Hasselblad 500C/M woes..
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.
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.
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..
Hasselblads are excellent system cameras. You were just unlucky and picked a bad one and that can happen with any type of camera.
Originally Posted by mattbellphoto
Yeah, I have faith in that.
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.
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.
I would have it overhauled.
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.
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.