Out of focus Hasselblad negs

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by jim_gardner|4, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. I have had my 503CW for approx. 15 years. I use 3 lenses and generally a pme finder. Earlier this year I shot about 4 rolls of film at fairly wide apertures (2.8 - 5.6) and found many on many of the negs the focus point wasn't where I wanted it (thought I had focused). A LOT of testing followed which included photographing marks on a wall from an angle at various distances. I used f2.8-f4 to limit dof and see exactly where the point of focus was. Camera was both on and off a tripod, I tried pme and waist level finder, mirror lock up and not, etc. etc. In a lot of cases the focus point was inches to many feet away from where I focused.
    I contacted Hasselblad and they put me in touch with the people who used to do all their repairs. I sent these people the camera, they checked everything, made some adjustments and sent it back. Long story short, I still had the same problem. Camera went back another two times, they said it all checked out fine, I got camera back and had same problem.
    I cant think the fault is the lenses as I have three and get the problem with all of them. The A12 back checked out ok and I have even been to the optician to see if I have an eye issue (I don't).
    Eventually I rang a friend of mine who is a professional photographer who used to use Hasselblad. He told me he had exactly the same problem some years ago which is why he now uses a different make of camera.
    Has anyone had the same issues, and if so, was the cause ever found / rectified?
  2. Do you have a ground glass back? It's worth seeing whether focus is still off when focussing using that screen instead. After the camera has been checked and found to be o.k. twice, it's hard to imagine that it still is the camera that is off. But still, if you can, check again using a ground glass back.

    The main suspect will be the film back. Did you have that checked, or have you tried different ones?

    I find it somewhat difficult to get good focus (i still manage) myself lately, but also know why: eyesight. I don't use my glasses, and have changed the eyepiece lenses instead to match my prescription glasses a long time ago, and will have to do so again soon. This varies with the finder. They all have different apparant viewing distances, and those all have to match your eyesight.
  3. I had the same issue some years ago and ended up selling my Hasselblad (got a new one now). The buyer said that the problem was the focussing screen, he just put another screen in place and the problem was solved. Double check your screen.
  4. This problem also occurs when the film is not correctly placed in the back. Please check with a manual at hand if you insert the film correctly, main issue is to make sure the film is placed correctly under the guide on the front of the cassette. The guide lifts during film insertion and lowers when film placement has been completed. It happened to me also once by accident ...
  5. Thank you all for replies so far. I don't have a ground glass back but believe the body was checked with one when it went away. What is most frustrating is that one shot may be bang on focused exactly where I thought, and the very next negative may be sharp at 7 feet when I thought I focused at 10 feet! As you will know, that's quite a lot of difference/adjustment to the focusing ring and much more than could just be not quite correct. Also, as it is so erratic, with some negs spot on, the next focused further away and the next one focused closer, (on the same film) I am assuming it couldn't be incorrectly loaded film.
    Any more thoughts or experience would be very greatly appreciated.
  6. Robin, what was the problem with the screen? Apart from being loose and moving up and down, I cant see how some negs could be focused close, some spot on, and others away in the distance.
  7. SCL


    Do you wear eyeglasses and have you had a recent change in prescriptions? I found this was the cause of my experiencing similar issues to yours with my TLR several years ago.
  8. SCL. Contact lenses. No change in prescription and I even went to opticians, explained the issue to him and asked him to check. He said eyes can never focus in the wrong place. they either focus,,,,,or they don't. I told him about photographic problems and he said it couldn't be my "vision/eyesight/prescription" after giving me a eye and sight test. When I use my TLR or other manual focus cameras, I don't have a problem. So much so that I am using my Mamiya C330 over the Hasselblad now.
  9. This is an interesting (if depressing) piece of info: so Hasselblad has washed their hands of the V system altogether now, even the fairly lucrative in-house servicing? Too bad.

    Aside from your eyesight changing suddenly (happens to many of us), your backs possibly loading wrong, and the screen accidentally being put in upside down after your removed it for cleaning, there's one remaining common fault possibility that could account for mis-focus on all the lenses you own. That would be decay of the foam pads sandwiched between the mirror and the tray it rides on. This happened to one of my 500cm a couple years ago, and the symptom was exactly as you describe: middle distances were off.

    This is normally something Hasselblad's own service dept would pick up on immediately as they evaluate a body sent in, I'd be surprised if the techs they handed you off to didn't check for this issue but its possible they didn't. It is easier to verify yourself if you have a second body to compare against like I did: focus on something at a known distance with both bodies in turn using the same lens, if yours disagrees with the correct distance indicated on the "good" body the mirror is likely out of alignment. If another Hasselblad body is not available you could also compare against any other camera but the result won't be nearly as precise (forget using a Mamiya TLR for this, the distance scale on those is vague at best).

    The most certain test would be to mount the ground glass back intended for the SWC: focus with that, note the distance on the lens, then focus again with the normal viewfinder on top and note the distance on the lens again. If the top distance disagrees significantly with the back, your mirror is out.
  10. Orsetto, very helpful info, thank you. Are these ground glass back for SWS's available? Also, who would you all recommend for Hasselblad service / repair in the UK. I will, at the very least, get the mirror foam / alignment checked.
  11. Which screen are you using? Dose it have a split image or microprism focus aid? Acute matte D?

    Consistent back focus or front focus is usually a mechanical issue with the screen or mirror, I had that with an after market screen that was not to spec.

    Random front focus is something else - are they always front focused, or are they sometime back focused?

    2 things I can think of that have not been mentioned:

    Loose Mirror - it it settles differently in the down position, then you focus will change.

    Acute Matte (non D) screen - has a slight aerial image, and depending on your sight, you may be locking into the aerial image, and thus thinking it is in focus. The easy way out is to use a focus aid (split image/microprism) which allows you to determine focus of high contrast edges on the aerial image. The other way is to use the cross marks on the screen, make sure the image you see and the cross marks are focused at the same time to your eyes. Or get a "D" screen, which addressed the aerial image.

    Someone already mentioned the film back - make sure it's working properly, and the film is not buckling.
    andyfalsetta and wonner like this.
  12. I agree with @tom_chow that it might be focusing screen. I used the Acute Matte D that came with my 503 and struggled terribly with focus and yes, it can be all over the map with any lens.

    Here is a quick check if you have 5x to 8x loop. Focus the way you normally do, then remove any finder you are using and put the loop directly on the focusing screen. See if you are really in focus. Try it multiple times by unfocusing then refocusing and check with the loop.

    Once I found that my problem was the Acute Matte D, I focused with a loop directly on the focusing screen until I found a split image screen. Problem solved.

  13. Tom and Wonner, good points. The screen is both split image and has a microprism. It is the original acutematt screen that was in the camera when I bought it brand new. The images are randomly front focused, back focused and sometimes focused where I thought. As the 503cw has a gliding mirror I am possibly leaning towards that. Now I need the best Hasselblad repair people in the country (yeah I'm into this deep now). I will also ask that on general MF forum.
  14. Talk about being afflicted by sudden vision problems: my apologies, jim, somehow my eyes saw 503cx when I responded earlier instead of 503cw! :oops: The 503cx can suffer mirror pad decay, but I've never heard of your 503cw or other gliding mirror bodies developing that issue (I believe they use durable leaf springs instead of perishable foam pads). I suppose its possible (if unlikely) the gliding mirror may not be landing in the correct rest position, or some other mechanical issue like inner/outer body to film plane alignment.

    The 42215 split/microprism screen you have is probably the easiest AM screen to focus on correctly, if you've verified its seated properly it shouldn't be the problem (tom_chow's loupe suggestion could confirm this). If the problem occurs with more than one film back, it won't be the backs at fault, but if you have only one back its possible (usually due to misloading film over the side clamp instead of under it).

    The ground glass back for SWC is the best way to check screen/mirror issues if you already happen to own one, but is too expensive to purchase unless you also need it for the SWC. Older dimmer 41025 version often sells for at least 300 euro, the newer Acute Matte version 41050 for double that. There are cheaper Chinese knockoffs on eBay, but they may not be as accurate. Users of other brand medium format SLRs who do not have such backs available often simulate the effect using strips of frosted transparent tape laid across the body film aperture: with a WLF pressed against it this can work well enough to reveal gross discrepancies between viewfinder and film plane (but may not be accurate enough to confirm finder focus is actually correct).

    If it isn't the firm Hasselblad already referred you to, contact the Classic V repair center. They had an excellent reputation for UK repairs here on p-net when the founder Douglas Fairbank was a frequent contributor: Welcome to Classic V | Hasselblad V system repair, service, support
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
  15. What's an i or w here and there... ;)

    If you have a true Hasselblad 42215 screen, then you probably have the best one available (although some people would still prefer the 42204)

    The scotch tape method does not work very well with the Hasselblad unless you use a Type-N Kiev back (I have one of these for this purpose), or an old C-type with the peep hole, it's pretty hard to see the film aperture with the 'blad film-back on.

    Does this happen with all lenses? A local user was having issues with miss-focus on his Contax 645, and the local repair expert tracked it down to a loose lens element, which would move when the aperture and mirror triggered.
  16. I read on a Mr. Leica blog post where he suffered from out of focus photos on his Hasselblad. He found the issue was that his focusing screen was inserted backwards. The metal edges of his screen was facing up instead of down. After fixing that, his ‘Blad was in focus again. Not sure if that’s an issue with your camera but it’s easy to check.
  17. One thing to consider though: intermittent focussing problems can only be due to something losse inside the camera, lens or film back, or to operator error.

    A reversed focussing screen? Can only be the cause if you change it often and doing so flip it often as well.
    The camera has been checked twice, so highly unlikely to be the source.
    You say that it happens with all your lenses, so unlikely that they all have the same fault.
    The film back remains uninvestigated.
    And then there is you, checking and setting focus. Are you sure your eyesight at the distances involved (apparant viewing distances somewhere between 2 and 3 meters, depending on finder used) is up to the task?
  18. I can make a frosted screen for the back and use a loupe with that. Normal focusing screen is nice and tight and hadn’t been out between camera working and not working. All replies so far are very helpful and appreciated. They give me a possible way forward.
  19. Having just looked at the body without the back on, it seems there is no way of telling exactly where the film plane is so making a screen that is the correct distance from the body to within a few thou "may be a little more difficult" that I expected.
    Tom, Does this happen with all lenses? Yes it does which is why I have ruled lenses out.
    Orsetto, When I was looking it the body, I admit to expecting to see some sort or pad the mirror sat on but, as you said, there seems to be a "prong" each side and a spring. I will run yet another roll of film through the camera and may post some scans.

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