Hasselblad 500C/M
Medium & Large Format

Hasselblad 500CM – Sometimes objects of desire do match expectations – By David Mitchell

August 20, 2020

When I was about 18 I was getting into photography and I had a huge poster of Ansel Adam’s ‘Moon and Half Dome’ on my wall. I devoured everything I could about Adams which led me on to Edward Weston his friend and neighbour in Carmel – both remain great inspirations today.

I really had no idea about cameras beyond 35mm SLRs at that point but I did read that Adams had used a Hasselblad 500C camera to take that image. As many of you know when you are young (or maybe not so young) you can mistakenly equate the quality of the camera with the output, forgetting there is a human in – between. I had no idea Hasselblad was made in Sweden and whilst I continued to pursue photography for the next 30 years I followed the digital route like many people only returning to film last year – I wrote a previous blog on this for 35mmc here

At the end of that article I noted I was heading to my 50th birthday and the Hasselblad was in my mind. I had planned to go to Iceland with some friends in the spring for a week long photography trip but COVID-19 stopped that from happening. I had some cash, some time at home and the internet…

I found a nice 500C at Commercial Cameras. The owner Paul was really helpful and much to my delight I worked out from the serial number that it was made in 1970 – it was the same age as me ! It was the 500CM spec  – the silver 80mm lens – all the things I was looking for. 

So I bought it – it was a fair price but as many of you will know they ain’t cheap and I had never used or even handled one so I was a little nervy – this was a fifty year old camera after all.

The camera arrived – in great condition but lockdown was still in force so initial trials were confined to the garden. From the fist time I took it out the packaging and pressed that shutter I was completely hooked. It was tiny compared to the RB67 of course but the design, the engineering and the style was just wonderful. It felt like something that had developed over time as it had obviously and it made sense to operate like good design does. I have various digital cameras and their endless menus and settings really do annoy me I have realised – you can feel more like a computer programmer than a photographer sometimes – the Hasselblad was the antidote to that. 

   

The sound of the mirror slap is addictive and my camera has the better focusing screen – the world looks fabulous through it. I constantly forget to take the dark slide out of course and it takes practice to get the focus right – but when you do its great. Put it on a tripod, put the mirror up and fire the shutter in the lens it makes no sound at all. I still struggle with the waist level finder but I am persevering  because It makes sense for the camera and the prism viewfinder on the 500C looks like a beautiful girl wearing a very ugly hat…..

I have used HP5 Plus and some Portra regularly to get some consistency and now starting to experiment – Pan F plus seems to work nicely.

I have a wonderful Nikon F2 and growing collection of non AI lenses  – I still love the F2 but the Hasselblad is compact enough that I find myself taking that instead. I have been looking at a 50mm lens to get a bit wider for landscapes but that will require selling some other gear to fund it.

Cheap and Hasselblad are not words that go together. £50 for a metal lens hood for the 80mm seemed a bit steep and the plastic version made now seemed a bit yuck. A really kind chap in Germany sold me one at a much more reasonable price through a Hasselblad Facebook Group. I am now looking for a red and yellow filter to get those dark Adams skies I like so much – I know I can do it in photoshop but thats missing the point maybe ?

I cant find a long enough strap to hang the camera on my hip as I like that is not a custom made job at eye-watering prices  so I made one this week – quite pleased with the results.

So thank you Ansel for thirty years of inspiration and putting the Hasselblad in my hands. I have been fortunate to visit Yosemite a few times and photograph Half Dome – now I need to go with the Hasselblad and do it right…

David Mitchell

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    mike tynan
    August 20, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    david mitchell…hasselblad and nikkor…re the filters for your H.B. i have the a similar set up but for the lens filters for the H.B. i bought a modest adaptor that permits fixing the 52 MM screw lens filters i use on my old Nikons to the HB lens Bayonet . Quite in- expensive and useful but note that my H.B.Hood would then not fit OVER the new rig. My solution to that was to have a machine shop reduce the outermost edge of the adaptor to just less than the I.D. of the H.B. hood…i was charged only 20 USD….15 minutes on a lathe…the adaptor is Alum. so very small incremental cuts are required.. or if you have a 52 MM screw-on hood maybe that would be suitable..good filters, less parts to own ,carry and manage

    • Reply
      David Mitchell
      August 20, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      thanks for the advice Mike

      • Reply
        Raphael Arndt
        August 21, 2020 at 9:26 am

        Amazing story Mitchell!
        I first used a Hasselblad during an internship in high school and completely fell in love with the sound of the shutter and the camera itself.

        My boss recommended spending my bonus on something I always wanted but never got. Now I am a proud owner of a 500cm myself. And I love every second with it. Just looking through the waist level view finder brings me joy (sometimes I do that when working from home to de-stress). Enjoy the Hassi and greetings from Germany. 🙂

  • Reply
    lasousa2015
    August 20, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Great images, and nice job on the strap. Optech makes an inexpensive Hasselblad mount strap in case you want another option for comfort’s sake. You can adjust its length to suit. I like the adjustment because the proper length allows pushing the camera down from the neck to steady it.

    • Reply
      David Mitchell
      August 20, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks – I had one of these but it kept getting curled up and the height wasnt right – it sits nice on your hip and when you shift it around it sits in the small of your back which I like if carrying it for a while

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    August 20, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    Cool, nice job with your first frames. Indeed, these beautiful mechanical cameras are antidotes to the computerized push a button digital imaging devices. You need to think when you use a Hasselblad. And you are free of the constant upgrading churn.

    As for filters: you need Bay 50 size Fortunately, these are relatively cheap (at least in USA). Have fun!

    • Reply
      David Mitchell
      August 20, 2020 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks – red bay 50 filters not so cheap here 😉

      • Reply
        Mattias
        August 20, 2020 at 8:41 pm

        Very nice images and review. Was going to say that the early versions of the 50mm are very cheap. Got mine for free with my 500CM 4 years ago, but…that has apparently changed…😳

        • Reply
          David Mitchell
          August 20, 2020 at 9:22 pm

          indeed it has – there can be such a wide variation in lens costs – and not always entirely evident why !

  • Reply
    Pete
    August 20, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Spooky – I’ve also just got one for my 50th birthday next April, but, as I tell my wife, it needs regular use now, just like a car…

    I’ve gone telephoto rather than wide for my second lens – the 150mm f4 with an extension tube for closer focus.

    Love it!

    • Reply
      David Mitchell
      August 20, 2020 at 8:30 pm

      cool ! I have had a look at the 150mm – seem not too bad price wise

  • Reply
    Adam M
    August 20, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Are you looking to replace the leatherette on your Hasselblad? I’m working toward a good replacement leather for the original Hasselblad texture.

    • Reply
      David Mitchell
      August 20, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      thanks – its in pretty good condition for now but will bear it in mind !

  • Reply
    Nigel H
    August 20, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Stop Stop Stop! They are too lovely and I must not start thinking I want one! Always loved the look of them but my weakness is such that I can’t look at them any more for fear of going straight to eBay.
    I am the same age as you and my birthday trip got cancelled too but I am sticking with what I have and that is that… so no more beautiful Cameras on here please (Hamish? are you listening?)

  • Reply
    Bob
    August 21, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Be patient when getting accessories for your film camera. The fixed prices online are often not feasible.

  • Reply
    Stefan
    August 21, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Dear David, thank you very much for your inspiring article. I wish you a lot of fun and success with this oldie but goodie.
    If you ever have the chance to try a Hasselblad CFV digital back, do it!

  • Reply
    BWS
    August 21, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    David,True Swedish / German quality yields exquisite results!

  • Reply
    Chris A
    August 21, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Some beautiful photos you`ve made with it, I especially like the gate photo.

    I’ve always wanted one of these cameras, your article has re-ignited that desire again for me 🙂

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