A little over a year ago a company called Badass Cameras launched a kickstarter campaign for an iPhone camera mount for the Hasselblad 500 camera series. With digital medium format backs going for the price of a new car, the thought of a cheap digital attachment for these old cameras was an attractive one. While an iPhone image will never match the detail and tones captured by a frame of medium format film, it was something I was keen to try out. Worst case scenario it could take the place of a polaroid back for testing shots before committing them to film. After a few delays and a year of waiting the Hasselnut iPhone back finally hit my post box today.
After an hour of playing with it here’s a few shots of the back, some sample images, and a few early thoughts about it.
The back comes in a nicely designed box, well padded, and worthy of comparison to the packaging of some fruit like technology companies. Inside the box is the camera mount and hidden away in a little compartment are the adaptors for the iPhone 4 and 5(s). There’s no adaptor for those rocking the shiny new iPhone 6 and I doubt a 6 plus would fit in the mounting section, so tough luck to those living on the cutting edge of technology.
The initial response to seeing the back was… underwhelming. In comparison to the quality and materials used in one of the most enduring medium format cameras of the last century to which this back is meant to be mounted, the cheaper materials and quality of this item are noticeable. But then again trying to meet Hasselblad quality would likely have driven the price well past what the average shooter would be willing to pay.
Once the relevant mount for your phone has been inserted into the back, the phone itself can be slid into place. The mounts are very tight which is superb for holding the camera in place but could make it hard to get the phone out in a hurry to answer an incoming call – but who uses their phone to make calls these days?
The front of the Hasselnut has a magnetic cover which comes away nicely to allow the back to attach to the rear of the camera. Unfortunately I found the attachment clips to perform poorly. The usual attachment action for a film back led to the Hasselnut to keep detaching. A pair of quick hands prevented the back and the phone from hitting the floor, but its definitely something to watch for when first using the device. A bit of jiggling with the attachment button finally locked the back in place.
As images from the Hasselblad are flipped upside down it’s necessary to download the Hasselnuts app from the App store before you can begin capturing images. There’s no included manual in the box, just instructions on how to access it from within the Hasselnuts app, so I navigated to the relevant section and… nothing. Guess someone forgot to include it? Fortunately there’s a manual available on the Badass camera site.
The app is configured to detect motion from the camera body when the shutter is fired which takes an image on the phone. Unfortunately this is something I haven’t yet been able to get to work. When the camera is in the ready state, the rear shutter doors are closed so that the screen of the phone only shows those black doors. It’s possible to use the camera viewfinder as usual to focus and compose, however there’s bit of fiddling required to get the phone to fire at the same time that the shutter in the camera lens and the rear shutter doors are open. So far I’ve just been getting a lot of black or half frame images.
As a workaround it’s possible to set the lens to bulb mode and lock open the rear shutter doors which gives a live view on the phone screen within the Hasselnuts app. From there you can adjust the aperture and focus on the camera to frame your desired image. A tap on the ‘sync shutter’ button on the screen will capture what your camera can see. The problem with this technique is the difficulty of focussing on the tiny screen.
The app hasn’t been updated yet for iOS8 so is lacking the manual controls offered by the new operating system. Hopefully an update will be coming soon to give more control to the camera.
With only a little light before the sun went down I grabbed some quick shots in the backyard and around the house. These images are straight from the app with no editing, and to be fair are pretty crap rushed shots anyway. Focus in the centre of the frame is alright but drops off quickly towards the edges, where a deep vignette drags the out of focus areas into shadow.
The following two shots were made at f/2.8, the first with focus (poorly set by the operator) on the foreground plant and the next on the hedge in the background. The third shot is from the iPhone camera app, cropped to a square to show the effect that the back has. In addition to introducing a grain feel there is a significant desaturation in colour. Whether this is a film like effect as claimed by Badass, I’m not yet decided.
A few more pics of a couple other residents of the house. The last two again showing the depth of field adjustments available. That black dot near the centre of all the images was a spot of dust on the phone lens.
These are just a few early shots with the back. I’m hoping to get out over the next few days to give it a proper run and to try to get the shutter activation feature of the app working.
So why would you insult a picture taking beast like a Hasselblad by whacking an iPhone sensor on it’s back? The images the Hasselnut produces are no way near the quality of medium format film, and the iPhone camera by itself can capture better quality images without the need to lug around a medium format film camera. But in this day of endless instagram filters and bokeh fiends, the Hasselnut gives a unique look to the iPhoneographer’s captures. I’m not yet convinced this is something that will be living in my camera bag for the long haul, but I still find it an intriguing enough device to take out for some image hunting. And anything that keeps old film camera’s in action has to be a good thing.