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Hand-holding a Hasselblad (maybe a monopod?)

Howard B , Dec 29, 2000; 09:03 p.m.

I'm interested in a 501 CM with an 80mm lens.

I prefer 100 ISO film with 35mm, but I guess I could deal with 400 ISO in place of carrying a tripod.

So here's the question: what's the slowest shutter speed I can use (with 400 ISO) and still successfully hand-hold the camera? What if I use a monopod? I'm assuming f/2.8. If you feel strongly that I should not be shooting wide open with this lens, please provide alternative advice!

And by the way, what's the best way to hand-hold a Hassie?



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Jeff Drew , Dec 30, 2000; 01:30 a.m.

I never had great luck hand-holding a Hassie below 1/125th and expecting truly sharp negs or chromes, no matter the film speed. A few of my buddies, true Hasselblad acolytes, use tripods & MLU religiously - all the time! Their stuff is consistently very sharp! Check out Ernst Wildi's books and "how-to's" and you will find excellent techniques and a wealth of lore. I did use a monopod often, while hiking throught the woods with Hassie. It works better than hand-holding, but not as good as a sturdy tripod. I can consistently hand-hold my old TLRs at much slower speeds,

marcus smith , Dec 30, 2000; 01:43 a.m.

I read on an old post somewhere to take a cord and fasten it to the base of the camera, leaving the other end drooping to the ground. You then step on the end, and coupled with the neckstrap you get your camera steadied by three points of tension. I have not yet tried it but the theory seems sound, and very portable.

David Henderson , Dec 30, 2000; 12:15 p.m.

You haven't told us what sorts of photography you do, nor what type of film you use but I assume from "carrying a tripod " that your main interest is outdoors and that you aren't primarily studio-based or a wedding/portrait photographer. That being the case, I'd support the 1/125 answer above, but I must confess to a strong belief that no MF SLR is always hand-holdable in natural light.

Firstly I don't think that an intention or necessity to use the lens wide open or close to it is likely to bring the best out of a superb camera. Virtually any test on any lens will tell you that best performance doesn't occur wide-open.

What happens when you need substantial depth of field? A 6x6 std lens of 80mm will give you the same depth of field that you'd get on an 80mm lens for 35mm - that is for the same angle of view you get less dof from a MF lens anyway - which is all the more reason not to commit yourself to a route which restricts your choice of aperture.

What about low light photography or using a polariser? It's amazing how often I find myself with exposures of F11 and 1/4 - 1 second, admittedly with ISO 50 film. Even with a ISO 400 film you'll still get nowhere near the shutter speed for handholding.

After buying one of the best cameras around, why should you prejudice the results by using film types which certainly in my view won't optimise performance, although b&w will be a lot better than colour in this respect?

I guess in summary I'd say this. On virtually every walk, or every trip, you'll find some shots you can handhold acceptably and some which would be much better with a tripod. If you're not carrying a tripod you'll either miss these or shoot them less well than you'd like, and if you're carrying a tripod then you may as well use it all the time.

If you really do want to use MF without a tripod then a rangefinder such as the Mamiya 7 or the new Bronica will give you the ability to handhold down to 1/15 with decent technique. However as a search will tell you, rangefinders also carry a cost in terms of flexibility.

I'm sorry I've never used a monopod so can't comment on that aspect.

Bill Mitchell , Dec 30, 2000; 12:51 p.m.

You might consider a Rollei TLR. Most folks can hand hold them down to 1/4 second or less.

Michael M , Dec 30, 2000; 03:09 p.m.

Howard: With respect to the above suggestion of three-point tethered tensioning device....forget it for MF SLR. The mass and surface area in even the slightest breeze cannot be stabilized by such a system. A Hassy is best used on a tripod, although I have been reasonably successful using my Gitzo CF monopod. Under said circumstances, I use MLU and min. 1/125 shutter speed. I also try to limit usage to my 110/2 lens(I have 2000FCW), or 180CF. I occasionally shoot 250/4 but never 50/2.8 on monopod due to its mass and bulk being unsuitable for even low wind conditions. Your 80/2.8 is compact enough that a quality monopod may be employed. In said circumstances I would recommend using std. hood in lieu of ProShade to reduce wind induced vibration. 80/2.8 is pretty sharp wide open, better however at f4.

Tom Meyer , Dec 31, 2000; 01:16 a.m.

The key to a proper answer lies in your aesthetics. I frequently use my Hasselblad on a monopod at speeds as slow as one second, and all my lenses wide open, but not when sharpness is an issue.

I use the Hblad for more than one reason, not just for it's sharp optics. A large negative provides a smoother tonal scale at the same print size as a smaller neg, and I like looking at the world through a square hole. I can rent equipment anywhere, and there's a huge used market for almost any model line.

More to the point, though, I use a heavy Bogen monopod, with a Horseman quickrelease on a tilt only head. With my right middle finger on the mirror lockup, the right index falls nicely on the shutter release. With relatively static subjects requiring little depth of field, and strong emphsasis on graphic design as opposed to essential detail, this technique has provided many effective and successful images. If this was the other photo.net forum... I'd post one (sigh)... t

Philip Y. Graham , Jan 01, 2001; 08:49 a.m.

To answer your question - I don't believe you can hand-hold a Hasselblad 501 at any of its shutter speeds and obtain consistently sharp results (except perhaps using studio flash), although you may still get good images.

For me, Hasselblad SLR = Slow Film + Tripod + Mirror Lock Up.

But if you want to hand-hold, then use fast film, the fastest shutter speed possible, use the waist level finder, cradle the camera body on your two hands holding it firmly against your chest, using the fingers of your left hand to focus and your right index finger to press the shutter release. Trying to use mirror lock up when the camera is hand-held is not a good idea. Also it is more difficult to hand hold the camera firmly if a prism viewfinder (especially the 90 degree one) is being used - you have to hold the camera higher and cannot easily use your chest for support.

There is an accessory grip available which may give extra support for hand-held shots.

I do not like monopods but many photographers find them very useful.

Hand-holding a camera does add a certain freedom to your photography - there are even some photographers who hand-hold their large format cameras. But if you do want to routinely use a MF camera hand-held then I would agree that a rangefinder MF camera is the best option. For a recent project, I took some river scenes with my 5x4 camera set up on a sturdy tripod. At the same time I took a few shots hand-held with my Fuji GA645. I ended up using the pictures taken with the Fuji - not as large or perhaps as sharp but they were better images.

Colm Boran , Jan 01, 2001; 10:25 p.m.

In Ernst Wildi's book, The Medium Format Advantage, he talks about how the waist-level finder is inappropriately named. For hand-holding a Hasselblad with a waist-level finder, he recommends pushing the finder firmly into your forehead while shooting. He also makes some recommendations on how to use a monopod effectively: don't stand it straight up like a pole, lean it out in front of you, spread your legs a bit, and again, push your forehead down onto the camera to help steady it. Personally, I don't like pushing my forehead down onto the waist-level finder and I don't own a a monopod. I use a tripod almost all the time and even with it, I notice a pretty big difference between shots made with the mirror locked up and those where the mirror is moving. Get a copy of The Medium Format Advantage or another one like it. You can get it for around $35.00 at buy.com or book stores.

Robin Smith , Jan 02, 2001; 10:52 a.m.


I handhold the Hassey frequently using a Gitzo carbon fiber monopod using the 45 degree finder. I shoot at 1/60 at full aperture (80 f2.8) quite a bit and find it works very well. Of course, if is not sharp in the sense of Ansel Adams sharp but it is nice. I shoot with Delta 400 and have used some Delta 3200 at night with excellent results - any lack of sharpness for 8 x 8 prints seeming to be more from subject movement and shallow depth of focus. I frequently take close ups of my baby with a monopod and 80 and an extension tube and the results are lovely. I would be wary about using my 150mm at these speeds, but it works very well of course with the 50mm f4 at full aperture too. I think you should go ahead I have always been pleasantly suprised how good the pictures look at 8 x 8 enlargements. If you want 16 x 20s you may find something lacking, but the gain through MF tonality makes up for some loss of critical sharpness.

Personally I would use 1/125 for an 80mm and try and use a monopod. With a monopod you can go to 1/60 reliably and perhaps below. I do not prelease in these circumstances as you may loose the framing.

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