Tips and tricks for better pix out of a 501 CM

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by andrew_viny, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. I'm a new 501cm user and I'm curious to know of any tips for tricks for better pictures without a tripod. Also what is the deal with winding the lens? When do you need to do it? Why do you need to do it? And how important is it?
  2. If you don't want to use a tripod, the next best tip I can give you is a monopod. After that I'd reccomend fast film and shutter speeds. This might sound "smart-alecky", but it isn't. I'd recommend using a tripod and cable release as much as possible, even if you don't like the idea (it will grow on you!) That really is the best way to get the best pix out of a Hassy.
    The lens winds when the camera winds, if attached. You only need to wind the lens separately if the shutter somehow releases when not attached to the body. The lens must be wound to be removed or attached to the body.
  3. If you're bent on not using a tripod, I've found that the easiest way to handle it is to stabilize the WLF against your forehead, so as long as your head is steady, the picture is reasonably sharp.
    As for winding the lens, you should always wind forward - as has been discussed ad infinitum, you do not want to accidentally detach the lens from the body in uncocked state. You will be sorry. And David Odess notes that keeping the camera in cocked state does not affect it negatively so there are apparently no issues with worn springs, etc.
  4. Handheld with the 500/501 etc. it's worth adding the slide on bubble level.
    Once it's in place, you can more easily pre-release the mirror and by keeping your eye on the bubble, maintain framing.
    ISO 400 film also helps.
  5. Try not the use speeds slower than 1/125 second.
    Slower speeds with good results are possible but take some training in holding the camera steady.
    With the 1/125 you will find faster film is necessary especially when you want to stop down the lens.
  6. david_henderson


    I do understand that there are times when its difficult to get the photographs you want with a tripod. It happens to most of us.
    But equally you have to recognise that you will not get the best results from your Hasselblad unless you do use a tripod, and that the quality of those you accept as being good enough would nevertheless have been better if a tripod were used.
    Use a film that permits you to use shutter speeds of at least 1/60 ; be selective in your use of filters because of the cost to you in terms of shutter speed; remember that just because your camera might be reasonably steady doesn't mean that your subject is, and master the technique of holding the camera pressed in against your middle looking down through a wlf. The spirit level idea is a good one.
  7. Andrew,
    I am only chiming in here because the responses so far (whilst valid of course) seem a little extreme. Whilst I am sure the advice is from accomplished photographers, not everything needs to be 'pin sharp' all the time (depending a bit on subject matter of course). Using a tripod is ALWAYS an advantage, regardless of what camera system you are talking about (even despite VR or the like).
    I think a little too much is placed on the 'Blad mirror slap'. Sure on an 80mm anything longer than 125th is difficult, but your 501cm is perfect for hand holding. The only thing I do is get the right length for my strap allowing me to us it as an extra counter-weight. Apart from that it's just like anything else... relax, breath-out and squeeze the 'trigger' gently :)
    The Hassy is great handheld IMO!
  8. The primary advantage of medium format over 35mm is that the large negative (or image area) holds a lot of detail. The absolute resolution is comparable to 35mm, yet the image area is much larger. If you shoot without a tripod, you lose that advantage. Consequently you get no better sharpness than 35mm quality at 3x the cost. You still get the benefit of less grain and better tonality.
    If you must use an Hasselblad by hand, there are a few tips to keeping it steady. I support most of the weight with my left hand, and press the shutter release with my left index finger. My right hand focuses the lens and wraps around my left hand in a modified "golf grip". Since my right hand otherwise free, it's easy to let go and wind the camera without disturbing the composition. Whether using a WLF or prism, my eye is pressed to the viewfinder, further bracing the camera with my forehead. If you use the camera at waist level (e.g., after focusing), use the neck strap as a brace.
    Mirror slap is significant, but only when the camera is on a tripod. Camera shake is several times as great as mirror slap. On a tripod, I always pre-release the mirror at any speeds under 1/125 second. At 1/30 second, you can easily see "doubling" due to mirror slap, especially with a digital back. A really stiff tripod is necessary for consistent results. I prefer a Gitzo 3541 over a lighter 1227 for that reason.
    The lens (and body) must be wound before attaching it to the body or removing it. If the lens is accidently tripped off the camera, you must wind it before proceeding by turning the slotted "screw" nearly one full turn clockwise until it latches. A dime makes a convenient tool. You cannot "accidently" attach an unwound lens - the coupling will block any attempt. Likewise, you cannot "accidently" remove a lens until the camera and lens are wound - the coupling and a locking pin prevent rotation. Jams occur when the lens accidently discharges in the midst of removing it, due to worn parts or sloppy technique.
  9. I will jump in again and agree with David, a tripod is something I seldom consider necessary - I probably only use one about 1 time in 100.
    There is a lot more to medium format than resolution: that larger negative provides better tonality and less grain.
    Tri-x and NPH/Pro400 are my staple film choices ( and look miles better than the same films on 35mm)
    Here's a video which shows how well balanced and vibration free a hasselblad is :
    However if you do want large fine grain prints, and use Velvia at the edge of the day ( possibly with ND grades ) then you are much more likely to fall short of your expectations without a tripod.
  10. Don't believe everything you see on the the internet, Donald. I just tried that ten times with a Euro 10 cent and it fell off every time!
  11. The important difference, the telling bit, however is that you can indeed balance a coin on a tripod mounted camera.
    You will have not much luck trying to do the same on a hand held camera.
    That of course doesn't prove that the camera induced shake is less than hand induced shake (it is).
    But it does indeed show that it is extremely difficult to hold a camera as steady in your hands as it would be when put on a tripod. Which was the point to be proven.
    I agree with Edward: if you want to get the best out of a camera (doesn't matter what format) put it on a tripod.
    But, as was said too, you can't always. And when you can't, a picture that perhaps isn't quite as good as it might have been is probably better than no picture at all.
  12. It certainly works with the 203FE I have with me today - a one cent coin stays put.
    I will need to check the 501 later - it's rear light shield doors certainly make a loud clap.
  13. If you don't already have it, get a copy of Ernst Wildi's "The Hasselblad Manual." It's an invaluable reference for all things Hasselblad, but most relevant to this thread, there is a whole section in the book on handling the hasselblad that has lots of hand-holding pointers. The handling and good exposure sections of the book are worth the price, but there's lots more.
  14. Look, I'm not going to argue that using a tripod will always trump not using one for the ultimate resolution. But the fact is that medium format offers a LOT more than better resolution than 35 mm cameras. The bigger negative alone means that there's a lot more information on the film and that translates into a much smoother looking photograph because less enlargement is needed for a given print size. The transitions between tonal values are more delicate and more subtle. The result of a tiny bit of camera shake that would be magnified in a print made from a 35 mm negative will hardly be noticed in a print of the same size made from a medium format negative. Look, you can use a Hasselblad hand held if you like. I do ok with it down to about 1/30 or 1/60 with the 80 mm lens. Like the man said, relax, breath out, and squeeze the release gently. Don't stab it. You'll do fine.
  15. I very rarely use a tripod for my Hasselblad. I typically use 400 speed film. I have not had a problem with shaken or blurred photographs even when I print 24"x24". I would print larger, but I do not have the equipment to print larger. Just shoot as least as fast as 1/(lens focal length) seconds and you will be fine. Obviously, for longer exposure times, a tripod is a must.
    The mirror slap argument is a bunch of crap. See:

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