Hasselblad 500C/M woes..

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by mattbellphoto, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    Ever since falling in love with 6x6 film while in photography school using a Mamiya C220, my first 120/220 camera, I've been had an interest in classic Hasselblads.

    After finally setting aside an even $1k to invest in a 500CM system (body, A12 back, WL finder, 80mm CF T* lens) I've been rather underwhelmed with the overall experience.

    Starting off, I chose to purchase my kit from a local mechanical camera repairer/reseller whom I trusted: Ken Toda at Humaxx Co. in Archdale, NC (over eBay, KEH, etc). But the only Hasselblad body he had in stock was a well worn 500CM. So, from the get-go the idea and prestige of the perfect Swedish/German machine was a bit tarnished.

    Jump forward to having used it for well over a year and finally getting past the 500CM's film-loading learning curve (compared to the simplicity of my old C220) and loving the size and versatility of the camera, I'm left with two problems I've yet to fully solve: light leaks and poor focusing.

    The light leak problem is not film slide related, but due to wear to the Magazine support hooks, possibly wear to magazine catch hooks, but mainly wear to the thin interlocking ridges on the back plate of the 500CM's body. That problem can be (temporarily) solved with about 10¢ worth of gaffers tape covering the gap between the back and body, but is annoying. At this point I'm resigned to this being practically unfixable..

    I've thrown more money at the focusing problem. Investing in a much brighter and contrasty Maxwell Precision Optics Hi-Lux Brilliant Matte focusing screen as well as having the body overhauled by Bill Moretz at Pro Camera Inc in Charlottesville, VA (at the recommendation of Bill Maxwell) I've already set myself back a few hundred bucks, just shy the price of a new 500CM body. But my soft subject focus / out-of-focus problems still persist.

    I've switched back to my Mamiya C220 for the past few months to see if maybe my eyesight/focusing ability has become poor, but my photos are still coming out sharp on my C220.

    As much as I like the idea of having my equipment properly maintained and repaired over tossing the damaged and buying new.. I don't know if that was so smart this time around.

    I'm curious to know how other medium format shooters may have been disappointed in their 500C/M's, especially dealing with focusing, light leak, or age-related problems.
     
  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    Its a bad idea to buy a well-used Hasselblad, most were used by commercial photographers who used them till they wore out before selling them. I bought one in almost new condition, which cost more, but it has never given a bit of trouble. As for focusing, the focusing screen's height in the camera is adjustable, and may be 'off' causing focus errors.
     
  3. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    How does one adjust the screens height? I've never noticed any wiggle-room between the body and retaining clips.

    And yeah a "new" body is probably the best idea.. I will never spend mint-condition prices, but even the Excellent/Excellent+ price tags make me cringe a bit..
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Hasselblads are excellent system cameras. You were just unlucky and picked a bad one and that can happen with any type of camera.
     
  5. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    Yeah, I have faith in that.
     
  6. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences, gettig good results with a Hasselblad certainly is possible, but they also are as subject to to wear and tear as any other camera.

    Checking the screen height should have been something the tech did in the repair, so far as I know there is not a user adjustment for this on a C/M. If the tech worked on the camera with the original screen, the Maxwell screen could be off a little, causing your woes. To evaluate the possiblity of the screen being off, you could photograph a ruller or tape measure extended away from the camera, shoot wide open and jot down where you focused and check the neg to see where the focus actually is.

    I hate to suggest spending more money, though it may be your only choice, Hasselblad USA does have a service they call something like "check to spec", and they check the camera out to see that everything is within spec, for example the squareness of the body. It costs about $100.00, but doesn't include repair services. It would, however, tell you exactly what may be wrong or right with the camera.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2012
  7. Aron

    Aron Member

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    Let me start by saying I understand your frustration. Cutting back on my words that got overly long, the main problem could very well be the worn hooks on the body that hold the magazine. I would try solving the problem here first, then elsewhere. Worn hooks can also be the reason for the focus issues as the position of the magazine can be off.

    It shouldn't be expensive to get a new pair of hooks machined and installed if you can't find the original Hasselblad part.

    I would suggest a focus bracketing test, with the magazine pressed firm against the body (with the help of tape or strong rubber bands for example) and without. Putting a few little USAF focus charts behind each other just a little apart and focusing on the middle one, then evaluating the results will tell a lot. (You can do it with any set of small objects, resolution charts just help making the test quantitative.) Often we remember what we focused on when taking the shot, then just notice during printing the main subject is not critically sharp and forget to find the best focus just a little front or behind it.

    It is often necessary to shim focusing screens. Their alignment is quite often off.

    I wouldn't give up on that beautiful camera yet.
     
  8. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    I would have it overhauled.
     
  9. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I can't help you with Hasselblad but I have been disappointing by Mamiya RB and RZ. Buying from a reputable used camera reseller, I had to go through 5 bodies and 7 backs to get a leak free and mechanical problem free unit. My first MF was a 645 Super that had focusing problem and died right in the middle of a shoot. It's a used camera with potentially very heavy use by previous owner(s).

    I think your only choice is to get it overhauled or at least get it checked out by a qualified person, then make an informed decision on what to do next.
     
  10. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    I do not have a Hasselblad, but have read that David Odess is a specialist in the US. Maybe someone will read this that has had work done by him. I have no affiliation just passing info along.
    www.david-odess.com
     
  11. jk0592

    jk0592 Member

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    I have read somewhere that if the ground glass is placed in reverse, the plane of focus will be wrong.
     
  12. heterolysis

    heterolysis Member

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    I have five backs (A12 and A24) and only have had light leaks once---when one of the darkslides was slightly warped one day. Beyond that, no issues on that front.

    For focusing....I use a prism. I'm a bit hopeless when it comes to using the WL finder.
     
  13. digic

    digic Member

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    I work at the Norwegian national Hasselblad distributor, and between us 500-series geeks here at work there's a well-known fact that A12 backs have a tendancy to have lightleaks. I myself own three backs, a C12 (which I have used quite a bit, and not experienced any misfortune with) as well as an A16 back and a A16 "Super Slide" back which I will probably never use for anything.
     
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  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Carefully bending the hooks could solve the problem, but I would send it to David Odess and have fixed correctly.
     
  16. DSLR

    DSLR Member

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    When I bought a 500CM body off KEH, it came with the cross reference screen and that thing was just terrible. Then, I ended up buying a split-image screen, and its helped a lot, but I'm still not satisfied. So, now I'm actually considering selling my hasselblad instead of buying an acute matte screen. I'd rather buy a bunch of film.

    I ended up spending a lot on a late A12 back, the one with the leatherette on the button and a dark slide holder, and have had no problems even though one of the hooks on my CM body is slightly bent too.

    Other than the focusing problems it's a great camera. I just can't understand why the plastic screen in the Bronica SQ was so much easier to focus for me.
     
  17. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    The original crosshair screens from the 500cm's are terrible.
    I ended up with a used "brightscreen 20/20" and its a world of difference but even so, a hasselblad takes abit of experience before you feel really confident in focussing and the more light the better.
     
  18. pekelnik

    pekelnik Member

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    I have a (arax?) third party split-circle focusing screen on my 500 c/m and I have no issues focusing. (I checked it against the original crosshair for proper alignment but it didn't need any.) Are you absolutely certain you don't have the focusing screen in up-side-down? It could even be that the screen is misplaced in its metal bracket and needs to be reversed.
     
  19. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    At this point, I'm looking into simply buying a new body in better condition than mine.

    I've tried three different focus screens and the focusing problem persists.
     
  20. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Might be a good bet but keep in mind any body will more than likely need a cla unless you buy it directly after one.
    I'm not a hasselblad tech but I know there is a jig for the body that aligns the squareness, film plane distances etc. and there is generally a bit of tweaking needed especially if the body has seen pro use.

    Not trying to be overly dramatic or imply that 'all blads are ragged by now but it might be a good idea to get one from someone with some warranty or guarantee.

    Considering you are probably tired of screwing around by this point.

    Good luck, it'll be well worth it once you get everything straight.
     
  21. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    *fingers crossed*

    The one I'm looking at is a '77 model (UUC) that's very clean with the least amount of paint loss on the back plate I've seen in my price range.
     
  22. mattbellphoto

    mattbellphoto Member

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    I also plan on getting a finder with a higher magnification, I'm considering a chimney magnifying finder or HC3 90º finder.
     
  23. DSLR

    DSLR Member

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    Are you talking about the $15 screens from Araxfoto?
     
  24. pekelnik

    pekelnik Member

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    Yes.
     
  25. Salem

    Salem Member

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    This could be a case of TLR-to-SLR-MF syndrome. Those TLR's with their leaf shutters give very sharp results with little effort, but MF SLRs need more attention to get the same sharpness. My first MF camera was a Yashica D that always focuses right, then I upgraded to Pentax 6x7 and got many out-of-focus shots especially the first few rolls. Now with extra effort the pentax is giving sharper results. So may be all you need is more time with the 500c until you figure it out. Or you can borrow a hassy and run a roll with it. If the results turn out to be good then you know for sure that your 500 is the culprit.
     
  26. Philippe-Georges

    Philippe-Georges Member

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    When there is an issue with the focussing accuracy of a 500 C/M, and the focussing screen isn't wrongly installed and the optics are good, it is mostly due to a miss angled mirror.
    The mirror is held down by a little hook which is released by the second shutter release mechanism.
    This little hook is, to my humble opinion, somewhat 'insipidly' built and gets out of adjustment by use and wear.
    After faithful service for more than 20 years, Will van Manen (from Holland) had to calibrate the mirror angle of mine. Will, BTW, does a very good job in CLAting Hasselblad cameras.
    Don't try to do this your self, tools like a micrometrical table are needed to do this properly!

    If your camera body is a 500 C/M, not just a 500 C, than install one of those (Minolta designed) Acute Matte-D focussing screens, which is easily done.
    All-tough not cheap, these are real marvels and worth there money (Will sells them at a rather fair price).

    Be happy with your Hasselblad.