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501CM Flash Photography


New Member
I'm a new guy on the block and have a question about the best strobe unit for the 501CM. Flash would be used for portrait photography. Also, could anyone help me understand how to set the flash up being that the camera has no TTL meter. How do you know what F stop and shutter speed to use. Needless to say I am new to manual photography and Hasselblad. I just purchased a new 501CM kit and a 150mm lens. Have been using for natural light images and am blown away with the quality of the Zeiss lenses! Thanks in advance for any help that you might provide.
>I have a old 501cm with a few lens. Since 501 is all manual camera, the fancy TTL type flash is not really necessary. One of the workhorse for automatic flash is a Vivitar 285. It has automatic mode or full manual mode. It also has 1/2, 1/4 and 1/16 output setting. This would do well with the fill flash situation. The way it sounds you have not use manual flash much. Sorry, if I offend you. In old time, before dedicated flash, everyon e use the flash table on the back of the flash to set their good old manual focus, if you are lucky, might be a metered camera. Base on the distance to your subject, your flash will tell you what aperture to set. The farther away the subject, the bigger the aperture (the smaller aperture number). On Vivitar 285, you can set on four automatic mode, and each mode will give you a range of shooting distance. Concerning the shutter speed. You are on the right kind of camera. Since 501 is leaf shutter, that means the shutter is on the lens, and open from the center a small round hole to the entire lens opening. This kind of shuttle allows you to set the shuttle at all available speeds. That means from B to 1/500. Obviously that means you can easily do outdoor fill flash without slow than your flash speed like most curtain type shutter which has sync flash speed from 60 to 300 (such as Nikon F5, we talking top of the line). Remember, the burst of flash is around 1/10000 sec, that means you really cannot set any speed faster than the flash itself provided your aperture is opening evenly on the entire film. Without giving an entire lesson on flash photograph, let's say the aperture is controlled by the distance of the subject. And that is listed right on the flash you have. the shuttle speed in 501 can be any speed, obviously it should be the right setting for your picture. I suggest to check out some books on flash photograph, Kodak has a pretty good book on that. Hope this helps. Let me know if you need more assistance.


The 'best' strobe is the one that best suits you. There are few limitations with your camera, as long as the flash has provision for a flash sync cord that is needed from the lens. Do you want a small 'camera top' type flash? Or a larger hammerhead type flash, with more power?

Any flash will be triggered using the sync cord. A purely manual flash ALWAYS gives the same flash output (the power is given by the 'guide number' - the higher the more powerful). Hence, either flash distance or the exposure on the camera has to be adjusted, as the flash will always flash the same. The exception are flashes with power settings, that allow 1/2, 1/4 etc power outputs. These are very useful, especially closeup.

Many (most) flashes also have one or more automatic settings. In this case, the flash 'reads' the light bouncing back from the subject and cuts off the flash duration. This is similar, but not as good as TTL, as the flash sensor does not necessarily read the same angle as the lens. (It means a shorter flash duration than manual, though, which is better for fast action stopping).

Lastly, a flash meter can be used to read the required exposure, based on a test flash, a la studio flash set ups. Metz, at least, recommend against this, saying it can be inaccurate with small flashes. I am sure it can be adapted successfully, though.

Like Tony said, I think a book is good. Most photo books will describe using manual/auto flash.

You will need some sort of shoe for a small shoe-type flash, either with a prism on the camera, the accessory shoe for the side of the camera or on a flash bracket. The hasselblad bracket is good (even the older ones), but there are others.

The Vivitar is a long standing 'small' flash choice, but there are others, eg Metz (they made the Hasselblad hammerhead flash) and Sunpak. Both make good flashes. There are fancier choices, like Normans, too, that some people are passionate about.

Thank you both for your help. The detail each of you provided has helped a great deal to put me on the right track. Come to think about it, long time ago I used a Graflite flash (which I still have) and it is a manual flash and has a guide number of 110 at 100 ISO.The problem is that I can't find anyone that makes a battery for it. Again, thanks for your help.
i see a lot of hassie users with the quantum q flash system. Buty since it is all manual, you will have to learn how to judge things on the fly as well as use a light meter with strobe mode. Any manaul flash will work, but I'd get one with a high guide number and a lot of setting options (full, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth power, etc...) I often set my canon digi flash to manual and adjust it in 1/3 stop increments...
A nice option for Hassey flash work is the Sunpak 120J. It's a barebulb unit that provides similar light qualities of the Quantum and Hasselblad D40 flash, which are also barebulb units. The Sunpak isn't quite as powerful as the Quantum flash but it is considerably smaller and more portable. Plus, unlike the Q flash, you can either use a separate battery (including the Quantum Turbo), or readily available 4 AA batteries. The 120J can be used in auto mode, or manual, including a step-down control on the back to also set exact output like 1/2, 1/4, 1/16th etc. etc. The various light modifiers available from Quantum work on the 120J. The real kicker is that the 120j is a fraction of the cost of a Quantum even new.