ALPA CAMERAS & GEAR [ YES ]
CAMERA BODIES: Max, SWA, TC
SCHNEIDER KREUZNACH LENSES: 28 XL, 35 XL, 47 XL, 72 L, 120 M
HASSELBLAD LENSES: 60 CFi, 80 CF, 80 CFE, 100 CFi, 120 CFi, 180 CFi
DIGITAL BACKS: Phase One P45, Hasselblad CFV-50c & CFV-50c II
FILM MAGAZINES: Hasselblad C12
ACCESSORIES: Hasselblad Lens Adapter, Extension Tubes
ALPA has evolved as my medium format system in the digital age. It is precise, strong, lightweight, and versatile. It works just as well in the studio with a digital back as in the landscape with film or digital. Using Hasselblad gear with ALPA bodies is pure joy for me, as Hasselblad has always played a significant role in my commercial work. Photographers ask how I digitize my film, and here is yet another area where ALPA and Hasselblad work together for me. Suppose I need the extra file size a medium format sensor can deliver. In that case, I will digitize with an ALPA TC, Hasselblad CFi 120 macro lens, and Hasselblad variable 64-85mm extension tube with the Hasselblad CFV II 50c digital back. This lightweight and precise setup operates efficiently on my Beseler CS Copy Stand without computer tethering due to the sharp and clear zooming ability of the CFV II 50c live view. ALPA cameras with Hasselblad lenses and accessories have made my creative life more enjoyable.
ALPA is a modular system. That means you customize how you want to set it up to use it. Hasselblad components fit the square format of all ALPA cameras. Whatever digital back or film magazine you select with an ALPA camera, a digital back or film magazine adapter plate is necessary unless you are lucky enough to have the Linhof-ALPA film magazine, which has the adapter plate built in. They are expensive and can be difficult to find. Once you look at the cost of digital backs, lenses, and any other accessories you may want, the ALPA system is an expensive, top-of-the-line camera system. Even on the used market, everything ALPA is costly, and certain lenses can be rare to hard to find. But, it was the perfect modular system for me when crossing over to medium format digital from primarily shooting Hasselblad & 4×5″ film cameras.
AT A GLANCE
THE ALPA MAX
ALPA SWA (SHIFT WIDE-ANGLE)
ALPA TC (TRAVEL COMPANION): FILM & DIGITAL HASSELBLAD SWC TYPE
ALPA CAMERAS + HASSELBLAD V LENSES = LITZ STUDIO ADAPTER
TC PANORAMIC STITCHING SETUP
ALPA LONG LENSES & ACCESSORIES: WHAT I CHOOSE
TC FILM DIGITIZING SETUP
ALPA ROAD KIT
ALPA IMAGE GALLERY
[ ALPA MAX + SK 28/5.6 + HASSELBLAD CFV50c ]
My first ALPA camera was the Max. The Max is a versatile technical camera body allowing integrated and independent shifting. The horizontal shifting of 36 mm (right: 18 mm, left: 18 mm) is on the rear of the body, and the vertical shifting of 43 mm (+25 mm, -18 mm) is on the front. This design allows horizontal and vertical shifting to work together without moving the lens and without unwanted stereoscopic effects appearing. This is a camera built for stitching, and with the correct adapters, tilt or swing movements up to 10° are possible with specific lenses and add-ons tools. I traded the Max after having it for almost a decade for the SWA (Shift Wide Angle). The trade was due to my eventual lack of need for all of Max’s shifting as I developed a technique for panoramic shooting with the TC and wanted the smaller SWA for studio shooting. There are always trade-offs in weight, size, or price when we desire a technically versatile camera, and the weight of the Max became undesirable to me over time. Still, I have missed the Max and recommend it to any photographer wanting what it can do.
[ ST. MARKS LIGHTHOUSE | ALPA MAX + SK 72/5.6L ]
[ ALPA SWA + HASSELBLAD CFi 100/3.5 + CFV50c + PROFOTO STROBES ]
The SWA is a precise and popular camera for film and digital shooting. It was ALPA’s first model in their ALPA 12 medium format series of cameras. It has a front rise of 25 mm, and if you place the SWA upside down on a tripod with its appropriate adapter, it now has a front fall of 25 mm. Still, if you use it with a digital back, you can achieve the same effect of having a downward shift by placing the lens on the rear of the SWA and the digital back on the front. With the correct modules (you can stack them), the SWA, like all ALPA cameras, offers tilt/swing. The SWA became my go-to medium format studio camera for product shooting. I never intended it specifically for studio work; it fell into place after I traded the Max for it. Shooting mostly catalog work, I use the Hasselblad CFi 100/3.5 and CFV II 50c digital back with the SWA. Shooting with ALPA’s SK 28 & 35 lenses on the SWA makes this an effective architectural digital setup. On-location shooting inside tight spaces is where the perspective correction shines. The SWA is a delightful camera for this photographer to shoot as I appreciate its simple yet versatile design, weight, and built-in handles and spirit levels; it is a beautiful camera.
ALPA TC: FILM & DIGITAL HASSELBLAD SWC TYPE
[ ALPA TC FILM & DIGITAL KITS WITH WEIGHTS ]
The first image above of the ALPA TC with the SK 35/5.6, Hasselblad A12 film magazine, grip, hand strap, bubble level, and metal lens hood weighs 2lbs-3.2 ounces. Then we see the same setup, but this time with the Hasselblad CFV50c weighing in at 3lbs-5.6 ounces, a very lightweight, wide-angle, medium format 50-megapixel camera. I have called this my lightweight Hasselblad SWC alternative for many years. If I replace the SK 35/5.6 with my SK 28/5.6 lens, it would be as wide as the SWC, but hand-holding would not work for me as it is super wide and requires a tripod to keep things straight.
Just for the record, these pictures were made for an online photography forum years ago before Hasselblad came out with the 907x digital setup. The 907x cannot take film magazines, but you can take the digital back, the CFV II 50c, of the 907x and use it on a V series or technical camera. I bought the 907x for the CFV II 50c, which I use not only with my Hasselblad cameras but also with my ALPA and technical cameras. It is a superb 50-megapixel digital back.
ALPA CAMERAS + HASSELBLAD V LENSES = LITZ STUDIO ADAPTER
[ ALPA SWA, SK 35/5.6, CFV50c, CFI 100/3.5 + LITZ ADAPTER, LINHOF VF ]
Once I realized I wanted to forgo the Hasselblad bodies but continue using my favorite CFi lenses, the TC became my choice for travel and landscape work because it does what I want in the smallest possible package for medium format digital. I just needed a way to adapt the lenses, and the adapter made by Litz Studio (pictured above and below) does just that. If you are familiar with the Hasselblad Flexbody, you know how this V lens adapter works. It is the easiest option to use Hasselblad V lenses with an ALPA body and Live View (LV). It is easier to activate LV with this adapter than on a Hasselblad 500 body because, with the 500 bodies, you must set the camera to ‘B’ mode and hold the shutter button in. Keeping in the shutter button is more painful than you realize; try focusing via lens or LV while doing it. Engaging the locking lever that some 500 body models have to keep the lens open for LV cannot be used easily. I purchased a 503cx for its locking lever, only to learn I still have to use a mechanical shutter release cable for LV.
If you think a locking shutter cable will make it easier, it will slow you down and is just more gear you have to tend to. Mechanical shutter release cables are not the answer you are looking for when working with digital backs. You can use them (I do with 4×5 and medium format gear), but unless you can purchase the better quality ones of the past (I use old Minolta ones), the newer mechanical cables of today are junk quality. I tried a few newer ones over the years, and their locking mechanisms, threads, or cable coatings broke from light use. If you like the Hasselblad lenses as much as I do, try shooting with the Flexbody to see how easy it is to shoot a digital back with LV on that camera. Hasselblad’s inventive use of lens cocking on the Flexbody is nothing like their 500 series bodies; it is as if it was designed for digital backs with LV in mind!
ALPA TC PANORAMIC STITCHING SETUP
[ ALPA TC PANO STITCHING SETUP ]
The ALPA TC lives up to its name, the “Travel Companion,” as it is the smallest and lightest weight of all the ALPA cameras. It is the most lightweight medium format digital and film camera I have found (adapted is more like it). It does not offer movements (you can add a tilt adapter), but that is not what I use it for; I use it for panoramic stitching for landscape shooting. I also use it for digitizing film with my digital back when I need a larger file or the ability to stitch a gigantic file.
Above is a sequence of images that illustrate my panoramic shooting equipment. I use the Fotopro E6-H Gimbal Head with a Really Right Stuff TA-2U Leveling Base and Series 1 tripod. It is as light as it gets with full horizontal and vertical movements and durable enough to handle the TC, Hasselblad V lenses, and CFV II 50c digital back. The E6-H can align the camera at a 45° angle to obtain the no-parallax point (image #3), which is a fantastic feature. No need to worry about the parallax point when shooting longer distances, and I create panoramics and stitch in this position 100% of the time. Below is an example of a stitched image made with the CFi 180 lens. I prefer the look of panoramic stitched images made with longer lenses.
ALPA LONG LENSES & ACCESSORIES: WHAT I CHOOSE
[ LONE PINE: ALPA TC + HASSELBLAD CFi 180/4 STITCHING EXAMPLE ]
The image above was created by stitching together six images made with the ALPA TC + Litz Hasselblad Lens Adapter + Hasselblad CFi 180/4 + Hasselblad CVF50c. I enjoy using a longer lens like the 180mm for certain landscape shots because it produces a unique look by bringing the background closer to the foreground. In this particular image, the lone pine tree caught my attention. The surrounding water made it seem like the tree was living a solitary life, and its survival was under question in my mind as the water was creeping further to land. Unfortunately, the tree had died when I returned to the location months later.
ALPA’s offering of longer lenses never interested me due to their cost, availability, and lack of choices. The Hasselblad CFi 180 is my first choice for stitching a landscape screen when I want what a telephoto-type lens can do that a wide-angle lens cannot; that is, it gives a very different look. The ALPA wide-angle lenses I have, the SK 28 and SK 35, are superb wide-angle lenses, and because of them, I do not need Hasselblad lenses wider than the CFi 60. I researched the 40mm lenses Hasselblad offers but concluded that my ALPA Schneider wides would be superior to my needs.
The ALPA ground glass and focusing bellows were helpful when I shot with a Phase One P45 back that does not have Live View. After trying various Hasselblad components with my ALPA bodies, I find the Hasselblad 41050 Acute Matte Ground Glass Focusing Screen a better choice than ALPA’s ground glass, especially since you can use the various Hasselblad viewfinders. The first image below shows the Hasselblad 41050 ground glass and a viewfinder mounted on my TC. It is a joy to use the Hasselblad gear I have accumulated over the years during my commercial career with ALPA cameras.
The second image below shows the large ALPA light blue bubble level I acquired from a dealer on markdown. I have used it on my TC and find it helpful when digitizing film. I also have other ALPA accessories that act as cold shoes to add my Profoto trigger for studio shooting with a built-in level (see here) and another adapter to hold my cables against the TC body, as shown in image one below.
ALPA TC DIGITIZING SETUP
[ ALPA TC + HASSELBLAD VF + MACRO EXTENSION SETUP w/SK 120M LENS + COPY STATION ]
In images 2 & 3 above, you can see my initial ALPA TC and ALPA SK 120 M setup with ALPA Multi-Use Adapters (extension tubes). I used this setup for a couple of years but changed to using the TC with a Hasselblad CFi 120 macro lens and a Hasselblad variable 64-85mm extension tube with the Hasselblad CFV 50c II digital back. I find it does just as well with less equipment to set up. One thing that is a must when digitizing with a medium format setup is the stability of the copy stand. I have two copy stands; one I use for my APS-C setup, a Kaiser RS 2-XA, and the Beseler CS Digital/Photo-Video for my medium format camera. The Kaiser is a portable tabletop stand that I would not put a medium format camera on as it is not designed for the weight of a heavier medium format system. The Beseler C/S is not portable. It is the same chassis Beseler uses for their 4×5 enlarger.
My digitizing station is set up in an office in my home, where the C/S copy stand is permanently placed. The Kaiser copy stand gets moved from my studio shooting area to the kitchen table, depending on where I want to be when I digitize with my APS-C camera. Suppose you are like me, a photographer enjoying shooting film. In that case, I recommend switching from a scanner to a digital camera setup for digitizing your film if you have not done so already. I wrote three articles about my digitizing journey you might enjoy; here is where I explain my equipment choices, stitching techniques, conversion software, film naming system, film storage, and more: Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.
ALPA ROAD KIT
[ ALPA TC + FOUR LENS ROAD KIT IN MINDSHIFT 26L ]
I use the MindShift Backlight 26L backpack made by Think Tank to carry my on-the-road ALPA-Hasselblad kit. My current ALPA kit has (2) ALPA-SK wide lenses, (2) ALPA-SK normal-type lenses, and (4) Hasselblad lenses ranging from 60mm to 180mm. I usually travel with the ALPA TC, three lenses, and the CFV II 50c digital back. Depending on where and what I will be shooting, I may take a film magazine with 120 black and white film. I prefer using the Hasselblad lenses as they have a look I like, although my ALPA-SK wides are pretty special too. The backpack easily accommodates all the gear I want to carry, is comfortable, and holds just enough to avoid becoming too heavy. I remove whatever inserts the manufacturer includes in a backpack and prefer using the Tamrac lens cases the gear is stowed in when not in use. I also have a small supply of Gnass Gear cases (out of business) for lenses and accessories. A good replacement for Gnass Gear is Stone Photographic Gear. Packing and stowing gear in individual cases makes it easy to fill the backpack with whatever camera system I use on location and helps keep the gear organized inside and outside of the pack.