That time I shot with a...

That time I made the Sonblad – The Poor Man’s Hasselblad CFV II – by Simon Forster

Got to love those guys and gals at Hasselblad as they have just announced a second generation digital back for possibly the most iconic camera ever made. Click here to watch the new Hasselblad CFV II video. Yes, do it now before you read on.

Many of us have the irrational desire to use our cherished film cameras with the convenience and instant gratification of a digital sensor. I’ve long been convinced that my Contax RX would be devastatingly effective as a DSLR but science has not kept pace with my imagination. Economists suggest that the return on the investment required to integrate a 24mp Back Side Illuminated sensor with In Body Image Stabilisation into my Contax would be prohibitive because the RX is something of a niche camera. The final nail in the coffin is the fact that the tiny LCD panel on the top plate of my Contax is starting to bleed so who knows how long it will plough on.

Having been reconciled to never having my dream come true, those Swedes in Gothenburg have not only reignited my dream, but they have created an acceptable alternative to my digital RX with their CFV II digital back. A digital back for V Series cameras is not new, hence the “II” nomenclature of the new CFV, however, the fact that they’ve done it in 2019 is a huge shot in the arm for Hassy users and the analogue community in general. The new back acknowledges the increasing interest the analogue market and the growth in hybrid shooting in general.

I mentioned economics earlier, and alas this is where things start to fall down for me as a 50mp (4:3 ratio) back from Hasselblad is simply going to be way out of my budget. Prices have yet to be announced, but bear in mind that after I mentioned on a recent episode of the Classic Lenses Podcast that I could not afford to shoot Kodak Portra, someone took pity on me and donated a roll…

So, having seen Hasselblad’s new promotional video where a successful architect (I assume) leaves his record player on as he leaves his house (presumably to confuse potential burglars) and gets into his classic electric Ford Mustang (because they don’t make Saabs anymore), I realised I had the means to make my own digital back.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Sonblad:

A Sonblad in action yesterday

The carefully selected focal flange distance of the Sonblad makes it something of a specialised tool as it’s optimised for that most worthy of subjects, flower bokeh photography. The images I’ve shared here were taken at infinity and of course, wide open so we can best see the character of the 80mm Planar.

Mmm, smooth bokeh

Using the Sonblad is simplicity itself, just set the Hassy shutter to bulb mode, press and hold the shutter whilst holding the denuded Sony to the now open rear end of the Hassy.

NOTE. Some care has to be taken in how the two cameras are held as it is quite awkward to hold both cameras and have control of both shutter buttons without dropping either camera. It’s possible to lock the shutter button in the fired position and this makes handling a little easier.

Other pro tips include turning on the Sony before mating, as it becomes awkward to do this once the cameras being held together. You may wish to flip out the rear LCD panel to make low level work easier or to use as a corrected waist level finder and don’t forget to set the IBIS on the Sony to the correct focal length to get all of that stabilised goodness.

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Stopping down for appropriate depth of field? And loose some character? No thanks!

Future developments of the Sonblad will feature masking tape and string to create a bond between the two bodies and to eliminate the substantial gap that’s formed between the mount of the Sony and the rear of the Hassy. Despite the light gap, the images still have excellent contrast.

Use your Sonblad to befuddle your subject

Should this article raise sufficient interest, I will, of course, create a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital to create an injection moulded housing to better integrate the two systems. All the proceeds will go to creating a digital back for my RX.

For more nonsense from me just download the Classic Lenses Podcast each Monday with Johnny Sisson & Perry Ge – www.classiclensespodcast.com
And for some large format nonsense with Andrew Bartram, then head over and listen to us on the Large Format Photography Podcast – LFPP

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18 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    June 24, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Wow, that is neat (well, it works). I may try this with my Fuji X-E1 camera.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kees Maaswinkel
    June 24, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Why not choosing for a simple solution when you want to use the excellent Zeiss lenses and mount a Hassy bellows on your Sony? Or do I think too simple?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    karellen
    June 24, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Having an hasselblad 500 I have also thought about something similar, but having to dismantle a whole A7 to bring the sensor level where film was supposed to be, and having to deal with a huge crop factor made me soon desist! At the end I preferred getting an adapter!
    Anyway I have a couple of suggestions if you want to bravely continue with this path: first to make mechanical bond between the two bodies you can get a mount cap for sony FE/nex, a cap for the back of the cubic body of the hasselblad, make a hole as large or larger than the sensor on both, and use large quantities of glue to tie them together!
    My second suggestion is to use the two bodies in the opposite way: the sony stuck to bulb, and the hasselblad as normal! It should be possible to set the bulb so that with one press you open the shutter, and with one you close it (so you don’t need to keep it pressed), at least with remote!
    Oh, I am now realizing that the pictures would be way out of focus, but it should be possible to find a way to relocate the ground glass those 25ish mm higher!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Simon Forster
      June 25, 2019 at 10:30 am

      I like your thinking. I’m minded to go for a highly electorate mounting system that will allow for rise, fall and shift, I’m sure Hamish would be able to knock one out in a jiffy after everything he’s learnt with the Pixl-latr. As for the Sony at that front idea, not only will it have the focus issue you mentioned, there would also be a serious light transmission problem unless we core drill through the Sony.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Martin
        June 25, 2019 at 10:47 am

        The I’m Back will be available for Medium Format soon, 35 mm exists already. Makes a Minolta XD 7 (11) a really heavy and not very handy beast but feels light on a Zenit 12XP.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin
    June 24, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I would like to suggest velcro to join the bodies – like those suits you can hang a person to a wall with.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    June 24, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    A bit of a hoot, but surely there must be a Sony E to Hasselblad adaptor? Or am I missing something?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Simon Forster
      June 25, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Such things are beyond the knowledge of science and engineering.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Leo Tam
    June 24, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    There’s totally a hasselblad to Sony adapter – this is for shits n giggles

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sciolist
    June 24, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    If you ran a corer through the centre of that metal tin, I bet you could fit a helicoid between Sony and Lens. Handling problem solv-ed :).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Simon Forster
      June 25, 2019 at 10:35 am

      Sometimes the best solution is just staring us in the face, it would largely deal with the light leak issue too.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bruce Parker
    June 25, 2019 at 2:24 am

    Keep the befuddlement up!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Simon Forster
      June 25, 2019 at 10:36 am

      Thank you! Confusion makes for photogenic images.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Matt Phelps
    June 25, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I’m going to try this with my Nikon N90S so I can use Ektachrome 100 on my Hassey before it comes out in 120!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      karellen
      June 25, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      You could get a 35 mm to 120 film adapter! You would get vertical panoramas that are not the most convenient thing in the world, but at least you would get infinity focus and possibility to use one only body!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Roger B.
    June 25, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    This is precisely the method I use for occasional shots with my K1 Pentax body and new (to me) legacy glass with non-PK mounts. Allowing for the lack of infinity focus in most cases, and taking extreme care not to ding any of the contacts on the K1’s mount, I’ve made many a well-exposed and focused image this way. Such tests told me which Yeenon mount adapters to invest in, and which mounts to ignore.

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