Medium Format Film Systems (C or V)
Hasselblad has been the world's most coveted professional camera ever since the 1950s when Ansel Adams and almost every other top commercial photographer started shooting them. Hasselblad remained in this spot, a spot so high that it gave LEICA owners a camera about which to dream, until this line of Hasselblads was discontinued on 29 April 2013.
Everything Hasselblad made from 1957 through 2013 is forwards and backwards compatible, like LEICA. It's a real European professional system, not garbage from the Orient like Nikon, which has more incompatibles in its systems than Swiss cheese has holes. With Hasselblad, it all works together - no need to buy anything new.
Professionals accept nothing less. We demand that what we buy doesn't have to be replaced every 10 or 20 years. With Hasselblad, what you buy used today should last and be serviceable for decades, and should all work with each other. Even film magazines from the 1940s work on the newest cameras from the 2000s!
Today, if you're not trying to use TTL flash or motor drives etc. that people rarely use today for what we shoot with film in Hasselblads, all the bodies are all the same for practical shooting.
While all the bodies take the same pictures, the earliest have very, very dark finder screens. Get at least a 501C or 503 CX which has a modern super-bright "Acute-Matte" screen, otherwise it's nearly impossible to see well enough to focus with the standard screens of older models like the otherwise wonderful 500 C/M.
You can buy bright screens (Acute-Matte) and use them in the old 500 C/M (not 500C) bodies, but the screens themselves sell for enough to make up the difference in price to just get a newer body with the brighter screen. Avoid off-brand "bright" screens; they don't work very well. Stick to Hasselblad's Acute Matte screens for the best results.
Viewing and Metering
Forget the iconic pop-up viewing hood. Its images are reversed left to right and it's a pain to see anyway. Get a prism to see properly.
I prefer a PME-style Metered Prism. It both makes viewing much better, and with its built-in through-the-lens-meter, tap a button, read a number in the finder, set that on the lens, and your exposure is set.
Be sure your prism is calibrated to whichever viewing screen you use. The oldest model PME I use was originally calibrated for the dark screens, but the one I bought used recently just happened to have been calibrated for an Acute-Matte screen, so I was all set. Just set your ASA dial as needed to get the correct reading; no need to send it out.
Hasselblad never let amateurs on to this, but the Zeiss optics for most lenses like the 80mm f/2.8, 150mm f/4 and 250mm f/5.6 were so perfect at their introduction in 1957 that, except for the very minor improvement of adding T✻ multicoating in the 1970s, their optical designs never changed through 2013! Hasselblad introduced minor cosmetic changes along with marketing fluff like blacker black paint inside to try to scare amateurs into buying new lenses, while pros all knew they had identical optics and just serviced and happily shot their decades-old lenses. The most important lenses in the Hasselblad system (80, 150 and 250mm) had identical optics for 56 years!
While the 40mm and 50mm lenses were completely redesigned and greatly improved in 1982, the legendary 38mm BIOGON lens of the SWC used from 1954~2001 was downgraded slightly in 2001 when they stopped using leaded glass.
C (chrome 1957~1972, then black 1972~1983)
C stands for Central (leaf) shutter, a completely new system from the earlier F (1000F and 1600F focal-plane shutter cameras) from the 1940s.
You can recognize these by their all-metal fluted focus rings.
A huge advantage to these first C lenses is that they all have self-timers built into their shutters so, along with the TIME exposure abilities of the Hasselblad bodies, you never need to use a cable release for vibration-free exposures of any length.
These older C lenses are now so old you should budget time and money to have them overhauled for the shutters to work well, otherwise they almost always will be sticky and slow.
I wouldn't buy one of these unless you are a repairman. Even if the lens sounds like it's working OK, unless its been recently overhauled by a specialist, it's unlikely to be running accurately.
CF lenses have rubber-covered focus rings.
These also work with Hasselblad's newer electronic focal-plane shutter cameras (but not the ancient 1000F and 1600F), thus the name "CF."
While I love the self-timers of the older C lenses, I prefer the CF lenses because they almost always work perfectly when you get them without needing service.
Newer lenses (CB and CFi) got cheaper and used more plastic; they added fluff like automation for use with the newer bodies. This is why I suggest the CF lenses for use today: best quality and lowest prices.
Avoid the CB (Basic) lenses. These were a line of cheaper lenses sold to try to get lesser photographers into the Hasselblad system.
These didn't last long (like Nikon's Series E in the 1970s); no one buys Hasselblad to use second-rate lenses.
The CFi lenses have plastic (cleverly marketed as "macrolon") filter mounts. Boo!
CFE are like CFi, but add electronic contacts for use with Hasselblad's electronic cameras, leading us back to square one: unless you're using an electronic magic auto zone-system calculating Hasselblad, any working C or CF lens has the same spectacular optics for a lot less money and does the same things as the newest lenses.
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03 September 2017, 25 May 2017, December 2010