Last Updated on 03/03/2020 by Mark Beckenbach
Today, Hasselblad is known for its high-end, digital medium format offerings, but we can still grab some iconic vintage models for a premium medium format experience.
Swedish camera maker Hasselblad has a long and colorful contribution to the history of photography, making it one of the most popular brands for medium format photography for both film and digital. If the hefty price tags of the digital Hasselblad cameras have been keeping you from shooting with one, you might consider grabbing a vintage model instead. Now, more than ever, is a great time; film photography continues to thrive, with more and more film cameras getting a new lease on life.
As is the case with any camera that bears the Hasselblad name, don’t expect it to be dirt cheap! You most likely won’t go wrong with any Hasselblad you find out, but if you want some quick recommendations, we have five to take note of.
As the first consumer Hasselblad camera, the Hasselblad 1600F is easily one of the models you should be on the lookout for. Introduced in New York City in October 1948, this model (simply called Hasselblad at the time) was a single-lens reflex camera that came with Kodak screw-mount lenses, film magazines, a focal-plane shutter, and a folding waist-level viewfinder. When an upgraded version (the 1000F) was introduced, the first model was eventually named 1600F, indicating the top shutter speed of 1/1600 sec. The 1600F also holds the distinction of being the first medium format SLR camera suitable for professional use. If you’re lucky, you may still be able to find what collectors call a Series One camera: one of only around 50 units produced in 1949, and maybe 220 in 1950, according to Wikipedia.
Interested in getting this historic medium format camera? This gorgeous Hasselblad 1600F with mint 80mm f2.8 Ektar lens and case is yours for $2,499.
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Those who know their photography history well should remember the Hasselblad cameras that were taken in space. It all began with the Mercury program in 1962, when Hasselblad and NASA teamed up to modify a 500C following the suggestion of prospective NASA astronaut and photography enthusiast Walter Schirra to use a Hasselblad to document the space missions. This partnership resulted in some of the most iconic photos of the Earth taken from space and was the start of a long and close connection between NASA and Hasselblad.
Unlike the earlier 1600F, the 500C was equipped with in-lens leaf shutters and used bayonet mount lenses. Today, this camera and its improved versions (notably the 500C/M) remain some of the most coveted medium format cameras among professionals and hobbyists alike. You can add this Hasselblad 500C with 80mm f2, Planar lens to your vintage camera collection for $1,200.
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The Hasselblad 500EL, introduced in 1964, also became famous for being the basis of the cameras used during the US Apollo lunar exploration program. A heavily modified 500EL, called the Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC), was used onboard the Apollo 8, the first crewed spacecraft to reach and orbit the Moon. Wikipedia also noted that three EL cameras were brought on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, and an even more extensively modified Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) was used on the Moon surface. It was fitted with a Reseau plate and a Zeiss Biogon 60mm f5.6 lens. Another black HEC with Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 lens was used to shoot from the Eagle lunar module. These cameras were once again instrumental in taking some of the best-known photos from the Apollo mission.
While we may never get the chance to own these space Hasselblads (both were left on the Moon after the film magazines were retrieved), getting a 500EL would certainly be the next best thing! If this sounds like the camera for the space geek in you, we found this Hasselblad 500EL with Sonnar 150mm f4 Lens, WL Finder, A16 Film Back, and battery adapter from Malaysia that’s yours for $1,353.
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As another Hasselblad model taken in space, the 203FE was modified and used by NASA for the space shuttle and international space station missions. According to the Hasselblad 203FE operation guide, this version was modified with a CW winder for easy use.
The 203FE is considered by many photographers, like Karen Nakamura of Photoethnography, as the workhorse of the 200 series. It was based on the high-end 205TCC and introduced alongside the new series of CFE lenses and E film backs with electronic databus contacts. It offered aperture priority mode, top shutter speed of 1/2000 sec, compatibility with Hasselblad equipment for 200, 500, and 2000 series, and Carl Zeiss lenses all the way back to 1957. If these features meet your medium format requirements, you can grab this near mint Hasselblad 203FE with Planar CFE 80mm f2.8 lens and E12 Film Back from Japan for $3,465.
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Hasselblad XPan/XPan II
Deviating from their medium-format lineup, the company began selling the 35mm Hasselblad XPan in 1998 as a result of its partnership with Fujifilm. The dual-format camera produced both conventional 24x36mm and full panorama 24x65mm images on 35mm film. The XPan was also the first dual-format 35mm camera that created full panoramic images instead of masking the frame. Hasselblad dubbed it the “medium format camera for 35mm film” as the width of the full panorama images is similar to that of medium format. It’s also perfect for photographers on the go since it weighs only 950 grams, powered by two CRV2 3V batteries, and has three interchangeable compact lenses with focal lengths of 30mm, 45mm, and 90mm.
In 2003, the company introduced the XPan II with improved features that included shutter speed and exposure data viewing on the LCD display of the viewfinder, bulb exposure capabilities at 540 sec, 2 or 10-second options for self-timer display, and options to set the flash sync at the start or end of the exposure.
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Cover photo by Eduardo Robles Pacheco. Used with Creative Commons permission.