Nia, it's mostly true - they are very good cameras, and along with Phase/Mamiya, they make some exceptional digital camera systems as well. They're still a very successful company, and one with a great deal of history. Of the eight people who were working at the camera store with me yesterday, only three hadn't owned a Hasselblad at some point.
Irma, this is a film camera; while there are digital backs available for it, they start at about $10,000. A few places in town rent them, though, so that is an option. Renting costs about $200/day, which is a big lump sum but actually isn't that expensive compared to doing 10-15 rolls of film and then having the best frames professionally scanned. All I need is to know in advance when I'm going to take some really great photos.
Rob, I was being a little cute about the P&S connection, but it does legitimately tie in. I've been looking for a digital compact that I could carry with me when I travel with my Fuji GX680, whether it's just a day trip around town, a weekend photo-excursion, or a multi-week family visit. But as I get more experience with the fujifilm I learn both how much I like MF film and how impossible it would be to manage a major trip with 30+ lbs of bulky gear. My general approach to life is that if I don't like the answer, I need to ask a different question. The question of 'what else will give me the quality and flexibility that I want' is what led me from the 680+p/s combination to the Hasselblad. (I reserve the right to still get a little p/s camera to accompany it, though.
Julian, yes, it will be replacing an SLR, but probably not the SLR that you're thinking. It's taking over the role of a high-quality travel camera from my GX680, consigning that ten-pound beast to studio and near-home work, the way nature and Fuji intended. My D700 had already lost the travel-camera role to my GH1 and Zeiss Ikon, which are either less valuable or more robust than the Nikon. (Although my D700 and F100 are another exceptional digital+film pair, which I'll use together occasionally.)
Here's my criteria breakdown again:
â¢ as a travel camera it needs to have a good lens,
I have the Carl Zeiss CF 150/4 T*; this is a classic 'portrait' lens that's just about the sweet spot for my favourite field of view. I got lucky on that, though, since I shop for lenses by looking at their distortion before I consider minor details like focal length. I do have to admit that the chance to own another Zeiss lens was a big part of why I picked Hasselblad over some of the similar cameras that sell for a little less money.
â¢ be simple to use,
The lens has linked aperture and shutter speed controls, so since my hand-held light meter reads out EV values, it essentially works like a 'program shift' mode. Of course the aperture and shutter speed can be set individually as well. And that's it - there's no automation or other controls. One of my huge frustrations with my p/s shopping was having to outsmart these fussy little electronic devices. Even the click-wheel on the GH1 annoys me, and I'm frequently frustrated by my Nikons. Cameras, like art, shouldn't need to be clever to work.
â¢ easy to carry,
While the camera seems big, its boxy profile actually takes up less room in a camera bag than a 70-200/2.8 lens, and only weighs a half-pound more. Few photographers carry only a 70-200 with them - most have a camera as well, at the very least - so the Hasselblad's weight isn't unreasonable. It even fits in the same slot that the GH1+zoom takes up my Billingham Hadley Pro without moving any dividers. (I checked that before I bought it.) This leaves my favourite travel bag mostly empty, so there's still enough room for my entire GH1 kit or my Ikon kit with extra film, although this isn't something I would carry for fun. Alternatively, I can sling my tripod over the bag strap and still be under my ten-pound travel limit even with my other necessities.
â¢ be able to take a few bumps,
This particular camera was made in 1987, so it's unlikely that I'll be the worst thing to happen to it. I bought it in 'bargain' condition from KEH, so it's not the prettiest, but it has passed every test I've thrown at it.
â¢ not have me tethered to A/C power,
The 500c/m model is one of the fully mechanical Hasselblads, so it needs no batteries; the Sekonic 308 light meter that I use lasts months with a single AA. Battery management is enough of a hassle with my blackberry, and when I went on my Chicago round-trip I was carrying four batteries for my GH1. The light meter takes up less space and is lighter than that.
â¢ have a picture quality not too far below my favourite big camera,
That would be my GX680III, which has a 56x76mm negative. The 56x56 negative from the Hasselblad is smaller, and loses even more if I want to crop it into a rectangle, but it's still plenty big enough to give me the detail and tones that I love.
â¢ not be too expensive.
Even a beaten hasselblad isn't cheap, but this one was a good deal. I'll spend more than what it cost on my cell phone plan before this year is done, but there's no reason why I can't still be using it five or ten years from now. With used film cameras in general depreciation isn't really a factor, and a couple of the former hasselblad owners that I work with have sold their systems for more than what they paid after years of use.
Here's another photo that I took, which shows a bit more of the condition of the camera. I'd like to do an artsy-glamour session with it where I highlight and feature every ding, dent, and scratch, but that will have to wait until I have more time.