Hasselblad 907X 50C Review
Announced more than one year ago, the Hasselblad 907X 50C is now available to the general public. The wait was worth it. Hasselblad has outdone itself with a stunning 'modular' camera system.
It's Hasselblad's smallest digital medium format camera yet. The 'modular' 907X 50C comprises two parts; the new CVF II digital back and the 907X body that features the company's XCD lens mount.
Bypassing the 907X body, the back can instead be connected directly to most of Hasselblad's V System (film) cameras - a series that dates back to 1957 and includes famous cameras like the Hasselblad 500C/M.
Whether you use a 907X body or a Hasselblad film camera, images are recorded onto a 51.2-megapixel medium format sensor (44x33mm), housed in the new digital back.
It's the same sensor and processor as found in the Hasselblad X1D II, so image quality potential is a known quantity, with Hasselblad's natural colour and up to 14EV dynamic range.
Many of our X1D II review comments apply here especially around image quality, but the the handling of the 907X is an altogether different experience. Whether that is mainly for the better depends on which ethos holds greater appeal.
System-wise, there are more than ten XCD lenses in the range directly compatible with the 907X body, covering the focal length range between 21mm and 230mm. For our test we have used the 907X body with two XCD lenses, the 30mm f/3.5 and 90mm f/3.2.
But of course the core appeal of the 907X is its compatibility with film cameras - we've also paired a Hasselblad 500C/M body and CF80mm f/2.8 lens (made in West Germany) with the CVF II back.
Exposure and composition are additional considerations for this pairing, given there is no electronic communication between camera and back for auto exposure or metadata, while the digital medium format sensor is smaller than medium format film, so there is a crop of the image area.
Priced at £5,999 for the back and body, the 907X 50C is one of the most reasonable ways to use Hasselblad film kit with a digital sensor, though of course that's still a lot money.
There are some excellent accessories for the 907X 50C, too. The 907X control grip (£679) comes highly recommended. You've also got the 907X Optical Viewfinder (£459), while addition batteries are £86 and the Charging Hub that holds two batteries simultaneously is £138.
Ease of Use
|Front of the Hasselblad 907X 50C|
If like us you think that the Hasselblad X1D II is a stunning camera, then the Hasselblad 907X 50C is next level. This is the most attractive camera around, bar none.
Solid metal body, clutter-free exterior, black leather finish, chrome edging, all embodying that Hasselblad 500 series, yes, yes, yes. If a camera can be sexy, this is it.
On a purely aesthetics basis we'd love to see at least one or two new XCD lenses designed to specifically match the external beauty of the 907X and to complement the more compact size of the camera, in the same way that the XCD 45mm f/4P did for the X1D II.
The XCD lenses look great with the X1D cameras, as do the V-lenses with the V system cameras, but they are a slight mismatch with the 907X. Looks-wise, new matching lenses would complete the picture.
You get a shoulder strap included in the box that we found to be important when using the 'box-like' 907X 50C alone. However, the camera feels better in the hand when paired with the (optional) Control Grip. This high-quality accessory also has the matching looks.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how the camera handles, it's worth taking a moment to fully understand what exactly the Hasselblad 907X 50C is beyond our concise summary in the introduction.
It's two main parts; the back and the body. The 907X body is tiny - a mere 200g. It is better understood as a kind of lens adaptor, featuring the Hasselblad XCD lens mount. It connects the digital back to any one of the 10+ XCD lenses, with full electronic communication for autofocus and metadata.
The 907X body also features a tripod thread, shoulder strap handles, a connection for the control grip and the front-facing shutter release button which is surrounded by the only dial on the camera, set to adjust aperture.
|Rear of the Hasselblad 907X 50C|
Then there is the digital back, weighing in at 540g. The CVF II back is an improved version of the original CVF digital back, housing the same 51.2MP sensor and processor as found in the Hasselblad X1D II.
Another key change in version two is the rear LCD touchscreen now tilts up. There are two main stopping points when pulling out the LCD screen, roughly 45° and then 90°. Viewing directly from above echoes the waist-level finder of a camera like the Hasselblad 500C/M.
Although you get both body and back in the box, you don't have to use both. The body is designed for the XCD lenses, but you can connect the CVF II back directly to a V-series Hasselblad camera, like the 500C/M that we have used during this test.
The whole package is an excellent prospect - offering the choice between today's XCD lenses and those from all the way back to 1957. It can breathe new digital life into Hasselblad film kit, or simply be used as the whole 'digital' package.
In the 907X 50C, Hasselblad has created a modern take on its V system camera. This isn't just a nod, this is a flagrant embodiment. Practically speaking, it has to be. In order to create a modular system that accepts both digital and film setups, parts need to measure up.
For example, the 907X has the same dimensions as a 500C/M. There is the same design for the catch on the top to attach/ release the digital back from the 907X body (or a 500C/M).
The shutter release is also positioned in the front right as you hold the camera, tucked in underneath the lens. In the 907X this shutter release is surrounded by a ridged dial that is used to adjust aperture. (XCD lenses do not feature an aperture ring unlike V series lenses.)
Like a 500C/M, the 907X is most comfortably held to the waist with both hands and the screen viewed from above. If you have history with a camera like the Hasselblad 500C/M, then the 907X will mainly feel familiar.
|Top of the Hasselblad 907X 50C|
Switching between the 907X and 500C/M bodies, our imagination got carried away thinking about the possibility of a future electronic version of the waist level finder in the 500C/M with pop up hood - maybe one day in a CVF III back? It would be niche, but still.
Because while the flip-up touchscreen of the CVF II is great, it isn't the same viewing experience of the waist-level viewfinder of the 500C/M!
In fact, the touchscreen is a little hard to see when used in bright light. At times we did find ourselves over-brightening exposure just to see the scene clearly for composition and focusing, to then bring the exposure back down again for image capture.
Where the touchscreen might be a challenge to see in bright light, its touch function is stellar. Hasselblad do touchscreens really, really well. Touch autofocus, focus magnification, menu navigation, pinch-to-zoom playback, it all works a treat.
And the touch response is backed up by a simple and easy to control menu system. The menu is not cluttered by countless pages of settings - it's skin and bones. There is quick access to almost all the necessaries for day to day shooting on the main 'quick' menu.
There's plenty more to like about the menus. One example is you can select a timer down to the exact second rather than being limited to presets.
It is possible to rate images in-camera, display a spirit level and grid for composition, though the histogram is only available in playback, not live. That seems like an oversight.
Waist level cameras do afford a certain inconspicuousness when out and about - you're looking down rather than at your subject. If you'd rather not look down at the camera all the time, then there is another option - the control grip.
|Side of the Hasselblad 907X 50C|
We highly recommend the control grip. Its design and build quality is second to none and the way it enhances handling makes it an essential extra. It offers twin dials for exposure adjustments, a shutter release, joystick to shift focus point and navigate menus, plus a smattering of buttons to adjust settings quickly, such as AF/MF.
It is possible to bypass the touchscreen interface with the control grip in play. Also, the hold of the camera is much more comfortable, especially when attempting to shoot in 4:3 portrait format.
Overall, the profile of the 907X 50C with lens is long and thin and easily stowed in a bag. Those height/ width dimensions are tiny and both camera parts together only weigh 740g. That's very similar to the X1D II - both cameras are comparatively small and lightweight in their own way - certainly for such a large format.
Key differences between the 907X and X1D II are down to design ethos. There's no viewfinder in the 907X (although you can buy the optional optical viewfinder that features markings for the 21mm, 30mm and 45mm lenses), while you get a 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder in the X1D II.
The screen of the CVF II digital back tilts up for waist level viewing, whereas the larger X1D II screen is fixed. And while the X1D II is much more comfortable to hold, the shooting experience is vastly different in these really well designed cameras.
Take the control grip out of the equation, there are very few controls on the 907X 50C body.
Asides from the shutter release with aperture dial, there are five buttons underneath the touchscreen that are used to navigate the menu - it's the same set up as the X1D II. That's it. Most of those five buttons feature dual functions, including; on/off, playback, display, image rating (and focus magnification), return and menu.
Underneath these buttons is a rubber strip that when peeled back reveals both a headphone and microphone jack - that's generous for a photo-centric camera. There's also a port that accepts an adaptor in order to facilitate flash photography - you won't find a direct connection elsewhere.
On the right-hand side is a boldly branded door that slides open to reveal the battery and twin UHS-II compatible SD card slots. We love how the door is unimpeded when using a tripod and it is really easy to access, though the door opens a little too easily.
Another observation about that battery/ card door is that it's clearly not weather-sealed. The 907X may well boast a gorgeous all-metal design, but we'd be reluctant to expose it too much to the elements. If you're an outdoors photographer, there's a feeling of form over function here.
Swing to the left side of the camera and there is a 'hidden' USB-C slot. Yes, the 907X battery can be charged on-the-go using a powerbank. Alternatively, we'd recommend the charging hub. Sadly it's an additional extra (given the high price of the camera), though it can hold two batteries simultaneously.
Once down to shooting, you will quickly discover that the general performance of the 907X is sluggish compared to today's mirrorless/ DSLR cameras. The experience is nigh on identical to the Hasselblad X1D II - start up time, autofocus speed, blackout time after capture. It's a slow process.
If you want the camera ready to shoot quickly, it is better to leave it in its sleep mode rather than turning it off completely - this will reduce your wait time for capture by about 4 seconds. Otherwise, if you factor in AF too, it's about 7 seconds from turning the camera on to getting a picture, with blackout after, too.
Autofocus is a contrast detection based system and it is quite slow and loud. The experience varies depending on the lens in use, with the heavier lenses being the slowest and loudest. In low contrast light you may struggle to acquire a focus at all - this is not an action camera!
It's single point AF only and the touchscreen works really well for this. There are three point sizes to choose from and we have stuck to the smallest size. Even this point can be a tad large for accurate focusing where you really want - thinking the eyes in a portrait. Hopefully pinpoint AF (or, gasp, eye AF) become available one day.
The same shooting modes in the X1D II can be found here, including 2.7fps continuous, interval shooting for unlimited sequence lengths and focus stacking.
|Memory Card Slots|
There are curious choices regarding video in this photo-centric camera. Including headphone and microphone jacks is great, but then you're limited to manual focus and there is no stabilisation at all. It's exceptionally difficult to make shake-free handheld videos. Really, for any video capture you'll need a tripod and the time afforded to obtain sharp focus.
The camera can be operated remotely through the Phocus Mobile apps, which is available for iOS only, so Android users are left out. Phocus Mobile is for iPhone, while Phocus Mobile 2 is for iPad. There is also a desktop app for both Mac and PC, offering tethered shooting and RAW image editing.
We're sure that you're interested in how the CVF II back was when used with the Hasselblad 500C/M camera. Well, it made us appreciate the waist-level finder more, because the digital touchscreen is darker. But then to get an immediate view of the captured image was a strange feeling.
All shutter speed, aperture and focusing adjustments are made manually on the lens, while ISO is done in-camera. Framing disparities need to be considered, too. However, the experience has been fine.
In one way, digitisation should breathe new life into film kit. It's a charming experience but we're not 100% sure. If you're interested in the concept, really you must try it out for yourself and see what the experience feels like.
Overall, it's been a memorable time with the Hasselblad 907X 50C. Given the design ethos, those looking at this elegant and well designed camera are more likely to forgive the familiar sluggishness that seems more irritating on the X1D II.
Among other things, a brighter touchscreen, flash sync port and weather-sealing are on the 'next time' list. However, the form is so good that you may be willing to look past the downsides, while throwing on the control grip improves the handling no end.