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501cm or 503cw


New Member
I'm debating right now between the 501cm and the 503cw. Probably many of the people in this forum have done the same. I am wanting a medium format camera to use in outdoor situations with natural lighting. The two cameras are of-course very similar. What would you suggest?
Rick, my preference would be the 503cw.
1. The winder(not important to me) and 2.the TTL flash facility.Even if you don't think you'll use it often, I find such facility a real bonus and allows for almost trouble free fill-flash.
my 2 cents (fwiw)
as far as I know you only can buy the 501CM in a set. With a 503CW you can coose the color (chrom/black) and also which lens you would like to have. I heard that the 100mm lens should be better normal lens than the 80mm one.
Yes, the SWC takes any digital back that'll fit a V camera ... which is basically all digital backs: -)

Once I take delivery of my new Imacon Digital back, I will be selling my Mint Hasselblad/Imacon Express V kit including the 1,100 file Image Bank.

Anyone interested contact me at:

I've used this back on the 903 SWC which makes a small kit with the Image Bank hooked on my belt. What is nice about this kit is that you see what you shot on the LCD ... a nice feature for this camera. When shooting in the studio, you can shoot right to the computer using Flexcolor; pick the shot you like, check focus with the close up tool, then send it to PS by converting it to a DNG file right in Flexcolor. Very fast.

WOW even an old 1970 SWC will take this back?.
Also is there any real benefit between shooting with this above setup rather than a 35 mm DSLR?, other than for the reason "I like this camera"?, or the square image.
Since we are no longer talking about negatives does this 6x6 frame transfer to better quality enlargements as with film?, hope I explained this right.

Mark, I've answered your e-mail in depth ... one correction on my e-mail is about the sensor size ...

This is not 6X6 framing, it's a 36.7 X 36.7 mm square sensor that produces a lens crop factor
of 1.5X. So a SWC 38-mm field of view is approx. that of a 50-mm MF lens. All other lens characteristics remain the same. The good news is that a 180/4 becomes the equivalent of a
270/4 in terms of field of view.

Film and digital are two different animals. Each with their own strengths. The most excellent thing about the Hasselblad "digital camera" is that it's a film camera one minute and a digital camera the next : -) The best of both worlds.

Here is a reasonable strength of using digital: this past Sunday I did a First Communion studio portrait for a dear friend's daughter. They were in and out in 1 hour 45 minutes including getting dressed, shooting, minor retouching and a series of prints plus a CD of all the keepers. I simply tethered the MF back to the computer, and we could see big pics as we shot. When Mom started crying, I knew we were done and had THE shot : -) She left with 12 keepers on a CD ROM, a proof sheet, an 16 X 20, 8X10, 5X7, one picture package wallet sized prints. Here's one of the MF digital shots ...

Great Stuff Marc (again!) - love the lighting and the vase of flowers is perfect with such contrasting subtle colours.

Tell me, is that black button on the SWC shutter release one of the Leica M "soft release" items (forgotten who makes them now) many add to their camera's shutter releases?

Personally I found it of no benefit on my M7, but very useful on my Bessa L to which I have a VC 15mm lens permanently attached.
Rick, while my 501CM was my first Hasselblad (and it is wonderful) and my only 6x6 body for 4 years; now that I have a 503CW too, it is obvious to me which I could not live without! More recently I added the CW winder to my 503 (something I never thought I would do) which has enabled more convenient "street" shooting.

Since you seem to have the budget to have the choice it would be a shame to miss the feature benefits of the 503CW.

By the way - do try to get a 1600 asa version of the 503cw - earlier production had ISO (for flash) dials up to 400asa only, then they were produced with dials up to 1600asa. Clearly the latter is preferred.
Thanks Simon.

The 503CW early models went to ISO 800. Later models to 3200. Don't know if there were interim models @ 1600, or even earlier ones with ISO 400.

Both my current 503CWs are 3200.
My apologies - my comment about the 2 versions of the 503CW should have said 800asa and 3200asa - 1 stop out. Yes my version is the 3200asa. I was not well when I wrote that - clouds of morphine!

And, Like Marc said, no there was no interim version - just a stupid mistake on my part, however there was an INITIAL version (for some inexplicable reason). But the point remains - if you buy it's best to buy the 3200 version (the 800 version only ran about the first 6 months to 1 year of production as I recall being told some time ago).

BUT, if buying on-line do take care to have the dealer confirm he has made an inspection of the body revealing the later version (harder to sell the 800asa versions). While you may not think you will use 3200 asa it is handy to have the feature enabling push exposures.
Actually there is a greater value to the 3200 setting then is immediately apparent.

The 503CW is a TTL flash ready camera. IMO one of the best no-brainer flashes for it is the Hasselblad D-40. While some complain about the lack of manual settings on this flash, I do not. You can alter the flash duration lowering the ISO to compensate for backlit subjects, or increasing the ISO # for controlling fill flash (fully explained in the D-40 manual).

If you are shooting ISO 800 film and want to lessen the flash for fill, the ISO 3200 dial provides up to 2 stops to do so. Or if using 1600 speed film, you have a stop to work with.
Even with ISO 400 films I've set the dial on ISO 3200 to add just a touch of fill in the shadows of a closer subject ... thus keeping the image quite natural looking with little to no apparent use of flash.

Here's a D-40 fill flash shot using ISO 400 film with the 503CW dial set to about ISO 1000.

> The 553/ELX has the same issue . I have the 800 ASA version, and > there is another "later" 3200 ASA version as well. When I checked > with Hasselblad USA, they said an update was available for a few > hundred dollars (I'm an amateur so I'm saving up at this point!).
I agree with Marc with regards to the "flash exposure compensation" benefits of the wider range ASA dial on the 503CW. How beautifully Marc achieves perfect fill flash on so many images he shares with us!

And Marc, I think the bloke in that shot is trying hard not to burst out laughing!

The D40 is a near perfect companion to the 503CW - I say near perfect because the D40's only limitation IMHO is that is is quite underpowered for 120 film shooting in that most Hasselblad lenses have a fastest f stop of f4 and I find that f8 if not even f5.6 is about the D40's "effective" limitation for reasonable distances. This makes one have to think twice about the focal length choice and DOF requirements.

Funny how even the most basic amount of controls on a camera (shutter, aperture and film speed) cover every one of the myriad of buttons and dials offered on so-called sophisticated cameras - one of Hasselblad's excellent legacies.
Thanks again Simon, I try ... sometimes I get it right. Yep, the fellow in the photo was quite happy.

You are right in the power issue, but the D-40 is as good as it gets for on-camera flash using internal batteries for mobility rather than a cumbersome battery pack necessary with a Quantum or other more powerful flashes. I use 2500 mAh AAs in the D-40, and have a couple extra D-40 battery carriages at the ready when shooting weddings.

I tend to use flash to just even out the tonal range rather than as the source of light.

In darker situations I use flash in conjunction with dragging the shutter speed a bit to use as much ambient light as possible. This helps with the power issue quite a bit, and the flash duration tends to freeze the subject in the foreground.
Just to mention regarding older 503CW's with the slower flash ISO settings, it is pretty easy to upgrade the circuit board and dial to the newer version. I did this about 6 months ago and in the UK it cost me £100. So if you find an older version which is in otherwise good condition, then this may be a consideration.


Richard Marks
Given the same condition, used prices between ISO 800 versions and 3200 versions are pretty much the same ... basically because few buyers know the difference ... and some sellers don't either.

Better to get the 3200 version in the first place.
Richard, thanks for that information - I got a second-hand 503CW that really was in "mint" condition, but the slower version. The conversion is quite reasonable. (I was almost afraid of asking Hasselblad!)