Saturday, 30 July 2011

Concept: Cameras/ History of...HASSELBLAD.

Sourced from the Wikipedia 'Hasselblad' Page...Because I live dangerously...

Victor Hasselblad AB is a Swedish manufacturer of medium-format cameras and photographic equipment based in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The company is best known for the medium-format cameras it has produced since World War II.
Perhaps the most famous use of the Hasselblad camera was during the Apollo program missions when man first landed on the Moon. Almost all of the still photographs taken during these missions used modified Hasselblad cameras.
Hasselblad's traditional V-System cameras remain widely used by professional and serious amateur photographers. One reason is a reputation for long service life and quality of available lenses. Their newer H-System cameras are market leaders, competing with Sinar, Mamiya and others in the medium format digital camera market.

Company history
The company was established in 1841 in Gothenburg, Sweden, as a trading company, F. W. Hasselblad and Co. The founder's son, Arvid Viktor Hasselblad, was interested in photography and started the photographic division of the company. Hasselblad's corporate website quotes him as saying I certainly don’t think that we will earn much money on this, but at least it will allow us to take pictures for free.
In 1877, Arvid Hasselblad commissioned the construction of Hasselblad's long-time headquarters building, in use until 2002. While on honeymoon, Arvid Hasselblad met George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak. In 1888, Hasselblad became the sole Swedish distributor of Eastman's products. The business was so successful that in 1908, the photographic operations were spun off into their own corporation, Fotografiska AB. Operations included a nationwide network of retail stores and photo labs. Management of the company eventually passed to Karl Erik Hasselblad, Arvid's son (grandson of founder F. W.). Karl Erik wanted his son, Victor Hasselblad, to have a wide understanding of the camera business, and sent him to Dresden, Germany, then the world center of the optics industry, at age 18 (circa 1924).
Victor spent the next several years studying and working in various photography related endeavors in Europe and the US, including Rochester, New York with George Eastman, before returning to work at the family business. Due to disputes within the family, particularly with his father, Victor left the business and in 1937 started his own photo store and lab in Gothenburg, Victor Foto.

World War II

During World War II, the Swedish military captured a fully functioning German aerial surveillance camera from a downed German plane. This was probably a Handkamera HK 12.5 / 7x9, which bore the codename GXN.
The Swedish government realised the strategic advantage of developing an aerial camera for their own use, and in the spring of 1940 approached Victor Hasselblad to help create one. In April 1940, Victor Hasselblad established a camera workshop in Gothenburg called Ross AB in a shed at an automobile shop, working in the evenings in cooperation with a mechanic from the shop and his brother, began designing the HK7 camera.
By late 1941, the operation had over 20 employees and the Swedish Air Force asked for another camera, one which would have a larger negative and could be permanently mounted to an aircraft. This model was the SKa4. Between 1941 and 1945, Hasselblad delivered 342 cameras to the Swedish military.
In 1942, Karl Erik Hasselblad died and Victor took control of the family business. During the war, in addition to the military cameras, Hasselblad produced watch and clock parts, over 95,000 by the war's end.


After the war, watch and clock production continued, and other machine work was also carried out, including producing a slide projector and supplying parts for Saab automobiles.
Victor Hasselblad's real ambition was to make high-quality civilian cameras. In 1945-1946, the first design drawings and wooden models were made for a camera to be called the Rossex. An internal design competition was held for elements of the camera; one of the winners was Sixten Sason, the designer of the original Saab bodywork.
In 1948, the camera later known as the 1600F was released. The new design was complex, and many small improvements were needed to create a reliable product; the watchmaking background of many of the designers produced a design which was sophisticated, but more delicate than what was required for a camera. Only around 50 units were produced in 1949, and perhaps 220 in 1950, of what collectors have now designate the Series One camera. The Series Two versions of the 1600F, perhaps as many as 3300 made from 1950 to 1953, were more reliable but still subject to frequent repairs, with many units having been cannibalized or modified by the factory.
In 1953, a much-improved camera, the 1000F was released. In 1954, they took the 1000F design and mated it to the groundbreaking new 38 mm Biogon lens designed by Dr. Bertele of Zeiss to produce the SWA (Supreme Wide Angle, later changed to Super Wide Angle). Though a specialty product not intended to sell in large numbers, the SWA was an impressive achievement, and derivatives were sold for decades. Hasselblad took their two products to the 1954 Photokina trade show in Germany, and word began to spread.
In December 1954, the 1000F camera received a rave review from the influential American photography magazine, Modern Photography. They put over 500 rolls of film through their test unit, and intentionally dropped it twice, and it continued to function.

The Hasselblad camera comes into its own

1957 was the real turning point for the company. The 1000F was replaced by the 500C. The landmark 500C design formed the basis for Hasselblad's product line for the next forty years, with variants still being produced in small quantities in 2008. It was not until 1960, though, that Hasselblad's cameras became profitable; prior to this point, the company was still being entirely supported by sales of imported photographic supplies, including their distribution of Kodak products.
In 1962, NASA began to use Hasselblad cameras on space flights, and to request design modifications. The first motor-driven camera, the 500EL, appeared in 1965 as a result of NASA requests. While Hasselblad had enjoyed a slowly but steadily growing reputation among professional photographers through the 1950s, the publicity created by NASA's use of Hasselblad products dramatically increased name recognition for the brand.
In 1966, with the increasing success of the camera division, Hasselblad exited the photographic supply and retailing industry, selling Hasselblad Fotografiska AB to Kodak.

1970s onward

In 1976, Victor Hasselblad sold Hasselblad AB to a Swedish investment company, Säfveån AB. When he died in 1978, he left much of his fortune to the Hasselblad Foundation.
In 1977, the 2000 series of focal plane shutter equipped models was introduced. The 2000-series cameras had been intended to provide full exposure automation. The 2000 FC however was rushed and introduced without the automated features, partly because of a rethink about the way the automation should be accomplished (electronic vs. electro-mechanical). It was the last new camera produced during Victor Hasselblad's lifetime.
In 1984, Victor Hasselblad AB went public, with 42.5% of the company being sold on the Swedish stock exchange. The next year, Swedish corporation Incentive AB bought 58.1% of Hasselblad, and in 1991, they acquired the remainder of the shares, taking VHAB back to being a private corporation.
In 1985 Hasselblad established the subsidiary, Hasselblad Electronic Imaging AB, to focus on digital imaging and transmission systems.
In 1991, the 200 series of automated focal plane shutter equipped models was introduced. This was the last major technical development in the course of the classic (now known as "V-System", after Victor) Hasselblad camera.
In 1996, Hasselblad was sold, with the new owners being UBS, Cinven, and the Hasselblad management.

Fuji, Shriro, Imacon, and the digital age

In 1998, Hasselblad began selling the XPan, a camera designed and made in Japan by Fujifilm.
In 2002, they introduced the H-System, retroactively renaming their original camera line the V-System. The H-System marked an essential transition for the company. It dropped the traditional Hasselblad square negative format, instead using 6×4.5 cm film and a new series of lenses. The then owners had no confidence in Hasselblad's already advanced digital project returning a profit, and, seeing the relative success in the market of the modern (i.e. fully automated) 645 cameras made by manufacturers like Pentax and Mamiya, closed down Hasselblad's digital department and directed all effort towards making this 645 film camera. The H-System is largely designed and manufactured by Hasselblad, with Fuji's involvement being limited to finalizing Hasselblad's lens designs and producing the glass for the lenses and viewfinders. Fuji was allowed under the agreement to sell the H1 under their name in Japan only.
In January 2003 Shriro Group acquired a majority shareholding in Hasselblad. The group had been the distributors for Hasselblad in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia for over 45 years.
The following year, in August 2004, Shriro Sweden, the holding company of Victor Hasselblad AB, and Swedish subsidiary of Shriro Group, announced the acquisition of high-end scanner and digital cameraback manufacturer, Imacon. The intent of the move was to correct the mistake the previous owners made when they thought there was no money to be made selling digital products and put a stop to Hasselblad's own advanced digital project, and to renew Hasselblad’s ambitions in the professional digital photographic sector.
The move was perceived as part of an industry-wide move to respond to the trend away from film to digital. Christian Poulsen, chief executive of Hasselblad after the merger, said, "They finally realized there was no future. It was impossible to keep Hasselblad alive without digital.".
This move was a key step in the evolution of the medium format camera market. Up until that point, medium format camera makers made cameras and lenses, and separate companies made digital camera back attachments to enable those film cameras to take digital pictures. Most back companies sold products to be used with several different brands of camera. Imacon was one such back manufacturer; by merging with Hasselblad, it became evident that Hasselblad intended to cut other back manufacturers out of access to their new product line, enabling them to seamlessly transition to fully integrated all-digital cameras while the competition was still producing cameras in which the film-based controls and digital capture were not fully combined, and also to retain the profits on the backs, which sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
This has secured their market position, with nearly all of their previous medium format camera competition going through sale (Mamiya), closure (Contax, Bronica, Exakta 66, Kiev), or greatly reduced market presence (Rollei, Pentax (which was also sold, to Hoya)), and other medium format digital back makers being faced with accordingly restricted markets.
On 30 June 2011, private equity firm Ventizz announced it had acquired a 100% stake in Hasselblad.

Hasselblad cameras in space

Several different models of Hasselblad cameras were taken into space, all specially modified for the task.
The Hasselblad cameras were selected by NASA because of their interchangeable lenses and magazines. Modifications were made to permit ease of use in cramped conditions while wearing spacesuits, such as the replacement of the reflex mirror with an eye-level finder.
Modifications by NASA technicians were further refined and incorporated into new models by Hasselblad. For example, development of a 70mm magazine was accelerated to meet the space program.
The first modified (in fact simplified) Hasselblad 500C cameras were used on the last two Project Mercury missions in 1962 and 1963. They continued to be used throughout the Gemini spaceflights in 1965 and 1966.
A general program of reliability and safety was implemented following the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, addressing such issues as reliability and safe operation of electrical equipment in a high-oxygen environment.
EL electric cameras were used for the first time on Apollo 8. A heavily modified 500 EL, the so called Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC) was used from Apollo 8 on board the spacecraft. Three 500EL cameras were carried on Apollo 11. An even more extensively modified Hasselblad EL Data Camera (HDC), equipped with a special Zeiss 5.6/60 mm Biogon lens and film magazines for 150–200 exposures, was used on the Moon surface on the Apollo 11 mission. All following NASA missions also had Hasselblad cameras on board. The photographic equipment and films used on the five subsequent flights were similar to that taken on Apollo 11. On Apollo 15, the 250mm telescopic lens was added. During the Space Shuttle period cameras based on the 500 EL/M, 553 ELX, 205 TCC and 203 FE have been used.
Twelve Hasselblads remain on the lunar surface to this day.

Hasselblad products


A timeline of Hasselblad Cameras, 1948–2007
  • HK7 (1941–1945)
  • SKa4 (1941–1945)
  • 1600F (1948–1953)
  • 1000F (1953–1957)
  • V-System 500 (1957–present)
  • V-System 2000 and 200 (1977–2004)
  • V-System Superwide (1954–2006)
  • V-System Flexbody (1995–2003)
  • XPan (1998–2006) (designed and manufactured by Fujifilm)
  • H-System (2002–present)

HK7 and SKa4 military cameras

The HK7 put a 7 cm tall by 9 cm wide image on 80mm film. It has interchangeable lenses, generally a 135mm Zeiss Biotessar, with the second being either a 240mm f/4 Meyer Tele-Megor or a 250mm f/5 Schneider Tele-Xenar.
The SKa4 has interchangeable film magazines, a key feature of later Hasselblad cameras.

1600F and 1000F

Hasselblad's first civilian camera was launched in 1948. It was a 6×6 cm format focal-plane shutter SLR camera. First simply known as the “Hasselblad Camera” it was later named "1600F” after its highest shutter speed of 1/1600 sec and “F” for “focal plane”. The camera was revolutionary for the time with its modular design that allowed exchanging lenses, viewfinders and film magazines. The shutter was made of thin stainless steel which was light and durable enough to withstand the high acceleration forces of this fast shutter.
The 1600F cameras did show a couple of problems (especially the first series) so a number of changes were introduced during the production period that lasted from 1949–1953. The 1600F was initially released with the Kodak Ektar 2.8/80 mm and the Ektar 3.5/135 mm lens. Only prototypes were made of the Ektar 6.3/55 mm and the 5.6/254 mm lenses.
The successor of the 1600F was the 1000F (1953–1957). The 1000F was named after its reduced shortest shutter speed of 1/1000 s. The 1000F has a different shutter mechanism and proved to be more reliable and robust than its predecessor. During production of the 1600F, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen had become a supplier of lenses for the 1600F/1000F cameras. Zeiss supplied the lenses Distagon 5.6/60 mm, Tessar 2.8/80 mm, Sonnar 3.5/135, Sonnar 4.0/250 and Sonnar 5.6/250 mm. Towards the end of the 1000F production period a Dallmeyer 5.6/508 mm lens made by Cook and Perkins, England, was also available, but did not fully cover the full film format.
Hasselblad 1000F and especially 1600F cameras are very rare on the secondhand market and usually not in working condition because of age, neglect, lack of spare parts and qualified repairmen. Many cameras suffer from corrosion of the chrome rims. A lot of lenses suffer from scratches, fungus, discoloration and separation. That's why cameras in good condition can fetch somewhat high prices. Nevertheless a fully restored Hasselblad 1000F or 1600F is an excellent photographic tool and a joy to use.


The Hasselblad V-System evolved out of Victor Hasselblad's desire to develop a small camera with fast lenses and shutters, that was as easily handholdable as a Leica, but with a larger film format. The Rolleiflexes 6x6 format was deemed to be ideal: large enough to provide high image quality, still small enough to fit inside a compact camera. The Rolleiflex's leaf shutter lacked the fast shutterspeeds focal plane shutters could provide. And neither Leica nor Rolleiflex provided the through the (taking) lens viewing Victor's slow to use, big Graflex SLR provided. These considerations led to the 1600F and a flexible camera system that includes interchangeable bodies, lenses, viewfinders, winders, film magazines and holders, and other accessories. Problems with the focal plane shutters in the 1600F and 1000F cameras and especially the increasing importance of electronic flash led to the development of the manual leaf shutter based medium format 6×6 (6×6 cm or 2¼×2¼ in.) 500C SLR camera in 1957 which offered flash synchronization at all shutter speeds. The 500C was joined by the motor driven 500EL SLR camera in 1964. These two cameras, together with the Superwide Camera (SWC) which was introduced in 1954 as a wide angle camera using the excellent Carl Zeiss Biogon 38mm f/4.5 lens and built-in levels for exacting architecture photography, formed the core of the V-system and shared most accessories (with a few exceptions). All accessories are extremely robust, and well-designed.
Throughout the life of the V Series, Hasselblad incrementally updated the cameras. The 500C gave way to the 500C/M, the 503 CX and 503 CXi, the 501C and 501C/M, and finally the 503CW as the basic manual. The SWC was replaced by the SWC/M, the 903 SWC, and finally by the 905 SWC. The 500EL's replacements included the 500EL/M, 500ELX, 553ELX, and the 555ELD. First introduced in the 500 ELX, TTL/OTF (through the lens/off the film) flash metering was also a feature of the 503CX, which was replaced by the 503CXi and finally the 503CW. Alongside these 500-series cameras, a series of focal plane shutter cameras was introduced. They marked the return to Victor Hasselblad's original desire to have a small camera with fast shutterspeeds (1/2000 s) and fast lenses. This 2000-series started with the 2000FC, and progressed to the 2000FCM, 2000FCW and 2003FCW. Though much of the 20 years between the discontinuation of the 1000F and the introduction of the 2000FC was spent designing an improved focal plane shutter, the 2000-series again used corrogated metal foil as material for the shutter curtains, though now Titanium replaced the original stainless steel. As before, the metal shutter curtains proved to be quite easily damaged by clumsy fingers, which is why all 2000-series cameras except the 2000FC have a safety feature that retracts the shutter curtains as soon as the magazine is taken off. The 2000-series cameras were replaced by the 200-series cameras (with rubberized cloth shutter curtains!), which included the 201F, 202FA, 203FE, and 205TCC/205FCC. While the 201F was a manual control camera, the other three 200-series models added a level of metering and exposure automation to the V series. There were also two series of medium format view cameras developed related to the V series: the FlexBody and the ArcBody. The name "V System" was not created until the development of the "H System"; with a new system premiering, Hasselblad needed a designation to differentiate the older product line. All V system cameras except the 503CW are discontinued.
The EL-Series
In 1964 Hasselblad started production of a motorized camera, the 500 EL. Apart from the housing that incorporates the motor drive and the NiCd-batteries this camera is similar in appearance and operation to the Hasselblad 500 C and uses the same magazines, lenses and viewfinders. This camera and its successors:
  • 500 EL (1964–1970)
  • 500 EL/M (1971–1984, introduced user-interchangeable screen),
  • 500 ELX (1984–1988, introduced TTL-flash sensor and larger non-vignetting mirror),
  • 553 ELX (introduced new internal light-absorbing coating and use of AA-batteries), and
  • 555 ELD (1998–2006, introduced new mirror mechanics and electronic contacts for communication with digital backs)
These have been and still are used mainly as workhorses in photo studios. This camera type became also very famous when a heavily modified version of it was used in the U.S. Apollo lunar exploration program. As an outgrowth of the experience with NASA cameras a photogrammetric version of the Hasselblad 500 EL/M, the Hasselblad MK70, was constructed with specially calibrated components.


The dual-format X-System comprised the XPan and XPan II, and was Hasselblad's first camera to use 35mm film. Built with a rubber-covered titanium and aluminium body, they were designed as a coupled rangefinder camera with interchangeable, compact lenses.
The XPan cameras are re-branded versions of the Fuji TX-1 and TX-2. The XPan II has every feature of the original, but grants the user the ability to record thirty-minute exposures compared to the old limit of three minutes. Electronic exposure information in the viewfinder is another additional feature of the XPan II.
The XPan reverted to the focal plane shutter, offering 8–1/1000 s, and flash sync from B (max. 270 s) – 1/125 s.
The intent in releasing the XPan was to provide medium format image quality on 35 mm film. The XPan utilised the entire area of the 35 mm film for either panorama or 35mm format, providing a panorama effect without masking the film or reducing image quality. This technique produced a panorama negative almost three times larger than traditional masking and over five times larger than that of APS cameras.
The XPan is now discontinued.


Hasselblad launched the H-System at Photokina in September 2002.
The H1 departed from previous Hasselblad cameras in several respects. Hasselblad moved away from the traditional 6×6 format to 6×4.5 cm, and included autofocus lenses.
The camera used Fuji manufactured lenses and prisms, thus departing from Hasselblad's long association with Carl Zeiss when it comes to lens manufacturing. Shutter in the lenses was still manufactured by Hasselblad and so is the body. Hasselblad initially invited both PhaseOne and Kodak to develop digital backs for the H-System.
The H1 had a number of other innovations, including:
  • replacement of the removable dark slide with a fold-out lever
  • inserts and backs that could accept both 120 and 220 film
  • automatic film advance
  • digital back integration
  • electronic leaf shutters with timing from 1/800 seconds down to 18 hours
As with the V series, most H1 and H2 series components were compatible with one another.

Identical to the H1, but sold bundled with a Hasselblad-branded Imacon 22mp iXpress back which had to be coupled with an external hard drive at all times. The camera could only be used with the included digital back.
Very similar to the H1, but with some new compatibility features and 22MP. The H2 camera was discontinued in October 2007.
Identical to the H1D, but the bundled digital back was of a later generation which could be operated with a CF card.
The H2F can be used either as a film camera or as a digital camera when mated with a Hasselblad CF31, CF22, CF22 MS, CF39, or CF39 MS back. It is completely identical to the H2, but this camera was created to "lock out" other digital back providers from the H-series platform. The H2F is compatible with all of the H lenses, including the HC28, and the new HC 35-90mm zoom lens.
The new H3D offered some (software) functionality that provided better integration between camera, viewfinder and back than the earlier H1 or H2 could provide. These two early H-System cameras, after all, were not primarily designed as digital cameras, with the H2 carrying the 'legacy' of the H1. Hasselblad's official position on the move was:
"In truth, [the H1] was a great film camera to which a digital back could be fitted, and...Hasselblad started to look at ways that image quality and functionality could be enhanced even more through better integration...The H2 camera has not, in any way, been diminished by Hasselblad’s separate development of functions specifically for the integrated H3D. However, lacking the necessary integration of the new camera engine and Hasselblad Flexcolor software, these functions cannot work on the H2."
In 2007, Hasselblad introduced the H3DII product line. The H3DII systems have a higher level of integration between the camera and the image sensor than stand-alone digital camera backs, but a disadvantage is that film backs are not usable in the H3DII. The current H3DII products include:
Model Sensor ISO range ISO range
(with Phocus)
Capture speed HC lens factor Eq. focal length Display Storage Price
H3DII 31 33.1 mm × 44.2 mm, 31 megapixels, 16 bit 100–800 100–1600 1.2 seconds 1.3 31 mm 3" OLED CF $18,000
H3DII 39 36.8 mm × 49.0 mm, 39 megapixels, 16 bit 50–400 50–800 1.4 seconds 1.1 28 mm $22,000
H3DII-50 36.8 mm × 49.0 mm, 50 megapixels, 16 bit 50–400 50–800 1.1 second 1.1 28 mm $28,000
In 2009, Hasselblad introduced the H4D product line. The current H4D products include H4D-31, H4D-40, H4D-50, H4D-50MS, H4D-60 and HD4-200MS.
Model Sensor ISO range ISO range
(with Phocus)
Capture speed HC lens factor Eq. focal length Display Storage Price [22]
H4D-50 36.8 mm × 49.1 mm, 50 megapixels, 16 bit 50–400 50–800 1.1 second 1.0 28 mm 3" CF €19,995
H4D-60 40.2 mm × 53.7 mm, 60 megapixels, 16 bit 50–400 50–800 1.1 second 1.0 28 mm 3" CF €28,995
H4D-200MS 36.7 mm × 49.1 mm, 50 megapixels, 16 bit
200 megapixels in multishot mode
50–400 50–800 1.1 second 1.0 28 mm 3" CF


When Hasselblad merged with Imacon in 2004, it acquired Imacon's existing range of Flextight scanners. In 2006, Hasselblad launched two additional Flextight models, the X1 and the X5.
  • The X1 had the ability to scan positive/negative film at 6300 dpi optical resolution, and a 60 MB/minute scan speed.
  • The X5 added A4 reflective scanning, a batch / slide feeder, active cooling to keep noise down, 8000 dpi optical resolution, and a 300 MB/minute scan speed.


Hasselblad also produces its own image processing software called Phocus, which claims to be more advanced than similar software such as Adobe Lightroom. The latest version of Phocus is available on both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, and by taking advantage of the operating system's raw image format library, the Mac OS X version of Phocus supports raw image formats from other DSLR manufacturers. Phocus is available as a free download from the Hasselblad homepage.
In 2010, Hasselblad announced that future Windows versions of Phocus will provide raw file support for 3rd-party cameras.

Company publications

Hasselblad published the Hasselblad Forum until 2007, and it was replaced by the new large-format journal, Victor. The Victor magazine is available online as PDF, but registration is required.

*REALLY glad I decided to research Hasselblad. From my research I discovered that they were a very popular brand, and despite knowing the name I really knew very little about the company at all. Really interesting points I've learnt: Swedish family business history, associations with NASA, and developments in aerial photography in WWI. Really interesting stuff.

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