Hasselblad, One Year Ago Today

On April 29th, 2013, Hasselblad more or less killed production of their legendary V System, by announcing the end of  manufacturing of the 503CW. Dr. Larry Hansen, Hasselblad’s Chairman and CEO, said in his press release, “There has been a substantial decline in demand for this camera over the past five years or so and the time has now come for us to reluctantly consign the V System to history. In so doing we would like to thank all fans and customers for both their loyalty and their enthusiasm for our legacy Hasselblad V System.”

The format that made Hasselblad, and put medium format photography on the map, was ended. Hasselblad continues to offer and support the Hasselblad CFV digital back, if you can afford one, selling at $17,500 US. They also continue to sell genuine Hasselblad accessories, while supplies last. Of course, tons of these are available through KEH, Adorama, and B&H, both new and used. Hasselblad itself has a fantastic portal, Planet V, on the HasselbladUSA.com website, even providing some hard to find .pdf instruction manuals for V series items. The brand now partners with Fuji for lenses, essentially ending decades of collaboration with Carl Zeiss. More importantly 120 roll film, thanks in large part to the continued popularity of Lomography, continues to thrive as a niche market. Plenty of great films, likely available for years more to come. The cameras are tanks, but can still be cleaned, lubed, adjusted (CLA), and repaired, with relative ease and considerable expense. Truth be told, little in the Hasselblad world comes cheap. I am thankful to live not far from one of the world’s most renowned Hasselblad technicians, David Odess ( http://david-odess.com/) David is a former Hasselblad employee, and is indeed factory trained and certified.

I have often wondered, will a Hasselblad be the first camera that astronauts bring to the red planet, Mars? Let’s hope they are around that long. Maybe the 6 X 4.5 format will be well suited for the Martian landscape. There is certainly something nostalgic about the gorgeous Hasselblad photography of the Apollo program. Right down to the reference lines of the Reseau plate. Will we see those again? Certainly we have seen the end of the 6X6 focal plane once touted as the perfect format by many, including Hasselblad.

My hand-built 1984-era 500c/m still runs flawlessly, and will likely outlive me. And continues to deliver tremendous photographic gratification. Here are some Earthbound color shots, taken with the 80mm, and Kodak Ektar. developed by The Darkroom, and scanned by myself. I shot them on the 18th, walking around Park Ave. here in Worcester.

Welcome!

Welcome!

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Park Avenue Lion

One of the last brick and mortar independent camera and photographic supply retailers, L.B. Wheaton's, at their new storefront, located two doors down from the old location, seen in the far lower left.

Worcester, MA- One of the last brick and mortar independent camera and photographic supply retailers, L.B. Wheaton’s, at their new storefront, located two doors down from the old location, seen in the far lower left.

The legacy continues.

Good Friday

Stations Of The Cross

Stations Of The Cross

Last Friday, I had already shot a roll of Ektar is another area of the city, I had a roll of TMax 100 in the other magazine. While walking across the common, I came across a Good Friday service. I decided to swap out the PME-5 with the waist level finder (WLF), and use the built in magnifier for fine focusing The lens used here is the 150mm Sonnar.. At the risk of offending some Hasselblad purists, I am so happy Hasselblad had so many image-corrected mirrored prism options. Focusing with the WLF is, well, a challenge. At least for my eves. I do wear corrective lens eyeglasses. When using the PME-5, I do remove them. But, I noticed in these frames, and the others that I shot that day, that the perspective has a slightly angled look. You can almost tell that a WLF was used! Anyways, thrilled I was able to capture some great moments. D-76 was the developer.

I believe this was a multi-faith, ecumenical service.

I believe this was a multi-faith, ecumenical service.

As the crowd moved from station to station, I was fiddling with my focus, and returned the magnifier back into the WLF. The sound of the WLF as opened is maybe the only inelegant  noise a Hasselblad makes. But shortly after switching down the magnification option, I was able to capture this shot-

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Station To Station

Overall, I do prefer the correct orientation the PME-5 focal field has to offer. Maybe that comes from having shot so much 35mm. But, the WLF can be fun for street and environmental candid portraiture. Of course, the Hasselblad system, designed from the ground up as a true system camera, offers so many choices. In meeting other Hasselblad photographers, I have yet to see any two configured the same way.

The Nifty Hasselblad 150

Four years now on and off with Hasselblad photography, and the only lens I have used is the standard Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 Planar T*. While, of course, wonderful glass, the time came to pick up a telephoto lens, from the great folks at KEH. I read great things online about the 150mm Sonnar T*. Offering a focal length roughly equivalent to a 105 in the 35mm Nikon family, this lens is sized perfectly for head and shoulders portraits. I cringe when reading reviews overly emphasizing sharpness, as there is so much more to what makes for great optics. While it is indeed insanely sharp, it is so much more.

This model, the “C” T*, features, of course, the multicoating that is so desirable even today, While cutting down dramatically on lens flare, the metal lens hood is still a great idea, and allows for great protection of the front element, in addition to practically eliminating the possibility of flare. The coating has magical properties. Carl Zeiss still uses the coating, modern variations of it, with their current lens lineup. Most certainly, this will help with wider focal lengths, such as on the 80mm, and the 50mm Distagon, which I’d love to add to the bag someday.

It also, to this eye, seems to be even more contrasty than the 80mm, which, of course, has spectacular contrast in its own right. But this is off the charts.

The overall results? Magic.

Masquerade Ball

Masquerade Ball

Yes, I am a fan of reflection off of glass window displays. But, for a first shot with this lens? Love it.

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Thinking the 150 might still be a favorite for wedding photographers.

A fellow Hasselblad photographer I chatted with at Photographica mentioned to me the Softar filters, the #1 in particular, for portraiture. I may try one, but, to my eye, the lens does not seem overly sharpened. It seems just right. Sharpening scanned negatives in Photoshop may feel unnecessary.

Oh, want shallow depth of field? Even at f/8? No problem…

Bikes parked outside the hair salon.

Bikes parked outside the hair salon.

Compared to the 80mm, I was expecting the lens to be a Godzilla-like behemoth. It is surprisingly compact and lightweight. I have even read online about some folks using it for street photography, and street portraiture. Not quite that brave yet, but thinking that for event photography and large gatherings, it might be ideal. For portraiture, it’s hard to imagine anything better. Sure, others may argue the 180mm, but I’d ask, what kind of portraiture do you enjoy doing? I like head and shoulders- this is the right focal length for the Hasselblad system. If you do want face only tightness, the 180 may be your way to go. Before choosing the 150, I did read some very spirited 150 vs. 180 showdowns in several forums. Pointless, maybe as much as the film vs. digital debates. Different tools, for different jobs. They could easily, I’m sure, quite peacefully coexist in the bag.

For now, I’ll take the Nifty Hasselblad 150.

Shot Almost Three Years Ago, Developed Now

I came across this roll recently in the fridge, shot on the Hasselblad, on 9/4/11. At the time, I was having my 120 medium format roll film sent out by L.B. Wheaton’s. When they no longer had the capability to send out B&W film, that in part inspired me to whip up a home darkroom kit. Starting as I did with 35mm, 120 film development was “scary” to me. I have developed literally hundreds of rolls of 35.  I read all kinds of stuff online, and that home developers felt that doing 35mm was easier with the Patterson-style plastic tanks. Many swear by the stainless steel tanks and reels that are available to process 120. After making the ratcheting adjustment on a Patterson reel, and having done several rolls of medium format, I can honestly say that it is not that difficult. And, I have not had struggles feeding the film onto the reel, and actually have had more struggles feeding 35mm onto them.

A couple of  hints. The idea of loading roll film, with the paper backing and much wider physical landscape, is not that hard. I practiced a few times with an old expired roll, in light, just to get the feel for it. Watch the YouTube videos available online, if you Google “developing 120 film”, or “processing medium format film”, you will find a wealth of information. I really shy away from “how to’s”, because there are simply so many of them out there. But do a search. There are web sites and blogs as well that will walk you through that, and the entire chemical process, even scanning of negatives.

So here are a few frames of the first medium format film I developed in home, in D-76. The film was TMax 100.

Leominster State Forest, morning.

Leominster State Forest, morning.

This is one of those spots I love to return to. It is a simple, beautiful park. It is difficult to get into early in the morning, as there is a main entrance that does not open until, I think, 9AM. But there are places to park and walk down, without having to go through the main gate. Highly recommended for “golden hour” photography.

Walkway down to the water.

Walkway down to the water.

I’ve never seen anyone swim here, but it looks as though it can be done.

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A cold swim, anyone?

After having had the Hasselblad for about 4 years, and having waited almost 3 years to develop 120, I wish someone had told me how easy it is. I think it is easier than 35. Mot once has the film bound up on me in the plastic reels. Handling the 120 is just so easy. Not going to wait that long again to develop it. I think it’s going to be the format of choice this year.

More Favorites From Photographica

While I did only take one roll of Tri-X into the show, the Hasselblad really did not let me down I loved all of the shots, and continue to review the negatives with amazement. They convey that classic 3D Hasselblad look- insane sharpness, yet a dreamy look that challenges the human eye. Each time you look at a well made frame, you notice something new.

The large aperture when used on the Planar makes a large hall look small, while drawing your subject in close. Use the scale on the barrel of the lens after estimating your subject distance. Your DOF preview will be dark, but after a while, becomes highly effective. The optional quick focus handle really is a nice tool to use.

Checking out photography books. The large aperture when used on the Planar makes a large hall look small, while drawing your subject in close. Use the scale on the barrel of the lens after estimating your subject distance. Your DOF preview will be dark, but after a while, becomes highly effective. The optional quick focus handle really is a nice tool to use.

I remember chatting with this gentleman at the last Photographica, and he always seems to be having a lot of fun.

I remember chatting with this dealer at the last Photographica, and he always seems to be having a lot of fun, and quite a pleasant gentleman.

Tonality, texture, and dynamic range are all attributes of film that I love. Not to mention the ability to capture “The Decisive Moment”-

Let's Make A Deal!

Let’s Make A Deal! Some beautiful gear, including a large format camera.

It’s going to be a long wait till the next Photographica. Shooting Hasselblad this Spring and Summer should really help the time fly.

Hasselblads For Sale (But, Not This One)

As I had my Hasselblad with me at Photographica, I decided to walk the show floor, and take a few shots. Some people stopped me in amazement, at seeing someone actually shooting with one. I don’t display this camera, I use it. others, several show attendees, and dealers, asked me if I would like to sell it. No chance. None! I bought it at Photographica 4 years ago. While it is a beast to carry and handhold, the new grip almost makes it feel light. And much easier for walking about.

I shot these with the new grip, wide strap, PME-45 prism, and trusty 80mm f/2.8 CF T* Planar. And yes, Kodak Tri-X, at ISO400. All exposures are at f/2.8, 1/60th sec., metered with the Light Meter app on my iPhone. In hindsight, I could have tried to hold steadier, and shot at 1/30th, The hall is dark! Developed with D-76.

 

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Hasselblads, and Speed Graphics, for sale! Dealer that sold the 500c/m to me 4 years ago can be seen to the far left.

Graflex, and more Speed Graphics. Large Format, anyone?

Graflex, and more Speed Graphics. Large Format, anyone?

The Hasselblad has this dreamy, yet crazy sharp look, particularly wide open. As the 80mm Planar is the fastest glass in the fleet, perfect for such dark environments. And, with people in the scene, the shots take on a mystical look, unlike any camera you’ll ever work with. It’s easy to see why Hasselblad attracts such a cult following.

Selling, and making new friends.

Selling, and making new friends.

It’s hard to see the Hasselblad leaving my hands this spring, summer, fall…NOT for sale!

Photographica, Spring 2014

After missing the last few, I was able to make it to Day 1 of PHSNE’s Photographica on Day 1 in Wakefield, MA. This year, instead of aimlessly scooping up stuff like a drunken sailor, I made a list on my iPhone, and pretty much stuck to it. There were the usual dealers asking the moon for the higher end Nikon, Leica, and Hasselblad stuff. One dealer tried to tell me that the two Nikon FE-2’s he had in the box were “most likely never even used”. Sure they weren’t. Take what some of these people say with a cynical grain of salt.  Additionally, as I mentioned to one dealer, just because it says Hasselblad on it doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium on it. There were deals to be had, and some of these people love to barter. They pretty much set up at the same physical space, with the same stuff, show after show. However, one welcomed change was moving the beloved Dollar Table from the entry area, to the back of the hall. That way, the virtual feeding frenzy could begin, without disrupting the rest of the show. The tables really did seem to have a lot less “good stuff” than in years past.

I’ve really been wanting to get back into Hasselblad photography, and decided the 500cm needed a few optional accessories to make it easier to take out into the field. Perfect timing.

But, on to the list- here is what I was able to scoop up-

  • A Hasselblad grip bracket (P/N 45071), in excellent condition, normally about $99 on eBay, for $15.
  • A Hasselblad lens shade for the 80mm Planar, (P/N 40670), about $50 eBay, for $30.
  • The wide Hasselblad strap, the 1″ rubberized (P/n59110), which I have seen selling for $40-50, for $20.
  • An extra Hassy rear lens cap, normally $8-9, for $2!!!
  • And, off-Hasselblad, an alltime favorite read, The Complete Nikon System: An Illustrated Equipment Guide by Peter Braczko, originally a $40 book, for $5. I have taken this book out of the local library at least 5 times, and it is really worth owning, despite a few errors.

I even had one dealer give me a fresh Box of Magicubes to use in the Polaroid Big Shot, and, Brian Jacobs of The G.A.S Station (GAS being Gear Acquisition Syndrome), an excellent YouTube channel, gave me a Hasselblad Rapid Winding Crank. If you have not seen Brian’s excellent video reviews of vintage cameras, be sure to check them out. His reviews of the Leica R7 and R8 are extremely well done. And while I doubt I will never get into Leica because of the cost prohibitive prices of the glass, watch them, and you will want to get them. There are lots of YouTube camera reviews, but his are really the best of their kind. Thank you, Brian!

I shot a roll of Tri-X with the Hasselblad 500cm at the show, but while the negatives hang and dry, here are a few shots I took with the Canon SD1400 IS.-

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Photographica takes place twice a year, and can be hazardous to your wallet. Make a list, and try to stick to it. I do hope that some new dealers would join the mix. Some of the same gear does tend to show up over and over again. But if you are a serious film photographer, there is no better place to be.

Bring More Than One Roll (Or, More Than One Camera)

At His Doors.

At His Doors.

This church group covered a lot of ground, having looped a large block off of Main Street. I was happy to bump into them again, as I had that desire to finish the roll. I am not sure if this is influenced by the fact that I was a digital photographer before embracing and loving film. But sometimes you want to capture as many moments as possible. This was just one of those days you wish you were Dennis Hopper’s unnamed photojournalist in Apocalypse Now, with all your Nikons strapped around your neck.

'We Have What U Need"

‘We Have What U Need”

And, it is one of those days you wish you had a whole bag filled with film with you. Good light, but even better subjects.

Happy Evangelism

Happy Evangelism

If this wonderful group ever needs a photographer to follow them and photograph them in action, I’ll gladly fill up the film bag.

Spread The Word

One Way.

One Way.

I came across this sweet group of people after photographing the bird feeder. these devoted folks were basically evangelizing while walking the streets of downtown Worcester. They did not mind having their photographs taken, in fact, welcoming it. That shows on their faces. they were happy, kind, and determined. And despite being harassed by cars driving by, and pedestrians, they forged ahead, wanting to spread their word. Groups such as this could make for great photojournalistic studies again this summer. Once again, Nikon F2S, Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 Ai, and Ilford FP4 Plus, which is maybe the closest thing we have left to Kodak Plus-X. I love this sequence, and months later, recall how warm and kind these people were to me as I photographed them.

Stop! We Want To Pray.

Stop! We Want To Pray.

Getting Ready To Walk.

Getting Ready To Walk.

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Atrevete – “dare”.

Believe

Believe

 

For once, after all the times I have tried street photography in a photojournalistic manor, jackpot. This was a very fun afternoon. I hope this group found what it was they were looking for. I certainly did. Now I see why the 35mm lens was so popular for the genre in its heyday. You can focus precisely and quickly. And, you have a perspective that looks, to my eye at least, to be more of a “normal” perspective than the 50mm does. And the lens has no distortion at all.