'Blad Boy for Life

Published 5 April 2019

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When the opportunity came up to borrow a Hasselblad for a bit, how could I say no? I mean these cameras went to the moon. Apparently there are still 12 up there, left behind so the crews could bring samples of lunar rock back. I’d swap lunar rock for a NASA edition Hasselblad 500c any day. Before I get in to things I’d like to say a big thank you to Con Hionis for lending me this little beauty from 1984.

The Hasselblad V-System was developed to combine the image quality of medium format with a compact body. The model I got to play with was a Hasselblad 2000FCW paired with a Zeiss Planar 80mm F2.8 CF lens. The 2000 series of bodies are equipped with titanium focal plane shutters, giving more flexibility away from the studio to shoot with a shallow depth of field.

Every aspect of this camera is engineered to perfection and the modular design allowing pretty much any combination of Hasselblad backs or viewfinders to be used. Considering this particular camera hadn’t seen action for ‘at least ten years’ I was surprised how smooth everything felt. I was limited to using the leaf shutter in the lens, as the focal plane shutter was missing a knob to change the shutter speed. That left me with a maximum shutter speed of 1/500s, which is fine in most situations but could cause issues if you’re looking to shoot portraits in bright light. The shutter is an absolute delight to fire, so wait until the novelty wears off before loading any film.

The Waist Level Finder (WLF) I tried out took some getting used to – the image you see is mirrored left to right, so even something simple like levelling the frame required me to pull my concentrating face. For the purists out there (with built-in light meters in their heads) then a WLF is perfect – compact and bright, with a pop up magnifier for more precise focussing. For people like me, who kind of have an idea about settings they need but need some science to tell them more accurately, then grab a light meter (all my sample shots were tasking using one). There are some pretty funky looking prism finders available but that destroys the camera’s beautiful and simplistic styling. Carrying a light meter is a compromise I’d happily make to use a system like this.

Medium format gives a big step up in image quality when compared to 35mm as the 6x6 negatives are more than three times the size of their little friends (3136 sq. mm vs 864 sq. mm). But with a roll of 120 film you get 12 shots on the Hasselblad, compared to a 36 exposure roll of 35mm film and that’s three times the faff of changing film over (never mind the cost). The cameras can also be a lot bigger and less ideal for roaming the streets with, which is why they have traditionally been seen more in studios.

This really is a great system to use and I’m hooked. If you need me then I’ll be searching for a bargain Hasselblad of my own. Wishful thinking I know but in the meantime I do have my eye on another medium format camera. And yes, it will give me another witty title for a blog post.

Sample Photos: Hasselblad 2000FCW with a Zeiss Planar 80mm F2.8 CF lens and Kodak Portra 400 film. Developed /scanned at Halide Supply, Collingwood (images 1-6) and FilmNeverDie, Melbourne CBD (7-10).

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