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Always happy to have his photo taken with the HassyPB, Nick Orloff

Last updated: 10 Apr 2024
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Always happy to have his photo taken with the HassyPB, Nick Orloff

This is a review of the HassyPB, but before I tell you about that bit of kit, let me take a short diversion to tell you how I arrived here.

I enjoy a little bit of instant photography but Ive never been a huge fan. I bought a Polaroid SLR 680 several years ago, burnt through a few packs of what seems to be stupidly expensive film but never really caught the bug.

Almost 4 years ago March 2020 I saw Escuras Hasselback Portrait on Kickstarted and thought Instax film on my Hasselblad 503, that sounds like fun!, so I took the plunge, committed to the campaign, and had about US$200 taken from my credit card a month or so later.

Their back was due to be delivered in July 2020 but, after over three years of excuses, including Covid (not their fault) they started delivering. This isnt supposed to be a post criticising Escura and their Hasselback (that would be like shooting fish in a barrel) but comments and feedback from the early recipients were very negative, citing poor build quality and focusing issues (a bit more on that later).

For a moment, lets head off on a tangent hows your GAS? Are you still using the accessory/lens/gadget that you just had to have 4 years ago? Im still using some of the lenses and bodies I bought some years ago, but not much else, especially when it comes to accessories. I accept that my GAS is not an investment strategy, its how I spend money for my hobby.

In September last year, while I was waiting for my Hasselback to arrive, having read all the negative reviews, especially those that talked about the damage the Escura back could do to a Hasselblad body, I decided that the money I spent almost 4 years ago was a sunk cost and I probably wasnt going to use the back if/when it arrived anyway.

That being said, the idea of using my Hasselblad, with its beautiful lenses, and Instax film had stuck in my head. And so, a bit of time playing with Google later I found the HassyPB and its inventor/manufacturer John Kasawa. John is based in Bangkok, and I happened to be heading to Thailand in November for a short holiday A few WhatApp messages later and John had agreed to let me test drive one of his HassyPBs when I was in Bangkok before I parted with my cash.

John & I had a great hour in the hotel lobby, talking photography, taking photos of each other and some of the hotel staff, and it didnt really take much effort for me to hand over my US$400 and bring home a HassyPB.

From what I can tell, its well made, it feels solid in my hands and connects easily & snugly to my Hasselblad 503CX.

There is an issue around focusing. The NONS back has the Instaxs film plane at the same distance from the lens as a regular Hasselblad film back, while the HassyPBs is a little further away, meaning you need to compensate by lifting the focusing screen to achieve accurate focus. HassyPB includes an aluminium spacer (are you paying attention Escura?) that sits under the focusing screen to correct focusing. Its a one minute job to swap it, but it means you lose the ability to swap between the Instax back and a regular one without a bit of messing about maybe you cant easily use it to test a lighting setup before you commit to exposing negative/transparency film. This was what instant film might have been used for back in the day but I dont see this as a big issue if I really want to check lighting & composition before committing to film Ill use a digital camera.

And changing the distance from lens to film plane means you cant focus to infinity. OK, its an issue, but I didnt buy a HassyPB to create landscape images.

Instax film certainly doesnt seem to have the dynamic range / exposure latitude of, say, HP5, but I find thats part of the charm theyre (close enough to) instant, theyre not perfect. And they are hard evidence that I need to improve my handheld meter technique.

Hasselblad makes a 60mm X 60mm image, Instax Square is 62mm x 62mm, resulting in a thin (1mm) black border around the image. Again, for me, this is part of the charm.

In Australia, Instax Square is about a third the price of Polaroid 600, and cheap enough Im happy to play around and experiment to see what itll do. But what Im really enjoying is peoples reactions to the images Im creating. At two recent dinners I brought the Blad and HassyPB along to make both portraits and candid photos, and had very few left at the end of the evening nearly everyone, even my friend who (allegedly) hates having her photo taken left with a couple tucked into her handbag.

To me the appeal is tied to how often we see real printed images. For most folks, its quite rare these days especially to see a physical/printed image of yourself. Were so used to looking at images on screens that when we see one printed is a lovely novelty, and perhaps something of a keepsake.

In short, am I likely to be carting the HassyPB along to gatherings of friends for the foreseeable future? Yes. I think Im safe in saying that I am. This bit of GAS was ultimately quenched with a piece of kit that will remain in regular rotation.

Nick Orloff
You can more of my images on my website and Instagram

Please visit the original website https://www.35mmc.com/29/03/2024/hassypb-review-it-makes-photos-that-people-want-to-take-from-you/

Thank you so much, John K. 

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