Step into a photographer's studio and you'll probably spot a medium format camera. They pack in so many pixels that they're perfect for portraits, but not so handy for taking on the move.
Hasselblad changed all that a few weeks ago, pulling back the curtain on the X1D. It's the first time we've seen a medium format sensor squeezed into a compact system camera body - a crazy idea that's guaranteed to get pro photographers drooling with envy.
There's great news for enthusiasts too, as it is Hasselblad's least expensive camera to date - putting it in the realms of affordability to more than just award-winning professionals.
We got our grubby mitts on an early sample at a London preview event earlier today (and weren't even forced to wear gloves - now that's mainstream) to bring you some early impressions.
So just what the hell is medium format, anyway? Basically, it's one of the biggest sensors you can squeeze into a digital camera - one that you don't need a forklift to move, at any rate.
Aspiring photographers might think that "full frame is the aim", but a medium format sensor has about a 70% larger capture area. That's a serious amount of detail, which makes them perfect for snapping anything that's going to end up in print.
Hasselblad has packed its 50MP medium format CMOS sensor into the X1D - which is no small achievement, seeing how it also shows up in the much larger H6D. The mirrorless setup is pretty much the first of its kind.
What makes all the difference here is how usable everything is away from the studio. With 14 stops of dynamic range and an ISO range that hits 25600, you don't need a set of flash guns to take stunning photos.
Controls are usually the first thing to go when camera companies start shrinking down their tech to fit inside smaller bodies, but Hasselblad has managed to keep everything you'd want tied to a physical button.
You get a pop-up mode dial, twin control wheels, and dedicated AF/MF, ISO/White balance, exposure and focus buttons. They're pretty small, sure, and you'll have to learn to feel your way around the body because it's not always obvious which button is which, but they're very useful when you need to be more focused on your model or subject than how to tweak your settings.
It helps that the whole thing sits comfortably in your hands. And I do mean hands - it tips the scales at almost 800g, before you start adding lenses, so you'll need both to keep things steady. At least there are chunky rubber grips in all the right places, so there's no chance of it taking a tumble.
The weather- and dust-sealed metal build adds to the weight too, but means you can safely step out of the studio and get some action shots as well as still life. The mix of black and silver colours might look a little odd onscreen, but I can safely say the camera looks slick in the flesh. I've heard a lot of things called "premium", but this is one that defintely deserves the label.
YOU'VE GOT THE TOUCH
It's not all tradition, though. When you've only got limited space for buttons, it makes sense to go all-out on the touchscreen, and that's exactly what Hasselblad has pulled off here. The X1D has a smartphone-style UI based on icons, which you can drag around to set up the camera exactly how you want it.
You've got all the gestures you already use on your phone, like press-to-hold, pinch to zoom, and double-tap, so it doesn't take a camera genius to jump straight into manual mode. There are three custom setups that save the UI as well as the sensor settings, so you can toggle quickly between them - essentially having three entirely different setups available at the push of a few buttons.
Three of the physical buttons can be customised too, so it never felt like I was missing a particular mode or feature.
It helps that the screen is a pin-sharp 925k dot display, with 24-bit colour and 30fps live view. Not accurate enough for you? There's still an EVF, which covers 100% of the sensor's view, and is even clearer than the screen at 2.36MP.
The X1D also has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can shoot remotely with your smartphone if you like. Not bad at all for a pro camera, as you normally have to pay extra for a Wi-Fi dongle.
ALL ABOUT THAT GLASS
Pro cameras are only as good as the glass you bolt to the front of them, and that could be the X1D's achilles heel - at least at launch.
The new format means new lenses, and there are only two available; an f/3.5 45mm and an f/3.2 90mm. There's a 30mm on the way (expect more info at Cologne's Photokina show later in the year) and others are in development, but right now the choice is limited. An adapter will let you use existing Hasselblad HC/HCD lenses, but only with manual focus.
At least the two available lenses to an absolutely stonking job in the studio. We weren't allowed to take away any of the images we shot during the event (they have to be approved by Hasselblad R&D before we can print them here) but they looked very impressive on a colour-calibrated 4K PC display.
Both lenses are well suited to portraits, something Hasselblad owners should be no stranger to, but we can't wait for a bit more variety - a macro or a zoom, maybe, to get people to step out of the studio and into other types of photography.
Hasselblad X1D initial verdict
It's got premium looks and build that easily best anything from the more mainstream camera companies. We reckon it gives Leica a run for its money in the style stakes too.
Let's be honest, the X1D isn't ever going to be a mainstream camera. It's small, sure. It's surprisingly easy to use, and quality is outstanding (from what we've seen so far). But that £6k price (before VAT!) is difficult to ignore. It'll be down to Hasselblad to add more lenses to the range, in order to convince us that it has a place outside a pro studio.
Fingers crossed they can make it happen: the X1D is the first of its kind, and is compact enough that it's just begging for a place in your camera bag. Even if you have to sell a kidney to afford it.
The X1D will be going on sale towards the end of the summer, but you should be able to see one in the flesh at a Hasselblad store before August.