The basic design of every Hasselblad camera in the V-series lineup is the same. As the central component you have a light tight box which houses a mirror, the winding mechanism, and the shutter release. On the front of the box one attaches their preferred lens which come in a number of focal lengths and were manufactured by legendary lens designers, the Carl Zeiss company in Germany. On the back of the camera you can attach various film backs, the most common being backs designed to be loaded with 120 medium format film and which create a 6x6 square negative. On the top of the camera is the ability to attach various finders and view screens such as waist level finders, prism finders, and chimney finders. On the right side of the camera one can attach varying styles of film winders from knobs to cranks and on later models even motor drives.
Basically, the Hasselblad V-series is a camera designed to be completely customizable based on the photographers preferences. I could go on and on about all the small differences between the various cameras in the V-series line up but THIS WEBSITE does a pretty good job at that.
Ok, so what is it like to actually use a Hasselblad? In short, it is incredibly fantastic! The Hasselblad is extremely well built. Perhaps the most well built camera I have ever touched and that includes cameras from Leica, Bronica, and Mamiya. Nothing on the Hasselblad camera feels flimsy, out of place, or cheap. I wouldn’t want to drop this camera on the pavement (I can’t think of a single camera I would want to drop on pavement) but I can tell that throwing this camera into a bag and taking it out on a hike isn’t going to damage it in any way. So far since I’ve owned it I’ve taken the Hasselblad on some very long hikes, into the desert, and down into a cave. I get the feeling it’ll be going on a few more adventures with me before I’m done with it.
Surprisingly, for a medium format camera, the Hasselblad is not that heavy either. I very regularly attach a neck strap to my Hasselblad and walk around with the camera slung over one shoulder. I personally find the camera very easy to hand hold and I don’t feel like the size and weight get in the way at all. It certainly doesn’t feel any heavier than a pro-grade 35mm SLR like the Nikon F5 for example.
Working with the Hasselblad is a 100% manual experience. Aperture and shutter speed are set manually on the lens barrel. Focusing is done manually by hand. Winding the film is done by turning a knob or a crank on the side of the camera body. This is about as much of a hands on experience as you can get and if you don’t like working slowly and deliberately then the Hasselblad 500c/m is not for you. Personally, I find it relaxing and as such I’m not bothered at all by the lack of automation. Composing a photograph in the waist level finder, setting aperture and shutter speed, clicking the shutter, and advancing the frame all almost feel like doing yoga to me. Action photography may be a challenging prospect with the Hasselblad but it is not impossible. With some practice, operating a fully manual camera is not as time consuming as one might think.