During the course of my life I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Once, as a child, I stood in a craft store that I hated with my mother and let the loudest, sound barrier shredding, fart that you could possibly imagine. The fart was a miscalculation of something that should have been silent and deadly, a cue to my mother that we need to leave, but instead was a grave endeavor into the realm of shame. This fart was so loud in fact that the clerk asked my mother if I was “okay” after I sprinted from the store.
Another time, during those same demanding years, I was in the car with my mother coming home from her work. She told me that she had to stop for cigarettes, and I warned her as any seven year old would, that I had to pee and could not wait. Not heeding my warning I took to a threat, “if you don’t take me home first I will pee my pants in the car,” I told her. She looked at me like any mother would hearing such demand as she slowly turned into the parking lot of a local convenience store.
As the pee fully soaked the velour seat I was sitting in I immediately sprang from the vehicle knowing I had made a mistake and was now headed for certain death. Standing in the 7-11 parking lot I will never forget my mothers face. It was part disbelief and I’d like to think part pride since I stuck to my guns.
Fast forward 25 years and I’ve made tons of mistakes, though the pee and fart ones have largely tapered off. I can without a doubt tell you that one of the great mistakes I’ve made in recent years was selling my Hasselblad 500C/M. At the time I had my reasons, and when I remind myself of them I feel justified, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.
For a lot of people the Hasselblad is one of those pieces of gear that seems out of reach, and understandably so. It’s European, and made from the finest materials. It is the subject of legend as well. There’s a picture floating around of David Bowie with one. Richard Avedon, Lee Friedlander, the list goes on and on, and so I’ll spare you. The camera, like so many whom have used it is legend.
The Hasselblad was for me also out of reach. When I arrived in Florida I was broke, and living in the back of someone’s house in a rented room. The house next door had recently burned down due to circumstances that involved drugs and or insurance I can’t remember which. Needless to say times were tough and I was trying to make a new start.
Like most I’d lusted after a Hasselblad for years, and so one payday I finally said “fuck it.” I got on the KEH website and ordered a 500C/M body. Another payday I ordered a finder and a back, and so the cycle went every other payday for three or so months. I finally had a Hasselblad kit.
The Hasselblad V-Series has a wide range of lenses but my experience is with the 60mm C/B and the 150mm CF/T*. The 60mm is a wide normal lens on the Hasselblad and the 150mm is a long normal if you’re generous or a shot portrait focal length. Both lenses were beautiful in fit, finish, and optical quality. They take Bay mount filters like every other Hasselblad I’ve ever seen which is quirky, but it works. You’ll need a Bay to whatever mm filter you want to use if you’re going to use a filter. They’re readily available and not expensive.
Between the two lenses that I owned I found the 60mm focal length to be very pleasing. Looking through the viewfinder seemed very natural to me and was often exactly what I expected to see when I would do so. Optically it had this buttery smooth juju that I just can’t replicate with another lens. Maybe it’s the Zeiss look, and maybe it’s not, but whatever it is it works for me.
The modular build of the Hasselblad is one of it’s biggest strengths in my opinion. Being able to change backs on the fly is handy, as is the ability to easily fit different finders. Should your body break through some unforeseen circumstance you can simply order another and affix all of your current ancillary items.
A rather untimely demise signaled the end of my love affair with my Hasselblad. On a trip to Guam, where America’s day starts, my Hasselblad had an incident that rendered it useless. Prior to the trip I had purchased an extension tube for the camera, the length of which is unimportant to what I’m about to tell you, but at some point a mistake was made and the sync was lost between lens, body, and tube. When this happened it effectively welded the tube to the body of the camera, never to be released again.
My memory is shaky about what happened next, but I can explain it in no other way than to say that through the guidance of Jesus himself I was able to disassemble some of the extension tube and free it from the camera. During this process, however, an error was made which caused the barn door spring to lose tension so they would no longer close rendering my Hasselblad a paperweight.
The gravity of the situation was immense. My favorite camera, dead. My wife and I took this camera out when we were dating. She took her first film photo on it. This was the camera that showed her that film isn’t shitty, and here it lies, dead.
I called KEH, and ordered a replacement. A few weeks later, back at home in Japan, the replacement arrived; it was DOA. A phone call and a few weeks later another Hasselblad arrives, this one functional, but the damage to my psyche was already done. Weeks later I traded in my Hasselblad kit at a shop in Japan and got way less than I paid for it, and frankly a lot less than it was worth.
The beauty of hindsight like this is that I can now say how much I enjoyed the experience of owning the Hasselblad and while I won’t be buying another one anytime soon I can say that it is a fantastic camera system that lives up to all of the praise it receives.