Our World

Hasselblad Cameras


Hasselblad is a Swedish company which can trace its roots back to their original founding in 1841. Originally started as a trading company known for housewares, they slowly became more involved with photography through their exclusive distribution rights to Kodak products throughout Sweden.

Victor Hasselblad was the grandson of company’s founder Fritz and was sent, by his family, to study the photographic industry in Dresden, Germany in 1924. At the time, Germany lead the world in optics and camera technology.

Victor is the family member responsible for designing and manufacturing the first Hasselblad cameras commissioned by the Swedish Air Force during the Second World War to be used for aerial surveillance. When the Air Force asked Victor to build them a camera like one recovered from a German aircraft, his response was, “No, not one like that, but a better one".

The many iterations and improvements of these military cameras led to the overall shape, modular lens, and film back system we still recognize today as being signatures of Hasselblad.

To acclimate his factory staff in the manufacturing of cameras after the war, Victor took on commissions for them to produce watch and clock mechanisms. This trained their fine-motor skills and gave them the necessary technical understanding to produce shutter mechanisms.

Hasselblad 1600F

Being an avid birder, Victor’s goal was to create a camera that could capture the beauty of nature and easily fit in his hand. He intended his cameras to be portable, high-quality pieces of technology. Hasselblad’s first consumer camera, the 1600F, was launched in 1948. Although it was an evolution of the military surveillance cameras, it was the worlds first single lens reflex camera for medium format film. It’s smooth edges and sleek rounded top were designed by notable Swedish industrial designer Sixten Sason. The camera overall was beautifully made and sophisticated in design, but delicate and felt like a finely tuned instrument during use. However, the intricately complex design required several improvements to create a reliable product.

Victor’s favourite pastime of photographing birds drove him to continually make improvements to better his own experience in the field. The sensitive focal-plane shutter mechanism was a remnant from the original air-force recon requirements, but Victor wasn’t satisfied with its reliability. He favoured the more reliable Compur style shutter, which also happened to be preferable for photographing birds. The solution was a testament to the company’s dedication to perfection and didn’t compromise in the face of additional cost. A Compur shutter mechanism was added to each lens and mechanically coordinated with the internal focal-plane shutter, which was kept only to mask the film after the Compur shutter had done its job. This added another layer of complexity, but also reliability.

Fast forward to 1962, when NASA began working with Hasselblad to provide cameras for their space program. After achieving disappointing results with their previous space camera trials, astronaut, and photography enthusiast, Walter Schirra, showed NASA his own Hasselblad 500C to showcase the craftsmanship and quality they should be aiming for. NASA then purchased several 500Cs for their own testing and requested Hasselblad fabricate a modified “astronaut-proof” version for use on an upcoming mission. The changes included reduced weight, a larger capacity film magazine and matte black paint. The cameras were then tested by NASA to perform perfectly in anti-gravity, and temperatures ranging from 120ºC down to -65ºC. It was a Hasselblad camera that documented some of the first images in space, including the lunar landing in 1969. Due to narrow weight margins required for re-entry to earths atmosphere, the film was removed, and the camera bodies had to be left behind on the lunar surface. There are currently a total of 12 Hasselblad camera bodies still on the moon to this day.

What I love most about Hasselblad’s company history is how at every turn, the passion and expertise, that was the driving force behind their products, resulted in meeting and surpassing every challenge presented to them. Today, their digital models continue this tradition of excellence based on research and testing. Striving for perfection has kept Hasselblad as one of the worlds leading brands within the photographic community.

Fifty years ago Hasselblad sent the first cameras to the moon Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong used them to document the moon and life aboard Apollo 11.

The HDC included a Réseau plate, which imprinted the fixed cross-marks on the negatives and allowed for photogrammetric measurements to be made from the images. This is the camera that was strapped to Neil Armstrong’s chest during the mission