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Will we ever see V series body shells again


Active Member
It came as no surprise that the initial release of the H1 was met by some "shock and horror" that Hasselblad had made 3 key departures in its "new generation" camera:

1. Fuji replaced Carl Zeiss - probably for many reasons and we've all seen how good the Fujinon optics are anyway; as they say "get over it".

2. 6x6 was replaced by 6x4.5 - well there were many design and build issues brought about by the all electronic AF wonder machine that might have necessitated the smaller image frame - again "get over it", as many have.

3. the plentiful use of plastics despite the excellent alloy chassis.

BUT, for one, I was a tad surprised that the H2 did not see the use of alloys in the outer casing. Why? Well my new XPan II is superbly built with an all alloy outer casing (yes, except for the added on rubber hand grip - a nice feature) as was the original XPan. Am I missing something here?

My XPan is to my hands and eyes a nicely constructed as my Leica M7. But, hadling an H1 or H2 has no such joy (although ergonomically I think it's great).

Now I know that is a bit fussy of me, but perseptions mean a lot and in particular they gave buyers of such "expensive" equipment some sense of value for money.

To a pro having many years of use from wonderful V series cameras, I'd have thought the use of more metal in the casing/shell would provide a similar sense of robustness.

If Fuji (and the Japanese are not so famous for the use of metal bodies these days) was able to build such a fine product for Hasselblad as the XPan, why was it not possible to do something siliar with the H series?

Surely weight was not the issue especially with the alloys available today?

Will we ever see such fine camera body construction and finish as Hasselblad did for so long with the V series? Is the XPan the last of superbly finished Hasselblad cameras?

Not a serious topic, but fun anyway!
"shock and horror", V>

My observations of Hasselblad's promotions, the lack of a lens promotions, product line, emphasis on digital backs, and diminished product on hand in the stores, lead me to believe that if you want a new piece of equipment you'd better get it now.

Will we ever see such fine camera body construction and finish as Hasselblad did for so long with the V series?>

No! Like the end of the fine machine work and finish on the old Zeiss Ikon's, the demise of the well built Contax's. Leica, how long will they last? Just yesterday a few Leicaphiles jump knee deep into Cannon.

Today's companies are selling bodies, news ones every few months, so there's no reason to produce a precision instrument, a workhorse that will perform for 50+years and be something to behold. Also, I think the emphasis is on megapixels, and instant results (instead of craftsmanship, quality materials, and fine leather work) are some of the compelling forces.

I remember many years ago, perhaps the late 70's, for a number of months, Hasselblad placed informative adds in Scientific American explaining how they made their cameras, one such ex&le was their use of rice for polishing.

Perhaps fun, but I am discouraged by the trend. It's occurring in all domains where craftsmanship was the standard goal, quality materials used for durability, innovative design, and a beautifully finished product that set their product above the competition. Lets face it not everyone recognizers, or appreciates fine quality or want to pay for it. Fine knurling, checkering, well polished hard chrome, and fitted leather are overlooked. To them a dial or a lever is just that.

Best Regards:

Well, this is not the first time that Hasselblad has switched lens manufacturers. The first Hasselblads (1600Fs) used to come with Kodak lenses, before the switch to Carl Zeiss. Now this was well before most of our times...

They also switched from focal plane shutters to leaf shutters and back... 1600/1000 > 50x > 200x/20x

I share the lament Gilbert. Fortunately, there are plenty of these excellent cameras available barely used at prices a mere mortal can endure. It's actually a great time to be a Hasselblad shooter as fondlers dump their barely broken in MF gear to get a Canon D Rebel, 20D or D5, or Nikon whatever.

Things I just couldn't justify before, have become much more affordable, and now reside in my gear closet available for duty ... including a full 203FE kit with compliment of FE lenses that I would NEVER have been able to afford prior to the wonderful "digital revolution" .

The H-system bodies have the working bits mounted on a lightweight, but strong, aluminium frame, which is placed inside a tough stainless steel shell.
Very much like the V-system bodies.

The plastic you're complaining about is the outside cladding, comparable to the vinyl 'leatherette' on V-system bodies.

I think it is a serious topic, but one that started off with a false assumption.
Simon P Galbally and Q.G. de Bakker (Qnu),

What bothers me about Hasselblad manufacturing and styling changes, is abandoning of the classic design of the 6x6, it is solid, reliable, functional, and works. I can recall my first purchase of a Hasselblad ‘V’ system camera and lens, its look, feel, functionality, and practicality impressed me. It is substantial, made from quality materials, with fine craftsmanship.

No doubt plastic is ‘cheaper’ to use in the manufacturing process, but plastic also feels cheap and it is prone to failure and breakage.

Hasselblad cameras costs thousands by the time lenses are purchased, for a few measly bucks, the use of plastic over leatherette, and a hidden aluminum frame seems to 'cheapen' the product. I don’t think the sale of the company to barbarians helps give customers a warm and fuzzy feeling, when cheap plastics are used.

Hasselblad ought to re-visit their design, use of materials, and realize the consequences of the direction they have chosen as they are no longer the same company with the same products as the ‘V’ system.

I view Hasselblad as a company in transition, where only the ‘trademark name’ will remain, while the product line changes into a freak. “A woman is a woman, but if she is beautiful, she will always be beautiful”

Richard (soon moving from Florida to Seattle)
In a former discussion we have already been at this point and i know it is a very emotional discussion . Also for me . I know Q.G. tries to keep these emotions down , he is right , but still sometimes I get very sad about , what's going on with HASSELBLAD .
Looking at the ledger books in HASSELBLAD COMPENDIUM we can see that one of the earliest customers of HASSELBLAD 1600F/1000F was Shriro in Hongkong and Singapore . As far as i know the Shriro group today owns most of the Hasselblad company and they run the company as they want , and they want to earn money . Good enough , its leagal . But they also have turned away from the HASSELBLAD design and image .
There was no need to change to the 4.5x6 format . It is fully contained in the 6x6 format . There was no need to go away from CARL ZEISS lenses . I am absolutely shure , that CARL ZEISS is able to produce the lenses required by H1 and H2 cameras . And there was also no need to turn away from the semi professional photographers . These were the people , who drove the market and new developments , because they invested much more than a true professional , who had to earn money with his investment into new gear . These are facts .
So , i think Richard is right , the TRADEMARK will remain , but the company is run by people , who do not care about the history and image of that great company HASSELBLAD .
By the way , look at the newest HASSELBLAD catalogue . All you see is 503CW , 555ELM and 905 SWC as cameras . The digital environment makes that cut down neccessary , and i can understand that . But in my opinion , H1 and H2 cameras are no more HASSELBLADS . All they have , could have been implemented into that great V-SYSTEM , if wanted . Did they want to ? ? ?
I think no .
Let us step back and consider reality. MF as a category of camera is under the gun. Professionals (commercial and wedding), as well as art photographers drove that market for most of it's history. Advanced amateurs aspired to the format, and did contribute to it's continued success, but alone they are not enough to sustain Hasselblad or any other MF brand as a company.

That's mostly due to digital ... which wasn't a huge threat until the Nikon D1-X and Canon 1D series hit the street. Magazine and editorial photographers began moving to DSLRs. Then wedding shooters moved in droves ... especially spurred on by the shift to photojournalism over traditional posed work ... that was a huge hit to the MF market... that business used to be almost all MF equipped, and now it is rare for a wedding shooter to use a Hassey. On my wedding forum, of hundreds of members, only a handful of us still use Hasselblads.

When 645 began eroding the 6X6 market with smaller more flexible cameras which also included AF ability, Hasselblad held their ground. Kyocera began marketing an AF 645 and filled their lens needs with Zeiss. When Hasselblad finally woke up to the reality of 645 and digital, Zeiss wasn't an option... I'm sure Kyocera made sure of that with an exclusivity clause covering 645.

Could Hasselblad offer full frame 6X6 digital that fit their format and the professional would most certainly welcome? NO. No one can. Hasselblad doesn't make digital backs, so were at the mercy of back makers and sensor makers like Kodak. The market had already gone to 645, and continues to do so with ever larger meg count, almost full 645 sized sensor backs.

I'd hazard a guess that without the H1 and now H2, there would be no Hasselblad.

I also held out for as long as possible. And I'll probably never relinquish my death grip on my 500 and 200 series cameras.
But I did order the H2D ... for purely functional reasons ... its AF is the best out there, and Imacon has produced an integrated 22 meg., 645 back requiring no tether or aux. battery ... but more importantly, Hasselblad developed an adapter that allows me to use all my V series lenses, including full functionality without any further adjustment when using CFE lenses. So, I have committed to only three Fuji made lenses (50/3.5, 80/2.8, 150/3.5) to use for certain wedding applications where AF is almost essential. All the remaining MF digital work will be done with the Zeiss glass that I know, love ... and already own.

The world will advance even further and the backs will be packed with even more megs. But there is a point that one reaches that says, "enough is enough".

The decision to produce the H1, and what it should be and how it should look, dates from the period before Shriro's ownership of the company.

One reason ("a need" if you must) to change to 6x4.5 format was that 6x4.5 cameras sold, while others did not.

It made sense to put a 6x4.5 auto-everything in a market favouring such a product.
It also made sense to continue the V-systen alongside the new thing. Until, that is, noone is buying V-system cameras any more.

It would have made more sense had they decided to get onto the Digido, instead of abandoning it in favour of the H-thing. Then they would not have been 'taken by surprise' by the rapid changeover that killed most of the film photography market already.
However, the debate whether the V-system (or any MF system for that matter) would have stood a chance even if they had done everything to prepare for the digi-wave is almost over. The conclusion tends towards "no way!"

Looking for someone to blame for all and sundry? Look to photographers and their (our!) purchasing decisions first.

The H-system's outer shell?
Vinyl covering masquerading as leather, or another man-made material covering creating a more contemporary design? A matter of taste.

And that's it.
Plastic is plastic. The thing that is underneath is not flimsier now than it was before (the aluminium frame, Richard, is not just hidden by a plastic covering, but by a stainless steel shell first. In that, and contrary to what Simon supposed, the H-system essentially does not differ from the V-system).

Taste, so whether you like it or not is up to you, and any verdict is a fair one.
But don't be afraid the H-thing will shatter to bits given a hard knock (like some Nikons and Canons, and even 'workhorse' thingies like Mamiya RZs might do). No reason to worry.
This is a newbie kind of question and I would value your responses.

I am using a 503CW with a PME45. I have adjusted the eye piece for the right diopteric correction and yet I am still having focussing problems. I am using an acute matte d focussing screen.

Can people suggest other focussing screens or anything else that may help. I have been mostly doing portraits and it is deeply frustrating that in 40% of photos I am getting 'softeness' in the eyes of my subjects.
have adjusted the eye piece for the right diopteric correction and yet I am still having focussing problems>

If you are sure you adjusted it properly, following the instructions, and tested it against your waist level finder, from the same distance, using a tripod etc. Then...

1. Do you wear multifocal eyeglasses? If so be especially aware of positioning your eye at the same angle that you adjusted the PME for.

2. Are you looking directly through the center of the eyepiece? You may have noticed that the eyepiece is rather large so make sure you have correct sight alignment when focusing. Center to center of the screen.
Doron, I use the same camera and the same PME45 finder, and need to use the diopter adjustment to the max + adjustment.

The 500 series leaf shutter lenses are often slower apertures like f/3.5, f/4 or f/5.6. This produces a bit darker view than when using the FE lenses on a 200 series camera that have max apertures like f/2 and 2.8 for many lenses.

So, even under the best circumstances I was sometimes having difficulty achieving critical focus. This is especially true with the wider angle lenses like the 40/4, 50/4 and in lower light even the 60/3.5 and beyond.

I solved it by adding the Hasselblad flip magnifier to the PME45.
Very easy to use. Flip it into position, focus, flip it out of the way and shoot. I've gotten fast enough at it that I can even do it hand held while shooting candid wedding photography.

I also changed my 503CW focusing screen to the split prism/microprism Acute Mat version, (and may even try the diagonal split screen with microprism made by Brightscreen after I test one in my Canon 5D).

BTW, when you are setting the diopter adjustment on the PME45, make sure you throw the lens completely out of focus and aim it at a flat white surface ... then only look at the microprism of the screen itself when adjusting to your eye. Once the screen is razor sharp lock the PME45 diopter adjustment there.
Forgot to add one thing. When shooting portraits, if you are shooting hand held and using wider apertures (like f/2.8 on the 80mm), watch out that you don't "sway" back and forth. Medium Format lenses offer less depth of field than many 35mm users are accustom to, and a slight "body sway" can throw off your focus point. It takes practice to remain rock steady when shooting hand-held, even if you are using a fast shutter speed.

AND, once you achieve focus, shoot immediately, because the subject can also "sway" out of focus if you wait for even a second.

If you indeed have been shooting handheld, this may have added to the problem you seem to be experiencing. To test this theory, try your next portrait session with the camera on a tripod, focus on the eyes, shoot immediately, and see if it is any better. I suspect that if your PME45 is adjusted correctly, this may be the source of the focussing problem.
I do agree with Marcs reality check on the current professional trends in image capture. This is in some ways sad, but those be moaning the v systems commercial decline are not likely to rush out and by 5 new ones each just to keep production up. I drive a Morgan sporstcar and use it for work most days. Its design dates back to 1939 when it was raced, although it is still in production. It has no air con, traction control, ABS brakes or side impact protection. You need to put your luggage in water proofs on the luggage rack. It does however give me imense pleasure and that is what matters. I know I could get there more economically and in some ways more comfortably, but the pleasure on my Sons face as I start the engine does not happen in any other vehicle. I do see my Hassy as a classic equivalent. I do not care how many auto everythings pull up along side. I enjoy using it and that is really all that matters.
One thing should be added to the evaluation of the classic Hasselblad V system. While it is a basic, well built machine, it was the obvious product of genius in that it has survived so many innovations in photography.

For those investing in it, and the still relatively expensive lenses, it easily migrates into the digital age because of the original modular design.

A vast majority of digital backs fit it. And every subsequent back can be adapted to it. Since the backs now feature 645 sized sensors, the lens image circle works, and there are adapter plates for digital back use on a 500 series camera that let you rotate the orientation from landscape to portrait in seconds.

While these backs are quite expensive now, that will change as new ones come out. Even now, the 96C produces stunning results and can be had for less than the price of a Canon 1DsMKII body. For pure digital image quality the Hassey/Imacon combo outperforms the Canon ... that I can attest to having both in my kit locker.
I think the "genius" of the "basic" V-system lies in the fact that many photographers recognize (i should use the past tense to describe the current situation) that there are very few 'technical' parameters involved in photography, that these are easy to master and set, and that it is better to let the photographer decide about any and all of them.

Auto-thingies are fine for photographers who 'do not have a clue', but only complicate things for those who do: you're always guessing what the genius-inside-the-machine is doing, trying to catch the errors it (frequently and without fail) makes. Far easier, quicker, and less error prone, to do it all yourself.

So the V-system, like other machines of the time, allowed us full freedom to use these parameters the way we want to.
That in a 'package' that was and is highly ergonomical.

What it did too, the 'extra' bit of genius it brought, was to allow us freedom in almost all other aspects too: change film (type, format, length), viewfinder, a huge choice of accessories, etc.
Not only can we decide how to use the basic, tiny set of photographic parameters the way we want, we can use the same tool for all (or most) photographic challenges we decide to tackle too.

That 'freedom of choice' approach is also responsible for the ease with which the V-system adapts to the Digido. (And if only the digital part manufacturers could come up with something that made full use of the MF-advantage, even the V-system might survive. But alas...)

And another 'extra' bit of genius is that the bits of equipment were and are made to last forever. Uncompromising, high quality.

And, though it has caved in to photographers demanding 'innovative technology', that last bit is still true for the H-system.
No worries!
Gilbert, I agree with your view that the "instant gratification" world in which we live is now seen in manufacturing. Although, even the H series has not had such a short redundancy period. The H2 enhancements are even available to H1 owners! And, of course the removable back feature of many MF cameras at least enables "redundant" digital backs to be upgraded without having to sacrifice the camera - something 35mm DSLR manufacturers could learn from - but then that would slow down production!

Yes, Marc I share your joy in being able to "afford" today what I certainly could not have contemplated some years back pre-digi revolution. Who knows even 203FEs will end up in my "price-bracket" one day!

No, not entirely a "false assumption" QG. I was aware of the chassis and shell; my complaint is in the casing; as you said "the outside cladding": <<3.>> I certainly understand the H cameras are very robust; what I'm lamenting is the introduction of plastics to the overall external finish: <<will>>

My comments are about the "feeling" (to the eyes and hands) one gets from the V series verus the plastic finished H series; just as Richard said: <<no>>

And as Richard commented, it's the "look, feel and finish" that's lost - yet that same look, feel and finish is alive and well in the XPan cameras! Why, I wonder?

Jurgen highlights the feeling many have when faced with much change. I'm sure change is necessary for Hasselblad's survival; change that companies like Tamron failed to face up to after it bought Bronica. Today Tamron cries hard done by as it closes down Bronica saying that the digital pace killed their business. But digital had little to do with it as Hasselblad and others prove - management's inability to plan and continue to develop and adapt killed Bronica.

But, I think Jurgen highlights a not-insignificant point: Hasselblad and Shriro should never lose sight of the Hasselblad legacy and be mindful of the key components as it develops and releases new products in a challenging market. I wonder what % of Hasselblad users "defected" since the introduction of the H series.

But then the remarkable 200 series cameras armed with digital Imacon backs must have felt secure in the 'new world". For they had the best of both worlds - 6x6, Carl Zeiss optics and superlative "traditional" design, construction and finish - until, that is, the announcement that the 200 series is dead!

Whilst IMHO, many rightly (or reasonably depending upon your point of view) defend both the change to 6x4.5 and Fujinon optics in the new "auto-everything" and AF H series, I suspect (and have no data to support my view - only anecdotal pro-dealer hearsay) Hasselblad underestimated the attachment some have to its legacy characteristics. Pros do worry about lens characteristics for a variety of reasons and become "attached" to those characteristics always being able to know what will come through in their images; just like they buy film in larger batches.

But IMHO had Hasselblad coupled the (necessary?) changes to 6x4.5 and Fujinon optics with more evidence of their construction and finish quality, maybe the rate of defection and the rate of takeup would have been better. Like Marc says its likely pros drive the MF market and their needs and reactions to new products need to be considered.

It's all well and good to remind us that the H series has a masterful alloy chassis as well as a stainless steel shell (as QG correctly points out) underneath the plastic covers; but what we see out of the box is "bloody Japanese plastics" (the term "Jappy placky" did not arise form nowhere!).

Personally, when I realised my criticisms of the XPan were unfounded because I missunderstood the camera; my trial of it was made more successful in part because what I was handling was a masterful piece of construction design and finish - if felt and functioned like a pro camera and looked like it would last a life time! The finish gave me some comfort.

But ultimately all this may be "accademic" since (as Marc commented) it is likely the H series has been an important success for Hasselblad anyway.

Please do not think I was suggesting that the whole H camera is a plastic nightmare; it is simply the final finish and feel that I lament.

And finally I do agree with QG's point that such "all singing and dancing" features do more to get in the road of my shooting than actually enhance it. Anyway, my V series cameras remain digital ready when the day comes that I want and can afford a quality digital back.
Conversation about "The Hasselblad That Was", or "First Star to the Right, and Straight Ahead" is very poignant to this 30+ year Hassie user.

My first 500CM w/180 Sonar was a joy equal to having a new child. My Hassie inventory and my daughter both belong to this 30+ yr. time frame.

Proudly, every item in my Hasselblad inventory works perfectly, as it did 'back in the day'.

Time and technology generate an evolution forcing us to acknowledge and accept change.

Many years and adventures of manipulating silver and black images now fades like an old b/w print. New horizons are imaged with pixels, mega pixels, and digi-speak.

Today we find ourselves between 'silver images' and whatever will replace digital technology.

I am happy with my legendary non-plastique Hasselblads, now attached to a digital back. Perhaps this adaptation will allow me to keep pace with the grim reaper for now?

Seems I have one foot is in the boat and one is on the dock. Inevitably the tide will change (not in my favor <g>).

Early aviators flew by the seat of their pants. Photographers developed extraordinary skills in "manual mode". Today we "point and shoot".

New Hasselblad? Old Hasselblad? Hopefully we can always say the word "Hasselblad" reverently.

Fletch Barker
~First star to the right and straight ahead~
How true Fletcher. I'm all for "progress" so long as it gives me benefits. My Canon EOS 1vHS was a big change for me having had my Olympus OM kit for 25 years and then jumping into "auto everything" land. But part of that joy was that I needed the AF for my post-40s eyesight and alas, Canon gave it in a magnificently finished alloy body.

The shock for Leica-philes when the M7 was released with AE, was in others' view 20 years late; and for me it's a joy enabling me to concentrate more on the image than the process. BUT, the construction and finish quality was unchanged!

BUT, I started this thread with the thought (and yes it's hardly important but simply of interest) that the "packaging" can often undo the desired impression. Plastics rarely indicate superlative quality in anything. In fact the packaging not only shows manufacturers' pride in their product; but, it gives the user potentially ever-lasting pride in that product.

An analogy if I may. In 1998 when Porsche released its first watercolled 911 (the 996 iterration of the 911) it made a number of departures from its legacy - most of which were accepted by customers as continued development of a great concept. However, one of the most difficult changes for buyers to "swallow" was the inclusion of rather cheap an nasty plastics throughout the cabin.

Of course this car was based on stunningly good engineering and design - a 911 like none before it.... BUT, when sitting back at the wheel in traffic when you can't experience the car's superlative capabilities, you take in all that awful plastic! And then when you look underneath the "shell" you discover many other "new" areas using plastic and it all starts to reduce your confidence.

Yes, in the end, it sold very well and those with the bucks (not me) "got over it" and certainly did not care that much. But I always wonder what the rate of defection was and how many more potential buyers might have stepped into one if the "complete" package sent all the right signals. Of course, it's history now and hardly really matters - but interesting all the same.

And the Japanese culture has historically given more value to the "packaging" than the gift. I've been given rather ordinary biscuits as a gift by a Japanese friend (for whom I have done her FUNERAL photos!), which were magnificantly packaged - individually, in clusters and as a whole - remarkable and a thing of beauty (too good to ruin by eating the biscuits). And yet their camera companies hand over new $5k++ camera bodies in plain old boxes, much the same as their sub-$1k cameras come in. That always intrigues me.

Ah! The joy of pride in quality.
I've yet to lay hands on my new H2D. I'll provide my impressions once I've used the thing for awhile. I did try the H-1 for a few minutes and was so impressed with the low light AF compared to the the Contax 645 I already owned, and the Mamiya 645AF I had demoed ... that I never noticed anything else ; -) I also interviewed professional photographers I know who have used the H-1 for some time under demanding working conditions ( like catalog work), and they all gave it the thumbs up.

There are certain camera gear that I relegate to pure need and functionality, and others that are a pleasure just to hold and feel while still being highly functional ... the Leica M being one and the other being a Hasselblad. There is just something reassuring about the heft and mechanical coolness. I never took to the feel of the Contax 645 body, just viewed it purely as a money making tool. Perhaps I will feel the same with the H2D. One never knows until you use it for some time.

Automation has never bothered me much. Once basic principles are understood, all cameras are the same, just the path to functionality may differ.

Perhaps shooting thousands and thousands of wedding photos leads to intuitive control of the automation to the point I no longer notice it. Nor do I see it as taking over, or as an impediment to achieving a desired effect.

Worthy automation in order of importance to me are:

AF (with manual over-ride to focus on areas not covered by an AF point array) ... although, I must admit to becoming so fast at altering AF points in the array of my EOS1V and 1DsMKII that that issue no longer enters my mind and has become a reflex action.

Aperture preferred mode. The reason I moved to the M7 from my more traditional M6 cameras. Even though I had become extremely fast at operating a M after 30 years of use, I became even faster with the M7.

TTL flash control. While many users have some difficulty with inconsistent results, after a period of adjustment I don't. An interesting side note is that my favorite TTL camera/flash set up is the Hasselblad 503CW and either a D-40 flash or 4504 Proflash. It is so reliable that I can shoot Polaroids, digital, or even slide film with that combo and be assured of consistent and delightful results. But after umpty-dumpty quantities of wedding and event jobs, one develops a fast eye concerning lighting conditions and speed in compensating the flash output.
BTW, digital is a great teacher concerning flash work and proper compensation.

So, in the end the old chestnut "practice makes perfect", is the remedy to understanding automation. Know your basics, realize all cameras are basically the same, and you will always be in command of the process.