HOW OLD IS THE HASSELBLAD I AM LOOKING AT

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Thinking of investing in a Hasselblad - seen one on ebay but how old is it ? - yes the vendor may give an approximation but if he did not buy it new he may be years out . Like cars Hasselblads need looking after and servicing and have been around for over 50 years so lets look at their age - would you buy a 50 year old car that had never had the oil changed ?

All bodies, magazines and accesories have a serial number of which the first 2 letters are a date code which is simple to translate - simply write down VHPICTURES and then add the numbers 1234567890 below and transcribe ie RS is 80 (1980).

Lets look at the body

First came the 500c with a non removable focus screen then the 500CM which was the first to employ the removable screen, however the last of the 500C's had this facility. The earliest 500CM bodies had a small socket for a cable eye located on the opposite side to the wind on just below the name plate and were available until the early 80's and also had a 1/4 and 3/8 tripod bush .  This was removed as was the MXV setting on the lens which I will describe later. The next generation ran until the advent of the 501C excluding the introduction of the 503 series on the base of which was a single tripod bush, the earliest 503 camera body being the 503CX followed by the CXi and the CW the latter two being distinguished from the earlier by checking for it  having a recess near the shutter blinds for a drop in mask and a different wind on knob drive to facilitate a motor wind , the earliest being released by a catch on the side and the later a button in the middle.

Most common fault is the drying up of the lubricants and the springs getting lazy which shows up as a sticky shutter or lazy rear blinds . Another good guide as to how much use it has had is by requesting a photograph of the rear of  the camera to show how much wear there is to the magazine mounting surface at rear (see photo illustrating a body which although looked after has had 4 years pro use) .also check for accident damage by  measurement of the diagonals across the back would confirm out of alignment and would recomend the use of the latest rear protective plate which is designed to confirm same.

I also remember a a practice that took part in the  early 70's of replacing the body casting on 500c's with a 500cm casting to allow the viewing screen to be changed , this is not a marriage made in heaven as it effects the operation of the pre release for the rear blinds (located under the wind on knob) so if you find a CM with a date of before 1970 treat it with extreme caution..

Release / production       500C 1957-1970          500CM 1970 1970-1994       501C 1994 -

Now the Magazine / Back (see also seperate guide)

I have seen a lot of so called A12 magazines on ebay which they are not what they portray to be - The initial ones were a throw back to earlier cameras where you had to open a spy hole at the back by lifting a small cover - wind on to frame 1 like you would on a box brownie and then reverse the wind on to set the film counter - these were called either 12 on or C12 backs. The A12 was introduced with the A representing automatic set of the counter , no need for window , set film to frame line up on insert and wind on automatically stops at frame 1. Other models A16 (16x 6x4.5) A16S (16x4.5x4.5) A24 (24x6.6) A32 (32x6.45) as well as polaroid and the 70 on which I defy you to find film for and if you do someone who can process it.

Production        12on   1949-1954 (also used on 1600F & 1000F)  -  C12 1955 - 1968  ( the difference being the 12 on film number window was to the left of the centre of the advance and on the C type it was nearer to the frame exposed window to the right of centre. The A12 was introduced in 1969 (black in 1973) - later derivatives of the A12 had minor changes the first being that the V for Victor on the release button changed in favour of a number denoting the number of exposures eg 12 and the latest had the inbuilt dark slide holder which if damaged in any way is an instant light leak as it is screwed to the back with 4 small screws. 

Most common faults being ingress of light due to faulty light traps which is in 99% of cases caused by faulty dark slides (sheaths) so if wou see one with a bent or dimpled dark slide its odds on that the seals are past their useful life or well on their way. Other faults are that the wind on can get a bit stiff which in a lot of cases  down to a nylon ring wearing where the wind on is mounted to the side of the back both of which are simple repairs , Less common but more problematic is the unequal spacing of the frames or missing locating frame  1 (start of film) - first thing to do with any back before use is to load a scrap film - remove dark slide - mark position 1 and then all other frames by firing and removing which will put your mind at ease. Other things to look out for missing parts to wind on crank lever on the A12 along with damaged or missing film speed reminders, mismatched serial numbers as the last digits of the magazine number are repeated on the insert, as they wear together mixing at a later date can cause problems. It is not the first time I have seen a back on ebay described as in good order in chrome with a black insert, likewise cameras complete with a mixture of black and chrome , if this is the case I would personally walk away double quick.

Now Finally Lenses (see advisory guide on C series)

Started out with the C series initially in chrome , later added T* anti flare coating and then changed to black - This was the lens with the aperture and shutter speed were linked and the moving depth of field indicators. A good workhorse but did have its faults one being a spin back to times past the M X V switch for timer , bulb or electronic flash and yes could be knocked from X and if using electronic in B setting did not synchronize - second problem they were prone to failure of the mainspring which did dot sound anything untoward or any different to the untrained ear and first being noticed until you develop a roll of blanks , my advice would be to always use fill in flash even at very low levels as the flash is triggered when the lens reaches fully open which will not happen if the spring fails. This mainspring and other parts in this lens are no longer serviced by Hasselblad but a trail round independent repairers may turn one up as they were originally supplied by Compur. As to comments about defects to glass having no noticable effect - try one with a mark near the centre at f11 - f22 and then make that statement again especially with a 30" x 40" print.

The other common fault was that in this lens there were two sets of components for regulating the speeds on for the slow range and one for the fast range, and in ads on ebay you might find comments like a bit slow in the speeds sub 1/15 second which shows lack of use in these settings and was a more expensive repair if you can still get spares - if you see this comment I would walk away or certainly ask questions / review bid accordingly.

In around 1982 came the CF lens which lost its mowing depth of field needles and on which you had to depress a button to couple speed and aperture - I have had precious little trouble with these lenses compared to the old C series but if you are changing remember they use B60 filters on the majority of the range (60 - 250mm) unlike the B50 for the C series. The only problems I have experienced with CF series has been with the 350mm where the barrel became  loose as it is only secured by small screws which have to hold a lot of unsupported weight as there is no tripod bush on the lens unlike the 500mm

Later generations were the CB - CFi and CFe the CB not having the F setting to the far end of the speeds to allow its use with focal plane bodies (F) and the CFe having electobus connectivity for later cameras utilizing that option like the 205 and 203.

I have not gone into too great a detail and this is only a guide mainly for the 500 - 501 - 503 cameras , if I get a bit of spare time and people find this useful I may get round to writing one, but have placed another guide on the C series lenses on ebay which could help you avoid an expensive mistake.

Motor Drive and Motorised Cameras

Although not going into much detail about motor driven cameras or motor drives for bodies I thought it worth a mention.. The first was the 500EL (lifespan approx as 500C) then the 500ELM (500CM lifespan) followed by the 500 ELX from around 85 to 88 this model now gaining a large shutter release plate rather than the small button, followed by the 553EXL (503 lifespan). Basically the issues of interchangeable screens and fitting of masks for 35xmm panoramic images onto 120 film were as the 500 series, however, the motor drive threw up its own unique problem , its batteries. The cameras was fitted with a pair of 6 volt 5 cell nicads 35mma x 50mm which were prone to failure and the originals were discontinued and even when sourced replacements can prove expensive. From late models of the ELX the battery compartment was modified to accept 5 AA batteries (standard on 553) which solved the problem, although there are some earlier bodies that have been modified by Hasselblads service department at the customers request. PLEASE CHECK IF BUYING FROM OUTSIDE YOUR OWN COUNTRY THE VOLTAGE OF THE CHARGER AND PIN LAYOUT AS IT IS PART OF THE UNIT AND THE UK VERSION REQUIRES A SHAVER ADAPTOR.

The first official winder supplied by Hasselblad was for the 503CXi / 503 winder type CW which will not fit any other models as the wind on crank is a different design . The 503 has a wind on knob removed by depressing a button in the middle under the handle and once removed reveals a dog for the winder to engage, whereas on the other models it is released by a small catch on the side and there is only a plate below. There were a few after market winders available mostly from the US and I have seen them on ebay from time to time.

Not forgeting the ikonic Hasselblad - The Nasa moon landing. The MK70 was a consumer derivative of the NASA model introduced in 1972 with a series of mods and distinguised by its grey leatherette but this camera is the only one in the range that looses Hasselblads legendary interchangeability ( how many other cameras do you nkow where you can put a new lens on a 50 year old body ? ) and only has 2 special lenses, non standard backs, no viewfinder and unless you collect tham is precious little use as a working camera.

In Summary

If this is your first medium format purchase the first thing you will notice that the image in the viewfinder is laterally reversed left to right so allow for the purchase of a prism at a later date to remedy this and make it feel more like your 35mm camera.

In summary take care with your purchase asking questions if required, dont take risks with vendors without good history, feedback or vague descriptions as you are parting with your hard earned cash and want pleasure from your purchase for years to come - remember if it sounds to good to be true it probably is and on a final note once you finally have your purchase   ENJOY !

 

If you have found the information of use please find the time to acknowledge same at the bottom of guide

 

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