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Author Topic: You Can't Do That With MF Redux  (Read 3594 times)
John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« on: October 18, 2010, 05:32:33 AM »
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To return just for a moment to the original topic, which was essentially about using the wrong camera for the right job, or the right camera for the wrong job (a bit like using a chisel as a screwdriver, really).

Normally I photograph landscape, architecture, townscapes, harbours and a bit of still-life. Subjects which don’t move around too much, and for which the limitations of MF are not really a problem.  However, in the past I have also done quite a bit of what you might grandly term environmental portraiture – people at work or just doing things. I used to shoot those kinds of subjects back in the ‘80s using a Rollei 2.8F, which was the camera I happened to have, rather than perhaps the best tool for the job.

This summer I got the urge to do some more of these “people” shots, perhaps because I was just plain bored with my landscapes and needed a change of pace. However, I do not own a 35mm DSLR, or a compact camera, or really anything much except my beloved old Hasselblad 500 kit. So needs must, and I spent some time attending our local shows, rallies, and horse trials doing what we used to call “candid” photography. These events are huge fun, all held in the open with all sorts of stalls, bands, animals, old cars and crazy things going on. So this is a bit like street photography, only it’s in a field, not a street. All these pictures were shot on the ‘Blad 500 with the 80mm Planar and the CFV-39 digital back.

Now I would be the very first to admit that I would have been better off using a smaller-format DSLR for this job. Or for my taste, probably a Leica M9. The ‘Blad is heavy, cumbersome, slow to focus, prone to camera-shake if you rush, and it is very hard to melt into the background when you are toting this thing around your neck. I missed quite a few opportunities because I simply wasn’t fast enough. But there are some unexpected advantages to balance the downsides, which don’t necessarily apply to all MF cameras, admittedly.

• A surprising number of people approached me and asked about the camera, and I got into all sorts of interesting conversations as a result. A 1960s ‘Blad with the silver CZ lenses seems to attract attention rather like a classic car.

• I was using the waist-level finder, rather than a prism. One interesting result of this is that, unlike using a 35mm camera, you are shooting at about three feet from ground level. I like the way this gives the pictures a kind of “child’s-eye view”, which you can see most clearly in the beer-tent shot.

• The WLF has another advantage. People don’t seem to feel so threatened by someone who is looking down into a little screen as they do by having a lens poked at them at eye-level. Consequently, it can be easier to get close to the action without spooking people or making them embarrassed.

I have always owned a MF camera of one sort or another, ever since I started in photography. Whereas I have owned 35mm cameras on and off, but never enjoyed them much, so I suppose that I am biased. In the days of film, there was such a huge quality advantage to MF that for me there was no contest. With high-end digital these days, the performance gap is so much less that I think I just carry on with it out of stubbornness really, and because I get a great deal of pleasure out of my old Zeiss glass.

John
« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 05:34:36 AM by John R Smith » Logged

Hasselblad 500 C/M, SWC and CFV-39 DB
and a case full of (very old) lenses and other bits
Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2010, 07:57:31 AM »
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Very nice pictures, John; I was also tickled to see the use of the word 'candid' as in 'street'! I had completely forgotten that that was the word we all used to use for those reportage shots of life going on, in a non-newsy way.

(If Fred is reading this, that's a better word than 'street shots' or just 'street'! It has provenance.)

Rob C
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ced
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2010, 08:10:03 AM »
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Lovely shots and nice tones too!  I am curious about the method, did you scan from prints or negs?  How did you apply the sepia look?
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2010, 08:23:54 AM »
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Glad you enjoyed the pictures, folks. All these shots are digital, not film, using the CFV back. These start out as colour RAWs, of course, which I import into Lightroom. They are then converted to B/W using my own home-brewed profiles, which emulate the spectral response of various B/W film stocks. After that, it's lots of the usual levels, burning and dodging, just like it used to be in the darkroom. For these web pictures, I exported the finished images to JPG and applied Lightroom's own split-toning on the way out, where I set the highlights to sepia and the shadows to a sort of purple hue.

Hmm, it just struck me that our younger members might not really know what a 'Blad 500 looks like, so here is one of my cameras, along with the period case and my trusty Weston meter.

John
« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 08:30:38 AM by John R Smith » Logged

Hasselblad 500 C/M, SWC and CFV-39 DB
and a case full of (very old) lenses and other bits
fredjeang
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2010, 08:24:25 AM »
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Interesting post.
one of the photographer Alberto Garcia Alix.

Qustion: does tha Blad 500 accepts digital backs? or better asked: do digital backs accept the Blad 500?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 09:10:27 AM by fredjeang » Logged
John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2010, 08:46:45 AM »
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Qustion: does tha Blad 500 accepts digital backs? or better asked: do digital backs accept the Blad 500?

Fred

As I understand it you can fit almost all MF digital backs to the 'Blad 500, including Phase, Leaf, (with the correct mounts) and of course Hasselblad's own CFV 16, 39 and 50 megapixel offerings. Your choice is really limited only by cost.

John
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Hasselblad 500 C/M, SWC and CFV-39 DB
and a case full of (very old) lenses and other bits
JV
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2010, 08:46:54 AM »
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I wouldn't immediately think of a Hasselblad either as the most appropriate tool for street photography.  That being said, on the website of Leaf I read a testimonial of Lois Greenfield who shoots dance with a Hasselblad 500CM and a Leaf Valeo 22 digital back.  If you can shoot dance with a Hasselblad I guess street photography should be feasible as well...
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JV
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 09:16:45 AM »
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Jv, yes those are not a-priori the right tools, but as they provoque different reaction to people, they are trully interesting.

I read an interview with Lois Greenfield.  She actually does not try to capture the moment.  She tries to shoot just before the moment occurs.  I guess it takes a lot of experience to shoot that way.  By anticipating the moment she can use the gear she feels most comfortable with.
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2010, 09:23:17 AM »
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I read an interview with Lois Greenfield.  She actually does not try to capture the moment.  She tries to shoot just before the moment occurs.  I guess it takes a lot of experience to shoot that way.  By anticipating the moment she can use the gear she feels most comfortable with.

Actually, you have to do this with the 'Blad. No choice. There is a considerable shutter lag between pressing the release and the moment of exposure (shutter close, aperture stop-down, mirror-up, barn-doors open, shutter fires). This can cause you a lot of grief with subjects which are in motion. All this stuff makes a great szhu-clunk noise, though.

John
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BrendanStewart
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2010, 09:31:39 AM »
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John, that's some great stuff. I certainly appreciate the 500/CFV combination. But with that said, i am also glad to be shooting the H3DII. Makes life rather simple. Which i appreciate now in this stage of my career.

Now the big question, if offered a new MFDB combo from Hasselblad, would you still prefer to shoot the 500/CFV?
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pcunite
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2010, 09:39:07 AM »
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Anytime you have an enjoyable experience, like taking a 1956 T-Bird out for a spin, you can't really put a price tag on that. Life is short, own and use what you love. MFD provides a classic experience, everything is big and bold, fun to use, fun to touch and turn... harkens back to yesteryear, rare even as you don't see them everywhere.

However, when the pressure is on and you must come home with something, when you have a schedule and therefore not all day, or even tomorrow, when you're not working alone, when patience is thin for those all around you... that is when you want a machine this is technologically invisible, built to work fast, not get in your way, hammer out whatever is asked of it.

Perhaps given the second situation you might feel inclined to choose a different tool. Entire articles have been written saying one tool can do them all. Well, I guess that is a matter of opinion. Smiley
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010, 09:43:05 AM »
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John, that's some great stuff. I certainly appreciate the 500/CFV combination. But with that said, i am also glad to be shooting the H3DII. Makes life rather simple. Which i appreciate now in this stage of my career.

Now the big question, if offered a new MFDB combo from Hasselblad, would you still prefer to shoot the 500/CFV?


Brendan

You've put me on the spot. Really, I think that if I was offered that option I would ask for the money instead and use it to get all my 500 kit CLA'd. But the reason for that choice is quite foolish, because I know that an H series camera would be easier to use in almost every respect. It's just that I hate the look and feel of the thing - it seems plastic and cheap to my taste. Whereas the old 500 is solid metal and chrome, the lenses are satin alloy with a heavy brass core, and it all feels like a camera should to me. So, sadly, I know that I would get no pleasure out of owning an H-system 'Blad, much though I admire it. And I can put my old 500 on the table and enjoy just looking at it while I have a cup of tea and a reflective cigarette.

John
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Hasselblad 500 C/M, SWC and CFV-39 DB
and a case full of (very old) lenses and other bits
JV
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010, 09:53:25 AM »
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I own a H1/P30+ combination and recently also acquired a CFV back for my 503CW.  I extensively used my H1 the past year and I find it quite hard now to go back to a camera without auto focus and without exposure meter.  Speed is also a major consideration and when you are paying for model time the H1 is just a lot faster.  IMHO it is just a better camera.  The price for the coolest look goes the V-series though...
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BrendanStewart
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2010, 09:54:41 AM »
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Yeah, it's quite interesting to me. I certainly agree the quality and look was better in the 500 series. I don't think anyone would argue otherwise.

People are really loyal to the 500 series and the fact that they modeled the CFV backs to look like the bodies to me, means that Hasselblad understands this as well. I think it's great they continue this lineage.

I wish they'd bring some of that look back to the H5 series - when it's released.
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BrendanStewart
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2010, 09:57:08 AM »
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I own a H1/P30+ combination and recently also acquired a CFV back for my 503CW.  I extensively used my H1 the past year and I find it quite hard now to go back to a camera without auto focus and without exposure meter.  Speed is also a major consideration and when you are paying for model time the H1 is just a lot faster.  IMHO it is just a better camera.  The price for the coolest look goes the V-series though...

Oh boy, i thought it was metered, i did know about AF though, of course. Wow... that makes things rather difficult for those youngin's like myself. Smiley  I bet the quality is still fantastic though.
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2010, 10:16:13 AM »
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1.  "Yes Rob, I read and don't really get it: what would be the more appropriated word then?"

Use 'candid' if you are dealing/talking with older guys, because we all know what it means, which is 'truthful, without posing'. Street (today's sense) used to be called candid photography - truthful, unposed photography, whether in the street, in a factory or in a railway station, anywhere at all, even in hospital.

2.  "I even use mobiles phones, like this one of the photographer Alberto Garcia Alix."

You lucky man; you move in exalted circles!

Rob C

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KLaban
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2010, 12:29:05 PM »
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You've put me on the spot. Really, I think that if I was offered that option I would ask for the money instead and use it to get all my 500 kit CLA'd. But the reason for that choice is quite foolish, because I know that an H series camera would be easier to use in almost every respect. It's just that I hate the look and feel of the thing - it seems plastic and cheap to my taste. Whereas the old 500 is solid metal and chrome, the lenses are satin alloy with a heavy brass core, and it all feels like a camera should to me. So, sadly, I know that I would get no pleasure out of owning an H-system 'Blad, much though I admire it. And I can put my old 500 on the table and enjoy just looking at it while I have a cup of tea and a reflective cigarette.

I loved my V Series Hasselblads and used the system for more years than I care to remember, classic design, fabulous build.

When I bought into the Hasselblad H system I was convinced that it would be an addition and I'd keep both systems. A few weeks later I packed the V Series into a very large box and posted it off to sell.
 
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2010, 12:38:23 PM »
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Hmm, it just struck me that our younger members might not really know what a 'Blad 500 looks like, so here is one of my cameras, along with the period case and my trusty Weston meter.

John


Made my mouth water; however, I do still have two Westons... I had a peep at the 'blad site the other day; the used prices are still pretty well up there! You never know...

Keith, if I didn't know better, I would despair for your soul! However, your bone specialist will probably breathe a sigh of relief!

Rob C
« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 12:40:06 PM by Rob C » Logged

fredjeang
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2010, 12:45:30 PM »
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you inrigue me guys! there are dozens of blads here that nobody wants any more for 800 euros complete and in perfect conditions...
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geesbert
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2010, 01:23:23 PM »
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So how do you shoot a 500/cfv combo in portrait orientation without a prism? As I understand, the back can't be mounted that way.
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