After I purchased my beloved Fuji X-Pro1, I felt I finally had everything in one little and very portable system that I was looking for: Beautiful, aesthetic and authentic film colors and, even more importantly, more dynamic range than I had ever seen in any other digital camera.
I made one Lightroom preset for color and one for black and white – and that was it. They work consistently on every single image I take with the Fuji – unless I want a different look. No more tweaking tones and endless hours of post processing, no more frustration over white balance or clipped highlights. I decided I was finally there.
Looking back through my work with the D700 made me regret not to have made that decision any earlier and I realized I would never touch my Nikon again ever in my life.
But shooting the X-Pro1 also made me realize how much I really love film. For two very simple reasons: light and color. The most central element in my pictures always was natural light.
No matter how much you tweak a digital picture, even the ones from the X-Pro1, you simply cannot get the tonal response of film. That means digital images look somewhat flatter and artificial. Film gives an image more texture and the results look more pleasing and natural to the eye. These are subtle differences but they are noticeable. Not to speak of the obvious differences in color. I ended up selling all of my digital Nikon gear and buying a Hasselblad 503CW.
For me personally, the images a Hasselblad produces in combination with the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 are the most beautiful you can achieve with a medium format camera. I just love how the lens renders, with such beautiful tones, so much clarity and the most wonderful bokeh I have ever seen.
When I first got the Hasselblad, I was terrified. Everything about this camera was different. It’s a dinosaur and a tank. Loading a roll of film feels like it takes about 5 minutes, for 12 frames. Everything is manual and requires work. When you compose a picture, you look down at your waist level finder and everything is reversed – even the image. The shutter sounds completely different to anything I’ve ever heard before. It took me quite a bit to get used to all of that.
I had no external light meter and for the first two rolls I had to guess my exposure, which was slightly unsettling. After I got my first scans back, I was relieved. My guesswork turned out ok. The beauty of film is that your exposure doesn’t need to be spot on. It’s usually good enough if you don’t underexpose.
This was the fifth picture I ever took with the Hasselblad. I liked how the color and light turned out:
Since the first day I shot with the Hasselblad, it is growing on me like no other camera ever did. Everything about it just clicks with me and I love to shoot it. It took me a bit to realize what it is that makes this camera feel so special to me, besides the image quality of medium format film.
It’s the fact that I never felt so connected with my photography before. I don’t simply hold a technical device and press a button. I really have to create an image. I have to do everything by myself and I have to do it right with every single frame. I have to load the film manually, I have to meter and think about the meter reading for a moment. Then I take the dark slide out, open the waist level finder and look down at this almost three dimensional looking image. I have to compose thoroughly, manual focus and finally, after everything looks and feels right, I press the shutter.
Shooting the Hasselblad means so much more work than any other camera I’ve used before. And that’s the beauty of the manual process. It feels like craftsmanship to me.
Here are a couple of more images, all shot with the Hasselblad 503CW and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 on Kodak Portra 160: