talkin bout camerasa blog by Branden Frederick

Hasselblad 500C/M

Published 25 Nov 2018 – Updated 3 Dec 2018

A year with the king of cameras

I've just finished out a year with a Hasselblad 500C/M, running somewhere around 60 rolls of 120 film though it.

hey that's me

The Hasselblad 500C/M is one of the most famous models ever made, and there's nothing I can tell you about the camera's history or mechanism that you can't find better and more thoroughly written out elsewhere. It is difficult to understate how highly this camera is lauded, and even if I wanted to speak poorly of it (which I do not), you'd be justified in ignoring my remarks as evidence of my incompetence and inadequacy as a photographer.

the Carl Zeiss 40mm f/4 wide angle lens

Does this camera work for me?

"Does this camera work for me?" is the real question that needs answering. This camera features much of what I love about classic cameras – full manual, mechanical operation, a slavish devotion to precision engineering, and a classic design that sublimely combines form with function. In this way it shares much of the design principals with the Leica M3 – I can't but help think of the Hasselblad as the Leica's big brother. So, solidly absolutely yes, this camera works for me. My biggest regrets are only that it took me so long to adopt into my arsenal, and that its arrival has displaced other cameras from my workflow.

But that's silly

Yes, it is.

the 500C/M with waist-level viewfinder, standard film advance knob, and 120 film back

Things to know

As these cameras get up there in age, there are maintenance considerations before jumping into the Hasselblad V system. You should always test the mechanics of any film-era camera, but there were some specific issues I bumped into. The most obvious was that with the older lenses, the shutter timing springs had deteriorated and shutter speeds that should have been in the hundredths of seconds were instead several seconds long. Luckily, there are people who can repair these parts (for a fee), so now I have brand new timing springs in my lenses.

light leaks, and not the cool hipster kind

The next most obvious issue was the deterioration of the light seals on the film back. The result was huge smears of light obliterating the images. I learned that this is a common failure on these parts, to the point that someone on eBay manufactures replacement parts for a small fee. When I went to do the repair myself, I discovered that the bracket holding the seal in place had rusted shut, so the repair intensified as I needed to also remove rusted out screws, replace them with new (which required an order from a specialty screws store, with a "best guess" replacement part, since Swedish screws from the 1970s are hard to come by), and grinding down a screwdriver to fit, since of course the screws are smaller than the smallest normal screwdriver, but bigger than the biggest micro-screwdriver. But anyway, the seal and holder were replaceable and repairable at home, mostly.

with the original 80mm Planar mounted

The last maintenance issue worth considering is the state of the focus screen. Mine is beat up, and needs some major cleaning. But as this does not stop the camera from functioning, I can live with it until I decide a course of action.

sun flares, which are on purpose and desirable

In use

The beautiful thing about the Hasselblad 500C/M is that you get out exactly what you put in. When you're on point, this camera is an extension of your body. There are no distractions between visualizing the photo in your mind and creating it with this camera. The modularity of the V system makes this camera dynamic and adaptable – I have used it as a landscape camera, street camera, family vacation camera, and sports camera. The original owner I bought it off of used it as a wedding camera, studio camera, and macro still life camera. The 500C/M is remarkable and lives up to the hype.

So let me share with you some photos I took with it.

Lake Tahoe, Portra 160NC Redwood City, Portra 160NC Santa Clara, Provia 100F Cambria, Portra 160NC Almaden Quicksilver Park, Portra 160NC San Jose, LomoChrome Purple San Jose, New Portra 160 San Francisco, Tri-X

about Branden Frederick

I am a photographer: I have fun taking photos, and I always have.

I've had a camera in my hand my whole life, a 110 camera as a kid, and the high school's 35mm SLR later. In 2008 I spent six months doing nothing but taking photos and loved it. From that point on I've had my camera surgically attached to my hand (I lie). I went digital in the year 2000, and I came back to film in 2013. My parents tell me my photos are "nice".

bf@branfred.com