Handholding Hasselblad (and notes on Tri-X 120)

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by arigram, Oct 29, 2004.

  1. arigram

    arigram Member

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    The past two weeks I had the opportunity to try out two new things: to use my Hassy like a Leica and the combination of Tri-X and Rodinal (for the latter, I posted another thread). Some people might think that MF is too cumbersome and a reflex not as well suited for documentary as a rangefinder, but I can prove them wrong.
    Last week, I was invited to the party of the nine year old twins of a good friend of mine (see my pictures of the Iconpainter) and brought my 501CM and 80 Planar loaded with Tri-X 320. It was great. The kids run around like crazy in and out of the house in the garden. They danced, played exhausting games (including Gameboys) and I had to chase them around or stand in a corner and wait. I metered the general ambience with my Gossen Sixtomat Digital and fiddled with the exposure as to keep the speed at least above 125 and the f-stop around 8. I got some slightly blurred shots indoors as I could have dropped to dangerous speed of 60 and some motion blur but nothing that ruined the images. It was mostly due to my not very trained focusing and the Hasselblad featuring a precise but slow focus wheel. I shot about seven 12 exposure films.
    The 6x6 format is great. I really got into it and can’t think of going back to a rectangle save for a real panoramic frame. I don’t have any trouble with the square and instead I find compositing in it more natural to me.
    Thursday 28 of October was Greece one of the two national holidays that feature parades throughout the country of schools, organizations (such as veterans and Red Cross) and the army. For the first time I took a camera to take shots and it was the same combination of 501CM/80 Planar/TriX-Rodinal. Not only I managed to get images that pleased me a lot (including of my brother and some friends) but the whole experience was very pleasing. The 80mm Planar was just fine for the job. I could have used a telephoto for some close ups of parading people and to blur the background in the portraits but not really important. I only shot my brother parading anyway. The square was again just amazing. My Hassy made me feel special too as I must have been the only one with a film camera along all the digital pros and compacts in the crowd. Without really wanting to sound racist, I felt a bit superior too! ;-) I shot five films and almost each frame is a gem. Not a problem to load film or navigate in crowd. I did not miss not a single focus this time. Yeah! I’m getting good!
    In both cases, I used a metallic L bracket with my left hand from an unknown company that my father used to hold the flash on his Nikon F. It made the hold of the 501CM more secure but made rapid winding more difficult. It is not really needed but gave me a touch of security inside the crowds. I also hang the camera with the neck strap.
    I wish there was a leather “dress” for the Hassy like I have for my Nikon F that protects a bit the camera and the lens without needing a whole case that slows you down.
    Note: I encountered on the street an old photographer with a battered Leica R3 who asked me how can I carry this “beast” on the street. I told him it is just a matter of habit and he replied that he considers Hasselblads and Leicas as the best cameras. Unfortunately, I also met the Iconpainter with his sons who scared the old Leica guy away with his temper!

    Notes on Tri-X 120:
    - Great images. I love its tones with Rodinal.
    - Quite fog-proof against a sunny day.
    - The spool has only a single notch for the film compartment catch and that makes loading more slow and difficult compared to other cross-notched spools.
    - The sticking paper strip has to be uncovered under more than a little paper which slows you down and can be scary (of fogging the film).
    - I developed the films soon after the parade and they were a pain in the ass curly and resistant to loading the tank spools. The ones of the party were left untouched a few days. Maybe that “softens” them?

    I include some samples of the parade.
     
  2. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Arigram, thank you very much for all the info!
    I also have a Hasselblad 501c/m with 80mm planar. Any tips on getting the focusing right at various f-stops would be most appreciated!!!
    Kind regards
    Nicole
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Looks like you're off to a good start!

    Rollfilm cameras were designed to be handheld. If you look at period photo guides, they are often called "hand cameras" as opposed to "tripod cameras" like view cameras. Of course one always gets sharper results with a tripod, but at the expense of mobility, which may be necessary for certain kinds of photography.

    One thing to think about when shooting in this mode is that with the waist-level finder, you're always looking up the subject's nose. Sometimes this can be effective, like in the photograph of the officer in the uniform, and other times it's just an artifact of the way the finder is made. Flipping up the magnifier or using a chimney finder gets you up to chest level, and other options like a sportsfinder or prism get you to eye level. If I'm going to be shooting candids of people, I often use a prism for this reason, or if I'm using the waist level finder (which is lighter and more compact), I'll pay a little more attention to where I'm holding the camera.

    Film loading will get quicker with practice.
     
  4. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I have the CW Winder with my 503CW. It is shaped ergonomicaly and feels very, very comfortable in my hands. If I combine that with the 6093T Flash Grip and the PME45, I swear I can shoot handheld at an 8th of a second! Alright, maybe not an eighth, but it feels very, very comfortable and solid. Like the cameras you'd see in the old B&W movies held by the newspaper photographers. The ones with the big flash bulb that were held with two hands.

    Art.
     
  5. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I use my Blad handheld all the time for street shooting. Generally I use a 50mm lens and work with hyper-focal distances as much as possible so I don't have to always stop and focus.

    Good on you. Keep it up.

    Eric
     
  6. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Hi Eric, would you mind explaining how best to focus with the Hassie? May seem like a silly question...
     
  7. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Eric,

    Hyper focussing is a good technique. I too use it a lot depending on the image I want to capture. With my 40mm for example at f16 on a sunny day, I pretty much don't have to focus at all! What I often do though is set the infinity marker just before the f16 mark to ensure I get it all in focus.

    Art.
     
  8. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I have shot a huge number of weddings with a handheld 500CM and an 80 or 50mm.

    For one thing I used the HAsselblad speed focusing ring which is a big help in focussing quickly.

    On the Hasselblad lenses there is a depth of field scale. If you are working in a certain size room mentally play with the distances in your mind that your f stops will give you and even if you can't always focus fast enough at least your depth of field will look after you.

    Outdoors learn what ten, fifteen, twenty thirty, feet look like and it helps to know what is a safe place to put the f stop if you need shots in a hurry.


    Michael McBlane
     
  9. fingel

    fingel Member

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    The beauty of the square format is that you don't have to look down in the waistlevel finder. If I want an eye level perspective I just turn it sideways, or if I want to shoot down on something I turn it upside down and hold it over your head. It looks a little strange but works for me :smile:
     
  10. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thanks Michael. Is there a DOF chart for the Hassie anywhere to attach to my camera? Otherwise I'll make one up.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    On my Bronicas, too, I wouldn't be without the quick focusing ring.
     
  12. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    In the studio, or on a tripod, I prefer to use a waist level finder with my 6x6 Bronicas. Handholding - nothing beats a prism (and a speed grip).
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    The Depth of Field scale is on the lens.

    Looking straight down, holding the camera as if one was taking a photograph, there is an index mark for, from the camera body out: Focusing distance in feet (red); Focusing distance in meters (white); the static index line, with lines to the left and right labeled with f/stops; Aperture; and Shutter Speeds.

    Depth of Field: First focus. Then, all within the distances indicated by the lines marked with f/stops will be in "acceptable" focus. Alternately, one can use a so-called "hyperfocal" system. An example: Set the focus infinity (the "eight on its side") to the right line marked "22" and all between there and the left "22" will be in acceptable focus, at an aperture of f/22, i.e., ~2.7 meters (8.7 feet) to infinity.

    I hope all this makes sense. If not, I'll haul my lazy gluteus maximus to the filing cabinets in my darkroom and copy the pages from the Hasselblad Manual.
     
  14. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I actually found the waist-level finder better for composition and angle than an eye level. That's one of the reasons I took the Hassy with me and not the Nikon F90X. In all times it gave me a better angle. Maybe with a telephoto and a bride it could present a problem, but shooting from the chest gave the portraits a down-up angle which accentuated their look of "pride". It works well with the officer as you mentioned.
    A note about the officer: He works at the base I was stationed and we know each other well, he was the want to notice me first. If you know him, the portrait is a failed one because he looks like a latin american torturer and is one of the most kind and gentle people I know! For one thing, he is not event infrantry, he is medical (can't remember his speciallity). Always looking after us drafted soldiers (the slaves of the greek army).

    Back to the finder, I was also able to take some low shoots, like of the kids with the traditional cretan uniform in the parade and of the kids in the party.
    I don't know, I just like it!
    Makes people taller too!
    (suprisingly it took me very little time to get used to the recersed image and waist-level finder and now its second nature, flipping the magnifier to focus and putting it down to frame)

    Btw, I forgot to mention that the photos were published in the newspaper I work at (my father's). I was quite stressed to get them ready in time (I really feel for the old photojournalists who didn't use digital) and the Hasselblad quality is way overkill for the rough print of the paper. I could have gotten away with cellphone images, but I shot the images for myself, to keep them. That's why I couldn't be a professional payroll photographer.
    That's why I choose my own jobs and do something else for my daily bread.

    Oh, yes. The weight of the camera: not a problem at all. My other 35mm SLRs aren't much lighter (Nikon F, F90X).
     
  15. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Arigam:
    'blad at one time made a pistol grip w/release that fit beneath the camera Giving a much better balance than a side mounted grip. You may want ot keep an eye out for one.

    Nicole:
    If you can get a copy of the Kodak Professional data guide. It has a great deal of information in a compact size.
    DOF calculator is one of many items in it.
     
  16. Todd J. Bertolini

    Todd J. Bertolini Member

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    You already have one! Its on the lens. I recommend the Ernst Wildi manual on Hasselblad Learning to utilize hyperfocusing is quite a simple concept and once you get the hang of using it your craft will improve dramatically. Best of Luck.
     
  17. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    This is a great thread and very informative. My main issue is still with my focussing. Too spoiled from the Autofocus and now need to concentrate more on hyperfocal distances etc... I also just bought The Hasselblad Manual for some light bedside reading. :smile:
     
  18. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Using the hyperfocal distance for pre-focusing is sometimes helpful, but for your style of work, Nicole, I'm guessing that you'll still want to focus precisely, rather than depending on DOF and small f-stops. If you're using a prism finder, there is also a view magnifier that flips into position for very precise focusing. I find it really handy - as long as the subject is relatively static.

    If you want to print out some DOF tables for your lenses to add to your light, bedside reading (Wildi is almost as good as Adams), I have one on my site at the link below that you may find useful.

    http://www.rbarkerphoto.com/DOF2.html
     
  19. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    sucker for Leitz and Zeiss

    I am a sucker for anything using Zeiss or Leitz lenses. I think a 6x6 Hasselblad is a wonderful camera although I do not currently own one. I think for 6X6 candid photography where a normal lens is useful nothing beats a Rollei TLR with Zeiss optics. The frame finder on the hood and the depth of field scales and the abilty to focus at eye level on a very dependable, light weight and super quiet body is a really neat. Of course I do not own a Rollei TLR either. I am not currently into people photography at all.
     
  20. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I have removed the images to save space.
    I apologise but it will be either featured in my APUG gallery or on a web site when I have it up and running.
     
  21. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Member

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    For walks around town I love to use a 6x6 folder. I have an Ansco Titan that fits in my back pocket like an over-stuffed wallet. When I need more than guestimation focusing I use a Rolleiflex or Hassy 500cm.

    Another 6x6 SLR that I've had lot's of fun with, but is sort of under the radar, is the Graflex Norita (and previous incarnations). It's a lot like a Pentax 6x7, but it's 6x6. The story I heard about it (I don't know how good my sources are) is that it was designed by the guy who designed the Nikon F. The really cool thing about it is the standard 80mm f/2 lens it usually comes with.
     
  22. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    It's on the lens, Nicole.
     
  23. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thanks c6h6o3. I got it all sorted by now. Love my Blad!!!
     
  24. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    The DoF markings on lenses can lead you astray. Basically, of course, only one distance is perfectly focussed at any time. Distances near that are nearly in focus, and it gets less focussed at closer and further distances. How unfocussed is "too unfocussed" to be acceptable? The DoF marks on lenses are based on a degree of "good enough" that can be very disappointing, depending on the subject.

    I generally try to use the DoF marks on the lens for an aperture 2 stops wider than I'm actually using. This leads to "less" DoF, but at a quality of focus that justifies the use of a 120 size camera. If the subject does not "fit" the DoF limits, then I need to do more thinking about what to sacrifice in focus and still get the shot (or consider a tripod and a lower shutter speed).

    If you need heaps of DoF, then consider 35mm. They are quite good, you know!
     
  25. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Yeah, there's nothin' like 'em. What lenses do you use?