within the sense that most individuals can solely afford it of their desires. Medium format has grown extra approachable thanks in huge half to the X1D (in addition to the less-expensive Fujifilm GFX 50S), but it surely stays comparatively unique to a small crowd. On the time of writing, Hasselblad is providing a $2,500 prompt rebate on the X1D-50c, bringing the value to $6,500, however even that is method out of attain for many photographers.

Nonetheless, we really feel that the X1D has actually hit its stride with this 21mm lens. In panorama images, the sluggish start-up time, outdated contrast-detection autofocus, and poor battery life actually don’t come into play. We’d nonetheless like to see the X1D (or its eventual successor) enhance in these areas, however for now, we actually haven’t any main complaints about our time with it and the XCD 21mm f/4. It’s a wonderful mixture for critical journey images, and our solely remorse is that we couldn’t have stayed longer and shot with it extra.

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