Hasselblad 500 c/m – 25th Anniversary Edition – 1973

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This Hasselblad 500 c/m kickstarted my interest in vintage cameras and rekindled my passion for film photography after 15 years of digital.

Purchased in 2014 from a Japanese vintage collector – This 1973 Hasselblad 500c/m is no. 847 (of 1500 made) and bears a sterling silver plate with VH’s signature – allegedly signed individually, unlike later stamped limited editions.

The Swedish made 500 c/m derives its name from the 1/500s shutter speed, c for classic and m for modified (interchangeable screen). What’s interesting, is the fact that it’s the Zeiss lens with German Compur shutter that provides the 1/500s. I digress!

The 500 c/m arrived in very good condition with little signs of use on the body / film back interface. The film advance and cocking mechanism wound smoothly and the auxiliary shutter (film gate) snapped open and closed precisely when fired. The matte focus screen took a bit of getting use to (left is right) and the flip up diopter really helped nail focus….as long as subjects remained relatively static.

If you have never used a Hasselblad 500 before you’ll be quite surprised by the loud shutter clunk and vibration. To be fair, its actually two shutters (lens leaf shutter and film gate) and one massive mirror flip that gets to work at the push of a mechanical button.

Fortunately, you can use a pre-release button to lock the mirror up and open the film gate, allowing you to just fire the whisper quiet leaf shutter – for long vibration free exposures. When not using the pre-release, you have to remember to keep the shutter release held at slower speeds or the film gate may cut the exposure off early.

The paired Carl Zeiss 80mm Planar f/2.8 lens (50mm equivalent) is dated 1974 and its integral Compur shutter seems accurate to within 1/3rd stop at lower speeds. The lens is old school, the aperture and shutter rings are linked by default and the engraved EV ring is designed to be used for exposure adjustment. One can override the linkage but its a highly effective method – if your hand-held light meter reads EV.

I’ve already run a couple of rolls of B&W film through it and the 6x6cm negatives are sharp and contrasty with a nice bokeh wide open. I have found a slight frame registration problem with the film back which causes an overlap on two frames, this is probably due to ageing of the gear lubricants or my novice hands.

Being instantly hooked on old Hassys, I decided to grab a second less collectable (and cheaper) body and some old film backs, so this one can now happily sit in bubble wrap and get exercised once or twice a year to keep the mechanics sweet.

Given Hasselblad cameras were considered the pinnacle SLR of their day – costing obscene amounts of money, you can now build a 3 lens (50/80/150) Hassy kit for less than the price of a mid range dSLR (£1000). What’s more you get to learn the the art of medium film photography and (IMO) get rewarded with great image quality.

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