eXtensions - Monday 22 October 2018


eXtensions - Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (7): The Hasselblad 500 C/M

By Graham K. Rogers

UK travels

While in Britain recently, I spent a lot of time taking photographs, of places I visited and locally, where the countryside is quite pleasing. Most of the time I used a Nikon D850, but I was also carrying a Hasselblad camera loaded with black and white film.

Background and Equipment

I came back from a trip to the UK just over a week ago. As well as my Nikon DSLR along with a collection of lenses, and of course the iPhone X, I packed my Hasselblad 500 C/M - a medium format film camera. I have placed a number of small images from this camera on this page. If exported full size, they would be 70" x 70" (I should print one out just to see). Unlike electronic gear which has to be in carry-on luggage because of the use of Lithium-Ion batteries, the Hasselblad is completely mechanical so, with a lot of bubble-wrap I put that in my suitcase in the middle of my shirts.

Hasselblad 500c/m
Hasselblad 500 C/M with 85mm lens

I had several rolls of HP5 Plus, the Ilford ISO 50 film that I have been using recently and which has produced some good results. I also took along the last couple of rolls of Rollei Retro 400S film I saw at Camera Film Photo (I see they also have Rollei Retro 80S). These rolls were in a plastic container in my backpack as I hoped there was a lesser risk of X-Ray damage: we are told that the scanners are film-safe.

Tidddenfoot - Hasselblad Tidddenfoot - Hasselblad

Tiddenfoot, Leighton Buzzard - Rollei 400 film

I took 4 lenses for the D850: 25mm, 50mm, 85mm, and a Sigma 100-400 telephoto lens. Although I have a couple of lenses for the Hasselblad, I only took the Distagon 50mm which gives me good results. I also have a prismatic viewfinder, but only took the more compact (so-called) waist-level one which I prefer. The other important accessory for taking photographs for the all-manual Hasselblad is the iPhone and the Light Meter app which is enough for my needs, despite the tut-tuts from a couple of experts.

Didcot Didcot

Didcot Railway Centre - Ilford PanF Plus (ISO 50) film

I took the cameras out every day while in the UK, but only used the Hasselblad for five of the days. The second full day rained all day and in any case it was the day of a family event: the main reason I was there. I put a number of photographs and comments online:

Didcot Didcot

Didcot Railway Centre - Ilford PanF Plus (ISO 50) film

Film Comments

When I began to use the Hasselblad camera a couple of years ago, I tried Ilford 400 film as well as some Kodak Portra 400. The colour film results were poor and I have shied away from this since, although recently had another go. The poor results were from a specific shop which I no longer use, while AirLab has produced some good results developing the Kodak Portra.

For the UK trip I was working solely in black and white. I had several rolls of Ilford ISO 50 which needs more light. I have had good results from shooting in Bangkok streets (at least during the day) where the sun is usually strong and there are good shadows. Although the weather in the UK was quite good (except for the one day of rain), patterns were a little different.

Quainton Quainton

Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Quainton - Ilford PanF Plus (ISO 50) film

In Bangkok, a day might start sunny and later cloud over, especially in the rainy season. I found that during my stay, the mornings were sometimes cloudy but mid-day and early afternoon were bright. The sun began to fade in the later afternoon, however, giving me some less satisfactory results.

I am quite happy with the results using the Rollei Retro 400S as this is a little more forgiving than the ISO 50 film in reduced lighting conditions I sometimes found in the UK. I am not totally happy with the plastic backing of this film. It is less rigid than all the Ilford films I use and curves when I put it in the scanner. The Ilford is much better behaved.

Linton Zoo Linton Zoo

Tapir feeding time at Linton Zoo - Ilford PanF Plus (ISO 50) film

In past years, when I have visited shops in the area my family lives, availability of film has been poor: one or two rolls only. This year was a little better when I visited Jessops in Milton Keynes. I saw 35mm film, but the 120 film was hidden in a darker section of the cabinet. When that was opened, I saw some Ilford XP2 Super (ISO 400). I was unfamiliar with this, so bought a roll as an experiment for £7.50. I later saw this for £5.29 at Skears in Northampton.

Plantation Road Plantation Road

Plantation Road area, Leighton Buzzard - Ilford XP2 film

When the roll of XP2 was developed, it was clear that the images were sharp, even before scanning. Unlike the other film types, the negatives had a pinkish hue. XP2 is an odd film as it is chromogenic film stock: made to be colour processed. Matt Moloney (Filtergrade) has a an outline and review of this film type which I found immensely useful.

With the pink hue, I wondered about scanning (pink is the opposite of green in colour terms), but online found that the VueScan software I use with the Canon 9000 scanner I have has a specific colour setting. It was as easy as working with a colour film.

Plantation Road Plantation Road

Old Linslade Road, Leighton Buzzard - Ilford XP2 film


I had never had success with negatives before I bought the Canon 9000 scanner, but this made it easy. Instead of the standard Canon software, that had to be downloaded anyway (my computers do not have disk drives these days), I went for Hamrick's VueScan, which is a little idiosyncratic, but does not take long to learn. There are settings for most types of film and it recognised the scanner on first use. It is updated regularly. There is plenty of information online, and queries are answered quickly.

Old Linslade Road Old Linslade Road

Firs Path, Old Linslade Road, Leighton Buzzard - Ilford PanF Plus (ISO 50) film

Film Types

In Bangkok there are a couple of places I go to buy film, although the selection has been limited. A shop that sells used film cameras in Thaniya Plaza (off Silom Road) has a fridge full of 35mm and 120 film. These are mainly Ilford 125 and 400, and Kodak Portra the last time I went. The prices are not becoming any cheaper.

With the recent popularity of film, Lomo cameras have a certain attraction for some, and there are Lomo films available, mostly in Siam Discovery Center. I was not happy with earlier experiments with these films as they had X-ray damage. I am told that supplies have been improved.

My most recent purchases (apart from what I picked up in the UK) have been from Camera Film Photo: an outlet in Hong Kong that despatches film quickly (a couple of days for my last order). There are just under 20 film makers represented, including the newly resurrected Kodak Ektachrome. As an aside, at a time when film is seeing a second life, it is also worth looking at a PetaPixel article by Oliver Kmia on Why Kodak Died and Fujifilm Thrived: A Tale of Two Film Companies.

While writing this, I ordered 5 rolls of Bergger Pancro 400 that I have wanted to try for a while for $40.40, and another 5 rolls of the Ilford Pan F Plus ($30.50). Shipping brought the total to $83.60 (2830.18 baht). The order should be delivered within a few days. I noticed that the site has preloaded (35mm) disposable cameras with Ilford HP5 Plus (ISO 400) and Ilford XP2 Plus (currently out of stock). I may try these at some time in the future.

Grand Union Canal Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal, Leighton Buzzard - Rollei 400 film

Working Restrictions

With the poor internet connections I suffered where I was staying, it was not until I arrived back in Bangkok that I was able to start backing up to iCloud. As the RAW photos from the D850 I use are rather large, the 800 photos took around 36 hours before the updated albums were available on the iPhone. Photos uploads everything: even images that have been deleted. Once they are in the database, they exist (including in the Deleted folder) and must also be uploaded in case a user ever wants to Un-delete. If any items in the Photos section are put into albums, these are only updated when all other images are uploaded. In a way it is a guide that the processes are complete.

I also took 7 rolls of film into AirLab near BTS On Nut for developing the day after I returned. A student put me on to this service and I am grateful for this. I collected them on Thursday and for two evenings, I scanned the rolls and edited the TIFF images in Photos on the Mac. Most of the time I use the basic tools, but also like to improve images using the Tonality Pro extension in Photos. I also made use of the Dodge and Burn Tools (lighten and darken) in Pixelmator Retouch with a couple of these photographs.

Grand Union Canal Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal, Leighton Buzzard - Rollei 400 film

Two particular problems keep coming up in my handling of images in Photos: metadata; and labelling. I have been used to looking for the information contained within the file, but apart from a few basics, this has always been lacking in Photos. I have more success on iOS with the Investigate app that I can also use from within Photos that shows me a wide range of data. That this information can be seen on an iOS device, means that it is within the image and could be seen in Photos, if only the software allowed it. I can do this by exporting an image to the desktop, then opening with Preview, but this is not the one-click operation that Aperture allowed.

Labels are another feature of Aperture that have not found their way across to Photos. I have a collection of images taken with different types of film on the Hasselblad. If I want to reference the specific film the image was taken with, I have entered it in the information panel, but need to click on that for confirmation. Far easier would have been a color label: blue for PanFPlus, green for Rollei 400, Red for Ilford XP2.

Grand Union Canal Grand Union Canal

The Globe Inn - Rollei 400 film and Linslade Lock - PanF Plus

This was brought to mind this week when I saw an article by William Gallagher (AppleInsider) on the rise and fall - or rather inertia - of Aperture. I still have it installed and use it for older images: these are in 8 libraries I keep on external disks and they may well have to be exported at some stage. What finally stopped me using it as a day to day application was the incompatibility of RAW images from my Nikon D850 (which are handled by Photos).

Grand Union Canal Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal, Leighton Buzzard - PanF Plus

Results and Comments

The whole way of taking photographs has shifted over the last few years as was noted in that PetaPixel article by Oliver Kmia. There has been something of a resurgence of film in the last few years, but there has also been an increase in the number of young people I see carrying real cameras (not smartphones). I wanted to relearn skills that had been lost with the DSLR, including the idea of care: craftsmanship. Young people are also taking up film too and, as there are few new cameras (perhaps apart from Lomo) the used camera market has seen price increases, especially for Leica and other high end brands.

With a DSLR and the iPhone I know what I am getting almost as soon as I have taken the photograph, although I enjoy careful editing to bring out the best in the images: something many might also consider, particularly exposure, contrast, white balance, crop and alignment.

Grand Union Canal Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal, Leighton Buzzard - PanF Plus

Each time I scan an image with the film, there is a surprise: some good, some disasters. I lost a whole roll recently to light leaks: my fault. As with DSLR images, scanned film photographs will still benefit from judicious editing. I work on a figure of 10% - of all the images I take, about one tenth may be good, although I am pleased if I can push this a little higher.

A few months ago, Wim Wenders wrote a criticism on the state of modern photography. I put out my own comments on this, but did concede that much output is destined for social networking sites. I suspect that most photographs taken these days never see the light of day outside a computer or smartphone.

As I plan to put out some of my recent work in print form, I first tried with the Printastic app and created a book online. I sent one to the family in the UK and two to myself (one for the office and one for home). I had used this service before and have always been quite satisfied with the results. It is a decent alternative to Instagram.

Photographs in a Printastic Book

There is also an option in Pages on Macs and iOS to create an e-Book which can be shared online. The book can also be exported as a PDF document and in other formats making it available for printing.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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