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Creative selective focus, tilt/shift with a Hasselblad 500cm

Cody S , Aug 22, 2010; 11:56 p.m.

Hello all,

I'd really love to do some creative selective focus work using whatever methods are available for a Hasselblad 500 cm. I love the work of Keith Carter, but cannot afford a flexbody from the prices I have seen on e bay and keh. In a documentary on Keith Carter, he mentioned one of his cameras that has a modified fixed lens (that was glued on or something) for more portable effects similar to the flexbody. He didn't really say what modifications it was, but it was a cheap looking lens, possibly not a Hassy. I'd love to do something similar, but I am not sure where to start. Searching the forums, I saw that someone created something called a plungercam, but the link no longer works and googling returns nothing useful for me.

I would try this myself, but researching this, I see that it won't work separating the lens from the body with the 500cm. The separation would not allow the shutter to fire in the lens.

So does anyone have any creative suggestions? I have a Holga that gives me great shots for certain photos, but I'd like to try something a little different where I can have a bit more control over what I am focusing on.



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Geoff R , Aug 23, 2010; 12:16 a.m.

Have you considered a monorail camera? There are plenty around for not too much money, and will give you a large range of movements.

Michael Axel , Aug 23, 2010; 12:20 a.m.

Cody, It wouldn't be for your Hasselblad, but my friends at Lensbaby (.com) make some really cool optics that give some great results. The biggest drawback with doing something unique with a Hasselblad 500 series camera is that it requires a shutter (at least in daylight work). Another option is software. Here's one of my images I tweaked to give the toy look. With some knowledge of PhotoShop, you don't really need another software program.

House at the end of a driveway. D200, 50mm f/1.4 AIS

Michael Axel , Aug 23, 2010; 12:23 a.m.

And for reference, here is a very simple shot using a lensbaby (which you can use on most film or digital cameras).

Shevlin Park Bridge, Bend, Oregon. D200, Lensbaby 2.0.

Cody S , Aug 23, 2010; 12:43 a.m.

Thanks for those replies.

I have considered large format photography, but I already invested a lot into my Hasselblad kit and was hoping to stick with this format. I love the square format and am not ready to step up to large format as far as gear and developing.

I have also messed around in photoshop for tilt/shift effects, and while I did get some neat results, I wanted to do this in camera for darkroom printing.

The lensbaby lenses look really neat, but as mentioned, they are not for the Hassy. Even then, while the effect is definitely cool, it almost gives me vertigo. There is a sense of motion that messes with my eyes. Nevertheless, those are very nice images.

I guess I just really want this effect:


If I remember correctly, this was the image shown in the documentary that was not a flexbody shot. It may have been with the fixed lens that was modified. Cannot be sure. But isn't that a great shot? ;)


peter carter , Aug 23, 2010; 05:33 a.m.

It may not have anything to do with a special lens. Perhaps just out of focus, over exposed and developed for high contrast.

Dave S , Aug 23, 2010; 07:43 p.m.

The Carter image looks like he's using a lot of tilt, so he has placed his plane of sharp focus more or less parallel to the ground. Everything above and below it is blurry.

A cheap and easy way to get a similar effect would be with a medium format Graphic, like a '23' Century, Crown, or Speed Graphic. The front standard of these very simple cameras has the capacity for a lot of backward tilt, and tilting it ten degrees or so might give the effect you want. (The backward tilt was built into these cameras for a different purpose.)

You would have to do some experimenting to get the results you want, but when I think about it, you wouldn't have to be too fussy about focusing. Presumably that layer of sharp focus four feet off the ground extends out to infinity!

If you want to use your Hasselblad, it would be a pain, but you might be able to do some creative lens hacking with a tilted press or view camera lens on a focusing helix or bellows. The interlocks on the Hasselblad might prevent you from doing this, so it might be a dumb idea.

Leigh B. , Aug 23, 2010; 11:05 p.m.

I see that it won't work separating the lens from the body with the 500cm. The separation would not allow the shutter to fire in the lens.

Hi Cody,

The item you seek is called a PC-Mutar (made by Zeiss). There are two of them on the bay at the moment.

This device combines a 1.4x teleconverter, which accommodates the increase in lens-to-film distance, with a rise/fall mechanism . It's designed to work with the 40mm lens, and will work with lenses up to 80mm. Longer lenses will vignette. It provides vertical shift of +/- 16mm, although the full shift is not available with the 80mm lens.

It requires a dual cable release, one of which fires the lens while the other fires the body. This is a bit of a kudge (also used on the non-automatic bellows), but it does work once it's properly adjusted. The lens is cocked manually using a lever on the device.

Not an ideal solution, but a usable one. Mine works fine.

- Leigh

Q.G. de Bakker , Aug 24, 2010; 01:14 a.m.


You must be selling a PC-Mutar. (Only kidding. But are you? ;-) )

A PC-Mutar will do absolutely nothing to get the effect Cody wants.
All it does is slide the image up and down a bit (and decrease the angle of view to make that possible).
Not the thing you want, Cody.

Leigh B. , Aug 24, 2010; 08:25 a.m.

Hi Q.G.,

Nope. Not selling it. It does work for perspective control, within limits.

I don't know of any way to do what the OP wants to do with standard Hasselblad products other than the Flexbody or the ??Arc?? whatever they call it, unfortunately.

That's why I also shoot a view camera. I can glue a Hassy logo on the back and pretend. ;-)


- Leigh

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