I’ve wanted to get into the medium format aspect of photography for some time now but the timing aspect hasn’t really been there if I’m honest, that was up until now.

I’ve admired several medium format cameras from afar but when the time to make that purchase there was only one clear choice, the Hasselbald 500CM. I’m of the opinion I reckon that when Victor Hasselblad set about designing the 500, aesthetics and the design came first and practically came second. Lets face it, its a design icon.



The film

Prior to purchasing my CM I set about looking for 120 film at my local car boot sales and charity shops – a couple of killer places to look for expired film and sometimes on the odd occasion, up to date rolls.

So, armed with two rolls of expired film, firstly a roll of Kodacolor X (expired 1970) and secondly a roll of Portra 400NC (expired 2006) I rolled them off. As you will no doubt be aware, you never really know what to expect from expired film, that’s the risk you take.

Rick Davy - Hasselblad 500CM - Film magazine and films
Rick Davy – Hasselblad 500CM – Film magazine and films

There’s another element to this little project of mine, grabbing the light readings etc. I dont have a light meter nor have I ever used one. So bearing in mind that the CM is a full manual camera, I chose to gauge my light reading via my Leica M6. I set the ISO at 800 and really enjoyed the first experience of hand cranking my films and selecting the subjects at will.

When it came to processing the films I used AG Photolab. Unfortunately, due to my processing inexperience I was unaware that the Kodacolor-X film process, i.e. C22, was no long available but the guys at AG offered to hand process it in black and white. Disappointing really when I’d shot the subject matter with colour in mind but I guess not the end of the world.



The camera

Finding the camera was relative easy to a degree. Finding a good quality one at a reasonable market price took me somewhat longer. Eventually a found a very good example on eBay. Buying a camera on-line can be a risk but the rapport I struck up with the seller gave me the piece of mind I needed. For me, the camera’s condition was everything and this one was by far the best I’d managed to find.

What did I pay? £800. My view was that it represented really good value.

First impressions on delivery were just what I expected on the build quality front but I was shocked by the sheer weight of it. However, as I began to use it that clearly wasn’t an issue. Focusing was a different experience as I’ve never shot at waist level before but I soon managed that.

What I think I love most about the camera was the sound of the shutter opening and closing. A real thud and very engaging.



The results

I think if you bear in mind that using expired film will always give mixed results. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Thats the risk. The results on the Kodacolor-X roll was not so good. Only two shots came out on the whole roll. Both very average. It appeared from the negatives that the rest of the roll had been fully exposed somehow. Not down to me or the camera but more no doubt more likely to its lifetime storage conditions.

(Click or tap on the thumbnails below to view them in glorious full screen!)

On a positive note, the roll of Portra was bang on. I love the grain, the colour tones and the overall finish. I did expect more clarity if Im honest but I reckon thats only down to me and will no doubt improve the more time I spend with my CM.

~ RD



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  1. Nice article, and some valid points in the comments already.. Be mindful of hand holding and your shutter speed that big heavy camera and shutter clank can lead to wobbles in the shot.

  2. As has been said already the usual way to expose out of date film is to overexpose by 1 stop per decade (for colour negative film). It could be that your Portra shots weren’t as clear as you would have liked because the film hadn’t been stored correctly in a fridge or freezer. Poor storage can cause the film to degrade. Here in the UK at least Portra and Ektar are quite reasonably priced to buy fresh so I’d have thought that in the USA (home of the mighty Kodak) that they would be cheaper still? Out of date film seems to sell for a premium over here, often as much as fresh film. Maybe because of the lomography crowd? Whatever the reason I generally find it easier to buy fresh. Good luck with your blad by the way, I hope that you continue to enjoy using it!

  3. Interesting article, I also want one of these cameras! Just one point though, if you set your Leica at ISO800 you were effectively underexposing the Portra 400 by one stop, which is evidenced by the rather murky shadows. Given that film loses sensitivity with age, ISO200 might have been better : )