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Newbie Question Need Help


New Member
Had my first real portrait session yesterday and have a couple of questions. I have a 501cm with the acute split screen. I had a difficult time focusing due to low light in studio. The other problem was the split prism was not where I needed it most of the time either. Is there another screen that is brighter and has a better means of focusing? Second, I was working a pro of 32 years and he does not like the square format for portraits. He has got me second guessing myself as to will clients like the square image as a wall hanging portrait? I know I could use a 6x4.5 mask but I hate to loose the extra image area. How do ya'll deal with this issue? Is it a problem or has he jsut been using 2 1/4 x 2 3/4 too long and doesn't like 6X6? Last, I have a new style A12 back and upon the second loading, I can't get the film holder in or out of the housing without depressing the pressure plate. With the film holder out I see nothing happening when I turn the locking ring. Shouldn't that locking ring move the pressure plate back and forth or something?

Thanks for your all your help.
if you have trouble focussing portraits with the acute matte split screen try the following: Turn the screen by 90 degrees so that the split is vertical. With this it is very easy to focus on the eyes. If you still have problems: Use a bright finder like the rigid focussing hoods (I have two for sale) or a more recent prism finder.

There is nothing wrong with square format portraits, do what you like. Nobody ever complained to my about that.

You are right, turning the locking ring should move the pressure plate, time for repair.

Are you using the pop-up magnifier? Or just focusing on the ground glass? If not for the pop-up magnifier I couldn't focus a Hasselblad at noon on a sunny summer day : -)

You may also need a diopter if your eyes don't match the original pop-up magnifier ... I needed a plus1 diopter.

If you're doing all that, then the suggestion to reorient the focusing screen is a good place to start. You can move the split over an object, focus, quickly reframe and shoot. It takes practice, but you'll get very fast at it pretty quickly.

If you're using a prism ... I had difficulty with the Hasselblad Prism until I got a flip magnifier for it. When it gets hard to focus I just flip it in place and problem solved.
Ulrik & Marc,
Thanks for your suggestion on turning the screen, that should help. One thing I left out was that I am using the PM90 and maybe that's part of the problem. I'm going to try and find a flip magnifier as that could help as well. Thanks again guys. Rick
Absolutely get the flip magnifier Richard, it'll make a world of difference.

It can stay on the finder all the time and is out of the way except when you need it ... like in low light or especially with wide-angles.
Ulrik, you make a good and often overlooked suggestion - one I often use.

In fact if I have 2 bodies with me, I set them up with one vertical and one horizontal for that reason - just as useful a tip with non-people subjects too.
i know it has already been said, but I don't see anything wrong with the square format for portraits. Sometimes it works better for me. Sometimes I crop in a bit. The image will tell you what to do, not some dumb guy who doesn't know better. Use the force (of the square image)...
Jason, I agree entirely. Actually, the square format has a lot going for it, in my opinion, for a variey of subjects. Sadly, too many people think that things like the golden mean, etc. are some sort of guarantee of image quality. The thing that baffles me is why they wasted their money on a square format camera.
"The thing that baffles me is why they wasted their money on a square format camera".

Because with a square you need not reorient the camera for landscape or portrait mode, especially helpful when using a flash on bracket ... another reason the sq. cameras like the Hasselblad were favored by Wedding and event photographers.

It is also a fine way for commercial photographers to include enough bleed area for all the different publication sizes, and for Art Director layouts requiring the use of an image in a lot of different cropping configurations.

Not to mention that the square can be just as pleasing as a Golden Mean rectangle. I frequently crop 35mm frames to a square because they look better.
Marc, I appreciate all those reasons. However, anyone who admits to having cropped a 2:3 frame to a square is an artist in my eyes!
I will admit to cropping my 645 and 35 images to square when the image calls for it. And there have been times when I have cropped my square negs to a more pleasing rectangle shape. The image dictates what should be done, nothing else...

I think the issues you are raising are pretty common to Hasselblad newbies. The best cure is to use it and them some more! You will suddenly just switch into 6x6 mode and the focusing will also just get easier. The hassy has its own special advantages but also its own limitations. A lot of 'focusing' probelms in my opinion is actually movement artefact of either the subject or the camera. Ideally it needs tripod mounting or a pretty decent shutter speed if hand held. The latter then starts to eat into your depth of field and this is even less forgiving of any inaccuracy in focusing. A lot of the mistakes that I have made were in trying to make the camera perform like a 35mm.


Richard Marks
Jason, but what about when you could not get a frame of the right size off the shelf? Custom frames can be very pricey for some purposes. (I can get square ones, incidentally). A compromise can be called for. Actually my comments were not entirely serious - but several decades ago I became p*ssed off by amateur camera club "judges" who had rigid rules on everthing. I was too young at the time to understand that that was one sign of mental instability. I came in for some adverse comment when I won a small prize for a round photograph, of all thing, which was my cue for leaving the camera club scene as it seemed so silly. I was less tolerant then, too.

I got the gist of what you are saying -- but just the thought of creating an image, or being limited in creating one, just to fit a particular frame makes me cringe. Reminds me of times when I was involved professionally in painting and illustrating and people asked (quite rare, but it happens) to commission a picture, or have one altered, to fit a room's colour scheme or decor -- makes one shiver.

Mind you, exploring a format size that one isn't familiar with can be quite stimulating, both in a creative and an aesthetic sense, and as a learning experience. I generally find that whenever I change from square to another format I just adjust to it naturally depending on the image I wish to create or just capture. Perhaps that is why I find it strange when people talk about rangefinder (i.e., Leica) shooting, Rollei shooting, etc. -- yes certain camera types are more appropriate than others in given circumstances, but in large part that is a matter of being overly concious of the camera rather than working with it comfortably to the point that it doesn't intrude overmuch on the process. Actually, the latter point is one of the beauties of working with a well-designed camera -- or any other tool of comparable quality for that matter.
Creating a good image always is an excercise in making one thing match another. Does it matter whether it is matching a subject to a certain format, or vice versa?
The result always is a certain subject, inside a certain format. Making one fit the other is an unavoidable (and essential) part of the creative proces. You don't just 'capture' something. You can't just 'capture' something.
Don't let the fact that you can work a bit with the 'limits' make you believe that these limits are anything but a given.

Making all subjects fit one particular format is just as much 'art' as making the format fit a particular subject.
Adjusting to a new format in which to fit all sorts of subjects (i.e. knowing how to compose, inside a given frame) does not require more 'art' or 'craft' than adjusting format to fit a particular subject (again: knowing how to compose, this time a given subject inside a variable frame).

'Capture' certainly is one of those 'loaded' terms that is often debated or commented on in photo forums ;-) :)

By 'capture' I meant the off-the-cuff, somewhat spontaneous shots that one composes quickly and fires off versus a more contemplative approach -- sort of the difference between a 20 second gesture drawing of a figure vs. a more time-intensive 'finished' study. Interesting enough, such relatively spontaneous shots (and drawings) often have more 'life' to them and wind-up being the keepers in the long run.

Of course, I am well aware that 'capture' is quite commonly used in reference to digital photographs -- wasn't all that common a term 15 or 20 years back. No intention of belabouring the point, just sharing my take on the subject.

Re. the remainder of your message: depending on one's purpose, it can sometimes be desireable to choose a subject/image and format that do not 'match' the other. Internal tension and/or apparent inbalance can be quite effective; of course, to make this 'work' one generally needs a good handle on the chosen medium and, moreso, a well-developed sense of design. To always make one thing match the other runs the risk of becoming overly formalized -- not necessarily a bad thing depending on one's audience/clientele -- which can be devitalizing aesthetically over time.
i agree with bojan that finding the right sized frames can be tricky. getting nice (but cheap) square frames is hard to do. However, I have found some at ikea, sometimes target, and other places. And sometimes I make my own frames. The big problem for me is finding cheap frames for my big prints. any frame over 24x36 inches is impossible to find ready-made and reasonably priced. And I think the ikea square frames I use are 19x19 inches, so I am limited to about a 15x15 inch image in those... I suggest that you practice your wood working skills and think about making custom frames in your home when you need a special size...

I didn't mean to refer to the digiworld.
I meant to say we are always matching things to other things. That, because that's the nature of the game.
'Capture', in a sense opposed to making a thing fit something else, as if you then get the thing itself without imposing the nature (and limitations) of the chosen medium upon it, is an impossibility.

Making one thing fit another (the thing that makes you cringe) in this case is called "composing", and you quite simply cannot avoid that: there cannot be photography without having to do that (so i guess you will cringe a lot

Now you can do that spontaneously (your 'capture'), or very deliberately. You can choose to make the format fit the subject, or the subject the format.
But whatever you do, and however you do it: it's both an unavoidable excercise, and there is no more (or less) 'art' in the one than there is in the other.
I agree and it could be said that even greats like Adams cheated in thier own ways, they used film, they used different filters or different focal length lenses you could go on and on, really it`s just about the photograph you acheive not really how you got it.
In fact years ago I would work on getting an image for hours the hard way or by traditional methods for the sake of it, if you get the same result quicker and easier, great!!.
If you enjoy doing things the hard or traditional way that is another story, go for that too! imo.
After all the greats were always looking for better, easier ways, you could even say the zone system is cheating and really not a pure form, in that in some ways it actually takes some creativity and mystery away from the "art"......if wanted to follow that line of thinking.