SWC Super Wide Test Review
If you've got one of these I'm still looking casually for a nice one. contact me.
This camera was introduced in the 1950s and has had the same lens up till 2001. The only thing that has changed is the addition of multicoating.
In 2001 Zeiss redesigned the lens with slightly lower performance for the model 905SWC as seen above. The original lens made since the 1950s used lead and arsenic in some of the glass, which is of course of no hazard to the environment or you or I once it's manufactured.
In 1999 I had a version from 1968, serial # TRW8326 and lens serial # 4241589. I'm reviewing this particular sample. Mine had the chrome barrel, mechanical depth-of-field calculator and a series 7 filter thread.
Series filters were unthreaded drop-in filters which were held in by a screw-in retaining ring. That ring was missing from the camera I had, making it look like a 67mm thread. 67mm filters won't work because the thread pitch is different and the fact that the threads are far too deep to screw on another filter without vignetting. Don't be misled, you either need to use proper Series 7 filters, or have a machine shop turn down the threads on a lathe to try to use use 67mm filters.
Mine had light leaks and ghosts if pointed into the sun (single coated lens). It has no distortion.
It was not as sharp as my Mamiya 6 50mm lens, or the 43mm lens on my Mamiya 7 which is the direct competition to this camera. Because of this I got rid of it. I suspect the problem was simply the need to guess at distances, or most likely, mechanical misalignment suffered over all the years. Even an original camera from the 1950s should give spectacular results if in good shape. I also hear Hasselblad is great at repairing even ancient cameras, so by all means unless you shoot directly into the sun as I do go get an early version cheap and make sure Hasselblad can bring it up to spec for you, since it's the same or better than the newer models. The multicoated versions made in the past 20 years or so of course are better if you shoot into the sun.
Compared to the Mamiya 7 and 43mm lens the SWC is primitive, which makes sense for a camera designed 50 years ago. The Zeiss Biogon for the SWC is an abbreviated 8 element design from the original 10 element design. The Mamiya 43mm lens appears to be a direct copy of the original 10 element Biogon design. The word Biogon is a trademark and may not be used by Mamiya, however the patents on the design itself have long since expired.
This is funny: Mamiya makes the full, original 10 element version which is spectacular, and the current Hasselblad model 905SWC is a dumbed-down 8 element version.
One focuses the SWC by guessing at the distance; the Mamiyas have precision rangefinders.
Yes, a new SWC is $6,000 and well made, but no, it is not better optically than the Mamiyas. The advantage to the SWC is the interchangeable backs and better mechanics, otherwise, the Mamiyas are the way to go.
Here is some more info from Zeiss on the history of the Biogon.