Fujiflim and Hasselblad’s Bid for the Medium Format Mirrorless Market

The medium format cameras have been traditionally considered a studio camera, although that is far from the real truth as there are lots of accomplished artists using this camera in the field, one only has to look at the work of Edward Burtynsky. He like many others has flown these cameras on quad copters, pointed them out of helicopters and aeroplanes, and off of temporary platforms or ladders. Removing the mirror out of these cameras should create a lighter more portable camera, that will expand what can be done in the field. The two diagrams below which compare the GFX and X1D mirrorless to the 645Z illustrated this difference. Perhaps this is what is behind DJI’s, a very successful drone manufacturer, acquisition of a majority stake in Hasselblad, they see the potential of using these cameras on drones.
Photograph Comparison from FujiRumors
Photograph Comparison from FujiRumors
Is it Really Medium Format
Medium format cameras have various sizes of sensors unlike APSC and full frame (with the exception of Canon sensors of course) they are standardised sizes. The following illustration gives you a good idea of the size of the sensor in these two cameras and how they compare.
As you can see although the sensor is similar in size to the Pentax it is significantly smaller than the traditional Hasselblad sensor. However, if you do the math the full frame sensor is 60% the size of the GFX 50S/X1D sensor, which is also a significant difference. Two Very Different Approaches
Two companies have recently developed medium format mirrorless cameras. Hasselblad announced the X1D in June of 2016 with a 50MP CMOS sensor (43.8 by 32.9mm) then Fujifilm announced the GFX 50S with a 51 megapixel CMOS sensor (43.8 by 32.9mm). They have each taken quite a different direction in their approach developing the mirrorless medium format camera. I suspect this difference means that it is impossible to suggest one is better than another as neither will appeal to the same sort of photographer.
The X1D smaller in size and also 75 grammes lighter so it will appeal more to a photographer to those who currently own a large mirrored medium format camera or as an upgrading to the owner of s full frame high-resolution mirrorless camera, and want a good lightweight field camera.
The GFX 50S, on the other hand, is larger and heavier but has the advantage of adapting other medium format brand lenses, including the Hasselblad leaf shutter lenses. It also unlike the Hasselblad has lots of manual external dials to control camera settings. The last difference is of course price. The X1D body currently lists for $8995 US or $12995 with 45mm lens, but the GFX 50s is rumoured to be $6995 for the body and with the 63mm lens $8682. I think this camera would appeal to those using high-end full frame DSLRs, that think medium-format is too expensive to invest in.
The GFX 50S body price is similar to the Nikon D5 priced and $6496.95 (with a 50mm lens $8100) or the EOS 1DX at $6299 (with a 50mm lens $7650). But more important Fujifilm’s GFX 50s delivers a camera closer in size to Nikon’s D810 than the larger D5.
Nikon D810 Beside Fujifilm GFX 50S Image Courtesy of DPReview
So the D5 owner could transition into the GFX at about the same cost of upgrading when Nikon comes out with their next upgrade in this camera class, and be using lenses that are likely of higher quality than those Nikon is now manufacturing. All in a package that is smaller than their current camera.
Noise Comparison to Full Frame
How different is the noise level on these two cameras compared to full frame Nurthrop Photography has indicated that there that the following has been their experience:
D810               X1D
ISO 60      =    ISO 100
ISO 625    =    ISO 400
ISO 2500  =    ISO 1600
Pixel Pitch and Image Quality
One issue that may give Nikon D5 shooters pause is the difference in pixel pitch between this camera and both the Fujifilm and Hasselblad cameras. The D5 has a pixel pitch of 6.45μm and the GFX has a pixel pitch of 5.3μm, which means the light measurement will be slightly more accurate on the D5. In my opinion, the difference in pixel pitch is not significant enough to outweigh the significant gain in sensor resolution.
A second consideration is edge to edge lens sharpness. My personal experience in shooting with Nikon full frame professional lenses and the high-end APSC Fujifilm lenses is the latter are sharper edge-to-edge at non-optimal f-stops, and I would assume that the same would be true of the yet untested Fujifilm medium format lenses.
The Fujifilm Advantage
Fujifilm Lens Advantage
One of the advantages of the Fujifilm system is their lenses do not have leaf shutters built into them, something that significantly increases the cost of a lens. This means very high-quality lenses can be crafted at a more affordable price. This choice brings their medium format lenses into a price range similar to that of full-frame DSLR lenses and combined with the higher resolutions perhaps a better quality image. Despite this, a leaf shutter lens from Hasselblad, using an adapter, can be used on the GFX 50S, in this way the camera permits both kinds of lenses to be used. The GFX 50S lens stable is within the range of full frame photographers while still allowing a leaf shutter option.
I think it unlikely once a photographer has shot with Fujifilm’s lenses and experienced their quality that they would use other lenses on the camera. Given that the glass in both Hasselblad and Fujifilm lenses come from the same Fujifilm factory unless there has been a recent change, lens quality should be almost the same. 
Using a Non-Fujifilm Lens Does it Really Work
Having indicated you can use non-Fujifilm lenses in the field it might not be as exciting as it sounds. A good friend outlined his experience in using adaptors on his A7RII in the following way:
My experience with lens adapters for my Sony A7rII has left me somewhat ambivalent about the concept. True – it does allow me to use my legacy Leica and Nikon lenses on the Sony, but at a cost. The Voigtlander and Metabones adapters that I purchased lack electronic connections to the camera body and thus I lose all EXIF data related to lens and lens settings, which is a huge drag. I also need to own a separate adapter for each lens to make the solution practical, as changing lenses when I also need to switch an adapter from one lens to another in the field is simply too cumbersome. I have two Leica lenses that share a single Voigtlander adapter, and the worst case for me is when I am changing from an un-adapted native lens to the Leica lens that does not have the adapter currently mounted.  In this situation, I find myself juggling 3 lenses, the adapter, 3 front lens caps, and 2 rear caps – all while trying to keep dust away from my exposed sensor. If each legacy lens has its own adapter – it becomes a straightforward lens change – but sharing adapters just doesn’t work for me. Way too much hassle – especially when I also lose EXIF in the deal. 
I would guess similar problems would exist with the GFX 50S.
The Advantage of the Hasselblad
What would I buy if I had the money, as the X1D and its lenses are considerably more expensive than the GFX 50S? I think the X1D. Given the advancements in camera accuracy in the field photographers are running in semi auto or auto much more frequently. So the wonderful manual dials found on the GFX 50S are perhaps less important, especially if you want a more compact field camera. This is a strategy that Sony Alpha camera series has adopted with some success, with the result that the cameras are the smallest and lightest in the mirrorless class of cameras. If you look at the comparison below the medium format X1D is almost the same size as the full frame A7RII, which is a stunning acheivement.
In addition to the smaller size, the X1D the camera is also more ergonomically friendly as a result of this size and its design. It also has a leaf shutter system in its lenses, with all the advantages that that creates.
Alpha Phase One
There is one more mirrorless camera made by Alpha that can take a Phase One digital back a much larger sensor that the other two mirrorless cameras. However, it is quite an unusual camera and costs $56,000. So it is not really playing in the same ballpark.
Articles Referenced