The Hasselblad 500C

Back in June, I picked up this Hasselblad 500C for essentially about half it’s value.  Maybe less.  I found it on a Craigslist posting for a bunch of Nikon equipment in May.  The guy was selling a couple F2’s, an F1, and a bunch of great lenses.  I was tempted by the Nikon stuff because the price was so great, and I was still in camera collector mode.  But at the bottom of the post was something like “I also have a Hasselblad system for sale.”

A quick craigslist search for ‘Hasselblad’ produced only that post, but I decided to email about the Hassy anyway.    I figured if the price on the Nikon stuff was about 1/3 to 50% of what I normally see, maybe I could score a good deal on the Hasselblad.   The reply came back at a good price, but I passed – it was just a little too much.  Plus i didn’t really need another medium format camera – I had barely used the Bronica and hadn’t even developed the one roll of film I shot through it (still haven’t – it’s coming soon).

But the picture he sent was a great picture for a craigslist response.

Hasselblad kit
My first glimpse at the Hasselblad

About three weeks later, I noticed the ad was still up for some of the Nikon equipment, and my wife was encouraging me to shoot more all year round, because I had mentioned I wanted to buy some film for a trip and vacation.  So i emailed the guy back and offered $50 less for the system, and he accepted.  He had mentioned the 150mm lens needed repaired, so the price was discounted to have the repair work done.

My wife about freaked when I told her how much this camera was when we went to pick it up, but when I came out of the building with the “secret agent’s case”, she was intrigued.  She had been a little worried because I was in talking to the seller for a while. He was a retired photojournalist.  He worked for the papers and some magazines over his career, he had done a lot of studio work as well, and had purchased this camera in about 1971.  It was made in 1967, according to the serial number.  I told him i wasn’t familiar with the Hasselblad, and he gave me a quick crash course.

During his explanation, we discovered the Carl Zeiss 150mm did indeed work.  It had a really slow shutter, but as he worked the shutter a few times, it got better.  Probably good enough to give it a go, maybe just set it to underexpose a bit.  If not, maybe I’ll get it repaired.

Truthfully, it looks like the shutter speeds are a little slow on the 80mm lens too, but I can’t really be sure yet.  It’s been a bit of a challenge for me to develop 120 size film.  My first attempt was the old roll of Portra 160 that was in the camera when I bought it.   I shot it on vacation, then spent nearly two hours trying to load it on the developing spool.  120 is definitely much different, and for me much harder, than loading 35mm on spools.

By the end of that fiasco, the film was tacky from my sweat creating a sauna in the changing bag.  I ended up with one acceptable image, and it wasn’t great, but I like the old look.  I just wish it was better.

MF fail-20
The Whalehead Club, Corolla, NC


Here’s what the other pictures looked like.

But at least now I knew the Hassy worked, so I went out and shot another roll at a recently closed golf course: Rolling Hills Country Club in McMurray, PA.  I found it amazing how quickly such a well manicured piece of land could start returning to nature, and i thought it would make some interesting photos.  However, the previous failure at developing 120 film had me a little intimidated.  So i decided to finish up a roll that was in a Holga I received with a bunch of 120 film.  Actually, the Holga was for sale, and the film was included, but for me it was the opposite.  17 rolls of 120 for $15 was a great deal, and I was getting hooked on the Hasselblad.

After about 20 minutes, i decided to sacrifice the Holga film to see what was really happening.  I tried rolling the film onto the spool, and discovered I probably need to use much smaller ratcheting motion than i use with 35mm film as I feed it onto the spool.   I also decided to pull the paper off the film, and make sure I started with the end that wasn’t on the spool, and cut off enough so that I couldn’t feel a severe curl on the leading edge.

After that experiment, it was back in the bag.  After another tense 15 minutes, I felt I had successfully loaded the exposed roll or Portra 160 onto the reel.  But more angst awaited.  As I got the chems up to temp, I started to pour the developer in at 100 degrees after the initial water bath.  About halfway through, it felt cool; something wasn’t right.  Checking the Blix temp, it also read 100, but the bottom felt cool.  After shaking it up, I got 90 degrees.  Gaahh!

In a near panic, I start trying to keep the developer agitated and reading about low temp C-41 on the interweb.  At this point I had three minutes to make a decision.  I put the last bit of developer back in the water bath, and it got to 110 within about another minute, so in it went.  94 degrees, two minutes into a 3.5 minute development cycle.  Agitate.  Run to the PC. Check the forums.  Decide that low temp is possible, but not favorable.  Agitate.  Run back to PC.  Decide to add 30 seconds to the development time and pray.

The 6.5 minutes for the Blix felt longer than normal as ELO played in the background.  But I was happy to see images when I opened the tank, even if they seemed a bit thin.  I’m not sure how much was the botched developing and how much is the over-exposure.  I was also using a polarizer and compensating for that, so maybe I over-compensated.  It’s just too many variables to know for sure.

But even with all that, I’m still happy with some of the shots.  i was intentionally shooting in some tough light to see how the lenses behaved, and overall just playing around with the camera.  They cut the grass a few days later, so I’m glad I got there when I did.  Some of the shots had some excessive flare and two have a weird green ghost.  This shot, other than the power lines which I tried to minimize – turned out well.  I see some scanning artifacts, but it’s a good starting point.  Depth of field probably could have been better. But it sort of captures the feeling i was after.

Rolling Hills-8

The next three images are also ones I’m happy with. I see a bit of a streak in the middle of the images.  I wonder if maybe there’s something not quite right about the film back?

Here’s the rest of the images from that first successful roll.   I’ll continue to shoot some with both the Hassy and the Bronica, because at some point one of them has got to go. But for now, I’ll just keep working with both of them, getting better with my medium format use and development as I make the decision of which one to keep.



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