Play It Again Sam

The medium format Hasselblad V-Series cameras were the iconic picture taking machines of my youth. They were big and loud and complicated and insanely expensive. I remember looking at the ads for the vast Hasselblad system in the pages of Modern Photography and Popular Photography, then flipping through to the camera store ads in the back and gasping at the cost. Hasselblads were for working, professional, mostly studio photographers.

A couple of years ago, I got bit by the Hasselblad bug and with film cameras becoming more and more affordable, I decided to indulge myself. I got a nice deal on a 501c body, a couple of finders and lenses and two film backs from Marc Miller in Tucson. I shot a couple of rolls of color and one or two of black and white, put the camera away and hardly used it again. Eventually, I traded my Hasselblad for a Nikon digital camera and mostly forgot about Hasselblad. Mostly.

Early in November, I started thinking about Hasselblad again. I started asking myself what was it about the camera that made me set it aside so quickly? I started thinking that maybe the Hasselblad was too ambitious a camera for my experience level at the time. And, unknowingly, I configured my first Hasselblad in such a way that it was big and heavy and overly complex. What I had learned, since I parted ways with the Hassey, is that I feel most comfortable when a camera is simple, straightforward and if possible, stripped to its most minimalist form.

So I went looking for another Hasselblad. This time, I settled on the 500C/M. Pure. Simple. Mechanical. I opted for the basic waist level finder, 12 exposure film back and Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 Planar CF lens.

I had a metered prism finder on my first Hasselblad and while it made shooting the camera at eye level a lot like shooting a 35mm SLR, it added lots of weight and size to the camera. In the studio on a tripod, that's fine. Out in the field, not so much. So I went this time for the lightest, smallest, easiest to handle configuration. And with the metered finder, you still had to transfer the meter's suggested exposure to the lens (no auto-exposure here), so why not just use one of my small, handheld meters?

I went for the chrome version (they come in chrome and black and all black) because I like the way the chrome Hasselblads look. I opted for the crank-style film advance. They also offer a knob-style. I like this one better. The CF version of the Zeiss Planar is one of the later versions and there's not much more to say about amazing Carl Zeiss optics than has already been written.

I got a great deal on my 500C/M from Marc Miller in Tucson. Marc has an eBay store. He's an honest seller with great gear at fair prices. He included a nifty lens hood at no charge.

I shot my first roll of Kodak T-Max 100 with the camera today. The 500C/M in this configuration is much smaller and easier to handle than my earlier Hasselblad with prism finder and 150mm lens. The waist level finder is big, bright and clear. Precise focusing with the flip up magnifier is easy. Loading film into the camera's film back was intimidating the first time around. This time, it was like riding a bike. I might pick up a second film back and keep one loaded with color and one with black and white. With the Hasselblads, you can change backs mid roll if you want.

Too soon to tell if the 500C/M will be a keeper this time around, but I'm feeling it will. This simple, small, light configuration is fun to shoot. I like the square format. And after shooting Leica M2s and M3s, I am not intimidated by unmetered bodies or different methods of film loading.

The Hasselblad is an acquired taste and maybe I am at a point now where I can truly appreciate this fine camera. I'm going to shoot a few rolls and post the results soon.