Hassleblade? Hasselbald? Hassle something? Hasselhorf? It was only about 2 years ago I found the proper name of this medium format camera known as Hasselblad. Prior to that all I knew was that it was the boxy camera with the look down viewfinder. I have seen it in some movies but did know it went to the moon and back. I started shooting film cameras about 3 years ago after inheriting my brother’s Olympus Om2, which he acquired in the mid 1980’s – it still works a charm. Since then I have been slowly accumulating film cameras. partly because of the low cost for then top of the range high cost camera.
Since my interest in film cameras, I have read a fair a bit about the almighty Hasselblad. First designed in 1957 and the basic design stayed more or less the same till it was discontinued in 2013 . It is medium format, meaning, the negatives are much larger than 35mm. That’s probably why it was the workhorse of the fashion industry and in studio photographers. All else you need to know is that it is Swedish made. This still remains a high cost camera.
Did I say it went to the moon? 12 of them are still there. They are tightly machined so I suspect that they will still work if you find them again because they are fully mechanical.
I had already got a Mamiya TLR – a Japanese copy of the Rolliflex – the kind with 2 lenses and a lookdown hood. This was my first entry into medium format. I still love that camera – lightweight, easy to operate and the viewfinder!!. You won’t believe it until you see one. With SLRs, you look through a viewfinder the size of a small coin. Imagine looking through a viewfinder measured 5 cm x 5 cm. Medium formats, in my mind, are like the Beta of videos tapes and SLRs are the VHS. I got that one for about AUD$300. I still love using it and it is a good entry level to medium format. I guesstimated that mine was manufactured in mid 1960’s
I wasn’t planning on getting Hasselblad for another 5 years. In the last trip to Tokyo, I was planning on getting a Mamiya C330 because ebay says you can get them around the AUD$400 mark. There wasn’t much stock where I visited. I visited Lemon Camera in Ginza and saw this Hasselbald 500 C/M, with a prism and a handle. All for less than 100,000 Yen (AUD was also near parity at the time). I think a standard body, lens and back go for AUD$1,300 to $1,400. The prism itself is probably about AUD$300. I was hoping it was mechanically sound and so far so good. Many camera shops in Tokyo are consignment shops. This package looked like a kit package so I was hoping it was a private owner rather than a studio owner and perhaps the owner set it at this price for a quick sale.
The prism is a PME 3 model. I can’t find much about it except it was released in 1989 and it looks like the PME5 superseded it in 1991. So my guesstimate is that my copy was made around 1990. At the Lemon store, I also picked out 2 bad M42 lenses from the faulty box. One had fungus, the other one bad turning action. They were Yen 1,000 each. I told the salesperson he had sold me a Contax T2 the year before. He ended up giving me the 2 lenses for free.
The lever winder was still wrapped in plastic. I wanted the plain collapsible waist level look down finder hood. The genuine ones are well over AUD$100. When I got home, I bought a Kiev 88 – a Russian copy – for about AUD$50. It works and blends in well with the body. My eyesight is not as strong nowadays, so I have been using the prism finder
Ironfest was my first public use of the camera. Prior to that I was shooting W on a casual basis. I had loaded up with Ektar 100. The day turned out to be overcast and I was worried the film would not be appropriate. I metered using the a Canon s95, a point and shoot with manual functions. The s95 said to use F5.6 and 1/160th shutter speed. Of the 19 shots I took, 13 were in perfect or very acceptable focus. The out of focus ones were probably due to user error because I was using focus and recomposing technique.
The French cavalry horsewoman was my favourite of the day with her wild menacing hair. I was a little disappointed her horse was in focus instead.
These later shots in the field were taken after 4pm and approaching sunset. I was worried about the light and cranked up 1 stop to 1/60th shutter speed. I think they came up well. I didn’t see the need to tweak any of these photos in Lightroom. My original hi res copies are much sharper than these web converted photos. Sometimes I open up the pictures just to look at the blades of grass.
What I learned is that I need to take a few extra steps back. I think some of them need more room. And working on getting focus right. Ektar 100 seems to work well in overcast situation too.
I got these rolls developed and scanned at Fotoreisel in the city because of the convenience with work. I was saddened when they went out of business just before Christmas. I tried a different store across town. They were terrible – the film would come back wound up in the plastic ziplock bag and the scanned images were less than 100k in size (these jpeg scans are nearly 10 MB). Luckily, Fotoreisel reopened with a new owner. And the extra bonus is they have dropped their price from $18 to $12.