503 CW:


By: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Let´s remember that we call médium format cameras to tose ones whose negative has a much bigger area than the very widespread 24 x 36 of the 35 mm film and so, specially when we must make big enlargements, the quality levels, sharpness and lack of grain are far superior.
        Hasselblad 503 CW with focusing hood and standard Carl Zeiss Planar CF 80 mm f/2.8 attached.

They´re very expensive cameras, genuinely used by professional photographers or advanced enthusiasts and more often than not its weight is much heavier than the typical 35 mm SLR cameras, being its use often recommended with a tripod for best results.

The main medium format sizes are: 4.5 x 6 (2.7 times bigger than 35 mm), 6 x 6 (four times bigger than 35 mm), 6 x 7 (4.5 times larger than 35 mm) and 6 x 9 (six times bigger than 35 mm).

In fact, the exceptional 6 x 6 Hasselblad cameras, with Carl Zeiss German lenses, are regarded the best medium format cameras in the world.

Everything started in 1948, when Viktor Hasselblad, a Swedish great photographer and creative eminence, presented the Hasselblad 1600 F, the first model in history of this mythical brand. It caused a sensation an was very supported both by the specialized press and by the most prominent worldly experts on photography.


Its construction is mainly based on the use of very noble metals: aluminium, brass and bronze.

The Hasselblad is the camera that has gone with the astronauts in every USA moon mission.

The Hasselblad factory and main headquarters are in Gotemburg (Sweden), while the exceptional Carl Zeiss are made at the German factory in Oberkochen.

Regarding the metallic chassis of the Hasselblads body, it is wholly made in metal and it is permanently studied and analysed in order to introduce possible improvements, whilst you need around 5,000 different tools generally manufactured by the firm itself to make a Hassie, whose complete construction takes thirty days, from the moment in which the body is cast through injection until it passes its final check, after the finish.

On the other hand, the body of a Hasselblad Classic for instance, is made by about 450 parts, while a standard E-12 chassis uses 284.

And if we add it up the fact that the standard 80 mm lens, with central shutter and f/2.8 needs 368 parts, we do realize even more the complexity and precision surrounding this mythical firm.
The Hasselblad system is nowadays the most complete and comprehensive in medium format.

        Spectacular Image of the Hasselblad 503 CW with the impressive PME-90 Meter Prism Finder and the new winder CW attached. The camera sports s Carl Zeiss Distagon CF 60 mm f/3.5

        Carl Zeiss Planar CF 80 mm f/2.8 with its excellent shade.


In regard to the manufacturing tolerances, it must be said that they are very rigorous: it is required a bigger than 1/100 mm accuracy for the mounting alignment and the control is individually carried out for every camera.

Most Hasselblads can be connected to an E-16 chassis, this way the format becoming into 4.5 x 6, very suitable for vertical shots.

There is a very wide range of different focusing screens.


The camera we´re going to speak about, the Hasselblad 503 CW is one of the newest additions to Hasselblad system. As a matter of fact, it was launched in 1997, as a motorized version of the Hasselblad 503 Cxi (the cornerstone of a lot of professional systems).

Weighing 1,520 g with the standard Carl Zeiss Planar 80 mm f/2.8 connected, the new Hasselblad 503 CW features the exclusive "Gliding Mirror System" (GMS), allowing being able to watch the frame, irrespective of the lens in use.

This way, in the cases in which there was previously an image limitation with the long focal length and with extension tubes, at present time we get a 99% field of vision. If we add to it the fantastic and superluminous focusing screen, we are talking about a very easy to use machine.

By means of this up-to-date system, you achieve that the mirror goes backwards, while it describes its ascending trajectory. So, you avoid the outer rim of the quoted mirror colliding with the back elements of some lenses. On being a remarkable size mirror, you thwart possible vignetting with long focal lenses, a greater reliability in the viewfinder frames being attained, cause we wouldn´t actually see what´s happening on the areas darkened by the already mentioned vignetting.

        Side view of the Hasselblad 503 CW, featuring both the PME-90 Meter Prism Finder and the new winder CW coupled.

Carl Zeiss Distagon CF 50 mm f/2.8

        From top image of the standard lens Carl Zeiss Planar CF 80 mm f/2.8

        Nice chromed classical lens Carl Zeiss Sonnar CF 150 mm f/4 with the inscription Synchro-Compur referring to the mythical central shutter which it holds inside.
The Hasselblad 503 CW can use every Carl Zeiss Oberkochen CF lens made practically since the appearance of the first medium format camera of the firm.


The new Hasselblad 503 CW brings to light an optional winder replacing the traditional crank. Though expensive, it´s one of the best winders in the photographic market, offering infrared (IR) remote control and three modes: Single, Continuous (at 0.8 frames/second) and Multi Exposure. It is well designed and its interesting size has the advantage of a useful grasp and allows to leave it permanently attached to the camera without any problem.

It must be underlined that the assembly between the body of the Hasselblad 503 CW and the winder is easily accomplished, though perhaps a little hindered, because the lens has to be previously removed.

It's also very interesting the fact that the winder can be remote controlled, from a small infrared beam transmitter.

The fabulous coupling of the winder to camera body of the Hasselblad 503 CW allows a very comfortable handheld photographic work, without a tripod, making vertical shots by means of the A16 6 x 4.5 film back together with the superb PME-90 Meter TTL prism finder.

The 503 CW body doesn´t include any kind of batteries, but that isn´t the case with the CW winder, needing six alkaline AA batteries, able to make 2,000 shots.

Therefore, this new winder has revealed itself as an irreplaceable helpful element to those photographers specialist on 6 x 6 or 6 x 4.5 formtat, for whom it is very useful not to be bound to turn the traditional crank shot after shot.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar CF 250 mm f/5.6

Carl Zeiss Tele-Tessar CF 350 mm f/5.6

        Carl Zeiss Tele-Tessar CF 500 mm f/8 with chromed lower area, authentic leather case and shade. This long tele lens was the antecessor of the most up-to-date Carl Zeiss Tele-Apotessar CF 500 mm f/8


The 503 CW combines traditional full working guarantee system aspects - as the manual winding option, the mechanical central shutter lenses and speeds up to 1/500 + B- with the TTL OTF flash metering with units compatible with the SCA system and viewfinders, chassis for film and interchangeable focusing screens.
The Hasselblad 503 CW also sports the last and brand-new screen model with: "Acute Matte" technology, made by Minolta, superluminous and allowing a great focusing reliability.

A very relevant and common aspect shared by all Carl Zeiss lenses for Hassels is the fact that they have got an aperture and shutter speed lock button, by means of which once you have taken an exposure value reading with a hand meter (or through the very pricey TTL metering prism) and the correct exposures values have been chosen, the photographer can adjust the shutter speeds and aperture fixing rings, pressing the interlock button. On pressing that button, both rings move simultaneously, keeping a constant exposure, but changing the depth of field and the shutter speed at the same time. This is a very convenient feature.

On the other hand, the 503 CW displays a mirror lock, a very practical function minimizing to full extent the vibrations to achieve a greater quality.

        Hasselblad E12 film magazine with which 12 6 x 6 format frames are obtained. You can watch on the left the wheel with different film sensitiviness for the photographer to choose.

        Image of the Hasselblad E12 film magazine from another angle.

Another view of Hasselblad E12 film magazine from a different angle.
        Once more, we´ve here the Hasselblad E12 film magazine for 6 x 6 format, together with its insert in which the spool for 120 film is visible.

        A16 film magazine, through which sixteen medium format 6 x 4.5 frames are obtained.


The main lenses for use with the Hasselblad 503 CW are the mythical Carl Zeiss central shutter CF series lenses, in which the shutter is located within the inner section of the lens instead of inside the camera body. It is specially useful, because it enables the flash sync at all speeds up to 1/500 and so a very extensive versatility, as for instance with fill-in flash shots.

Likewise, the 503 CW can also use some extraordinary lenses from the legendary Schneider-Kreuznach firm - whose quality matches the Carl Zeiss lenses, being even superior in some cases-, specially some utterly top-notch zooms, whose resolution and contrast is practically comparable to the best primes.

Among the fabulous Carl Zeiss Oberkochen lenses usable with the Hasselblad 503 CW we must make reference to:

        1 Distagon CF 30 mm f/3.5
        2 Distagon CF 40 mm f/4
        2 Distagon CF 50 mm f/4
        3 Distagon CF 60 mm f/3.5
        4 Planar CF 80 mm f/2.8
        5 Planar CF 100 mm f/3.5
        6 Makro-Planar CF 120 mm f/4
        7 Makro-Planar CF 135 mm f/5.6
        8 Sonnar CF 150 mm f/4
        9 Sonnar CF 180 mm f/4
      10 Sonnar CF 250 mm f/5.6
      11 Tele-Tessar CF 350 mm f/5.6
      12 Tele-Apotessar CF 500 mm f/8
      13 The extraordinary Hasselblad 2xE
          teleconverter, which doubles
          the available focal distance, with
          a loss of two stops, but keeping
          the image quality almost intact.

          With regard to Schneider-Kreuznach, the two zooms, authentic worldly Rolls-Royces of medium format           highlight:

      14 Schneider Variogon 75-150 f/4.5
      15 Schneider Variogon 140-280 f/5.6
          The image quality of both of them events up and beats in some cases to several medium format primes.

PM-5 TTL finder.

        Body of the Hasselblad 503 CW camera. Just watch the excellent finish and the feeling of roughness it inspires.


The concern possesses an own photographic publication: ´Hasselblad Forum´, a first class and luxurious enough magazine in square format, periodically displaying the work by photographers using the Hasselblad system all over the world.

Lateral view of the body of Hasselblad 503 CW camera.


In the same way as it happens with every Hasselblad, the 503 CW is fairly tough, hugely resistant and will be as new both in its appearance and mechanical reliability for a lot of decades, preserving a very high repurchase value and securing in all likelihood a great ratio of compatibility with all new lenses, accessories, etc, that can be launched into the market by Hasselblad in future.

        Semilateral view of the body of Hasselblad 503 CW camera with the focusing hood unfolded. On the right area you can observe the classical film-wind and shutter cocking crank.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza