Hasselblad Love – First impressions of the 501C
Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica
My Hasselblad journey so far..
After getting my first Hasselblad camera a few weeks ago it has been a bit of roller coaster ride. I had the usual pre-arrival excitment and research phase, then the eagerly awaited arrival and just sheer appreciation of the form, feel and build quality. What followed was real disappointment. I tried to take some test photos using the Hasselblad 501C kit WLF (waist level viewfinder) and found that I really struggled to see to focus using the nice and bright acute-matte cross hair focus screen. I thought perhaps I was going mad so compared to my Mamiya RZ67 WLF and I could focus fine on the RZ. Hmm perhaps my Hasselblad love affair was going to be short lived.
With a wedding fast approaching and where the client wanted me to photograph some images with a Hasselblad I was already starting to consider alternative film camera options for the day. I thought perhaps my Fuji GF670 rangefinder camera to capture equally sharp 6×6 images on film. I then started researching the various Hasselblad focus screens options and reached out to forums for help. I looked at the focus screens with the central split image spot but that is as far as I got before wedding day.
I took both the Fui GF670 and the Hasselblad 501C to the wedding as the groom said I could try his 45 degree PM prism viewfinder. I tried the prism finder and hey presto, I could see! So happy and relieved all mixed into one! Since then I have never looked back and am loving my Hasselblad. It has quckly become one of my favourite cameras (together with my all time favourite, the Leica M3 (s))
What do I like about the Hasselblad V series cameras?
- Build quality seems up there with Leica. Everything just feels exact and precise. The Hasselblad really is a joy to use and at the opposite end of the spectrum from the equally sharp Fuji GF670 which to me lacks the fun factor and emotion that makes you want to use a camera.
- Loving the 6×6 square format. I think Leica should make an M3 square crop camera! I have tried to like square format in the past and struggled but this time I have Instagram instilled in me so square format composition seems to come easier.
- I like the almost 3D pop from the out of focus background yet sharp subject. Without doubt the Mamiya 645 Super can create dreamier images more akin to the famous Contax 645 look but with dreamy comes softer focus. The Hasselblad images are less dreamy (even ar wide open apertures) but appear much sharper.
- The Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad V series do indeed all seem super sharp. The Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 and Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 that I have used so far are both among some of the sharpest lenses I have used. That said the Mamiya RZ67 can create perhaps equally sharp yet more dreamy images from the results I have obtained so far with the backdrop melting away behind the subject. I would compare the Hasselblad to the Leica Summilux ASPh 50mm f1.4 lens. They are clinically sharp. The Mamiya 645 Super can look more like the Leica Noctilux lens with a softer dreamy look. I think the Mamiya RZ sits mid way between. **Please note this is only based on the very few photos taken so far to date so I will update my conclusion if and when I see different.
- Interchangeable film backs on the Hasselblad as also found on my Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya 645 Super and Rolleiflex SL66E are great for weddings where I can pre load 2+ film backs or if I want to shoot a mix of colour and black and white film side by side. For 35mm film cameras I need two bodies to cover this approach hence I use two Leica M3s for weddings.
- The size of the Hasselblad “rig” with lens, lens hood, prism viewfinder and on a monopod is no discrete Leica M3 camera yet somehow it is purposeful and also get only positive remarks when out on the street. It is a real head turner (and conversastion starter!). I think people really appreciate seeing the older film cameras in action.
Hasselblad negative scans (all with Ilford HP5 plus film)
- Here are some sample images from the first roll of film testing the Hasselblad
- Here is a photo taken at the wedding
- Lastly here are a few images from a model photography workshop the day after the wedding
My wishes before the Hasselblad arrived were, I quote (my previous post)..
“The Hasselblad 501CM is by no means the perfect system but I want to try it as part of my quest for the ‘perfect’ camera. I hope I can love it as much as my Leicas. My biggest wish is reliability and sharp images and that alone will make me use the camera more than some of my existing ones.”
It is very very early days but I think the Hasselblad ticks all my boxes and is a keeper! 🙂
More new Hasselblad images coming to Flickr (and here) soon. I was shooting in London today with a male model in the morning and with an array of exciting (and new) Hasselblad lenses in the afternoon. 🙂