Hasselblad 500 Series (V System)

Medium Format Cameras:


Classic SLRs:

Hasselblad 500 Series
by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Hasselblad 500 series is a very successful line of single-lens reflex medium format cameras made by the Hasselbald Corporation of Sweden, using German-made Carl Zeiss lenses with built-in leaf shutters.The 500 series is renowned for its excellent optics, sturdiness, reliability, and compact size. Until the recent popularity of 6~10+ megapixel interchangeable lens digital SLR cameras from Canon and Nikon, it was the standard camera of fashion and portrait studio photographers. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

I used to own a Mamiya RB67 which I used in the studio, so take these comments in view that I am explicitly comparing the Hassie against the Mamiya. Surprisingly, the Mamiya very much held its own. I've also written an article comparing the different medium format film types, so read that first if you're unfamiliar with medium format. I've since sold my 500C/M and now own a Hasselblad 203FE so you can read that page too if you want to learn about Hasselblad's newest focal plane shutter series.

Born in 1957, the Hasselblad was one of the first system cameras. This means that almost everything is interchangeable: lens, prism/finder, cranking knob, and film back. This allows for tremendous flexibility. The square 6x6 format (56mm x 56mm) on medium format film makes the most of the image circle from smaller lens, means that you do not have to turn the camera sideways for portrait photographs, and allows for cropping flexibility later on. It also allows for 12 shots on a standard 120 roll; or 16 on a 120 roll using a 6x4.5 format back.

Hasselblad refers to the 500 / 2000 / 200 / 900 family as the 'V' series. They can share (for the most part) lenses, film backs, and some prism finders. The other series in the Hasselblad are the 'X' series (X-Pan; X-Pan II) which are panoramic 35mm cameras; and the new H series (H1) which are 6x4.5 medium format and digital-ready cameras.


History of the 'Blad
You can read about the early Hasselblad focal-plane history (the original 1600F and the later 1000F) on my Hasselblad 200 series page. Unfortunately, the shutter mechanisms on these early focal-plane bodies were delicate and Victor Hasselblad wanted a camera that could be used in all conditions with even the most ham-handed photographers.

Like all Hassies until the most recent H1 (and the X-Pan), the 1600F was 6x6 medium format on 120 film, used interchangeable film backs, viewfinders, and lenses. From a distance, a 1600F is indistinguishable from a Hassie 500. Unfortunately, most 1600s have disintegrating shutters and are not useful for anything except paperweights. Their prices on the used market reflect this.

The first V model, the 500C, came out in 1957 and the 500C was made until 1970. The 'C' indicated the Compur in-lens leaf shutter. The next model, the 500 C/M, was produced from 1970 until 1994. The 'M' means Modified. One of the major changes was user-replaceable focusing screens. In the photograph right, you can see the two tabs that hold the screen in. Pushing these outwards with your fingernail allows the screen to pop out.

Much later on (in the late 1980s), Hasselblad replaced the older Hasselblad screens with the brighter Minolta-made Acute-Matte fresnel focusing screen. You can recognize the second-generation Acute-Matte D screens by the two small D-shaped notches in the bottom right or left corner (barely visible in bottom right corner of the screen in the photo above). Many photographers with 500C/Ms replaced their older dimmer screens with Acute Mattes when they came out, so you'll find many 500C/Ms with them. Ask before buying, though!

I believe the 500C/M is the minimum model you should buy used. The 500C models are now almost 40 years old. Some are in good shape, but others need CLAs (clean-lube-adjusts). An Acute-Matte screen costs about $100-300 separately (depending on its vintage, D's are more expensive) so try to buy a 500C/M which has one already installed. A good condition 500C/M kit (body; waist level finder; back; and 80mm C T* lens) should cost you between $800-1400 depending on condition and whether you're getting a used camera warrantee with it.

After the 500 C/M, there were other models in the 500 line, most with relatively minor revisions and some features removed for cost-cutting purposes. The 503CX with TTL OTF (through-the-lens off the film) metering was a god-send for some wedding photographers who shoot PJ (photo-journalist) style using wide, tele or other non-standard lenses; but it's not that critical (non-TTL auto-flash works well enough for most of us). The Gliding Mirror System in the 503CW and 501CM is a Semi-Big Thing (TM) in that it prevents focusing screen vignetting in long focal length lenses. It's really not an issue in most cases unless you're using lenses > 120mm in length.

Model Years Features
500C 1957-1969

+ in-lens leaf shutters
+ bayonet mount lens
+ automatic diaphragm
- body focal-plane shutter removed

500C/M 1970-1994 + user-interchangeable focusing screens
- body flash synchronization removed
Note: after 1989, the 500C/M was sold in a package with the 80mm lens + A12 back as the "500 Classic"
503CX 1989- + TTL OTF flash metering

+ winder capability
- body cocked indicator removed
- shutter release lock removed

501C 1994- + new tripod mount
- body cocked indicator removed
- film removable crank removed
503 CW 1996- + winder capability
+ gliding mirror system (GMS) to prevent vignetting in focusing with lens longer than 80mm
501CM 1997- 501 C:
+ gliding mirror system (GMS) to prevent vignetting in focusing with lens longer than 80mm
Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.

The 500 series bodies are renowned for their toughness and reliability. A well-maintained Hasselblad can easily last over 40 years, with a clean-lube-adjust (CLA) every 10-15 years or so. This depends on the amount of use. Pros who shoot thousands of rolls a year may need yearly checkups, but that volume is clearly different from most people. I personally shoot about 200 rolls/year but that is spread between three different cameras (Canon EOS 10D, Leica M7, and Hasselblad 203FE).


Motorized Hasselblads - the EL series
There is also a series of motorized Hasselblads, the EL series. These have the motor-drive built into the bottom of the camera. They were very popular with studio-photographers and because many pros are going digital, are quite cheap on the secondary market.

Here are the EL models that I know about in rough order of production:

Model Years Comparative model
500EL 19

Roughly equivalent to 500C

500EL/M 1970-1989 Roughly equivalent to 500C/M
500ELX 1989- Roughly equivalent to 500CX


Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.

The EL cameras are a bit heavy for handheld use. I wouldn't recommend one as your only 'blad but they make a nice second body for studio use. The oldest units took a special ni-cad rechargeable battery that isn't sold anymore, but you can buy adapters so that it can take a 9v alkaline battery instead.

The latest EL model, the ELD was designed especially for digital film backs. It's still quite popular for this purpose, so they are much more rarer on the secondary market.

I've started a new page for the Hasselblad 500 EL series. It's still in its formative stages, any additional info for it would be much appreciated.


Hasselblad 200/2000 Series
Although the 500 series uses leaf shutters in the lens, there was also a line of Hasselblads that used a focal plane shutter in the body, instead of a leaf shutter in the lens. This allowed a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 sec instead of the 1/500 sec. of the 500 series. This series was called the 2000 series. (Hmm... there seems to be parallelism in the numbers for some odd reason).

The original 2000 series wasn't that much of a success because of the finicky metal foil focal plane shutter. It was unreliable and easy broken, the opposite of the Hasselblad philosophy. It was only when Hasselblad changed the 200 series so that they had a cloth focal plane curtain and built in auto-exposure that the series became more popular. This meant a photographer could use the focal plane shutter outside, taking advantage of the high shutter speed for open-aperture available-light portraiture; then use the leaf-shutter inside for studio photography with high-speed flash sync.

The most recent 203FE and 205FCC have built-in TTL meters in them. The main difference is the 205FCC has a spotmeter, while the 203FE is center-weighted only. They were also incredibly expensive new, but are reasonable on the secondary market. I have a write-up on the 200 series here.

Dating a Hasselblad
Don't go on a blind date and buy a camera that you don't know its age! You can date the manufacture of your Hasselblad bodies and backs using the following serial number code. Using it, I find that my 500C body (serial #TI556xx) was made in 1964; my 500C/M in 84 (#RI1293xxx); and my back (serial #UC47xxxx) in 1975:


Just as important as the age is how many rolls went through it. Cameras don't like to be abused - so don't buy a camera that's been retired from a professional photography studio. Cameras also don't like to not be used, so don't buy a shrinkwrapped camera from 1970 and expect it to work (keep it for its collectible value in the shrinkwrap). The best used camera is from a retired dentist who would use it once every few weeks to take a few snapshoots and otherwise babied it.

Dating Lenses: You can also date the lens manufacture for C and C T* lenses. Zeiss doesn't use Hasselblad's VHPICTURES, but if you take the lens off the camera and look at the rear element, there should be a 3-digit or 4-digit number in red lettering on the shroud. You may have to focus the lens to infinity or to the closest focus distance in order to reveal it. This is the manufacturing date code. In order to decode it:

  • The last two digits are the month
  • The first one or two digits are the year. Add this to 1957.

So my 50mm Distagon has a date code of '806'. This means it was made in June of 1965. My 80mm C T* has a date code of '1605'. This means it was made in May of 1973.

CF lenses use a different code: one letter and two digits. The letter is the month (A=Jan; B = Feb; C=March; D= April) and the two digits are the year flipped. So 28 = 82 = 1982. So F58 = June 1985.

I haven't discovered the code for CFE lenses yet.




Prism Finders and Meters

I used to have an entire section here dedicated to accessory prism finders for the Hasselblad system, but I moved it to a separate page titled: Hasselblad (Prism) Finders and Meters.

There you can read about my adventures with the NC-2, PM, Metered Finder, PM-90, PME-90, and PM-5... and oh yes, the metered wind knob.



Film Backs

The Hasselblad lens and film back mounting systems are excellent. There are no extruding pins or hooks on the lenses or on the backs. This means you can set down a Hassie lens or put a film back in your backpack without having to worry about something catching or getting damaged. It's truly a well-thought out system. Other lens systems and backs have protruding pins that are always getting snagged and broken.

There are two main variations of 500 series backs: the original 12 backs and the newer A-12 backs (forgetting for a minute the 6x4.5 format 16/A-16 backs). The original backs required you to look through a peephole to align the first frame. With the A-12 backs (A=Automatic), loading became much simpler. As the older 12 backs are much older, there's no reason not to get the newer A-12 backs.

Hasselblad backs are reputedly hand-adjusted at the factory for the tightest tolerance possible. The film insert has a sticker on it with the last 3 digits of the shell's serial number. Whenever possible, try to get a back with matching insert and shell serial numbers (these are listed on ebay as "matching inserts" or something like that) as it will increase their resale value. In reality, it doesn't make that much of a difference and if you're a user rather than a collector, you can get mismatched backs for 50-75% of matched backs. Two of my backs have mismatches and I don't lose any sleep on it.

Backs from 1997 have a built-in darkslide holder. This is a great feature that Hassie ripped off from Lindahl, who has been selling a stick-on version of this forever. The cheapest place to buy these is from Calumet Camera in Chicago. I have them on my backs (see above right). Three thumbs up.

You can buy modified Kiev 88 backs that are modified to work on Hasselblads from KievCamera.com. However, barely used A-12 backs can be bought on ebay for $100-200 these days so I see no advantage in purchasing a new Kiev back.

There's more information on the entire film-back line on the Hasselblad 200-series page.


Because it has a leaf shutter instead of the massive, earth shattering focal plane curtain of the Pentax 67 or Kiev 66, the Hasselblad (and Mamiya RB67) is particularly suited towards taking studio photographs. You can flash sync at any speed. However, I have to say that in the studio, the Mamiya RB67 and RZ67 are better than a Hassie. The larger format allows for better duplication on standard paper, without having to resort to cropping or trimming. The Mamiyas have bellows focusing which allows you to get closer than the helical focusing on the 'blad. The one thing I don't like about my 80mm CFE lens is that its minimum focus is 0.90 meters (3 feet) which is too far for some studio and close portrait work.



My 500C/M came with two lenses, the 80mm f/2.8 Planar T* and the 50mm f/4 Distagon. Both are made by Carl Zeiss of West Germany for the Hasselblad and are both coated. The 80mm has the renowned T* Zeiss multi-coating and the 50mm only is single-coated.

People have a love-hate relationship with the early Hassie lenses. They love the sharpness but really hate the linked shutter-speed and aperture dials. Hasselblads use the EV metering system, which links shutter-speed and aperture to produce a single Exposure Value. This allows you to easily dial in your light reading from an EV friendly light meter (such as the metered finders above), then quickly adjust aperture and shutter-speed in relation to each other without changing the exposure. As long as you have a light meter that reads in EV, it's a great system. It's a pain in the neck otherwise. Fortunately, my Pentax and Gossen meters read in EVs.



Hasselblad has made numerous minor optical tweaks and user-interface tweaks with their lenses. Their latest CFE lenses incorporate electronic linkages to tell the 200 series camera bodies what their maximum aperture is and to coordinate with digital backs.


Other Accessories
Along the way, I also picked up a 10mm extension tube and 2x Komura Tele-extender. The extension tube is for macro-photography. But I've been spoiled by the Mamiya RB67, the Hassie is not as flexible. The Komura is a high-quality 2x focal length multiplier. You also lose 2 stops of light, so using a metered prism is recommended.


Interesting quirks

Up until last year, Hasselblad strongly promoted the "square format" (56mm x 56mm; or 6x6). It was ideal, you could shoot both portrait and landscape formats without having to rotate the camera or back. Square photos had a zen feel to them. If you wanted to shoot 645, there was a 645 back for the 'blad.... blah blah blah....

That advertising angle suddenly stopped in 2001. What happened? Hasselblad came out with a 6x4.5 camera of their own, the Hasselblad H1 (made in conjunction with Fuji Camera of Japan). Because they couldn't be overtly duplicitous, they had to stop saying that 6x6 format was the best of all worlds.

Former Soviet-Union Hasselblad Alternatives

Many people are now familiar with the Kiev 88, a clone of the Hasselblad 1000F. It uses a focal plane shutter and while it has excellent optics, it more fragile and unreliable than the original. They do have cloth curtains though. They are dirt cheap and the most recent Kiev 88CMs use the Pentacon EX66 mount, which allows for a huge variety of excellent optics from Zeiss Jena and Schneider-Kreuznach. For $600 for a complete kit with warrantee from Kiev Camera, it's certainly tempting You may want to avoid buying over ebay because Kiev 88s have wild sample variation and you really want to buy from a dealer who will stand by it 100%.

p.s. With used Hasselblad 500C/M prices hovering at about $1000 for a full kit, I'd recommend buying a Hasselblad instead, but it's your money!

Here are some reliable Kiev dealers:

  • Kiev USA (Saul Kaminsky)
  • Kiev Camera (Mike Fourman)


Mamiya RB vs Hasselblad

For close-up photography, food photography, and macrophotography I would most likely use my Mamiya over the 'Blad simply because the bellows focusing allows for much closer focusing. The decreased magnification factor with 6x7 film vs. 6x6 format more than makes up for any perceived difference between Mamiya and Zeiss lenses.

Mamiya RB/RZ Series Hasselblad 500 Series
Field Use Big, heavy, unwieldy Advantages: Very compact and handholdable
Much lighter and smaller.
Studio Use Advantages: bellows focusing allows close focusing w/out extension tubes
Closest focusing without diopter/tube is 0.9m (3 feet)....
Tie: Mamiya lens have slightly less resolution,
but 40~60% larger film size (6x7 vs 6x6 depending on cropping)
more than makes up for the difference
System Cost
(Body, standard lens, back, WLF)
~$1000-1500 depending on model/year ~$1000-1500 depending on model/year
Additional Lens Cost ~$500-800 ~$800-1800



Technical Details

Camera Name
500 C/M 503 CW
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
1970-1989 1996~
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex
Lens helical focusing
User replaceable focusing screen

Early: Hasselblad screen
Late: Minolta Acute-Matte focusing screen

Gliding Mirror System (prevents vignetting)
Acute-Matte-D MP-SI (micro-prism; split image) focusing screen made by Minolta

Lens Mount

Hasselblad Bayonet Mount

Body Shutter
Winding Mechanism
Manual crank only
Manual crank or optional auto-winder CW (max 1 fps)
Metering System

No body internal metering (see meters above)

Flash Metering
None (flash auto-mode only)
TTL/OTF center-weighted through SCA flash module
Film type / speeds

Type 120 and 220 film (medium format) as well as 70mm long-roll
6x6cm and 6x4.5cm
Polaroid backs available from NPC and Hasselblad

Battery type
Dimensions and weight
Body: 170 x 109 x 104 mm
With 80mm Planar T* lens and 120 magazine: 1555g.
Body: 180 x 114 x 110 mm
With 80mm Planar T* lens and 120 magazine: 1550g.
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Lens 50mm f/4 Distagon (20044) 80mm f/2.8 Planar T* (20028) 150mm f/4 Sonnar (20060)
Carl Zeiss
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
Lens Construction

7 elements in 7 groups
75° Angle of View (Diagonal AoV)
Max Mag. = 0.11x
35mm equiv = 35mm

7 elements in 5 groups
52° Angle of View (D-AoV)
Max Mag. = 0.8x
35mm equiv = 50mm

5 elements in 3 groups
30° Angle of View (D-AoV)
Max Mag. = 0x
35mm equiv = 90 mm

Lens Mount

Hasselblad Bayonet Mount

Focusing range 48cm (19") - infinity 0.9m (3') - infinity 1.4 m  - infinity
Synchro Compur shutters in lenses (1 sec - 1/500 sec)
Flash Sync
X- and M-sync on lens body, selectable
Apertures f/4 - 22
0.5 step stops
f/2.8 - 22 f/4 - 32
Filter Mount 67mm Bayonet Mount 50 Bayonet Mount 50
Body Construction Aluminum alloy
Dimensions and weight

73W x 94H mm
780 g.

51.7 mm H
465 g.


Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.



System Weight

W/L = 80g (2.9 oz)
NC-2 Clone = 380 g.
PME-90 = 580 g.

50mm f/4 = 780 g.
80mm f/2.8 = 465 g.
500C/M = 600 g.
120 = 410g (14.5 oz)


Minimum weight = 80mm f/2.8 + 500 C/M + W/L + 120 Back = 1555g (3.4lbs)
Moderate weight = 80mm f/2.8 + 500 C/M + PME-90 + 120 Back = 2055g (4.5lbs)
Maximum weight = 50mm f/4 + 500 C/M + PME-90 + 120 Back = 2370g (5.2lbs)

Compare:  Mamiya RB67 + 90mm f/3.5 + W/L + 120 back = 2690 g (5.9 lbs)
Hasselblad 203FE + 80mm CFE + W/L + 120 back = 1720g
Hasselblad 203FE + 80mm CFE + PM45 + 120 back = 2000g
Canon EOS-3 + EF50mm f/1.4 = 1130g
Leica M7 + Summilux 50mm f/1.4 = 885g


About the Hasselblad Corporation

Blah blah blah... from a press-release:

2003-01-30 Shriro acquires Hasselblad, the Swedish camera manufacturer. The Shriro Group acquires the majority shareholding in Victor Hasselblad AB. The purchase agreement was announced today at a press conference at the Hasselblad premises in the centre of Gothenburg.
- Shriro is well-known to Hasselblad, and has succeeded very well in selling our products into the key markets in Asia, says G?eY?Lan Bernhoff, President and CEO of Victor Hasselblad AB. Shriro is our distributor in several key Asian markets and has, amongst other things shown its capability together with Hasselblad in developing the Japanese and Chinese markets as major outlets for Hasselblad.

Shriro is a 90 year old family business with production and distribution of several well-known and worldwide brands. The company has its major operation in the Asian Pacific region. The head-office is situated in Hong Kong and Shriro employs around 3,800 people in 13 countries and has a turnover of more than 2.5 billion Swedish Kronor, equal to 300 million US dollars.

The Hasselblad family started its company in 1841. Since mid 1870 Hasselblad has had its centre of operations in the same building downtown Gothenburg. In May this year the company will move to new office and production premises in a newly established high-tech industrial and university area, named Norra a^?vstranden, Gothenburg.

The company has recently carried through a successful, worldwide launch of a new unique camera system, built for traditional film as well as digital photography. The H1camera, which took nearly 6 years to develop from "idea" to a "finished product", opens up new markets for Hasselblad. Deliveries of the new system started in December 2002.

Hasselblad today has the most wide spread camera system in the world within the medium format, the so-called V system. This system originates from 1948 and will also in the future be an important part of the sales.

During the latter part of the 90:s Hasselblad has gone through extensive structural changes and when the company moves into the new premises the efficiency gain will be substantial. This move marks the completion of this period of manufacturing and product renewal, and the company is now ready to embark into a new era.

On August 12, 2004, Hasselblad surprised everyone by merging with digital image sensor developer Imacon. The new company will be called Hasselblad Imacon. This is very good news as Imacon is one of the leading vendors of digital backs for medium format systems. This means that we can expect even better incorporation of digital technology into Hasselblad's cameras (most probably only their H1 line since the V system seems to be a dead end).


On the Net



Hi. Do you happen to know the current value of the Hasselblad 500c/m in excellent condition with the 12 exposure film back? As well as the 80mm and 150mm lenses? Thanks.

Dear all,
I've heard my photo professor told me that the best way to shoot with hasselblad 500cm is to use the tripod, once you use it, you will get the sharpest photo. Another reason she said that was when you cool with the focus and ready to shoot, you pull out the slide, you move, when you click on the shutter, your image might go unfocused due to the little movement you create. Is that true? I kind of finding out that my images were a little bit of unfocused, but I don;t know if not using tripod was the reason.

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