Hasselblad Love – First impressions of the 501C
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 sample photos (all with Ilford HP5 plus film)
- Here are some Hasselblad sample photos from the first roll of film testing –
- 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. 🙂
9 thoughts on “Hasselblad Love”
I disagree completely with your opinion about the Hasselblad. It is the least user friendly camera I have ever used. Ergonomically it its horrible. Yes the results are great because of the Zeiss lenses but the camera is a nightmare. I think it is a studio camera but we all take it outside and shoot without a tripod which is not its forte.
I was shooting with mine in London today Jezza, on a lightweight monopod. All very easy and mobile and I enjoy using it. Yes as I say it’s no M3 but then again it creates different looking images. Some people lug their 8×10 cameras up glaciers as that is what they enjoy. I find it no hassle to take the Hasselblad out with me as the extra effort is offset with the added enjoyment. If we stayed in a studio all day life would be dull. I know I wouldn’t last very long! Give me a location shoot outside any day of the week 🙂 Enjoy your weekend.
Matthew, I’ve been following you on your blog for well over a year, and have enjoyed a lot of your write-ups. Sometimes when I read your posts it sounds like the voice in my own head, in that your thoughts echoed mine at the time I was using similar equipment. Anyway regarding the Hasselblad 501CM, I have one, and again everything you have written I have to agree with. I had the same problem with the focusing screen, but my problem is due to the fact I need reading glasses, and so had a stronger diopter pair made specifically for shooting the Hassy, they still couldn’t magnify the split prism enough for me to focus accurately, I was bitterly disappointed as I so wanted to shoot it waist level. Anyway the compromise is I use it at waist level to compose, then pop the built in diopter up and bring it to my eye for critical focusing, et voila 😊…I didn’t want the prism even though it makes perfect sense as I didn’t want to add the weight and ruin the form factor of the camera which is beautiful. It is one of the most beautiful cameras I’ve used, and I have a Pentax 67, Contax 645, Fujica GM670, Leica M3 and a Leica MP. I recently took it on a trip to Cyprus along with the MP, and the MP stayed in the bag on the streets and I shot with the Hassy!!! I couldn’t believe that I had bought the MP for discrete shooting on the streets and here I was using the Hassy, but again I have to agree with you, people don’t mind seeing these old cameras being pointed at them, it’s bizzarre and yes they are conversation starters, if I haven’t already started jabbering away 😄….with regards to the dreamy look that the other cameras produce, it is achievable with the Hassy, and you will achieve it, but the lens, distance to subject, subject to background and the planets all have to line up 😊 I’ve seen lots of images online that show the affect. I have the 150f4 also, again I purchased this to create a dreamier and even greater 3D pop but am yet to take a worthy contender with it that fits my brief. I don’t know whether it’s my example or that the lens is actually less contrasty than the 80 Planar? I never add any contrast to my scans as I love to be as close to and to see the original image at the time I shot it, one of the reasons I switched 100% to film, so I didn’t have to sit editing images, for days sometimes. I have found the whole process of photography a joy again through rediscovering film, as I grew up shooting it and ditching it sadly in 2001 for digital. The cameras, the film, the whole process of “thinking” and deliberating over each exposure, although that last bit I have to work on a little more, as Icurrently have a habit of shooting Medium Format Cameras for street as if they are 35mm cameras!!!
Finally, it IS about what YOU enjoy and what floats your boat that counts, what is right for one may not be for another, but then that is what what makes us individuals, not wrong, but individuals. I’ve been through a long photography journey chopping and changing cameras over 35 years, I have read that they are only tools, but for me they are more, I love cameras, I love good engineering and I have appreciated something different in each camera I have purchased, but then let go of them for whatever reason, but now I feel I have a collection of some of the best ever made and I get a pleasure out using each and every one. It’s like putting on your favourite trouser, jeans, jumper or trainers, depending on my mood I will grab a particular “tool”. I don’t profess to know anything about photgraphy, I don’t even profess to taking a decent image. I only know I love photography and that what’s matters to ME.
Sorry for the ramble Matthew, I hope it’s not too long.
I wish you many years of enjoyment and success in a field that only a lucky few can make into a full time career. You’re doing something that you love and enjoy, and better still you take the time out to share. Thank you.
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