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Hasselblad 500 Series Overview

Hasselblad cameras are probably the most recognizable medium format cameras in the world. Today's article will talk about them, and more specifically about the iconic 500 series and its sister 503, which are part of the Hasselblad V Series family, where in addition to them there are also EL, SWx, 2000, 200 series.

A little bit about the history of the Hasselblad brand. It dates back to the second half of the 19th century, when the company became the distributor of Eastman (Kodak) products in Sweden. Since then, the firm has been engaged not only in the sale of goods from Kodak, but also the production of watches and even the manufacture of slide projectors and car parts for the brand Saab. During World War II, the Swedish government asked Victor Hasselblad, the company owner, to build a camera for the Swedish Air Force. Thus the company began making cameras, first highly specialized, and then - since 1948 - designed for the general consumer. Hasselblad's greatest success, however, came with medium-format cameras with a frame size of 6x6 cm for film type 120. The first model of this format was called the Hasselblad 1600F, and it was revolutionary because it had an incredible 1/1600 shutter speed for those days. However, the release was not very successful in the end, as the cameras often malfunctioned. It was replaced by the Hasselblad 1000F with a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec, but it didn't survive long either. Thus the famous Hasselblad 500 series was born in 1957.

But what's so remarkable about the medium-format cameras in the V Series?

First of all, the cameras in the series are a system within which each user can create his or her own tool suitable for a particular situation. The body of the camera is a small "box" with a mirror, curtains and mechanisms, to which various parts are attached: the lens, the back ("magazine"), the shaft or prism, focusing screens, rewind handles, etc. There are over 50 different accessories in all. Note that the body itself is small and easily fits in your hand. The modular system gives you a wide range of freedom and allows you to work in a maximum number of photographic genres: from portrait and landscape to macro and architecture shooting with special wide-angle optics. The lenses in the 500 series were manufactured by Carl Zeiss (marked with a "C") in a huge range of focal lengths, so the average user will always find something for their needs. Besides: installing interchangeable backs on a camera means you can put not only different format magazine on film 120, but with other types of photographic material in general - Polaroid (80 and 100 series), cinema film, glass plates. Or - this is in the 2000s - a digital backdrop.

The first camera in the series is called the Hasselblad 500c. Released in 1957, and already in 1962 it in a modified version flew to the moon, which brought the company Hasselblad fame and interest of photographers around the world. It was impossible not to appreciate the reliability and quality displayed by the camera. The Carl Zeiss lenses with built-in Synchro Compur paddle shutters - developed especially for the 500 models - also roused the trust of the user. In addition, the Hasselblad camera had an indispensable feature for professional photographers who shot a lot with flash: it had flash sync with studio light or flash at all shutter speeds.

All future Hasselblad productions would be based on the 500c, and the Hasselblad 500c would be available for 13 consecutive years without changes. It was not until 1970 that it would be replaced by the updated Hasselblad 500 c/m, probably the most popular model among analog photographers to this day. Its main difference from the previous release of cameras is the ability to change the focus screen. And if with the 500c you had to go to a specialist for this purpose, with the 500 c/m you could do it yourself, which means that the rather dark screen that came with it could be replaced by a lighter and brighter version with different markings. The 500 C/M was produced by Hasselblad until 1994.

In 1994, the Hasselblad 501c came out, which was sold only in a kit version with Carl Zeiss 80 mm C optics. The model was only available in black. The camera immediately had Acute Matte D, an updated lighter focus screen. In addition, the tripod mount (socket) was redesigned, the shutter button was replaced, and the film loading indicator on the body was removed. The film rewind handle is non-replaceable.

Parallel to the 500 series, Hasselblad launched another line called the V-System 503 in the second half of the '80s, the distinguishing feature of which is TTL OTF exposure metering. This is a system that measures the light reflected from the film emulsion during an exposure. The first model in the series came out in 1988, the Hasselblad 503 CX, which had a Palpas coating inside the body that prevented flares. Next was the Hasselblad 503 CXi, which entered the market in 1994. It had the option of a Hasselblad Winder CW motor drive. The camera itself remained fully mechanical, like all 500 and 503 series cameras.

Finally, in 1996 the Hasselblad 503 CW, the last member of the series in the 20th century, came on the market. The camera was available in several colors: black, yellow, red, green and blue. The model was distinguished by a larger mirror and the Gliding Mirror System, the purpose of which was to eliminate vignetting (darkening) in the viewfinder when shooting with long focal lenses (120 mm, 150 mm and larger).

As you can see, the Hasselblad 500 and Hasselblad 503 lines are quite diverse and the average user has a lot to choose from. However, they do have a lot in common. First and foremost, all of the cameras are designed to focus manually, are completely mechanical, and have no built-in exposure meters. Whale backs are always designed for 120 or 220 film for a 6x6 frame format. But within the system you are free to use any suitable optics, which number 70 different kinds of lenses, and accessories in large numbers. That's what makes Hasselblad cameras so revolutionary.