Hasselblad’s latest digital camera, the 907X 50C, is a 740g metal box that can be used as a standalone medium format digital camera or as a digital back for a Hasselblad V system camera built since 1957. At $6,400, it’s the smallest digital mid-size body Hasselblad has ever made, and is packed with premium Hasselblad touches. But the responsive touch screen, all-metal body, and satisfactory leaf shutter don’t make up for the slow autofocus or lack of a viewfinder.
Using the 907X takes patience and practice, but if you want to take the time, the 907X’s 50mp CMOS medium format sensor, paired with Hasselblad’s brilliant color science, can produce amazing results.
I’ve gotten so used to the DSLR and mirrorless camera layout. Use your right thumb for most controls and hold the battery compartment firmly. The use of the 907X is mainly made with pointer fingers, and it doesn’t have a battery grip, so it feels awkward and alien to grab a metal box at first. There’s a grip that you can buy for an extra $729 that offers a small joystick along with two extra dials and four buttons, but I’ve really challenged using the camera without this expensive mod.
There is a battery compartment with dual SD card slots on the right side of the camera, a USB-C port with a small door on the left side, and a shutter button under the front lens mount. There are flash, headphone and microphone ports under the 3.2-inch articulated touchscreen on the back, all hidden under a rubber door. All ports are covered, but Hasselblad doesn’t claim that the camera is weather resistant. If you plan to get rid of this from any kind of precipitation, you should do it at your own risk.
Anyone who has spent time with Hasselblad’s traditional medium format film camera will be familiar with the 907X’s layout. Otherwise, using this camera feels like entering a whole new world. First of all, there is no handle, so you can support the weight of the camera in the palm of your right hand while holding the lens in your left hand.
Next, there is only one dial for the whole system. It works around the shutter button on the front of the camera. Rotate this dial to adjust the f-stop, or while holding down the small button on the right side of the camera, rotate the dial to adjust the shutter speed. All other controls are on the touch screen on the back. Fortunately, the reaction is very quick and smooth. It’s quite different from the first touchscreen experience Hasselblad has on the X1D.
Finally, the base model does not have a viewfinder. In tribute to the mid-format waist-height cameras of the past, the 907X’s rear screen is deflected 90 degrees upward, looking down at the camera without going through the subject’s camera.
The 907X forces you to use it in a certain way. Few things are familiar with this camera, from button placement to lack of handles to articulated screens. For example, when I was trying to take a picture of walking down the street, I couldn’t put the camera up and take the nice shoes of a cyclist passing by or a person walking towards me. I had to pull out the screen first, then enter the ISO on the touch screen, then adjust my hand so that it touches the shutter and F-stop dial on the front before taking the picture.
Another speed bump that uses the 907X is the focus system. Contrast-based and slow. The pre-made Hasselblad XCD 80mm lens I shot when I pointed the camera at the subject was hunting for at least a few seconds and often couldn’t focus at all. If you have a limited window to capture the scene you want, I wouldn’t even try it because I knew it was likely to be missed. For me, missing a shot is more frustrating than not trying it in the first place.
At first it was incredibly difficult to adapt. I feel like I’ve missed shots over and over again in the first few days with the 907X. Then I put the camera on a tripod, and I realized why I didn’t need a handle and why it wasn’t in the hands of a street photographer. This camera is not for quick shooting. It’s for carefully and specially placed well-made shots. This camera doesn’t follow the moment. It invites the moment to come to it.
It is worth noting that the 907X has one of the simplest menus, especially when compared to Sony’s Byzantine and terrible menu system. There are five physical rubber buttons underneath the 3.2-inch touchscreen, but otherwise, you can navigate by completely touching the camera’s menu system. The main menu consists of 11 vector icons leading to deeper settings. All are very intuitive and responsive.
The magic of the 907X lies in a 50 megapixel CMOS medium format sensor capable of capturing 8272 x 6200 pixels. It’s bigger than the sensor of a full-frame camera, but not as big as compared to a medium-sized film camera. It is also getting older. It’s at least the same image sensor Hasselblad has used since the X1D in 2018.
Equipped with an 80mm f/1.9 lens, the 907X produced the sharpest images around f/5.6 to f/11, but the amount of depth it can separate at f/1.9 is really amazing. You can capture both Hasselblad 3FR RAW files and JPEGs, but even when editing on a computer later, the color of the JPEG is better than the flat profile in RAW. Hasselblad’s color science is amazing. In particular, the red hues this camera captures are incredibly vivid, but not the best. I found a red object to take a picture of. I was amazed at how realistically the 907X can be reproduced.
The 907X can shoot from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600. The image becomes grainy when passing ISO 6,400, but it is a soft particle with a nice texture like a film. I also took it out of the tripod one night and left that shutter open on a stationary object. The level of detail this sensor can capture is by no means old, so when I brought the photos I took to my computer, I was able to constantly zoom in and out.
Unedited JPEG from Hasselblad 907X 50C.
Video can only be captured at 2.7K, 29.97 fps or Full HD, 29.97 fps at 907X. The camera also crops the image to 16:9. As a huge fan with a 4:3 ratio, this is very sad, especially considering the number of unused pixels for 16:9 cropping. But the video is crisp and retains great color science. However, for a number of reasons, this is not a video camera. It’s almost odd that Hasselblad includes video shooting capabilities.
First, there is absolutely no in-body stabilization, so you can see all the shakes, breaths, and pulls when shooting handheld. Next, there is no continuous autofocus in video mode, and there is definitely no face detection in photo or video mode. But more importantly, the fact that there are no video frame rate and resolution options makes you believe that the video capabilities of this camera can make GIFs or get a quick video reference. Check out the 907X’s video review for a sample video shot.
Also, I don’t think the battery life can consistently use the 907X in video mode. After taking pictures casually all day, I had to replace it with a different battery after half a day of shooting. You can recharge the battery through the camera’s USB-C port, but I can’t imagine owning this camera and not owning more than two additional batteries for $99 each.
This premium sensor, sleek design and brand name isn’t cheap. The Hasselblad 907X 50C starts at $6,400. The FUJIFILM GFX 50R, which is $3,000 cheaper, effectively mounts the same sensor in a more traditional style mirrorless body. To justify the 907X’s price tag, you must either really like the Hasselblad brand or have a desire to use it as a digital back for the Hasselblad V system camera.
The high price, the lack of a real handle, and the complete lack of weather resistance made it scary to use this camera in the world. I sincerely believe that the goal is to be in a studio that will rarely leave, shooting a product that makes viewers feel like they can touch the frame and grab something, or even in the hands of a much more discreet photographer.
The Hasselblad 907X 50C can’t be the day-to-day driver, but it’s going to be a sick camera to keep it in the garage for a slow or cool drive.
Photo from Becca Farsace / The Verge