As one of the first photographers given the chance to try out the Hasselblad X2D 100C before its highly anticipated public debut, I knew I had to take it out on one of my favorite scenic road trips here in Sonoma County, California. The Swedish company has nearly a century of camera expertise and design innovation, and I had a feeling this latest release would uphold the legacy. The destinations I chose are some of the most picturesque spots on the west coast- and places I had photographed before- so I had plenty to compare my experience with the new Hasselblad to.
The mirrorless, medium format X2D 100C has a different mentality behind it than the other professional-grade models the company is renowned for. Unassuming yet classic in sleek, slate-gray aluminum, the X2D is as much a must-have accessory as it is a tool- the camera is designed to be taken along without a second thought, en route towards the next adventure. That’s exactly what I did as I got in the car and headed west, making my way towards the coastal highway.
My first stop was in Freestone, where a roadside farm stand beckoned with late summer colors, heaps of fresh produce and just-picked bouquets. Worker Bee Farm was my first opportunity to take advantage of Hasselblad’s Natural Color Solution (HNCS) technology, which defines highlights, shadows, and subtleties of color, especially in vibrant, color-packed images.
The seasonal vegetables, hand-painted signs and brilliant blooms at Worker Bee were the perfect test subject, even in the low light conditions under the farm stands. The camera’s ISO options range from 64 to 25600, and include an automatic ISO feature. As the farm’s staff tended to the produce and flowers, I tried out the camera’s in-body image stabilization system (IBIS), which acts to stabilize your focal point in varying light conditions. The camera is currently the most compact IBIS system on the market and features improved continuous shooting mode.
After enjoying Freestone’s most colorful roadside farm stand, I headed west, ending up in the community of Bodega. The town’s small main strip is home to an iconic local surf shop, fire station and bar & grill, all of which made eclectic subjects. Outfitted with 294 Phase Detection Autofocus technology, and a convenient lens- located auto-to-manual focus ring, the Hasselblad made focusing on and photographing still structures especially quick and easy. I then pulled over in front of Saint Teresa of Avila Church, a small but stoic building known for being featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” The white of the church against the blue of the afternoon sky came out crisp and clean- the camera’s angled display screen made a dramatic low angle shot entirely possible.
From Bodega Bay, I made my way up the coast through Jenner By The Sea to Fort Ross. After photographing the wooden chapel at the historic Fort Ross settlement, I ventured off the beaten path to catch the glimmer of golden-hour sunlight coming through an idyllic wooded area. The Hasselblad captured not only the majestic shapes of the tree trunks and the various greens of the forest canopy, but also handled the unique light situation extraordinarily well.
The final photographs turned out even better than I had hoped for, with light filtering through the trees to illuminate a fragile wooden fence in the foreground. Made up of a range of shadows, highlights, and mid-tones, the scene would be a challenge for most cameras, but the X2D created a sharp image without compromising its characteristic soft tones.
On my way back south, I stopped in Salt Point, where I spent some time admiring the cliffside ocean views and photographing the waves crashing on shore. Again, the Hasselblad proved extremely effective when given the challenge of an unpredictable moving subject like a churning wave. The camera’s color abilities processed both the vibrance of the turquoise shallows as well as the soft, hazy gradient on the horizon, communicating both the time of day (mid-afternoon) and weather conditions (sunny and cloudless) in a single image.
Near Jenner, I pulled over to take in Goat Rock, a rocky, windswept area with a rugged landscape that defines this part of California. Focusing on the shapes of native brush and flora, I tested out the X2D 100C’s ability to delineate an expansive background image from a highly detailed foreground. Since the day was winding down, I took advantage of the camera’s ISO range, taking a number of shots as the light dwindled. Jenner is located at the mouth of the Russian River, making it the perfect vantage point for shots of the bay where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. Whether I was zeroing in on thistles or taking in the entire bay shore, I was able to translate both the beauty and mystery of Goat Rock through a handful of quick shots.
As I looked back on my photos from the day, I noticed the sheer detail the X2D was able to not only capture, but highlight in some of the most notable images. The combination of nuanced color, sharp focus and overall easy navigation made taking the photographs part of the travel experience, and that seamlessness is what defines the X2D 100C. Now counting 100 megapixels, the camera captures files in 3FR RAW and full size JPG formats. Built in 1TDB SSD storage as well as a CFexpress Type B card ensures a high capture rate for fast moving subjects, while transferring photos to your computer or hard drive is faster thanks to an updated USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C connector that operates at 10 gigabytes per second. With later firmware updates like continuous focusing and tracking planned, the X2D promises something to look forward to.
Along with the X2D 100C, Hasselblad is unveiling three additional lenses as part of the XCD line. The XCD 2,5/38V, XCD 2,5/55V and the XCD 2,5/90V prioritize speedy focusing technology, an improved operation system and more concise build, putting them right up there with the thinking behind the XCD 100C. Available for immediate order, the three lenses range from $3,699 to $4,299, while the X2D 100C comes in at $8,199. See details of each new product at www.hasselblad.com.
My overall takeaway from this exclusive opportunity was that Hasselblad’s newest digital camera is all about portability and spontaneity meeting luxury, with an element of convenience that doesn’t dare threaten your moment.