As team leader and specialist in the Image Quality Team at Hasselblad, Mathias Elmeskog constantly puts Hasselblad cameras to the test in multiple locations to ensure the sharpest quality and smoothest colour accuracy. Pre-pandemic, he took the X1D II 50C and 907X 50C to Namibia to explore the beauty of the vast desert space and ensure the cameras could hold up in the landscape’s varied weather conditions and still capture impressive files despite potential overexposure from harsh sunlight.

What was special about using the X1D II and 907X cameras in Namibia? 

Namibia is breathtaking but it can also be demanding with trying to pack everything you need for three weeks off the grid in a camper truck. To be able to bring such a small kit that delivers the level of image quality that these cameras do is truly an experience. The cameras are beautifully crafted and elegant but not ostentatious, which gives less unwanted attention when photographing, for example, in markets and small towns. Being able to capture beautiful portraits on the go really is amazing.

How did the cameras hold up in the hot days and cold nights of the desert?

Even if the desert nights can get really cold, I was not so worried about this since, prior to this trip, I had tested the X1D II in the arctic north of Norway in -15C and colder. When it comes to heat, I tested out the camera in our climate chamber at +45C and it held up very well.

What I was most worried about was the dust of the desert. Despite that, I am very happy to say that all of the cameras and lenses held up really well. I even dropped the X1D II down a sand dune and had to dig it out. Maybe better if you don’t mention that to my boss!

Was there anything about using the cameras in Namibia that surprised you?

Being part of the full development of the cameras, I am already very familiar with their capabilities. But what I reacted to, and still do to this day, is the outstanding ergonomics. I have been fortunate enough to test out many camera brands in my line of work and truly, the grip on the X1D II is just phenomenal. When it comes to my own hands, I have not encountered any camera’s ergonomics that come even close to being as comfortable and well-designed as the X1D II.

Another point is the intuitive user interface. I never feel that the camera comes in the way of my creativity as many other cameras do. It feels like a tool for my creative process rather than a technical object. I can literally give this camera to my mother and she can change all the necessary parameters to capture good images. I gave her a camera from another brand a few years ago that is just collecting dust because it just isn’t easy enough to use.

Did you have a preference for using each of the cameras in certain situations? 

There is something with waist-level shooting that calms me down and makes me take my time. It’s not that the camera is slower – it just makes my creative process more thought through. The X1D II was definitely my main camera, but when I wanted to change my perspective or get a creative injection, I used the 907X 50C. 

How was shooting with these cameras in the harsh, strong sun of the desert?

To be able to shoot in such harsh lighting conditions without crushing either end of the histogram is a blessing. I sometimes took exposure bracketing images but realised in post that I didn’t have to do exposure stacking. Even if the intention is to have a high contrast image, it’s really nice to be able to keep the details in the shadows and highlights. 

How did the cameras hold up in capturing the colours of Namibia’s desert?

The great sea of sand is quite monochromatic so to be able to capture even the smallest changes in both colour and brightness is necessary to have any type of dynamic and depth in the image. And wow, does the camera deliver in this aspect, giving even the most subtle of changes a life-like feel! It even allows for editing the files without destroying the subtle transitions in this terrestrial planet-like landscape.

ABOUT MATHIAS ELMESKOG

Swedish photographer Mathias Elmeskog is a specialist and team leader in the Image Quality Department at Hasselblad’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. His work includes being involved in all aspects of camera development that can affect final image output, from verifying image sensors and its supporting hardware to image processing algorithms and all kinds of image artefacts.  

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