My Hasselblad 500 C/M

Go big or go home. It’s Hasselblad time.

It’s been a while and lot has happened. So I thought I’d start with this – a love affair with The Greatest Camera Ever Made. After years of longing this is my Hasselblad 500 and it makes me very happy.

The Hasselblad 500 series camera with its Zeiss Planar T* lens is the iconic film camera of the 20th century. Used extensively by a whole load of famous photographers all over the world it has a reputation as a reliable workhorse of a camera that can produce sublime results. NASA used the 500 series Hasselblads on the Gemini and Apollo missions – apparently a dozen of them remain on the Lunar surface after the various missions there.

500cm_5

With film photography equipment it is really the physical interaction you have with the camera as a machine that sets any one piece of equipment apart from any other. Choosing film as a medium to work in is a great leveler. The equipment can impart a character to the image captured, but ultimately Tri-X is Tri-X no matter what you shoot it in.

I have always wanted a Hasselblad 500 series camera for exactly that reason. As a piece of precision machinery it exudes an aura of physical joy that had me hooked the first time i saw one. It is a relatively simple machine, it doesn’t do a lot, but what it does feels great to do.

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Mine is a black paint version dated from the serial number as a 1980 model, so yet another camera in my collection that shares my birth year. At 37 years old it’s in good working order, albeit with some delightful patina from heavy use.

500cm_3

The engineering of this camera is something to behold. It is reasonably substantial in size, but not what I would describe as heavy despite it’s all metal construction (comparable with my Bronica, which is smaller and much more plastic). The camera itself is quite simple and fully modular. The lens houses the leaf shutter mechanism, which does not require a battery to operate, leaving the body as a simple mirror box and film winding mechanism.

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You look down into the viewfinder and see the image on the focusing screen at the same size as it will appear on the film. The image is big and bright and a subtlety different experience from looking through a traditional eye-level viewfinder. The image before you is detached from the scene you are pointing the camera at which I find to be a powerful aid to composing a strong image – like I’m assembling the elements of the image within the frame rather than simply imposing a frame on the scene in front of me. What you see if left-right flipped, in common with other cameras of this type.

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As much as i like my digital cameras, making an image is like being in a crowd of people – confusion, opinions, many different things to deal with at once. And then, damn it, I left it on self-timer! By contrast using the Hasselblad is like having a conversation with an old friend. A higher level of communication, nuance over shouting. It frees you to think and see rather than worry about settings. And I like that. It works for me. I think it makes my images better.

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These are just some random images from the first test roll. There will be plenty of proper images to follow in time.

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