5 Frames… Near Seattle’s Pike Place Market on a Hasselblad 500CM and ILFORD HP5 PLUS (120 Format / EI 400 / Carl Zeiss Distagon CF 60mm f/3.5)

When talk turns to street photography cameras, first thoughts might be 35mm rangefinders or small SLRs, though many iconic shots have been done with larger medium format cameras. To push my own boundaries in fall 2020, I tried shooting some street photography near Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market with the equally iconic Hasselblad 500CM 6×6 medium format camera.

Hasselblad 500CM and Carl Zeiss Distagon CF 60mm f/3.5, Steve Banfield

When I’m street shooting with an SLR, I swap between shooting from the hip and bringing the camera to eye level to precisely focus. The waist-level approach meant I would have to focus quickly and rely on a small aperture, deep depth of field, and zone focus to get good shots. That meant a faster film and since I wanted black and white, I picked a roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS. It’s my go-to monochrome film and I trust the results I get with it no matter what camera I’m using. I also chose my Hasselblad’s Carl Zeiss Distagon 60mm f/3.5 lens (33mm equivalent in 35mm format terms), giving a wide enough field of view to show the entire scene.

A few general measurements at the start with my Sekonic light meter gave me a range of exposure values, but thanks to a bright sunny Saturday in Seattle (it really doesn’t rain here all the time) I could mostly follow the “sunny 16” rule. Choosing HP5 PLUS at EI 400 gave a fast-enough shutter speed to catch the action without blur despite shooting the bigger Hasselblad handheld.

It was a great experience! One of the benefits of shooting in the market is that cameras don’t garner a lot of attention. Though seeing a Hasselblad there isn’t that common no one seemed to really notice it. Shooting from waist level made me slow down and frame my shots more carefully than I would have with an SLR. It also made shooting much more discrete. No one will ever claim the shutter on a 500CM is quiet, but against the noise and bustle of Seattle’s famous tourist center, it was never noticed.

If I had a complaint it was reloading film. Without the luxury of several A12 backs preloaded with film I had to stop, pull the insert and reload. Thankfully I had a neck strap so I could dangle the camera while I balanced reloading the insert.

Shooting the Hasselblad this way opened my eyes to some new ideas for street photography. I won’t switch from 35mm all the time but when I can, weather permitting, the Hasselblad will absolutely be part of my “in the street” arsenal.

~ Steve

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About the author

Steve Banfield

Steve Banfield is an entrepreneur and amateur photographer in Seattle, WA with a serious case of film camera gear addiction. He is currently working on a book of photos from his 2019 trip along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route shot on black and white...

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  1. Nice to see I’m not the only one! I always zone-focus or pre-focus when shooting street with my 503cx, deciding where I want my subjects to be and then wait for the moment. That way, you don’t have to depend on large depth of field…