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.

Return To The Railroad

I received a great gift from an online friend a few months ago. Knowing my fondness for Minolta cameras, and Rokkor lenses, Alex, a fellow FPP listener, and contributor, from Canada, sent me a gorgeous X-700, with the 45mm f/1.7 Rokkor. To take advantage of my fondness for trains, and railroad scenes, I decided to take the camera through its paces, and take it down to the former Fitchburg Railroad tracks, now part of the MBTA, as well as other freight services. This strangely accessible area, near the municipal airport, gave me opportunity to photograph both moving, and stationary tracks.

The camera is one of the most advanced manual SLR’s I have ever used. Featuring program exposure, aperture priority, and manual exposure, it has an amazingly accurate light meter, one which is stepless in aperture priority, And, unlike the beloved XG-7, yes, the meter does meter completely in manual exposures. It can be as simple, or as advanced, as you want. The lens, like the 50 1/4, and 1.7, is sharp and contrasty. At 45mm, it comes close to a pancake lens. Compact and great to handle.

Back to this location. Not a soul in sight. Guessing along the tracks, there are, on occasion, security guards, etc. No fences, no warning signs. I was able to walk right up to parked cars, and pan closely when MBTA commuter rail trains blasted by. These were taken with Kodak T-MAX 100, and home developed with HC-110. I also should mention that a Hoya yellow filter was used as well.

Thank you, my friend Alex!

Boston And Maine Freight Cars

Boston And Maine Freight Cars

Freight Car Wheels Up Close

Freight Car Wheels Up Close

CSX- The 45mm Rokkor Worked Beautifully For This Image

CSX- The 45mm Rokkor Worked Beautifully For This Image

MBTA Commuter Rail On Its Way To Boston

MBTA Commuter Rail On Its Way To Boston

Back To School

I find myself returning to spots I have photographed so many times, those that are familiar. As I recover from surgery, walking my college campus can be a very relaxing, exercise filled activity.Took these shots at Fitchburg State University, in Fitchburg, MA, with the Canon Rebel G, 50mm f/1.8 EF lens, red Hoya filter, and Kodak TMax 100 film. There is a lot of work being done on the campus, including a new science building, and an addition to the Hammond Building, which is the campus center/library.

As mentioned in this blog a few months ago, colleges and universities can be great places to photograph, and even great places to talk film photography and darkroom technique, if your there is a darkroom/ photo lab there. The grounds can also be quite scenic and photogenic.

Every time I visit this campus, it is wonderful. In part because it is my alma mater, filled with memories to last a lifetime. In a future blog, I will recount a visit to a different campus, one that was far from friendly and memorable. Well, memorable for far different reasons.

Making My Way Towards The Campus

Making My Way Towards The Campus.

View Towards The Quad And Power Plant

View Towards The Quad And Power Plant.

Walking To The Hammond Building

Walking To The Hammond Building.

Hammond Building To The Left, Thompson Hall To The Right

Hammond Building To The Left, Thompson Hall To The Right. Sundial And Alumni Courtyard In The Middle.

Go Wide- Using A Fixed Prime Wide Angle Lens- First Thoughts

When I started out in digital photography, I used to think that shooting with a wide angle lens was all about “getting it all in”, and a lens best used for sweeping landscapes, and for great depth of field. Then, after getting into film photography, I read from a few sources that a fixed prime such as the 28mm lens was popular as a photojournalist lens. Huh? Wide angle for photojournalism?

Then, it started making some sense. In the days before auto focus, digital/auto everything, using a lens of such a focal length would allow for fast, precise focusing, without a lot of adjustment necessary after the fact. And, being able to “get up close” to a subject was also a huge benefit. Unlike the barrel distorted wide/normal/superzoom zoom lenses, this one will have virtually no barrel or line distortion. Otherwise great glass, such as the Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 DX lens is a nightmare at the wide end, because of the geometric distortion. Without software corrections in port, you are going to have straight lines that bend all over the place. You are going to experience edge distortion. Not with a lens like this one- no corrections necessary.

I have been reluctant to invest in wide Nikkor or Canon glass, as the primes are just about cost prohibitive. As I recently have been dabbling with Minoltas, and their gorgeous Rokkor glass, it only made sense to start with the Minolta system. Great glass, for a fraction of the cost of Nikkor and Canon. So, a 28mm f/2.8 Rokkor recently arrived. The lens is amazingly compact, sharp, and contrasty. It is a very easy lens to establish selective focus with. On the other hand, this is not a “shallow depth of field”, like the fast, longer counterpart focal lengths. Even wide open, it seems as though there is lots of DOF always there. Lens flare seems to be a bit of a challenge- a good lens hood might make sense here.

Here are a few samples from a recent visit to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. These were taken with the Minolta XG-7, and the Rokkor 28mm. A red filter, I believe, was in use here. Maybe a yellow. The film was Kodak TMax 100.

Taken From WPI Foot Bridge

Taken From WPI Foot Bridge

Experimenting With Selective Focus, Here On The Hand Rail

Experimenting With Selective Focus, Here On The Hand Rail

Lens Flare Can Work To Your Advantage In Some Scenes

Lens Flare Can Work To Your Advantage In Some Scenes

A Wide Even Looks Cool In Portrait Mode For Certain Compositions

A Wide Even Looks Cool In Portrait Mode For Certain Compositions