Hasselblad SWC/M Super Wide Camera
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
The Hasselblad SWC (Super Wide Camera) family of cameras had a production life span from 1954-2009. From researching online my particular camera model, a Hasselblad SWC/M with CF lens attached and a spirit level built into both the camera body and the newer style view finder seems to be dated from around 1982-1988.
Hasselblad SWC – Intro
A Hasselblad SWC/M comes with a Zeiss Biogon 38mm f4.5 CF lens attached. Unlike the more common Hasselblad 500 series / V-series camera models the lens on the SWC cameras does not detach. The SWC is a camera designed and built around the very well-regarded Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens. It is not like a normal 500 series Hasselblad camera (as I think of them) as it has no mirror/ ground glass / waist level view finder setup you normally find at the heart of every Hasselblad. Instead it just has an external viewfinder to aid basic composition. To focus the SWC camera I need to use hyperfocal distance (like I would on a Leica rangefinder camera for street photography) and dial in a preferred focus distance on the Biogon lens (such as 2 meters) and then roughly gauge by eye this distance from the camera to the subject. As the camera is a wide-angle camera there is greater depth of field (DOF) than on say a long lens (especially once the SWC lens is stopped down). The 38mm Biogon lens is roughly equivalent to 21mm on a 35mm camera sensor so gives a pretty wide field of view compared to the standard 80mm Zeiss kit lens on a Hasselblad 500CM Classic which is equivalent to 50mm in 35mm camera terms.
Hasselblad SWC – First Thoughts
My first thoughts when collecting the Hasselblad SWC/M were small, compact and lightweight compared to the Hasselblad 500CM + telephoto lens(es) I had been using prior to picking up the camera. The SWC has a very solid and audible clunk when you release the shutter. Much more so than my 500CM and 501C and much for fluid movement but then it is a newer camera so perhaps to be expected. The SWC finder view is big and bright but also very distorted so it is difficult to retain a mind-set that the photos will not also look distorted. The spirit level built into the SWC finder is a very nice touch as you can see if an image horizon is level without taking your eye from the finder. Well done Hasselblad. The CF Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens looks very similar to all my other Zeiss CF lenses and is solid and seemingly well-built.
Hasselblad Wedding Photography
When I do Leica wedding photography with my digital Leica M240 camera one of my most used lenses is the Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8 lens. I have a 28mm Leica Elmarit-M f2.8 lens but found the 28mm focal length not quite wide enough in situation with lots of people and/ or confined spaces. The 21mm ZM Biogon is great for bridal prep shots with multiple bridesmaids in a small room or during a wedding ceremony to capture the bride and groom and some of the guests in the background. For previous analogue film weddings I found the standard lenses on many of my medium format film cameras too narrow to capture everything. For a Hasselblad wedding I have the Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 which is the same as 28mm but nothing wider. Sometime it is just nice to have a super wide lens to photograph a whole room such as the inside of a church. A wider lens also has a great depth in focus so for moving people photos taken in a candid street photography / documentary wedding photography style it is easier to nail focus with a wider lens than with a telephoto lens (when using manual focus). This was one reason/ ‘excuse’ to buy a Hasselblad SWC/M.
Hasselblad SWC for Street Photography
Leica cameras are popular street photography cameras when focused using hyperfocal distance. As mentioned briefly above it means I set a desired distance and aperture on the lens and this gives me a certain range in focus (say everything between 1-3 meters). Once set it basically makes a Leica camera a full frame 35mm point at shoot camera (if you keep your subjects within the area in focus from the camera (Ie. if something is 4m away I need to walk closer before taking the photo or move the distance on the lens to further away before taking my shot). The same methodology can be applied to the Hasselblad SWC camera, setting an aperture and focus distance on the 38mm Biogon lens. As the 38mm is equivalent to 21mm in 35mm terms it gives quite a deep depth in focus. (Telephoto lenses have a much shorter distance in focus at any aperture). The SWC camera can them become a 6×6 medium format point and shoot camera for street photography, weddings or otherwise. The biggest restriction in the UK is sufficient light so the SWC is more suited to bright conditions or high ISO film stock than low light photography for this technique.
Hasselblad SWC for Travel Photography
One big selling point of the Hasselblad SWC for me is the compact size and relatively low weight. The Hassy SWC/M weighs under 1.4kg (with camera, finder and film back attached) and in comparison a Hasselblad 500CM camera + 80mm kit lens + film back weights closer to 1.6kg (but for the lenses I use the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 CF lens alone weighs 1.1kg!) For my overseas model photography photoshoots I tend to take with me the smallest cameras that provide sufficiently high image quality (and are fun to use and reliable). It could be argued that my Mamiya 6 and Fuji GF670 are more suited as medium format travel cameras but I much prefer the rendering of Hasselblad lenses to the Mamiya glass and I find the GF670 fragile (currently awaits repair) and not exciting to use (even if it is a very capable camera).
Hasselblad Fashion Photography
Another reason to buy the Hasselblad SWC is for my Hasselblad fashion photography. I love the Hasselblad telephoto lenses such as the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 lens and Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 lens for portraits but to photograph clothes full length a wider lens is often easier. The Hassy SWC 38mm Biogon lens could be deemed too wide but many fashion photographers have used wide lenses in the past to give their fashion photos a different look. I think I may use the SWC camera more for wedding photography but I hope I can also use it for some of my model photography to add some variety to my work. For environment portraits a wider lens is also very beneficial as it helps to capture both the model and their environment. I have shot many times in Budapest for example and taken headshot / half body portraits yet the surrounding location detail outside the field of view might have added additional interest to the images if included. I think of all the locations I have done model photography the city that screams “use a wide lens” the most is without doubt New York city. I need to go back soon! On a previous visit to NYC I used my 35mm Hasselblad XPan camera for a wider view but found I usually prefer 6×6 format to panoramic for my model/ fashion portraits. Using both the wide-angle Hasselblad SWC/M and a standard Hasselblad 501C /500CM body side by side gives me the best of both, with the option for wider environment portrait / wide angle fashion look photos and also shallow depth isolated headshots and portraits with a longer telephoto lens. When using two Hasselblad bodies I also have the advantage of the Hasselblad V system being modular. (See more below).
Hasselblad Modular Cameras (Specifically Film Backs)
One huge advantage of investing into the Hasselblad 500 series (V-series) cameras (including the SWC camera) is the cameras are modular in their design. This means I can unclip a standard Hasselblad A12 film back (or any other film back) from any Hasselblad 500 camera and use it on my new Hassy SWC/M. Having multiple film backs to use can be really valuable during a Hasselblad wedding for example. If I was using a Mamiya 6 camera for group photos and finished my roll of film mid-session I would need to halt proceedings, rewind the film and reload with fresh film to continue. When using a Hasselblad I carry multiple pre-loaded film backs and as soon as film finishes in one back I can quickly unclip and attach a second back with film loaded ready to go. Another advantage of multiple film backs is I can load one back with colour film and one back with black and white film. For Hasselblad fashion photography (or film weddings) or any client shoot I can shoot a mix of colour and black and white film and swap the backs between cameras. For example shoot a wide scene in B&W on the Hasselblad SWC then take the back from the Hasselblad 500CM (loaded with colour film) to capture a colourful confetti group photo straight after. The 500CM can then capture some B&W wedding portraits on a long lens and so on. I would travel with at least two film backs for model photography trips and if possible carry 2 Hasselblad bodies too, the SWC/M and a 500CM or 501C.
Hasselblad Focusing Screen Adapter 41025 SWC/M
An obvious disadvantage of the Hasselblad SWC/M is the fact that the viewfinder does not allow for critical focusing. Maybe it is because I have used Leica rangefinder cameras intensively for a prolonged period but for much of my photography I like to line up straight lines (horizontal and vertical) in a scene with my frame lines in the viewfinder. For example at a church wedding I would centre the viewfinder to the church aisle to capture equal detail on both sides and ensure it is aligned to the straight edges of the walls. With the Hasselblad SWC the finder view it is only a rough guide of composition. I would hate to have to crop every SWC photo after scanning to straighten and centre each picture. Luckily there is another option
Hasselblad and Leica Cameras
Hasselblad SWC – Specifications
As with many of the cameras I own and have talked about on this blog, Ken Rockwell has also reviewed the camera and kindly details all the specifics of the Hasselblad SWC on his site. Rather than me repeat the same camera facts please see a link below to Ken Rockwell’s SWC review
Hasselblad Resale Value
One good thing about investing in older Hasselblad film cameras is they seem to hold their value quite well (and even appear to increasing in value/cost over the last 12 months or so). If I find the Hasselblad SWC/M camera isn’t really for me at least I can say I tried it. I would never have discovered my love for Leica and Hasselblad cameras if I didn’t take the chance and move away from the camera(s) I used at the time. I never know, the SWC/M might become my new most used most loved film camera! Either way I will enjoy finding out!
Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67 Pro II
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
I have owned my Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera since summer 2013 but have only recently bought my Hasselblad 501C. Here is some more information on each camera system and then a few example images.
Mamiya RZ67 6×7 – Camera gear
Over the last two years I have done Mamiya RZ67 fashion photography, Mamiya RZ67 wedding photography and Mamiya RZ67 Polaroid photos. I have a selection of Mamiya Sekor lenses for the RZ; 65mm f4, 90mm f3.5, 110mm f2.8 (my favourite lens on the RZ) and the 180mm f4.5. I also bought different film backs for the Mamiya; RZ 645 film back, RZ 6×6 film back, standard 6×7 film backs and lastly a Polaroid film back. To focus the RZ67 I use the big and bright waist level viewfinder and until this experiment I have only shot the RZ handheld.
Hasselblad 501C 6×6 – Camera gear
If you have read my recent blog posts you will be aware of my Hasselblad v-system camera equipment but to recap I use the following Hasselblad lenses; Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 CF, Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 CF, Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF, Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 CF and I use two 6×6 Hasselblad A12 film back. To focus I use a Hasselblad 45 degree prism finder and try to use the Hasselblad on a monopod for the sharpest possible photos. I have a waist level viewfinder but found it very difficult to focus with the acute matte screen (without split prism). In the last few months since purchase I have already done a Hasselblad wedding and Hasselblad fashion photography. I absolutely love the Hasselblad portraits with the 6×6 crop factor and can honestly say that I think the Hasselblad has had more beneficial impact on my photography than any other camera.
Mamiya RZ67 6×7 – User experience
I have always loved the big bright RZ viewfinder and 6×7 rotating film back. The 110mm f2.8 lens give both sharpness and a shallow depth of field. The size and weight of the Mamiya RZ has not deterred me but that said I have not used it a huge amount and it has never been overseas on model photography trips. I have always been happy with image sharpness and camera handling. One of the features I like the most on the RZ is the bellows focusing system as I can get as close as I want to my subject without the need of additional extension tubes. Perhaps my only complaint is the fact that the Mamiya RZ requires a battery. I found I used the RZ more without a battery and at the 1/400 fixed shutter speed. The Mamiya RZ is great for 6×6 Polaroid photos and I like how the image is captured in the centre of the film rather than being offset. I have used the Mamiya RZ with Polaroid back for events and the Polaroid photos produced are great. I always used the RZ handheld and never really thought to do any different despite the weight.
Hasselblad 501C 6×6 – User experience
From my recent blog posts and the rave reviews you may have noticed that I am a huge fan of the Hasselblad camera. I really struggled to focus with the original waist level viewfinder but now I am happy using the 45 degree prism finder. My favourite lens is the super sharp Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens as it lets me focus closer than the 80mm Planar kit lens and is incredibly sharp. As such I have hardly used the 80mm kit lens that most people seem to keep on their Hasselblad 500 series cameras. The Hasselblad is smaller (lighter and more compact) than the Mamiya RZ and as such it has already been overseas with me to Poland for model photography location shoots. The Hasselblad is 100% mechanical so requires no batteries which I love and the build quality is on a par with my Leica M3 film cameras (I think). It is a very rewarding camera to use!
Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67 Shoot Out
As I own both cameras I was interested to compare the Hasselblad 501C to the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Here are a few images from each camera from my shoot with Julie in the studio. All photos werer shot on expired 120 Ilford Delta 100 film and developed in Kodak Xtol developer. Film negatives were scanned with a Epson v800 scanner and finished in Photoshop. Both cameras were used on monopods to make it a fair test. I fitted the Mamiya RZ with a 6×6 film back so both cameras were 6×6 format. Click on any photo to see the lens used and additional information.
Mamiya RZ67 Portraits
Conclusion – Clear Winner?
Both the Hasselblad and Mamiya RZ67 camera systems are capable of producing very sharp images and I cannot call a clear winner here. As such I think it comes down to what camera I enjoy using more. The Hasselblad is smaller, lighter, arguably better built but also more expensive than the RZ. If you are on a tight budget I would say you can capture equally good photos with a Mamiya RZ but if you want a camera system for life I would get a Hasselblad everytime. The Hasselblad 501C will still be with me together with the Leica M3s for years to come where as I think the Mamiyas will come and go. That is my rose tinted 2 cents worth anyway.
> Hasselblad Links:
- Hasselblad Love – Intro – https://mrleica.com/2015/09/19/hasselblad-love/
- Hasselblad Model Portraits – https://mrleica.com/2015/11/21/hasselblad-fashion-portraits/
- Hasselblad Fashion – https://mrleica.com/2015/10/25/hasselblad-kodak-ektar-fashion-poland/
- Hasselblad Wedding – https://mrleica.com/2015/09/13/leica-hasselblad-wedding/
- Hasselblad vs Kiev 88 – https://mrleica.com/2015/09/26/hasselblad-vs-kiev-88/
- Hasselblad vs Other MF Cameras – https://mrleica.com/2015/09/03/hasselblad-501cm-joins-the-leicas/
- Hasselblad Camera Café London – https://mrleica.com/2015/11/21/hasselblad-camera-cafe-London/
> Mamiya RZ67 Links:
- Mamiya RZ67 Intro – https://mrleica.com/2013/07/10/me-my-mamiya-rz67-pro-ii/
- Mamiya RZ67 Model Photography – https://mrleica.com/2013/09/07/fashion-on-film-mamiya-rz67/
- Mamiya RZ67 Wedding – https://mrleica.com/2013/07/14/black-white-film-wedding-photography/
- Mamiya RZ67 Polaroid Back – https://mrleica.com/2014/08/12/mamiya-rz-polaroids/
- Mamiya RZ67 6×6/ 645 Film backs – https://mrleica.com/2013/12/10/mamiya-rz-645-film-back/
Hasselblad Fashion Photography – Poland
(Hasselblad 501C & Leica M Typ 240 Model Photography)
Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica.com
I have lost count of how many trips I have made to Poland now. This is model photography visit number 3 for Poland in 2015 I think! I will link the previous trips at the end of this post if interested. Each time I visit I make new contacts and so have more and more models to choose from. This is the first visit where there were 5+ models wanting photos but I was already fully booked. As my photography matures I get more selective with the models I work with so to try to create the best possible images.
Camera gear for Poland
On previous visits I have packed as many as 4 cameras I think from memory together with an array of lenses. For this trip I decided to try to keep it simple. The plan was two cameras and two lenses and that was all. When packing I found I then had some spare capacity so added a few extras bits! For this visit it was all about the Hasselblad 501C camera! I was so excited to get there and get started!
- Leica M Typ 240 digital camera
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens
- Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera
- Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens
- Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 CF kit lens
- Hasselblad A12 film back (x2)
- Hasselblad PM 45 degree prism finder
- Yellow filter, 81B warming filter, 82C blue filter
- Bellows lens hood
- Sirui P-326 carbon monopod
- Shutter cable release
- 5in1 reflector
- 120 medium format film (see below)
- Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800
- Kodak Portra 160NC (expired)
- Kodak Ektar 100
- Fuji Pro 400H
Black and white film:
- Kodak Tri-X 400
- Kodak T-Max 400
- Fuji Acros 100
- Fomapan 100
- Ilford Delta 100
- Ilford Delta 3200
Leica digital photography
I needed one digital camera to capture instant images to give the models and also to warm them up with poses before shooting on film. The Leica M 240 sensor is quite capable but lifeless so to give myself a fighting chance of creating something I might be interested in I packed the Noctilux lens to be used wide open at f1. The Noctilux captures more filmic looking images even on the modern Leica M 240 CMOS sensor.
Hasselblad film photography
I wanted to pack just one film camera to let me focus on capturing a smaller number of hopefully better crafted film images. The Hasselblad camera slows me down so I have time to think twice before pressing the shutter. With 35mm film photography I find I now fire off a series of shots much faster than I used to. Medium format film in 6×6 format gives me 12 frames a roll rather than 36 frames for 35mm film. I planned to be more selective and therefore have less similar images and hopefully more keepers. Normally I would shoot one roll of film per model so now I want to take less overall images, digital and film per girl but hopefully a higher standard of work. Being able to pack a spare Hasselblad A12 film back was really exciting as I could shoot 120 colour film alongside 120 black and white film with the same model. My preference is black and white film but if models bring some colourful clothing I have the option to capture them in colour too.
Hasselblad Zeiss lenses
For Hasselblad lenses the original idea was to only take the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 lens as it lets me do close up portraits in addition to standard photos. I decided to add the Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 for three reasons, well four really. It gives me a wider view closer to 50mm in 35mm terms. The 80mm f2.8 kit lens is one stop faster than the 120mm f4 Makro-Planar for when I need more light. (This is often the case with medium format photography as lenses are not as fast as 35mm film camera lenses). The f2.8 aperture also gives me a greater shallow depth of field verses the f4 Makro-Planar lens at the same distance though in practice the 120f4 vs 80f2.8 might be quite similar looking. Lastly the Zeiss Planar is reasonably small and light for a Hasselblad mount lens so was easy to fit in my bag.
Film and filters
Normally I load ISO 400 speed film into my Hasselblad in the UK as there is often never enough light (well since buying my Hasselblad in September anyway!). The Poland forecast was looking quite promising being colder but more sunny. The hotel is on the beach so the sand can act like a giant reflector bouncing light back up onto the models. As such and with my usual positive outlook I packed a range of film speeds from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. I packed roughly a 2:1 ratio of black and white film to colour film and tried to cover myself for all levels of brightness. Some films where to be shot at box speed, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Acros 100 and Ilford Delta 100. Kodak Portra 160, 400 and 800 and Fuji Pro 400H were to be overexposed by roughly one stop where possible and if enough light and if not at box speed. Fomapan 100 is an excellent film with great latitude and can be shot at ISO 100-400 and developed at box speed. Kodak T-Max 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are also bomb proof and I can use at ISO 200-800 easily and ISO 1600 if needed. Lastly I packed a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 to try. I read it is better shot at ISO 1600 but if I need to I will try it at ISO 3200.
I visited Sopot, Poland again for four full days of model photography. I planned to work close to and inside the hotel to make the best use of the time. I looked forward to lots of close up portraits and interesting 6×6 crops using the Hasselblad as this is what I enjoy the most. I can’t do close up photos easily using a Leica M camera and standard lenses so this is what I really miss from my Nikon days. I am loving the Instagram ready square format of the Hasselblad camera so will enjoy composing as a square rather than the usual rectangular format.
Models include catwalk agency models, non-catwalk specific agency models and non agency models with a mix of perhaps 50:50 new faces and familiar ones. My models were Marta K, Marta M, Marta P, Marta W, Irmina, Natalia, Agnieszka, Weronika, and Teresa. Lots of Marta’s!
I am especially excited to work with some of the girls as we have been planning the shoots for weeks online. It is crazy how many hours of planning are involved ahead of a trip. I dread to think the total number of hours I have spend writing on Facebook to the different girls trying to coordinate everyone so as many girls as possible get to have photos. It doesn’t feel a chore but it does take time.
Leica M Typ 240
I found the Leica M 240 camera much more enjoyable to use with the Leica Noctilux 50f1 lens attached but I always wanted to get closer than the 1m closest focus distance. The original plan was to bring the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens that works at 0.7m but it gives a more modern look to the images. Taking only one lens for the Leica M 240 worked well as I could concentrate on using the Hasselblad.
Hasselblad 501C Camera
The Hasselblad 501C was such great fun to use. I found the 120mm Zeiss Makro-Planar lens pulls me in close to the action for most of the photos. I really had to make myself step back for photos further away. My eyes find it far easier to focus more accurately when I am in closer. I used the 120mm Makro Planar lens for perhaps 11 of every 12 images on average apart from the last shoot where I loaded ISO 100 film so needed the speed of the Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 lens. I am glad I shot some photos with the 80mm as I am interested to see the Zeiss Planar depth of field at f2.8. I found I had to use my lenses wide open at either f2.8 or f4 to achieve a 1/60 shutter speed inside. Outside we sometimes had more light so I did some close up portraits at f5.6 and even a few at f8 to see how the 120mm Makro-Planar lens performs. For a few photos at the end of one day I shot the Zeiss Planar 80mm at f2.8 at 1/15 shutter to get the necessary exposure so it will be interesting to see if the photos are usable. All photos were taken with the Hasselblad 501C camera mounted directly on the Sirui carbon monopod and with a shutter release cable to try to give me more keepers when at 1/60. We shall see. I didn’t have much experience using a Hasselblad camera ahead of this trip to Poland so I am still working out my limits.
Hasselblad and Kodak film
I asked some models to bring bright coloured clothes and they did so I took the opportunity to shoot some Kodak Ektar 100 film. I think Kodak Ektar film can captures some of the sharpest colour film portraits so I wanted to pair it with the equally high performing Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad. I also used some expired Kodak Portra 160 NC and fresh stock Kodak Portra 160 and 400 film.
Black and white film and filters
For black and white film photography I paired the film with either the yellow filter or the blue 82C filter if not interchanging with colour film also. When switching between colour film and black and white film using two A12 Hasselblad film backs I used no filter or sometimes the 81B warming filter instead.
Keep it simple
When I am normally juggling multiple film cameras I often don’t use any filters for my black and white film photography as have enough to think about. Using just one film camera is so much better as I can stay more focused and therefore make less potential mistakes. Switching Hasselblad lenses and film backs is a recipe for disaster if I am not concentrating! I made detailed notes (for once!) of what filter and film combinations I was using and the lens choice so can refer to this once the film is developed to see how the results compare. It may be that I start using filters much more again if I like the results better with filters than without.
To speed up my photography and again to simplify everything I captured all photos with available light only. I will look to introduce strobes when using my Hasselblad camera for model photography and fashion photography to make use of the 1/500 flash sync speed but for this trip I relied on daylight and worked during daylight hours.
Without doubt this was my best trip to Poland to date. I was extremely happy with the camera choice. In particular the Hasselblad 501C was just a dream to use and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 lens did all I asked from it. In future I could easily make do with one Hasselblad lens only and if I had to choose it would be the 120mm rather than the 80mm for me. I don’t think I have ever been more excited to see the film photos developed from a trip away. Expectation based on the view I saw through the viewfinder is so high I just hope I am not disappointed. I will get the colour film negatives lab developed and scanned so I will post the results here once received. I develop my own black and white film so tend to post photos one at a time to Flickr as I get chance to work through them. I plan to share the results using the different colored filters, the various film stocks and comparing the 120mm vs. 80mm Zeiss lenses. Fingers crossed the results are OK!
As usual with my trips abroad I am wondering when next to visit Poland!
- Poland Model Photography – June 2015
- Model Photography Poland (3rd)
- Leica Fashion Shoot Poland
- 3 Days, 6 Models – Poland
(Please note all photos included were using my iPhone and the ‘real’ photos are to follow!)*