Hasselblad X1D-50c Sensor Review: Best commercially-available medium-format sensor

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DxOMark Sensor

Hasselblad — the legendary manufacturer famed for supplying the camera that documented the Apollo moon landing missions — is renowned for high-end, expensive, medium-format cameras. But in a sign of shifting times, the iconic Swedish company has been acquired by the Chinese aerial drone manufacturer DJI, and together they’re bringing more competitively-priced digital options to market.

The mirrorless Hasselblad X1D-50c features a “cropped” medium-format 50Mp 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor. We say “cropped,” because the traditional 6 x 4.5 medium-format frame size equaled 56 x 42mm, making the X1D-50c’s new digital sensor somewhat smaller. But even cropped, Hasselblad’s digital medium format offers a significantly larger surface area compared to full-frame sensors, with the X1D-50c chip offering roughly 70% more surface area compared to 36 x 24mm chips. This ensures a greater pixel pitch of 5.3µm for the 50Mp X1D-50c, compared to 4.35µm for the 45.7Mp Nikon D850, and the Hasselblad’s larger surface area should give it an advantage, particularly at mid to high ISO sensitivities.

So while the massive resolution, 16-bit color definition, and relatively slow frame rate means the X1D-50c will primarily appeal to studio, portrait, landscape, or high-end advertising and editorial photographers shooting low ISOs, with a theoretical maximum ISO 25,600 setting (more on this later) the X1D-50c should be a viable proposition for low light photographers.  

Key Specifications:

  • 50Mp 43.8 x 32.9mm (8272 x 6200 px) CMOS sensor with 5.3µm pixel pitch
  • 16-bit color definition
  • Dynamic range up to 14 stops
  • 1.7 – 2.3 fps burst shooting
  • 2.36Mp XGA electronic viewfinder
  • Leaf shutter lenses for high-speed flash sync

Overall image sensor performance

The Hasselblad X1D-50c reaches new heights for image quality, achieving the highest DxOMark score of 102 points for any commercially-available sensor we’ve tested.

The X1D-50c excels in all three of our measurement categories, achieving either the top-ranked or a podium position result in each. At base ISO, the X1D-50c offers outstanding color depth (Portrait score) of 26.2 bits and a dynamic range (Landscape score) of 14.8 EV. In low light, the X1D-50c achieves the highest-ranked low-light ISO (Sports score) we’ve tested to date (4489 ISO).

It’s worth addressing at this stage what’s going on with the Hasselblad X1D-50c at high ISO settings. While the camera offers sensitivity settings as high as ISO 25,600, the top “true” ISO value the sensor offers is ISO 3200. To achieve pictures at higher ISO settings, the camera applies a “digital gain,” or amplification of the image signal, during RAW conversion to replicate the effect of shooting at higher ISOs. As such, ISO 6400, 12,800, and 25,600 can be seen as digital sensitivity values, and the measurements are exactly the same as at ISO 3200, and therefore not recorded.

Image quality compared

Its color depth (Portrait score) of 26.2 points technically puts the X1D-50c in third place overall, but only fractionally behind the medium-format 80Mp Phase One IQ180 digital back, and Nikon’s latest full-frame sensor (the 45.7Mp Nikon D850) — indeed, we can say they offer effectively the same color at base ISO in terms of real-world results.

Click here to open our interactive DxOMark image sensor ranking tool

Similarly, the X1D-50c’s dynamic range (Landscape score) of 14.8 EV is comparable to the best-performing full-frame sensors we’ve tested — the Nikon D850 and D810, which achieve the same score at base ISO.

Click here to open our interactive DxOMark image sensor ranking tool

Where the X1D-50c truly excels is for Low-Light ISO (Sports score), however. Achieving a top score of ISO 4489, it’s the best-performing sensor in low light that we’ve tested. This is primarily due to the larger surface area the medium-format sensor offers, so it isn’t surprising the X1D-50c outperforms physically-smaller full-frame sensors such as the 42.4Mp Sony A7R II, as well as full frame sensors with a greater pixel pitch, such as the 12.2p Sony A7s.

        Click here to open our interactive DxOMark image sensor ranking tool

In-depth comparisons

For more detail about sensor performance, our in-depth analysis takes a closer look at the Hasselblad X1D-50c compared to the highest-scoring Nikon D850 and Sony A7R II full-frame sensors.

Portrait (Color Depth)

With such slight differences among them as to be indiscernible in the real world, the Hasselblad X1D-50c, the Nikon D850, and the Sony AR7 II sensors all boast excellent color of around 26 bits at base ISO, and very good color of over 20 bits up to ISO 1600 for normalized print results.

Landscape (Dynamic Range)

The Hasselblad X1D-50c and Nikon D850 offer effectively the same dynamic range at all ISO sensitivities. Both offer around a one-stop advantage over the Sony A7R II at base ISO (14.81 EV compared to 13.89 EV), but the gap narrows as sensitivity is increased, with comparable results between ISO 800 to 3200 for all three sensors.   

For “normalized” print results, the X1D-50c exceeds the stated 14 stops of dynamic range that Hasselblad claims, measuring 14.81 EV, which matches the Nikon D850 and offers around one stop better dynamic range than the Sony A7R II at base ISO.

Those scores are for Print results, however, where resolution is “normalized” to an 8Mp 12×8-inch print at 300ppi. The Screen results, which aren’t normalized, give us a better indication of the three sensors’ true dynamic range potential. We can see that at base ISO, the X1D-50c achieves a score of 13.55 EV, which comes very close to the 14 stops of dynamic range Hasselblad claims for the 16-bit color definition potential of the sensor.

Screen measurements, which are not normalized and thus a better indication of the sensor’s true performance, show that the X1D-50c achieves 13.55EV at base ISO, coming very close to the manufacturer’s stated claim.

Sports (Low-Light ISO)

The overall Sports (Low-Light ISO) score is rated at the ISO value at which image quality falls within three key thresholds; 18-bit color, 9 EV dynamic range, and an 18% signal-to-noise ratio. In the case of the X1D-50c, these thresholds weren’t met on images at the “true” maximum RAW sensitivity of ISO 3200, so the data was extrapolated along a linear curve until we reached each threshold, giving us an overall ISO score of 4489.

As such, it’s the highest Low-Light ISO score we’ve recorded, and for Print results, we can see that the larger sensor surface area on the X1D-50c gives it a slight edge over the full-frame Nikon D850 and Sony A7R II. The advantage is modest, but we commonly see almost identical SNR 18% charts for “normalized” print results for sensors with close overall scores, so it’s worth highlighting.

The X1D-50c provides slightly higher DB values at all ISO sensitivity settings for normalized print results, differentiating it from the top-performing, high-resolution full-frame sensors in the Nikon D850 and the Sony A7R II.

Conclusion

Image quality on the Hasselblad X1D-50c is outstanding, crashing through the 100-point barrier to become the highest-scoring commercially-available sensor we’ve tested. At 102 points overall, it also achieves either the best, or very close to the best results for both color depth and dynamic range. Combine that with its 50Mp resolution and mirrorless design, all packaged at a more realistic price tag, and the X1D-50c starts to look like a tantalizing prospect.

That said, while its image quality is up there with the best, it’s not significantly better than other super high-resolution full-frame sensors, such as the Nikon D850 DSLR or the Sony A7R II, except in low light. So whether the X1D-50c is right for you may depend on your preference for shooting medium format, the flexibility of leaf shutter lenses for high speed flash sync, or other factors such as the range of available lenses and accessories. But for pure sensor performance, the Hasselblad X1D-50c delivers outstanding results and phenomenal image quality.

In this review we have compared the Hasselblad X1D-50c to its most direct rivals that we’ve tested. As usual, you can create your own comparisons and in-depth analyses using our interactive image sensor ranking tool.

  • Kunzite

    “In this review we have compared the Hasselblad X1D-50c to its most direct rivals that we’ve tested.” – no, you also tested the 645Z in 2015 (with a 101 points final score) but won’t publish the results.

    • flodxomark

      Hello, we’ll publish the Pentax 645z review soon, so please stay tuned. Thank you for your patience.

      • Kunzite

        I had patience for several months after the initial leak; now it’s way too late for that.

  • And Now what i’ll buy? This camera (score 102) or google pixel 2 (score 98)?

    • Andrea Mugnano

      The mobile scores are Different. They use Different parameters. There’s no match at all. It’s like comparing oranges and atoms.

      • Ciao Andrea, i know. But is correct to use same parameters to compare medium format / full frame / Apsc and 4/3? If yes, then we will use this parameter also to score mobile sensors.

  • Glorfindelrb

    Publishing this before the 645z discredit your communication about holding the review because you are not covering medium format anymore. You just had to add a comment and tonchange the date from 2015 to 2017, now you have to find a new excuse.

  • umad?!

    Fujifilm GFX 50s coming too? Looking forward to it! Do you also check for other criteria since Fujifilm seems to have modified the micro lenses to get even sharper images?

  • Eric

    So now the A7R mk3 has come out…will it get to the magical 100 score?

  • Cameron Hood

    Uh,,,Pentax 645Z 2015…beating the pants of everybody, and at half the price? I thought you weren’t doing medium formats…what a bunch of liars. So obviously on the take.

    • flodxomark

      Hello Cameron. We’ll review the Pentax 645z soon, but can only advise you to stay tuned, as we’re not communicating about the roadmap in advance.

  • Eric Calabros

    So much talk about Pentax 645Z! .. Get over it folks

  • S-Express

    LMAO – 14 bit sensor but they still print Blad’s BS about it being 16 bit!

  • Originaru

    It’s funny, i was looking at some photo comparisons, and at ISO 25600, which you guys says that’s an in camera processing of a 3200, it has MUCH HIGHER Dynamic range than both A7r2 and nikon d850 at ISO 10000 with much better color depth, difference between is gigantic, you guys should make it very clear, or something in those tests are off.
    No comparison in color between the 3, no comparison in dynamic range at any ISO used, I don’t know why the score is so close, is does not make justice.

  • Frank Fremerey

    Super high score on “sports” with super low frame rate??? Think about renaning, the designation is of no practical value. The D850 hammers away 9 fps with a sensor score of 100…

  • Aiki76

    So, what’s your excuse now for the unpublished results of the Pentax 645z? It deserved 101, in 2015, it would have been at the top of your score for more than 2 years

    • Sator Photo
      • FreeWorld

        absolute rubbish answer.

        • Nemesis

          Ask for answer, gets proper answer -> autistic screaming because he disagree… awesome, nervs of some people.. pathetic.

          • FreeWorld

            being autistic makes someone pathetic? disgusting.

          • Nemesis

            No, it’s pathetic to act like autist because you disagree you shortsighted stupid moron.

    • flodxomark

      Hello. Thank you for your comment. There are many sensors to come, and we’ll review the Pentax 645z soon. So please hold on!

      • OrangeTabby

        It’s been out for years. Why the delay?

  • Sator Photo

    There are some terminological problems here:

    ‘The mirrorless Hasselblad X1D-50c features a “cropped” medium-format 50Mp 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor. We say “cropped,” because the traditional 6 x 4.5 medium-format frame size equaled 56 x 42mm, making the X1D-50c’s new digital sensor somewhat smaller. But even cropped, Hasselblad’s digital medium format offers a significantly larger surface area compared to full-frame sensors…’

    In the medium format world, the term “full frame” refers to a 645 format sensor, and “cropped” refers to a 4433 sensor. So a “cropped” MFD sensor cannot be larger than a “full frame” sensor! That is why it is called “cropped”…because it is smaller!!!

    The problem here is the terminology of “cropped” vs “full frame”. There is nothing “full frame” about 135 format, and in the film era it was called “small format”. Also why are we calling 645 format “full frame”? Compared to 670 or 690 format, 645 format is a “cropped” format. It may be only a matter of time before we see 660 or 670 format return in digital form.

    By comparison to large format, which can be as big as 20 x 24″, any of these medium formats are “cropped formats”. It goes to show there terms like “cropped” and “full frame” are entirely relative and confusing. The term “full frame” to describe 135 small format is dated 1990s marketing hype, a hangover from an era when 135 format sensor cameras cost over $30 000, and was thus considered the non plus ultra “full frame” model. We need to return to referring to 135 format as “small format”.

    • Tim Fisher

      You are missing the point (quite badly and often it seems).
      It’s not a full sized MF sensor as found in MF backs, it’s a cropped MF sensor.

      This is a huge difference if you know the full frame MF backs and image quality.

      This camera can not take 2020’s new 125mb sensors. It will be living in a landfill in 7-10yrs time (okay, I exaggerate).

      The traditional digital MF cameras with can accept different backs by simply “upgrading” their backs, be they ‘Blad, Phase One etc. They have what is known as a Modular System. Body. Lens. Back / Sensor. All separate.

      This camera will be replaced, in its entirety, as will the Fuji, in a few year’s time, replete with Sony’s 2020 sensor, the same as in the Nikon D899 and the Sony a7iii, but said sensor will be slightly bigger, as befits a cropped MF camera.

      • akkual

        “Full frame MF” digital backs are quite a rare deal. Only the latest ones from Hassy and Phase One have been 55x41mm.

        These mirrorless “crop” systems from Hassy and Fuji make MF digital camera relatively small and usable as all around camera. Thus, your exaggeration that they will be ditched in few years is highly unlikely, as putting a 55x41mm sensor would require to make a bigger body and they loose the competitive edge over traditional MF DSLRs and would not be able to compete with FF cameras. GFX seems to have the perfect flange distance, as their 23mm f/4 is corner to corner sharp without many distortions. So the good question is that why would anyone bother with 55x41mm for consumables to get either bigger body or optical problems due to flange distance? And Sony has already announced 100mpix 44x33mm BSI sensor.

        Fuji is currently eating FF users for dinner (seriously, go to youtube and search “I switched from Nikon/Canon to Fuji”), as many like to travel lighter and move to their excellent APS-C – and those who do not like to travel lighter, but consider picture quality more, move to GFX as it has so much more better lenses for high resolution than any FF system.

  • X X

    Hasselblad X1D-50C vs. Pixel 2 vs. Mate 10 Pro vs. iPhone X ?

  • cjm081 .

    I feel like I’m reading an article on climate change. You can’t make that statement unless you test all medium format sensors. It’s the best medium format sensor you have tested.

  • Michael MacGillivray

    Where is Fuji? Where is Pentax? What is the point of this rating with those omissions?

  • X X

    Tragic

  • Heather Morgan

    What about Fuji GFX?! Hello! How can you declare the ‘best medium format sensor’ without testing them? Then you compare it to mostly full frames. Seriously, get to work. This is incomplete

    • Tim Fisher

      “Incomplete”.
      So, extrapolate that out ….. in time they will test the Fuji, you already know this fact, but one of them had to be tested first.

    • a real economist

      I TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!

  • Heather Morgan

    Search Results for: gfx

    Nothing Found

    Sorry, but nothing matched your search terms. Please try again with some different keywords.

  • a real economist

    A Hassy rep brought this camera to our studio a couple of months before it was released. The lenses are Japanese and extremely well built. The industrial design is also great! The only thing that is holding it back is the large price tag + pricey leaf-shutter lenses. I’m also mystified why DXO is not comparing this camera to the GFX 50s by fuji? I will wait until either medium format manufacturers come out with 70-100MP versions of these mirror-less set ups. When that happens, we will see a large enough difference between 35 mm and medium format to justify the large expenditures. Until then, I see NO compelling reasons to ditch my Nikon D810.

    • akkual

      I see one compelling reason to ditch your Nikon D810: the optical quality of the whole system. There are no FF lenses available that would produce resolution that Canon 5Ds R sensor has. Fuji GFX has 50mpix sensor and apparently most of its lenses can easily provide more resolution, the 110mm f/2 is apparenlty designed for 100mpix sensor in mind. And what is even more important, they do that from corner to corner at wide open apertures. I would assume same for Hassy here. But sure, no-one really needs that much resolution – but it is cool to zoom in to GFX files.

  • geo444

    DxoMark is advertised as a « COMPREHENSIVE Camera [-Sensor ] Test Results Database »
    Last 4 years : Pentax Q7, Pentax 645Z, Z-IR, Pentax Q-S1, Pentax K-S2, Pentax K-70, Pentax KP
    were Not Tested… or Tested but the Results were Not Published in the case of the Pentax 645Z !
    It doesn’t seem to be a question of Sales Volumes : one really doubt that the Leica SL 240, 601 at
    their ~$7250 price tag higher than Eos 1Ds2 13 years ago, will sell more than Pentax K-70 or KP ?
    As some posters wrote in their comments : « Where is Pentax ?… Where is Fujifilm ?… »
    An army of brand worshipers spend their time critisizing DxoMark on every forum because DxoMark
    doesn’t grant their Favorite Camera the DR-Score at the level where it should be in their dreams !…
    Please, give others all the reasons to believe you are a Reliable Camera Sensor Test site, not “DxoMarketing”…

    • flodxomark

      Hello. Thank you for your comment. As we already mentioned we do not communicate about our roadmap. Nevertheless, there are many sensors to come, and we’ll review the Pentax 645z soon. So please stay tuned !