Monday, December 20, 2010

Freelensing the Hasselblad

I was shooting the breeze with a bunch of photographers at a party last Tuesday and the Holga / Lomography / Freelensing topic came up, and I joked that I was going to go home and try it with my Hasselblad H3D-39. Everyone laughed and said "Yeah, right"and it was a good joke.

But seriously, why not? I googled it, and apparently no one is doing it, so I had to figure out how to do it for myself. The only trick was finding the menu that allowed operation without a lens, once that was accomplished, well it was Game On!

First I needed a suitable lens which would cover medium format. And I just happen to have one laying around; a god-forsaken, 100 year old, dusty, 5cm f2.0 lens off some handmade camera I bought at a sidewalk garage sale in San Francisco 10 years ago for $2. Here it is mounted on a Graflex lensboard:

I also experimented with a H26 Extension Tube and 1.7X Converter to see what it would do. Here's the whole kit:

I'm going to assume you already know what freelensing is and how to focus, etc. So with this kit, I tried a few variations around the house, and aside from horrible color because of my CFL bulbs around the house, the results were quite pleasing. The following shot totally looks like old film:

Keep in mind that I'm shooting these hand-held at a 1/30 sec. Here's a color shot:

I'm sure if I used a tripod and had better light, it would move this toward the "passable" category. But overall it has that nice soft look, but of course will be nearly noiseless/grainless. Something like this could be the perfect mood for a mystery/crime novel book cover, or possibly a CD cover.

One more thing I wanted to try was a single element convex enlarger condenser I had lying around. Keep in mind that this was never mean to be optically corrected, it was designed to spread light evenly from a lightbulb to a negative. Also there's a  giant gap between the glass and the camera, so the contrast was shot and had to be jacked up in Lightroom. But...

... its a nice look anyway. The thing of it is, there is no way to reproduce this look with a filter, so I'm just going to add this to my arsenal of "things I can do with my camera". Looking back at the super sharp portrait of Jerome Gordon from earlier this week, and and comparing it to this, you get the extreme ends of the spectrum of what's possible.

One last caveat on this, be sure to do your experimentation in a controlled environment; you're exposing your sensor to the elements by taking the lens off and operating the camera. My sensor was filthy within minutes.


  1. Very cool. I love doing this kind of stuff, it's pretty easy to make a pinhole lens from a body cap if you want to play some more, and have one you can sacrifice.