Taking a huge step back in size, but a just a few steps forward in technology, I thought I'd show a few of the 120 film cameras that I've been playing around with since I started photography. Starting with the pictured 1967 Hasseblad 500c, it's a completely manual, utterly analog, electricity-less camera. And gorgeous to boot. Sure it may lack metering, precision shutter or film backs that are practically foolproof, but it's an absolutely amazing kit. It was previously owned by said portrait studio photographer that the 8x10 camera was obtained from, and it's in remarkable shape.
I'll admit that the Hasselblad has an allure about it, in part due to its lunar pedigree, and the current 50+ megapixel digital. And being primarily a Canon shooter, Carl Zeiss lenses are few and far between. This camera gave me the chance to use some vintage glass that promises to be even better than some modern day lenses. More toys, and a step in the other direction after the jump.
In complete and utter contrast to the Hasselblad's legendary mechanics and glass, we have my Holga CFN, which just decided to die sometime today. This was the first 120 film camera I ever owned, picked up between train stops from Hikone to Osaka, Japan. The 'dreamy', soft, messed up shots that emanated from this camera were more of a source of amusement for me than a real working camera, but weighing next to nothing made it easy to take along with me everywhere. While the shutter inside the lens is still working, the lack of a flash feature has doomed this camera to be disassembled, where its repair may be dubious.
My first twin lens reflex camera was this Rolleicord, a member of the Rolleiflex family. Slightly more compact than the Hasselblad, this came with a complete kit-leather case, meter, filters, lens adapters, and even one original magnesium-filled flashbulb. This was the first 120 camera that I would take outside to use as a normal point and shoot due to the surprisingly accurate analog light meter that bayonets onto the front. I also shot only black and white film, and used it to practice developing, with some help from my girlfriend.
But one of my favorite cameras is my RZ67, for several reasons. Not only did Annie Leibovitz use this type of camera for a huge amount of her studio work, I bought this while out in Seattle checking out Chase Jarvis' studio. I use this camera a lot of my own studio work, and it's so simple to use that I almost regretted getting my new Mamiya 645 for school. If I could have gotten my hands on the necessary adapter, I'd be using this camera instead. It has some of the best intuitive controls that I've seen on camera's like this, and the simplicity makes using it effortless. While it may be a bit of a beast in its weight class, I can comfortably handhold for an entire roll.
These are just my 120 MF film cameras, and while some may argue that it's even more irrelevant to have so many different ones when the only difference that matters is the film, I still feel that they're all appropriate for different situations, have different feels and even subject impact. The Rolleiflex gets stares and questions, the Mamiya makes people run the other way, and the Holga is ignored as if it were a cheap disposable camera.
Film may be dying out professionally, even as I start my career. But a surprising number of students still enjoy shooting film, and even some of them still develop in at-home darkrooms. Whether for nostalgia or for fun, film isn't going away quite yet. The people that still shoot film are the ones that will eventually be instrumental in saving it from extinction, just like in the impossible project's efforts to bring back Polaroid film to the huddled masses, but that's for another post.