An esteemed and long-loved Swedish Medium Format Single Lens Reflex camera. The Hasselblad perfected the Single Lens Reflex model most often seen today for Medium Format - a kind of dynamic design that allows for a camera body, lens, viewing device and film holder to be selected separately, thus allowing the photographer the ability to piece together exactly what is needed for any given shoot.

All Hasselblads to my knowledge use 120 film or 220 film depending on the film holders you're using. Image format is slightly flexible - film holders are available for either 6cm x 6cm or 6cm x 4.5cm. There are also more Hasselblads in production than I want to ever try to categorize here, but I'll sum up two of their more important lines:

Hasselblad 1000 series
The Hasselblad 1000f was issued in 1952 and was the improvement over the previous 1600f. It's production was relatively short, continuing only until 1957 when it was phased out in preference to the more successful and innovative 500 series. This camera utilized a focal plane shutter (that's what the 'f' stands for) and allowed exposure times as short as 1/1000th of a second, although flash synch was limited to 1/30th of a second. This camera line is of note because it was one of the last focal plane shutters produced by Hasselblad until very recently. There were a wide range of lenses produced for this camera, a quick run through:

  • Ektar 55mm F6.3
  • Distagon 60mm F5.6
  • Ektar 80mmF2.8
  • Tessar 80mm F2.8
  • Ektar 135mm F3.5
  • Sonnar 135mm f3.5
  • Zonar 250mm F4
  • Dallmayer 350mm F4.5

Hasselblad 500 series:
The Hasselblad 500 series was revolutionary. One of the first SLR Medium Format cameras to utilize a leaf shutter, this allowed the Hasselblad 500s flash synch at any exposure speed. This also limited the camera to 1/500th of a second, but that's rarely seen as a big disadvantage.

The Hasselblad 500 series forced other contemporary camera designers to include a leaf shutter system, and eventually this design more or less took over the SLR industry.

Cameras within this series are: the 501CM, 503CW, 555ELD, 500C, 500C/M, 500 Classic, 503CX, 503CXi, 500EL, 501C, 553ELX, 500ELX and the 501ELM (the NASA space camera) are all cameras within this series.

A note on Hasselblad lenses: they're incredible - you simply won't find better optics. They're also a little bit of a pain until you get to know them... The abbreviation system is a little arcane, worse is trying to figure out which lenses will work on which body...all of the following should work with any 500 series body (I think... I hope...)...

  • C lenses are the original counterparts of the 500C which was released in 1957 - think of them as the base the others work of off.
  • CT* (cee-tee-star) lenses were released beginning in 1974 and replaced the C lenses. They utilized an improved 6 layer multi-coat.
  • CF lenses were the redesign for both the C and the CT*, they improved mechanics some and allowed the leaf shutter to be deactivated in favor of a focal plane shutter on camera bodies that used one.
  • CB lenses came out in 1997 and were designed to be a less expensive alternative to the CF lenses. They have one less lens element and are slightly optically inferior to the CF. Good luck telling the difference on anything other than extreme magnification or detail.
  • CFE lenses have an electronic lead that allows direct connection to a meter.

I give thanks to the Medium Format Digest for all research data.

Hasselblad also makes the XPan. A neat design, featuring true panorama mode, terribly expensive (as all things Hasselblad are).

Hasselblad cameras are also supported by third party manufacturers which makes the Hasselblad even more attractive.

For example, Phase One manufactures LightPhase for Hasselblad, which is a digital camera back. It simply replaces the film carrying section of the camera and instantly turns the Hasselblad into a high quaily/high resolution digital camera (2,032 x 3,056 pixels).

You can see sample images at

An interesting tidbit I should mention is that Hasselblad cameras were used to take pictures of the moon on the Apollo lunar missions. They were left behind by the astronauts, and are probably still there and fully functional today.

It's also worth mentioning that Hasselblad cameras - in fact, anything with 'Hasselblad' written on the front - are, like Leicas, exorbitantly expensive. Lenses alone are worth more than most decent-quality 35mm SLRs.

The aforementioned 501CM, for example, sells for £2,500 with a case, a lens, a film magazine and a strap - the lens alone sells for £1,300, whilst the strap and case together cost £70. For a strap... and a case. Meanwhile, a '300mm Tele Super Achromat FE f2.8 supplied with Apo-Mutar 1.7XE Shade and Polarizing Filter' goes for a cool £13,000.

Therefore, there's a thriving clone market - the Ukranian Kiev 88 being the most famous imitation, although the Mamiya RB 67 runs it a close second. These aren't particularly cheap, however - but they're cheaper than a Hasselblad.

If you want to experiment with medium-format photography the absolute entry-level is probably the ultra-tacky Chinese Holga 120S, a plastic box with a plastic lens on the front and minimal controls.

Hasselblad 200 series
With the 200 series (current models: 203FE and 205FCC, Hasselblad has made a step into the modern world of auto-everything photography without entirely sacrificing backwards compatibility. The 200 series of cameras will work in either manual or automatic modes. When used in the automatic mode, it functions in what a 35mm camera user would describe as aperture priority mode.

The 200 series of bodies can be used with CFi, CFE and CF lenses (which are also compatible with the 500 series of bodies) though only the CFE lenses support the fully automatic modes of operation. When used in the C mode, the camera is not dependent on its batteries.

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