Medium Format Forum

Register a free account now!

If you are registered, you get access to the members only section, can participate in the buy & sell second hand forum and last but not least you can reserve your preferred username before someone else takes it.

503cw or 501cm


New Member
I am a student who has learned on a Dslr and has been converted to the magnificence of MF. I have looked into it a bit by reading this forum and some other reviews and narrowed my desicion down to the 501 and the 503.

I will be learning with this camera so the more creature comforts the camera has the better (I'm guessing)

Most of my photography consists of street photography and little to no studio work. I also enjoy landscapes.
I guess Im just looking to extract some of the copious knowledge that is on this board as to what system I should go with.

Thank you in advance for your help.
There are few "creature comforts" with these cameras Jared.

They are precision machines dedicated to human control and creative thinking.

The only real difference between the 501CM and the 503CW is that the CW offers TTL flash control when using the correct flash. If you think you may wish to use TTL flash in future, select the 503CW. Otherwise they are basically the same camera.

That's what I use because I shoot weddings with my Hasselblads.
And Jared, one other less significant difference - the 503CW has a removable film advance handle allowing you to add the CW winder device, which is not possible on the 501CM.

I have both cameras and both are wonderful. If you plan on shooting quite a bit of flash, the 503's TTL flash capability is very handy and accurate. If some added ergonomics from attaching the (rather heavy) CW winder appeal to you, again the 503 is the way to go.

I started with the 501CM years ago because the 503's higher price was not really affordable to me. These days a good used 503CW body is relatively inexpensive - a great benefit of the digi-revolution!

Either way they are both great and in all other respects the "same" camera.

Using TTL flash control, the system indeed functions in an aperture priority mode: you set the aperture on the lens, and the TTL flash metering system will adjust the flash according to how much light it receives.
But you will still have to keep an eye on how your choice of aperture and shutterspeed affects the exposure by any ambient light that will be present.

It is just like Marc said: these cameras remind you of the fact that there are only very, very few technical parameters involved in photography - focus, aperture and shutterspeed - and that therest of what automatic machines do is no more than take the thinking, and decision making, away from you.

For someone who likes to do the thinking and decision taking him- or herself, to make sure the image comes out the way the photographer, not the camera, wants it to, such automatic "creature comforts" only pose an annoying barrier between what the photographer wants and what will happen. You will have to guess what an auto-everything camera is doing, and adjust that accordingly to get the correct result.

It's much better - also from a 'learning' point of view - to remove this meddling, interfering go-between entirely, and take charge of the few parameters yourself.
The less "creature comforts" the better!

And you will indeed get 'the hang of it' petty soon.
After all, there are only three (!) parameters to master!
Ha, ha, Simon .... good catch! The CW winder completely slipped my mind.

Jared, the two Hasselblad cameras you mentioned are not automated. They do not even have a meter in them. Many 500 camera shooters simply use hand held meters. You can get an optional TTL metered prism, but they do not control the camera settings at all. You have to manually transfer the meter reading in the viewfinder to the lens. In some cases the metered prism cost almost as much as the camera body.

What you may not know is that these cameras use leaf shutter lenses. That means the aperture control AND the shutter speed is set using control rings located on the lens.

Hasselblad makes another type camera that looks like the ones you are considering but uses a focal plane shutter and TTL meter in the camera body. The most modern version of these type cameras are the 200 series like a 203FE. That type Hasselbald allows use of the Aperture Priority type shooting you inquired about. Hasselblad has discontinued the 200 cameras, but still services them. However, they are a good bit more expensive used than the two cameras you asked about.
ALL of you THANK YOU very very much! The information I was getting from the place I was going to buy was so convoluted that I left more confused than Michael Jackson.

I never shot fully auto I usually just shoot manual but have the in camera meter to rely on. But after learning the zone system Im ready to get a meter and create some photographs on my own.

Considering that the major issue between the 501 and 503 is the ttl how many of you use a flash? How often do you use it?

I'm guessing (confidently) that all of us use flash.

How often is another matter. Just as what for (that is, apart from the "to get extra light" bit).

TTL-Flash control is great when what the lens sees is rather different from what a flash mounted metering cell can see. That will be the case in extreme close-up and macrophotography, but not often in any other field of photography i can think of.
TTL-Flash control is also good when the situation wouldn't allow to change settings on the flash much: the metering cell inside the camera will, for instance, automatically notice you closed the aperture down, or opened it up, whereas you might forget (or not have time to) change the setting on an auto-flash unit.
For anything else, an automatic flash unit, with a sensor built-into the unit, will do perfectly well.

(TTL-Flash control will not work with studio units.
But you will know that already, as well as you will know that it is of no use at all in the studio anyway. So i'll not mention this.)

Back to the 501 CM or 503 CW choice: if you would want to get the 501, please be aware that there is a 501 C (without the M) model as well as the 501 CM. So look for the letters as well as the number!

The 501 C has a smaller mirror, that will vignet the viewfinder image (not the image that will be recorded on film) when using longish focal length lenses (approx. 120 mm and longer).
Though it is something you will get use to, the larger mirror of the 501 CM is definitely an improvement worth going for.
Jared, I agree with QG's comments - these days with 503CWs and 501CMs in great condition going relatively cheaply, you'd be best advised to buy one of them as they are the latest models with the benefits QG outlined.

You asked: <<<<considering>>>>

I started out with a 501CM which frankly is still all I really need; but, then I had the chance to grab a near new 503CW very cheaply, so I took up that opportunity.

I shoot flash only 10% of the time, but with the D40 flash and the 503CW it is a great advantage. BUT, do not discount the other feature benefit...

When I got the 503CW I justified it on the basis of flash and the fact that 6x6 is my main preferred kit. BUT then I was offered an "un-used" CW winder fresh in its box and plastic wrapping for just a couple of hundred Aussie dollars - so I thought "better now than later".

By adding this to the 503CW I gained a benefit I never previously considered - it made the camera so much more flexible to use; I use it and 6x6 more often now than ever. I can do things like street shooting with it (and the PM45 prism that I already had). I can set up the 503CW on a tripod, sit back waiting for the sunset and fire the camera with the remote control. Even with the CW winder fitted I can still "pre-release" the mirror ready for the next shot and then fire the camera remotely from some distance to grab the perfect light at the perfect moment....

So in addition to the TTL flash feature, the 503CW has other hidden benefits of flexibility. So I suggest you use your budget to find a nice ex&le that fits - that way you will never wonder. Of course, none of what I have said means that the 501CM is anything but a wonderful camera too.
Amazing!^ thank you.

Of course the more I learn about these amazing systems the more in trouble I get since now I have heard some good things about the great benefits of the 203fe. Any reasons that would be a bad decision for a beginer?
Apart from not offering that remote control posibility Simon mentions, nothing, no.
A 203 is more versatile, in effect a 500-series camera with as an extra a timed rear shutter, allowing use of the series of non-shuttered lenses as well as all of the shuttered ones.
And it has that built-in meter with the automatic option you were looking for.
go to KEH,
Good Hasselblad deals and conservative ratings.

btw . . I have a 501CM and a 503CW. You will enjoy your Hasselblad very much. Taking your time to compose and being one with your camera are great things to feel a part. I predict you will enjoy the 'art' of photography much more then you ever did on your dslr. Once you open up your scans or view prints, you will see a brand new front to back depth and dynamic to this wonderful art we enjoy. You will begin to 'feel' your photos in a way you never did with your dslr.