Tag Archives: 50mm

My Photographic Time Tunnel – Hasselblad 500C/M

It was a very exciting moment when Yael showed me her Medium format camera – The magnificent Hasselblad 500C/M. She bought it about ten years ago because her teacher at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem told his Photography students they must own a Medium format camera. It was a great expanse for a student, and it took her many years to appreciate it as an asset. Nowadays, though rarely used, Yael’s Hasselblad has a place of honor in her closet, and every now and then, when the muse is right, she takes it for a walk & shot. I was honored to borrow it from her, and immediately thought of ways I can make the best of the two weeks we are going to spend together.

So what is a Medium format??? Apparently the size of the recorded image has several standard measurements, both in Analog and Digital photography. The most common is the 24 by 36mm, film canned in the 135 film canisters, also called 35mm or Full Frame. The Medium format, which is usually 6×6 cm, comes in the 120 film roll (12 frames) or 220 film roll (24 frames). And then we’ve got the founding fathers, the large format with film as big as 4 X 5 inches (102x127mm). For me it was the first chance to play with the big guy’s toys, and I felt like going from earth to outer space. Well, the Hasselblad was the camera chosen by NASA for the landing on the moon…

There are many medium format cameras, but the Swedish Hasselblad considered being one of the best in the market. Using Carl Zeiss Lenses, it is a powerful tool with very sharp results. Medium format cameras are usually used by professionals for fashion and commercial. The high resolution enables enlarging parts of the picture and having outstanding sharpness.

Though the 500C/M is “small” for a Medium format Hasselblad (V-System series), it’s still a heavy and very large tool for street photography. The use of the high mirrored Focusing screen, even if large and bright to watch, takes a lot of experience to get hold of – what you see inside the screen is a mirrored reflection of the view, so the landscape is reversed.

Yom-Kippur arrived and it was a chance to make a grand use of the Hasselblad. I loaded it with Kodak ISO 100 120 film, and placed it in my video Lowepro backpack. Yom-Kippur in Israel is a very interesting occasion. I won’t get into the religious ideas of the tradition, but it’s very similar to the Christian habit of going to confession. The Jewish people punish themselves with one day of fast with no other activities then praying. The country is completely shut down for 24 hours. No cars, no shops, nothing! The non-religious people make this a holiday and opportunity for some quiet time with the family – or better yet, they take the bikes and drive the free-of-cars roads. Some even go open and calls this day – The bicycle holiday! So here I go, in the spirit of the day, riding on my bikes, rolling fast toward Ayalon high-way that leads into Tel-Aviv.

The next week I went with it to Tel-Aviv:

Juli’s restaurant in HaCarmel market:

Hasselblad 500C/M on Facebook

Hasselblad 500C/M on YouTube:

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My Photographic Time Tunnel – Miranda Sensorex

Alexander from Jerusalem knew about my crazy bug with film cameras and tried for a long time to raise my interest in his SLR’s collection. A trip to Jerusalem doesn’t take more than one hour drive from Tel-Aviv, but still, I had no big rush to see a Canon or a Nikon. About a week ago he called me and said he has something very special for me. An SLR I just can’t miss. When I asked which SLR he was talking about, he whispered only one word: “Miranda…”. “Miranda who?” I asked. “Check it out” he said, and the conversation was over. I went quickly to the nearest Internet portal – in this case, my Ayo (That’s how Gefen calls my IPhone), and googled “Miranda camera”. Well, of course I was interested – Miranda is a beauty.

Miranda got me thinking all over again about what is it with old cameras we just can’t resist? Is it the mechanic ingenuity that runs by many small metallic parts as a clockwork and snaps light upon chemical papers? Is it the time-lapse that runs through the tool every time we touch it? Or maybe it’s only the end product that we get after 36 clicking or so? I’m sure it’s all of the above and more… You may add your own likeness to this list. When laying my eyes on Miss Miranda I was aware to the fact that beauty is a very important quality, and was immediately drawn to it. I held Miranda in my hands and was amazed how nice it looked. But it was also very heavy in comparison to other cameras I knew (about 988g with the lens). Well people, what can I say? It ain’t heavy… it’s my camera.

And now for some history if you’ll like: Miranda is a Japanese camera manufactured first in 1955 by a long dead company originally called Orion Camera Co.  A lot of thought and ergonomics went into their line of products, but eventually they didn’t last the race and had to close in 1976, leaving behind enough cameras to fill both collectors and users cabinets. The Miranda Sensorex was manufactured between 1966 and 1972 and considered to be a very popular model at the time. It has two unique features that I find to be very interesting. First, if you consider the ergonometric aspect, is the front-mounted shutter release. It will take you some time to get used to it, since we are so used to the shutter release on top of the camera, but once you’ve got it, you’ll ask yourself why it isn’t more popular in the world. The second feature, even more interesting, is the interchangeable prism allowing you to release the viewfinder and look at the prism from above like you’ll do with most medium format cameras. I, for one, am not familiar with this technique. Getting used to it let you take photos from a lower angle. It’s very confusing shifting and rotating the camera in all directions until you get hold of the opposite way in which you have to grasp the view. Nevertheless, having done just that may reward you with something a little bit different.

As always, in order to know a camera, you have to shoot with it. I must admit that lately I’m changing cameras like you’ll change your socks, and with time it’s starting to make me want to stick with just one favorite one. I wanted Miranda to be my companion to take with me for the long yellow brick road of my life. I have 3 lenses for it, ranged from 35mm to 200mm, and it has a very convenient Through-the-lens (TTL) light metering system that makes it easier to shoot. And sure, she is a looker, and you always want to be with a beauty by your side. But the thing that made me go on to the next camera was the weight she carry with her almost Full Metal Jacket of a body. It was like carrying a stone in my bag, rumbling all around inside of it. By the end of the roll I was happy to be done with it and leave it behind when going out. Hell, it was a hard breakup for the both of us. Miranda will find her way, I’m sure of it. Such a beauty doesn’t goes to waste. No doubt she will find her glory behind some glass window drawing dirty looks. Someday I’ll settle down with a camera, and when that day comes, you’ll be the first to be invited to the wedding…  My only hope is that you won’t go whispering behind my back: “You see this guy, he gave up a Miranda. Just look at what he ended up with… The poor bustard…”.

Anyway, here are the results from our short love affair:

The Dome of the Rock overlooking the wailing wall in the old city of Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall

Tel-Aviv beach at sunset – My favorite setting

Ingrid Feldman – a model and a make-up artist. I took a similar photo with the Kiev 4AM.

Chompi the cat

This is Mazen the butcher from Tira.

Miranda Sensorex Page on Facebook

Miranda Sensorex on YouTube:


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Kiev 4AM

Here I’ve got a sad story about the last roll a camera took before dying in my hands…

It wasn’t a love story of any sort, and when I looked at her for the first time she didn’t leave any impression at all. Leonid told me that in those days (early 70th) he used to shot with his Zorki, but when he got a job with the Russian news company he was given a more professional tool – The Kiev camera. It was a crude beast in comparison to the Zorki, but considered by the craftsmen’s of the era to be a working horse. Since then he had a few Kiev cameras, but they all died on him eventually. “It is possible to fix the camera”, he said, “but it is too complicated operation, getting inside this body stuffed with little parts, and fishing for that torn spring. Better to let her rest in peace. Be glad that she gave you this last roll”.

When working with old cameras you should be very careful; any wrong turn of a button could lead to a disaster. I’m not sure what the turning point with this one was, but when unloading the film it suddenly happened, I couldn’t wind it anymore, and it just kept turning to no end. A sad moment indeed, but I didn’t have any real feeling for this one. It was hard work to shot with, it’s heavy and you have to do the focus from above, which is just hell to get used to. I wasn’t sad about her death, just disappointed…

But then I got the roll back from the lab. Of course the film had many flaws – Flashes of light at the sides, dots and scratches. But still, I just loved the photos. At that moment I felt the sting. I’m not sure I’ll go searching for another Kiev, but I sure will miss this one.

The story of the Kiev cameras is an interesting one. After the Second World War Russia raided German factories for machinery and raw materials. A very prestigious establishment was the Zeiss Company and factories in Dresden, manufactures of the Contax cameras. The Russians transferred it all to Kiev and made it their own. They called the camera by the name of the city that accommodates it. So you can say that the Kiev cameras are actually Contax. About 30 years later they still made these cameras (Kiev 4AM) with very similar specifications, but it wasn’t anything like the early ones from the late 40th (Kiev 2) that were totally German by design and parts.

So what actually the Kiev 4AM had to say for itself?

It’s a rangefinder camera with two parallel rangefinder windows that should be kept clear while you hold the camera. It has a Zeiss/Contax bayonet mount. My Kiev 4AM has an Arsenal Helios-103 53mm lens, f/ 1:1.8 with 0.9m to infinity focal range. The Shutter speed on this camera goes from B, 1/2 up to 1/1000. This Kiev 4AM is from 1980 (Indicated by the two first digits in the serial number), but I’m told that later models has reached a shutter speed of 1/1250. But I haven’t said anything about the nicest part of the Kiev, in my opinion anyway, which is the vertical slat shutter that works like a guillotine – Snaps from the top with a nice click that doesn’t bother the camera when it moves. On the down side you’ve got the weight of the camera – which is about 560g…

Two things you have to know before handling this camera: 1. Winding the film by turning the shutter knob clockwise must be done before changing the shutter speed. 2. At the end of the film, when you want to wind it back, you should find the exact point of the right lower ring, so it’s pushing the film release pin inside the camera. It’s not an easy task, because sometimes the inner lever is too worn to do that. At this point, when I thought I could wind the film back, I got this Kiev 4AM killed…

I had my doubts about this camera from the very first moment. It felt heavy and clumsy in my hands. I loaded it with film and went out for a nice travel with two of my friends (Clarisse from Paris and Marta from Rome), that came to Israel for the first time. We had a wonderful day, walking through the beautiful streets of Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, meeting interesting people, eating good food and taking photos every now and then. While Clarisse and Marta were shooting like crazy with their little digital cameras, I was awkwardly carrying the Kiev, slowly focusing, and clicking with a bitter taste of failure in my mouth.

I took some photos on the weekend in Kibbutz Glil-Yam.

Before I was done with the film, I made some photos at the studios where I work on a show.

 This is Leonid Basin, The owner of the Kiev 4AM

Getting the scanned images from the lab made me take the camera out of the drawer of dead cameras I’ve got in the closet (with the dead bodies of a Canon Canonet and my grandfather’s Canon EX EE) for a second look. I played with the dead knob, reloaded the camera with used film, played with it some more, and… Surprise! The camera came back to life! You just can’t imagine my surprise. I called Leonid and told him about it, and he also couldn’t believe, after seeing it dead with his own eyes. I guess this Kiev is meant to last, and maybe the feel of film inside of her chamber made her want more clicking and more touring.

In the following YouTube episode of “My Photographic Time Tunnel” you can see how beautifully it operates:

Kiev 4AM Page on Facebook


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