8 Sep 2013

I still shoot colour film

As a change from Porsche content this blog story is one for the really keen photographers and maybe bushwalkers.
Regular readers of The Rolling Road will already know that I am a firm believer that less is more when it comes to cameras and photogear.The less gear you have the more likely you are to take your camera with you and having just one fixed focal length lens means less decisions.However principles can be flexible and encouraged by friend Roger Putnam in the UK who had already started on the Hasselblad collecting trail I purchased a good collection of Hasselblad gear in Australia and Germany over a few months last year-funded by selling some unwanted Porsche wheels and racing tyres.This is the antithesis of the less is more philosophy.It is a big, heavy collection of vintage film camera gear.I bought it so that I could dabble in film photography again and because I had always coveted a Hasselblad-the king of cameras.A Hasselblad is a piece of high precision mechanical and optical engineering and totally unaffordable for most of my lifetime but now selling at bargain basement prices.

I'm still learning to use the Hasselblad.Shooting with medium format (6x6) film is a completely different style of photography to shooting with digital --even to shooting with 35mm film-it is slower and more considered and shooting with an old Hasselblad is even slower and even more considered.Adapting to the square format also takes some time.
I find focussing using the waist level finder very difficult because it is so dim.There is very limited depth of field with the Blad lenses -even the wide 50mm Distagon has limited dof unless it is stopped right down which is not often possible if you are handholding the camera as camera shake is an issue.The mirror makes a big "slap" when it moves.I now understand why Hasselblad photographers so often used a tripod.I have a growing admiration for those professional photographers who used Hasselblads as their camera of choice to shoot fashion,wildlife or whatever.Even loading a film in the Blad is a not a simple task .I cannot imagine doing it in a hurry or carrying a Blad outfit around on a photoshoot.

I have just weighed my complete Hasselblad outfit-a 500 body,two magazines,an exposure meter,a prism viewfinder and 50mm,80mm and 150mm Zeiss lenses,assorted lens hoods and an extension tube and it weighs just over 7kg.My Leica X1 weighs 330 gm incl the battery.Not a fair comparison but telling nonetheless.

I have been learning to use the Blad over the past 14 months shooting both colour and black and white.In the last couple of weeks I have taken it into nearby Bouddi National Park -see Bouddi- firstly down to pristine Maitland Bay where I took the above photo on Kodak Portra 400 film using the 80mm Zeiss Planar lens.It was a handheld shot.The negative was scanned in on a Canon flatbed scanner and it has not been manipulated at all.What you see here is as it came out of the scanner.Portra is just a wonderful film.The white object on the horizon is the sail of a yacht on the Hawkesbury Rive.

The photos below were taken on two of the tracks in the park -again on Kodak Portra 400 film- the first with the 50mm Zeiss Distagon lens with the camera on a tripod and the second and third with the 80mm Zeiss Planar lens with the camera handheld.I particularly like the third shot as it captures the atmosphere of the steep track down to Maitland Bay so well.
I wish that I had used a tripod for these shots so that I could have used a smaller aperture and got more depth of field-the foreground is not quite sharp as you may have noticed-but the track is a very steep climb and it is all I can manage to take down the camera body and one lens.Taking a heavy tripod and another lens would be heart attack territory.


  1. Hi john,
    Sounds like you may want to get yourself a Hassleblad Acute Matte D (bright) focusing the sunshine makes life with a Blad so much more enjoyable. Few on eBay to suit a range of budgets.
    I enjoy your posts, great subjects....check out the screens.


  2. ​Peter , thank you for your kind comments.
    Yes a brighter screen would be the answer but sadly the 500C does not have the interchangeable screen of the later models.The screen has to be changed by a camera technician as it is held in place by a frame built into the camera with the screen to mirror distance adjusted by 4 microscrews which are set at the factory and which have to be exactly aligned to preserve the focus.I fear that the cost of a screen and the technicians labour would be more than I paid for the body! Perhaps it would be cheaper to find a later body.
    Anyway for the moment I will continue to peer into the gloom or use the pentaprism which is easier to focus.
    Again thanks for your supportive comments

  3. John, you prove that it is hard to peat the combination of big negatives and Zeiss lenses! Beautiful pictures, and that Portra film has gorgeous colors.

  4. "I STILL SHOOT COLOUR FILM", you say ... the fact is you do that quite wonderfully! I love your 'blad work even if you spell color strangely! Please keep lugging that precise old stone into the outback - you bring such nice images back. I think the square format really agrees with your vision of your surroundings. I understand your growl with the dull finder - even with an Acute Matte D finder, my 500C/M was very dark. Using the in-hood magnifier or a prism finder helped a lot. I'd really love to buy a modern (consumer priced) EVIL digital camera with both square format and a waist level electronic viewfinder. You'd think one of the manufacturer's marketing geniuses would see such a configuration as worth trying! It would yield a professional form and format camera with virtually no more components than a current point-and-shoot finder-less box.

    George (grumpy pal in the USA)

  5. George, many tx for your kind comments.Yes it is odd that no one has been brave enough to make a digital camera which takes square photos but sadly they all seem intent on making"me too"cameras and rather than truly innovating they add useless features like GPS and wi-fi.
    I am making a stand on the spelling of colour although I may be weakening on programme.