There’s something Medium in my future

Hasselblad 500CM

As my photography has gotten stronger over the past several years, I’ve become to appreciate how different camera systems impact my photographic approach and results. For most of the past year I’ve been concentrating on my street photography and shooting with micro-4/3rds system, the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Organized more like a ranger finder camera than an (d)SRL, the OMD is small and nimble and does not raise undue suspicion or attention when walking through the streets. At a pixel-peeping level, the image quality may not meet that of the current generation of large dSLRs, but not only is it more than adequate, is has a very pleasing look for street images.

Street photography in Cuba with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Street photography in Cuba with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

My other camera, a Canon 5dmkII, though now a generation behind, was once the cat’s meow of dSLRs. It renders beautiful images but in my day-to-day photography has been relegated to nature photography like the flower macros I recently posted and this subtle image from Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley.

Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley taken with a Canon 5dmkII

Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley taken with a Canon 5dmkII

I don’t do a lot of landscape and nature photography, but when I do, I pick out intimate slices of the world to show. I fill the frame with trees and their leaves or other shapes and patterns. I’ve always been rather unsatisfied with the modern recipe of screwing on a wide-angle lens,  plopping and interesting object in the foreground, and shooting in HDR (ok, I’m being dramatic). I’m more drawn to the old-fashioned esthetics of showing a beautiful window into the world at the human “normal” field of view. With this approach, unless I chose very small slices of the landscape, the 35mm frame always seems too small.

Ironically enough, the 35mm system invented as a compromise format to create smaller more nimble cameras, is now being housed in giant behemoth bodies like the Canon 5d’s and DXs as well as the Nikon D4 and D800.

So after years of thinking about this and a week of careful consideration and intense research, I just pulled the trigger on a used Hasselblad 500 C/M – a model that was manufactured between 1970 and 1994. The camera shoots a 2-1/4″ (6cm) square format and takes 120 film.

Yes, you heard me right, *film*. And while I’m not exactly thrilled that using this format means going to a film-based system, I feel that this will be a necessary evil in my quest for my photographic vision to see what it is like to shoot in a larger format.

The camera arrives on Wednesday along with 5 rolls of B&W and 5 rolls of color film and I will get my opportunity to see if it lives up to its description on the front of the Hasselblad manual to “provide unlimited photographic scope” and will be capable of taking my “photography to inter, or outer space, and almost anywhere in between.”

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6 Comments to “There’s something Medium in my future”

  1. Congratulations Nancy! I was thinking about buying this rather than the D600 I just purchased. I teased you about being a Hasselblad-carrybing street photographer like Philippe Echaroux http://petapixel.com/2012/11/25/shooting-studio-portraits-of-strangers-on-the-street-as-if-they-were-famous/ , but I was actually joking. I know you can get a digital back for these. The 35MP aren’t too bad, and I believe you can get a 50 MP back as well.

  2. Fantastic! I think medium format film is a great way to go. EVERYBODY does 35 mm these days. It’s great to do something different. Glad to hear you are doing this.

  3. Let me know if you need any guidance. I used Hassies for many years (80’s and very early 90’s), mainly for nocturnal mammal photography, then migrated to the Rolleiflex 6000 series. I can probably remember most things, as I used to operate them in total darkness 🙂 I would still use Rolleis today if they had been a little earlier in enabling digital backs.

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