World’s first mirrorless medium-format camera launched

Why is sensor size important when judging a camera’s image quality? We explain, comparing a world-first medium-format camera to DSLRs and compact system cameras…

28 Jun 2016

When you’re talking about the potential image quality of a camera one of the most important things to consider is the size of its sensor.

The bigger the sensor, the better the photos. That’s because bigger sensors allow more light in to capture a greater amount of detail.

DSLR and compact system cameras have large sensors. But medium-format cameras have the biggest. 

Now iconic brand Hasselblad has launched a medium-format camera that has a mirrorless design – the world’s first camera of this kind.


Credit: Hasselblad

What is a mirrorless camera?

With a DSLR camera, a mirror and a prism bounce light through the viewfinder. This can make DSLRs bulky – but these mirrors aren’t used in a mirrorless camera.

The design of mirrorless cameras, better known as compact system cameras, means they can be smaller and lighter than a DSLR. But they can take DSLR-quality photos thanks to increasingly sophisticated sensor design.

The best compact system cameras have full-frame sensors or APS-C sensors. 

  • Full-frame sensor (36mm x 24mm) is same size as traditional 35mm film. Normally found in DSLRs but also some high-end compact system cameras. The more expensive option
  • APS-C sensors (23mm x 15mm) are smaller. Found in most compact system cameras as well as DSLRs. The more affordable option


Hasselblad goes bigger than full-frame

Hasselblad takes this further by putting an even larger sensor in its new X1D camera.

Its medium-format sensor is 43.8mm by 32.9mm – considerably larger than the full-frame sensor. Experts say this creates pictures that are much closer to film.


What about pixels?

A sensor is made up of megapixels. The bigger the sensor the more megapixels it generally has.

Some smaller cameras boast high pixel numbers, but with relatively small sensors.

To get the true benefit from a high number of pixels the sensor also needs to be large. This is because when the sensor is large the pixels are larger too – allowing for more detail to be captured in low light.

On DLSRs and compact system cameras with full-frame and APS-C sensors, the pixels are large.

But they’re even larger on a medium-format camera.

The new Hasselblad XD1 has a 50 megapixel sensor that ‘captures the finest details with true natural colours’.


Why are people getting excited about the Hasselblad X1D?

Medium-format cameras have been around for a long time. But this is the first time we’ve seen a portable one. Previous digital medium-format cameras have been heavy and cumbersome, not really designed for life on the go.

By contrast the Hasselblad is light and portable enough to take on your travels – weighing just 725g.

This has been made possible through the combination of a medium-format sensor with a mirrorless camera design.

‘This camera makes medium format photography available to a new generation,’ says Hasselblad CEO Perry Oosting.


Credit: Hasselblad


Medium-format photography – who’s it for?

This type of photography is still, however, niche – traditionally used by professional photographers rather than amateurs.  

Studio photography, such as fashion and portraiture, and landscape photography with detailed composition is where you normally find medium format photography.

If you’re looking for a portable but quality travel camera, a first DSLR or a step-up from your smartphone, medium-format is unlikely to be for you – yet.

Find your perfect compact system camera

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