The Hasselblad Diaries: My Return to Medium Format

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE

The Hasselblad Diaries:

Welcome to a new section on my blog: the Hasselblad Diaries.  I am super excited about this new section but let me give all of you a little background on why I decided to create it and what it is all about.  Like a lot of us these days, I primary shoot with digital now but I grew up in the film era.  I used Leica M cameras but there was a time when I also used a Mamiya 6 and then a 6MF.  I absolutely enjoyed using those cameras and I loved the results I got from medium format but I ended up trading in the 6 and later the 6MF for my Leica M6 TTL Millennium.  The Leica M6 is another fantastic camera, which I still currently own but I’ve always regretted trading in the Mamiyas.  That was over a decade ago but while I love my digital setup, for a while now, I’ve been fighting this urge to shoot film again, specifically medium format.  Well, I finally gave in to my cravings, and as some of you know, I began searching for a Hasselblad.  After many months, I finally found the perfect one for me, the Hasselblad 503CW Millennium Edition with 80mm Planar CFE lens in mint condition with box and papers, and while it was more than I thought I would spend, I couldn’t resist it.

For me, the Hasselblad is a serious investment, not only in terms of capital but also in terms of my passion for photography, so I really wanted to integrate it into this site in some way.  Therefore, I decided to create a new section on my blog called the Hasselblad Diaries.  You will be able to find this section simply by going to the “Equipment Review” drop down menu above this site.  This is NOT a review of the 503CW but I will be reviewing the 503CW at a later time.  The Hasselblad Diaries is going to be about my journey back into medium format film while using the 503CW.  The Hasselblad has been one of my dream cameras since my teenage years but being that I was in high school at the time, there was no way I could afford one.  Now that I’m an adult, I can finally get one of these awesome cameras but this system is completely new to me.  I’m excited about learning everything from the ground up,  and I really want to make this camera system a part of my workflow, so I thought I would document what I’ll be going through as a new user of this system.  I’ll talk about getting to know the camera, what types of film I like or dislike, my errors, my accomplishments, and basically anything that concerns me getting to know and learn about this camera system.  I’m hoping that over time, there will be countless pages in this section, and maybe it’ll help someone who might also be new to this camera system, someone who is considering investing in one of these older Hasselblad cameras or someone who may want to just enter the world of medium format film in general.  If you’re someone who is not interested in this system or film at all, well, at least there will be pictures for you to see ;).  For those who come here for the digital content, don’t worry because none of that will change.  There’s still going to be plenty of the regular content all of you are used to seeing on this site.

As to when I plan to add to the Hasselblad Diaries section, there really is no schedule.  I’ll post in this section when I have something substantial to say, and keep in mind that sometimes things take a bit slower because film takes a while to process and scan.  Also, shooting with the Hasselblad is a slower process in general but that’s not a bad thing at all.  In fact, I think that’s one of its best attributes.  What I can guarantee is that I will be adding to this section a lot.  I don’t buy anything on a whim or something just because it’s the “latest and greatest”.  I take my time researching and thinking about it.  It took me over a year before I finally decided to purchase the 503CW.  My 503CW will see a lot of action and anyone who is interested in this particular camera, medium format film in general or this section on my blog will see content here consistently.

My First Two Rolls of Film With the Hasselblad 503CW:

With all of that said, here’s some scans from my first two rolls of film.  I shot these in early spring but they were actually lost in the mail for a while, which is why it took so long for me to finally get these posted.  I wasn’t expecting much since these were test rolls and I was just taking pictures of pretty much anything just so I could process my rolls quickly.  But I’m actually extremely happy with the results and I imagine with practice and better subjects, the results will improve.  I really like the tones and the color rendering.  The photos look very organic and three dimensional.  There’s a lot of “pop” yet nothing looks artificial, and there’s a warmth to the photos that makes them inviting to me.  I didn’t realize how much I actually missed the look of medium format film until I looked at the scans.

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-Portra-400-Park-Slope-Brooklyn-New-York-1

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-Portra-400-Prospect-Park-Brooklyn-New-York-2

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-Portra-400-Portrait-Brooklyn-New-York-1

The color photos came from a roll of Kodak Portra 400, and I can definitely see why there are so many photographers that love this film.  It really is a fantastic portrait film, and I can’t wait to take more portraits with it in the near future.

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-WTC-Chinatown-New-York

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Portrait-Brooklyn-New-York-1

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Manhattan-Bridge-New-York-3

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Manhattan-Bridge-New-York-2

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Manhattan-Bridge-New-York-1

The black and white photos are from a roll of Kodak T-Max 400. I was a Tri-X user in the past but at the time I took these photos, I couldn’t find any Tri-X anywhere in the US.  Well, that’s not true; I found one or two stores but since they were the only ones that had them in stock, they charged a ridiculous amount of money.  Still, I’m happy with the results of T-Max.  I finally did purchase some Tri-X last month, and when I finish the roll in my camera, I will be sending a bunch to the lab, and of course, posting my results here.

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Portrait-Golden-Retriever-Dog-Brooklyn-New-York-1

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-T-Max-400-Portrait-Golden-Retriever-Dog-Brooklyn-New-York-2

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-Portra-400-Portrait-Park-Slope-Brooklyn-New-York-1

Hasselblad-503CW-Millennium-80mm-Planar-F2.8-CFE-Kodak-Portra-400-Portrait-Park-Slope-Brooklyn-New-York-2

I hope all of you enjoy the photos, and come back to check out this section.  I’d love to hear from any of you who currently shoot film, have shot film or are thinking about shooting film.  Thanks for visiting and expect more very soon!

22 comments… add one

  • inthedarkroom

    As a teenager I dreamed of owning a Hasselblad; now that I can afford one they’re almost impossible to get and my darkroom is just a memory. The shots are excellent and should remind all of the incomparable results silver halide emulsions can produce.

    • Patrick

      Hi inthedarkroom,

      its never too late to get that darkroom back out ;). For me, getting back into film has been so much fun and not only do I love the look of it, I love the whole process of shooting film.

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Markus

    First off, i am happy that you decided to add this new section to your site as i am a big fan of medium format photography. While i like what new Phase One digital backs produce for example, i am very much impressed what your Hasselblad can do. I am definetly in the color photography camp because color is really important for what i like to shoot and i can get very picky with it. But after i heard you will buy this beauty, i checked out some images shot with it and it was amazing to see how well this camera handles color. Much better in my opinion than some other film cameras. Dont know why, because what film you shoot has definetly a large impact on your results, but your images again show, how beautiful the images look in color. The last two images of the gentlemen are superb. I think you really can be very happy with your decision and your purchase. More than satisfying results for a first roll ;) Congrats and i am looking forward to more content in your new section.

    Keep shooting,
    Markus

    • Patrick

      Hi Markus,

      Great to hear from you, and I appreciate the kind words! Actually, I prefer the color as well! Who knows, that may change as I do more experimenting with black and white (I will be processing a roll of Tri-X soon) but the Portra film is pretty amazing stuff. The examples here were taken with Portra 400, so I would imagine that the 160 version is even better. As for the camera, it is much easier to use now. It took some time to get used to the rectangular shape and I can focus a lot faster than before. Still takes some time though. Plus, it’s sometimes hard to shoot outdoors with it because I’ve discovered that it attracts a lot of attention ;).

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Hi Patrick,

    Love the photos! I’m glad that you’re shooting film again. I uploaded some test shots as well on flickr. The Bronica shots are kinda underexpose a bit. I need to get the meter adjusted I guess. The Rolleiflex shot turned out ok I think for expired film hehe. I need more practice! I look forward for more film photographs with your Hassy.

    Dane

    • Patrick

      Hi Dane,

      Nice to hear from you and I need more practice as well! Your photos look great! Feel free to ad the link in a reply, so others can see it better. I wasn’t too sure about 400H since I wasn’t always happy with what I saw in examples but I really like how those photos that you took in TN came out. I may have to buy a few rolls and try it out :). You know what I wish they made for 120? That CineStill Film…Too bad that never worked out for them on Kickstarter.

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Jed Orme

    Hello Patrick,

    I’m really glad to see what you will be doing with your medium format addition & think The Hasselblad Diaries is a terrific concept. You’re off to a great start & I look forward to peeking into this, for me at least, unique world of high resolution photography. I particularly liked your B & W shots, especially those of the beautiful dog. Great expression in that first one! Enjoy your new baby.

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      It’s always great to hear from you and thanks! It’s funny because it took forever and a lot of bribing (with a treat) to take those pics of Kopi, my sister’s dog :). Focusing isn’t always easy with the Hassey, especially in low light, and since it was in low light, I had to use a lower shutter speed. My next batch of film should have more examples of Kopi in a more sedate mood (I took her for a long walk before I took her pictures :) ).

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Hi Patrick,

    The 35mm CineStill film are all sold out. You’re right, that would be cool to have a 120. If I find a good functioning M3/M5 I might just start shooting with 35 again. I have 5 rolls waiting to be processed so I’ll be able to share new photos soon plus fireworks. I wonder how many rolls I’ll waste with that haha!

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/danesigua/

    Dane

    • Patrick

      Hi Dane,

      If you want some CineStill, BH Photo has some in stock. I was tempted to try some but I’m putting all my resources into my medium format rig right now. I’m just in love with the image quality :). I finished three rolls of film (Some Portra and Tri-x), and I’ll probably finish 3 or 4 more by the end of the weekend. I should be concentrating more on my Fuji XF 16mm F1.4 review but I can’t seem to get enough of that Hasselblad :).

      The M3 and M5 are great cameras. I still own my M3. Because of the 0.91 magnification, it is absolutely wonderful with a 50mm lens, which just so happens to be my favorite focal length to use. If you find one in decent condition, it’ll probably never need any servicing. I think I told you this before but I received mine from my dad who got it from my Great Uncle. At the time, it was sitting in the basement just aging for years, and my dad sent it back to Leica NJ, and they did an absolutely wonderful job bringing it back to life. After that, it has never received any servicing, and that was plus or minus 2 decades ago.

      I actually loaded some film into my M6, so I may give that a go soon. I think I’ve really been bitten by the film bug! I look forward to your firework photos!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Dane

    By the way, Leica Q!! I wished it was a 35mm or a 50mm! I’m keeping my Typ 113 but this would’ve been an insta buy if I didn’t have the Typ 113.

    Dane

    • Patrick

      Hi Dane,

      I actually think I will be reviewing the Q soon! I can’t wait to try it. I think the camera has a lot of potential but like you, I wish it was a 35mm or a 50mm. For me, a 28mm is a bit wide for a camera that can only shoot with one lens.

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Marco

    Hey Pat;
    wow, every time I see really nice shots made with medium format, I remember how great the image quality is from this “old” standard! Well done, and I hope you keep shooting medium format :)

    Best regards,
    Marco

    • Patrick

      Hi Marco,

      Sorry for the late reply! I ended up taking a short trip. Also, I definitely got your email just in case you think it got lost. I am falling in love with medium format all over again! In fact, I use my Hassey more than any other camera right now. I’ve sent some rolls to the lab, so I should get them back either the end of this week or the beginning of next.

      Talk soon,

      Patrick

  • The pictures are impressive. I’ve never shot with medium format cameras before but I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures that you take with the new camera.

    • Patrick

      Hi Tina,

      I’m glad to see you here and thanks! You should definitely give medium format a try! The image quality is great but to me, it’s just downright fun :). Sometimes it can be a slower process, and in the case of the Hassey, I only have 12 shots but I find I end up with more keepers. I’ll be posting up another batch soon, so I hope to hear from you again!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • I share your enthusiasm for MF and, in particular, the Hasselblad system. I recently acquired a 500C/M and a few lenses. The image quality is astonishing, and the build quality of the hardware is endlessly enjoyable. I’ve been searching for a better focusing screen, one with focusing aids such as a microprism. What type of screen are you using and have you had any issues with critical focus? Cheers, Greg

    • Patrick

      Hi Greg,

      It’s great to hear from a fellow Hasselblad user! Right now, I’m using an Acute Matte D screen with a split image. It’s a lot easier for me to focus with it than the standard focusing screen. But depending on the lighting, it can still be difficult at times, so sometimes I use the magnifier if I have the time. Focus was quite difficult for me in the beginning but after some practice, I can focus a lot better or quicker I should say. Let me know if this helps.

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Greg

    Thanks for the reply… I have an Acute Matte screen model 42215, with split-image and microprism aids, on order. I do pretty well focusing with the standard matte screen using longer lenses, but focusing the 50mm can be pretty demanding what with the added DOF. I loved the microprism in my old Canon FTb. Why all modern bodies don’t have an option for this is a puzzler. I’ve also been trying out various finders. I love the W/L for its simplicity, small size and light weight, but try focusing with the camera pointed down! I got an NC2 which is very convenient, but I’m concerned it may not be presenting a 100% view of the viewfinder image. Have to test that out. Love your website, spent hours there today and will in the future as well. Cheers – Greg

    • Patrick

      Hi Greg,

      Not a problem. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and for your very kind words about my website. It means a great deal to me that you like it! When I was waiting for my Hasselblad to arrive, two people who I knew that used to own Hasselblads told me that I would be in for a surprise when I first look through the viewfinder considering I came from a rangefinder background. I thought they were being a little dramatic, especially since I bought my Hasselblad with the split image but I definitely had to take some time to get used to it. I can focus a lot quicker now but I’m still not as fast as I want to be. However, like you said in your previous comment, the image quality is fantastic, so to me, all the effort is completely worth it.

      For now, I am using the waist level finder and while it is definitely hard to focus with the camera pointing down, I really like its size. I love how compact the body can get when you collapse the finder. But I am definitely opened to other finders, so please let me know how the NC2 works out for you after your tests.

      And btw, those are really great shots on your Flickr page. Those were all shot with Velvia? I hope to hear from you again, and thanks again for leaving a comment!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Jamie

    Hi,

    Mind sharing what scanner was used for the photos throughout this post?

    • Patrick

      Hi Jamie!

      No problem! I had it scanned in a lab that is now closed. I believe the scanner was a Fuji Frontier. I hope this helps!

      Best,

      Patrick

Leave a Comment