How do Hasselblad cameras work

Introduction to the Hasselblad medium format system

The systems

Since the end of 2002 the Hasselblad system has consisted of two basic series that are essentially incompatible with one another:

  • The V series is the classic SLR system designed in the 1940s and 1950s for the 6x6 cm medium format. This series established the legendary reputation of the Hasselblad. The "V" stands for Victor Hasselblad, the inventor and namesake of the system. The cameras from before 1957 are considered "original models" and are practically only of interest to collectors.
  • The H series is a new system camera in the 6x4.5 cm medium format introduced in 2002. It is a completely new development taking into account the future digital world.
  • The term X series stands for the XPan, a real panorama camera that works on 35 mm film. Nevertheless, the lenses have a 6x4.5 image circle. The XPan can also be used to take normal 24x36 mm recordings.

Due to the weak US dollar and the rapid rise of digital cameras, Hasselblad had considerable sales problems with the V-System in 2004. This led to a restructuring of the company and full concentration on the H system.

The cube

Practically all Hasselblad medium format cameras are constructed as "cubes". The housing (especially in the case of the 6x6 cm cameras of the V series) is really roughly the shape of a cube. The lens is attached to the front, the transport crank or handle is on the right, the magazine at the back and the viewfinder at the top.

The housing is designed in such a way that the important elements (lens, ground glass, viewfinder, film magazine) can be easily exchanged. On the left side there is a rail on which accessories such as a spirit level, hot shoe, etc. can be attached. At the bottom there are two tripod threads and a stand.

All Hasselblad cameras support the maximum format of 6x6 cm (12 images per roll film 120). Using appropriate magazines, 6x4.5 formats can also be exposed (then 16 exposures per roll film 120).


There are two major groups of Hasselblad cameras: those with Central locking (5 series, H series) and those with Focal plane shutter (2 models). The central shutter is always located in the lens, the focal plane shutter is located directly in front of the film level in the housing.

With the V series, all lenses with a central shutter can be used on practically all focal plane shutter cameras (there are exceptions). You can choose whether the slotted shutter or the central shutter should be used for the exposure. Both have their specific advantages and disadvantages.

Central locking
+ Flash synchronization possible at all times, up to 1/500 s (V series) or 1/800 s (H series)
+ Low vibration and quiet
Must be built into every lens. Therefore, lenses are more expensive, not as fast and the shutter speeds of the individual lenses can differ slightly from each other.

Focal plane shutter
+ Constant exposure times regardless of the lens
+ Electronically controllable, therefore more precise
+ Shorter exposure times possible (up to 1/2000 s)
- Loud, strong body shocks
- The large curtains are very delicate
- Flash synchronization not with all times

The lenses of the H series cannot be attached to V series cameras and vice versa. Hasselblad has announced an adapter with which V lenses can be attached to the H cameras.

Special cameras

In addition to the cube cameras, there is also the "SWC", a super wide-angle camera with a Zeiss 38 mm Biogon lens. Since the lens would protrude too far into the mirror box, this is not a single-lens reflex camera. However, the film magazines from the Hasselblad system can be used.

The Flexbody bellows camera is a camera with further adjustment options. Normal Hasselblad lenses and magazines can be connected here. Another camera with pan and shift adjustment and special lenses from Rodenstock was the ArcBody, which was only available for a few years.

Current models

503CW: Fully mechanical, TTL-OTF flash control, possibility to connect a winder
503CWD: Special model for the 100th birthday of Victor Hasselblad, with digital back
555ELD: Motorized film transport

H2: fully automatic, electronics, autofocus, motorized film transport
H2D: with digital back

905SWC: Super wide angle viewfinder camera

Special cameras for aerial photography


Virtually all lenses for the V series-Cameras come from Carl Zeiss. There are few exceptions (Schneider Kreuznach, Rodenstock, "Hasselblad" [probably Fuji]).

There are two basic lines: The "C" lenses (C, CF, C-Planar, CFi, CFE, CB) contain a central shutter (from Compur for the C series, from Prontor for CF, C-Planar, CFi , CFE and CB). The "F" lenses do not contain a shutter and are therefore only suitable for cameras with a focal plane shutter (F.ocal Plane Shutter) can be used. As a rule, they are a little more open than their colleagues from the C parliamentary group.

The T * mark on the lenses stands for Zeiss multilayer coating. There are even older lenses without T *, these are simply remunerated.

The lenses of the H series come from Fuji (but are labeled "Hasselblad").


The current cameras are based on the following models:

  • 503CX -> 503CXi -> 503CW
  • SWA -> SWC -> SWCM -> 903SWC -> 905SWC
  • H1, H1D -> H2, H2D

Discontinued model series:

  • 500C -> 500C / M -> 500 Classic -> 501C -> 501CM -> discontinued in 2005
  • 500EL -> 500EL / M -> 500ELX -> 553ELX -> 555ELD -> discontinued in 2006
  • 2000FC -> 2000FC / M -> 2000FCW -> 2003FCW -> 205TCC -> 203FE -> 205FCC -> discontinued 2004
  • XPan -> XPan II -> discontinued 2006

Detailed history

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Stefan Heymann