A dear friend of mine in the photo industry gave me a gift in the form of a beautiful quote. “There’s a whole generation of young people who are shooting film far more than digital, and they’re hungry for legit knowledge of the film experience,” he said. So I hope that one day, camera manufacturers realize that there are an entire generation of photographers they can appeal to so much more so than content creators. For many of those creators, their phones do an incredible job — and cameras might disappear from relevancy for them if they haven’t already. When they’re gone, all that will be left are those who want an actual, meaningful, and lasting experience. And the Hasselblad 501C being used with the CFV 100C is a great start to that experience.
I’ve written before about how I yearn for a camera that helps me easily switch between film and digital. Leica M cameras were, for years, really the only ones that made any practical sense for doing that. And while medium format backs like the Hasselblad CFV 100C have been able to do that for a while, there’s something about it now that hits totally differently. The megapixel density is much higher than what full-frame 35mm cameras offer.
So what hits differently? Years ago, I swore off DSLRs. In 2017, when I finished my Nikon D850 review, I swore off DSLRs. It was a great camera, but I had personally still been reeling from several problems those cameras face. I still remember being in a room with Canon engineers and marketing reps and feeling more or less belittled when I asked them for better viewfinders for visually impaired photographers. I’m quite thankful to Sony for the work that they’ve done to help low-vision photographers and for even sponsoring a series where I ensured those folks were compensated.
But with the Hasselblad 501C and CFV 100C, you don’t quite have that problem. The viewfinder is huge. It will work as long as the ground glass is calibrated correctly. You can get someone in focus by carefully turning the lens, lining up the right markets in the viewfinder, and then shooting. It’s what DSLRs were missing all along but that EVFs were excelling at.
Using the Hasselblad 501C and CFV 100C is a very unique experience. You’re taking a digital medium format back and using it with a retro film camera. Granted, the back isn’t a full 645 format — and therefore, it isn’t even the full 6×6 format that the camera shoots with film. But with one camera system, you can move between film and digital easily. With modern tech, you can use the beautiful and sharp Zeiss lenses from way back in the day.
This is essentially a DSLR — and if you combine the two, I’m inclined to say that it’s the best DSLR. Sure, there are later Hasselblad 500 series cameras with stuff like mirror lockup, all for a live-view experience. But we can’t deny the magic of peering into a viewfinder and making our creative vision come to life, especially when syncing up with a flash or strobe system.
Using the Hasselblad 501C and CFV 100C brought me back to a time before image-stabilized camera sensors were the norm. Sometimes you wouldn’t have image-stabilized lenses either — so you’d need to rely on your own skillset to avoid camera shake. That’s the case here. The 100MP sensor will magnify any shakes you have. So use a tripod, or be very careful and shoot with a fast shutter speed. Otherwise, consider using a strobe with a fast flash duration.
With the CFV 100C, you can’t use the prism or hood finder easily and use a flash unless you hook it up to the shutter button. That’s because of how the 100C is designed to accept a hot shoe.
The images are stunning. Sure, you’re working for them pretty hard — but they’re often rewarding. When you’re done, you can switch the camera back to a 120 or NONS Instax film back.
The Hasselblad 501C and CFV 100C are the best DSLR of 2024 because they’re also one of the most versatile camera systems in the world. That’s something very special worth talking about.
Is it all perfect, though? No, unfortunately, none of this is weather-resistant. So, if you’re shooting on location, you’ll need to be very careful with it. Otherwise, consider having another camera system with you.
Oh, and yes — I know some of my images are out of focus. But I’m not pixel-peeping — and nor should you. It’s less about the megapixels and more about the experience.