The Hasselblad 500C series of medium format film cameras was undoubtedly one of the best film cameras and certainly the most revolutionary cameras for Hasselblad and for the industry as a whole. It was the first of the Hasselblad 500 series and was modified many times throughout the years. This was a testament to the fact that Hasselblad had done a lot of things right with the 500C but it was not a perfect one.
Following the various modifications to the 500C, the company released the Hasselblad 500C/M in the year 1970. The camera featured an easily interchangeable focusing screen and an optional prism viewfinder with a built-in light meter. Besides these modifications, the 500C/M still retained the modular design along with the leaf shutter design and the A12 film back that produces 12 6×6 negative on 120 roll film.
Who is the Hasselblad 500C/M for?
The Hasselblad 500C/M is not a camera that you’d go for just because you want to try out film photography. A medium format camera requires some deep pockets, and good skills to work with. Medium format cameras can get sophisticated to use if you have no prior experience. Unless you have good experience with photography, and especially film photography, I do not recommend that you get this camera.
That said, the Hasselblad 500 C/M is primarily a studio camera perfect for professional indoor photography. However, despite the larger body, it is light enough to be carried around. So if you feel like trying out some landscape or street photography, you can do so. But keep in mind that it will be a slow process.
Hasselblad 500C/M features
|Hasselblad V-mount (Bayonet 60)
|170 x 109 x 104 mm
|Weight (body only)
|In lens leaf shutter
B, 1 sec – 1/500s
|6 – 6400
The Hasselblad 500 series is a modular camera system. The camera can be conveniently taken apart and broken down into the body, the lens, an A12 film back, waist level finder, ground glass focus screen, and even the film advance knob. This modular design makes the camera extremely customizable as far as accessories are concerned.
You can also check out our 7 Must-Have Camera Accessories here.
When shooting outdoors, the waist-level viewfinder comes in quite handy. But, when you need to shoot indoors – let’s say for a portrait session, you can replace the waist-level viewfinder with a prism viewfinder.
If you come across a situation where you’d want to switch to a different film midway through, that’s possible too with the camera’s modular design. If you have an extra film back, you can replace it without even having to take the film out first. How convenient is that? However, keep in mind that you’ll need to use the dark slide to protect the unexposed film.
With the older Hasselblad 500C, you had to take it to a technician if you wanted to replace the focusing screen. With the 500C/M, they made this a lot easier as you can conveniently replace the screen at home. And there’s no extra calibration needed either.
Being a purely mechanical camera, the Hasselblad 500C/M has no metering system by default. Have a light meter handy, or stick to the Sunny 16 rule if you want to nail your exposure. But thanks to the modular design of the camera, there is a workaround though. You can replace the waist-level viewfinder with a prism viewfinder that has a built-in exposure meter to assist you.
If you are familiar with the Hasselblad camera system, you must be aware that they utilize a different shutter system than the ones which we find in our SLRs, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras. Replacing the focal plane shutter from the Hasselblad 1000F camera, the 500C series of cameras utilize a leaf shutter design with its range of high-quality Carl Zeiss lenses.
While the focal plane shutter is placed right in front of the camera’s focal plane, the leaf shutter design has the shutter mechanism on the lens. This allows for flash synchronization at all shutter speeds with the use of electronic flash. The faster sync speed was one of the prime reasons why many professionals preferred this camera.
The standard Hasselblad 500C/M was shipped with the waist-level viewfinder. The viewfinder is bright and large which makes composing the images so much easier. It is also important to note that when using this viewfinder, the images appear flipped. If you’re new to this, it can take some time to get used to. And once you do, the experience is really unique. I simply love it.
In case you are getting the Hasselblad 500C/M for studio work that requires shooting from eye level, the waist-level viewfinder won’t be that useful. Better look for the prism viewfinder. While it will allow you to shoot from eye level, the images won’t be flipped as well. And there’s the benefit of having an exposure meter too.
The Hasselblad 500C/M is a purely manual camera. You won’t find any auto modes to assist you with your work. This is also one of the reasons why I would never recommend this camera who is just starting out with photography. You need to set your aperture, shutter speed, and focus manually. And once you’re done taking an image, you need to advance the film manually as well as there’s no motor to automate the process.
Lenses for the Hasselblad 500C/M
The Hasselblad 500C/M shipped with the legendary Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 Planar lens which is a pretty beautiful lens in my opinion. This focal length translates to roughly 50mm on a 35mm film system and produces plenty of sharp and contrasty images. The lenses that were available for these cameras were another of the many reasons that made these cameras the choice for many professional photographers. This lens in particular is not that big or heavy and perfectly complements the not-so-bulky design of the camera body.
Besides the 80mm lens, there were a total of 15 distinct C/C T* lenses that were made for the V-system. Their focal lengths vary from 30mm up to 500mm. And all of these lenses come equipped with a Synchro-Compur shutter that runs from 1 sec to 1/500 sec in single stop increments, and a bulb mode. So, you have plenty of other options in case you do not find the 80mm suitable for your purpose.
Final Verdict on the Hasselblad 500C/M
The Hasselblad 500C/M is a beautiful camera and a brilliant piece of engineering. It remains a classic in today’s modern age. And for us who have been spoiled by modern-day cameras, the experience can be beautifully unique.
To start with, you will need to slow down quite a bit when taking your photos. The photography experience with this camera totally immerses you in the process. So, if you are someone who’s impatient, or needs to be very quick with their work, the 500C/M may not be the right camera for you. On the other hand, if beautiful image quality, precision, and a dependable body are what you look for, you cannot miss the Hasselblad 500C/M.
One thing that you really need to be careful about is how you need to ensure that certain mechanisms are in sync. For instance, you cannot take the lens off the camera after taking a shot unless you advance the roll. And when mounting the lens back, if any of the indicators (either on the lens or on the body) is misaligned, chances are that the camera will get jammed. It is thus very important that you go through the manual thoroughly. While you can get away with not reading the manual these days, I highly recommend that you do if you get this camera.