Hasselblad 503CW description and user report by Steve Walton
In 2013, Hasselblad announced the cessation of manufacturing of the last of their long-running ‘V series’ of medium format cameras, the Hasselblad 503CW. There has been a lot of comment around various photography forums, mainly bemoaning the passing of an iconic camera and associated range of Carl Zeiss lenses. My view is that the decision was inevitable, if no one is buying a product why waste resources marketing it? The world of digital photography has moved on apace and there will be a vast pool of used V series equipment and Zeiss lenses available for some time to come. Whether investing money into a defunct camera system is a good idea in the long term is questionable, but for the short term the option remains viable. This equipment was built to last and deserves the legendary status that surrounds it. My original intention back in 2006 when I bought the 503CW was to add a digital back but as I’ve variously blown hot and cold over that idea, I will be keeping it to shoot film for the foreseeable future. The solid construction is reassuringly permanent and I’m comfortable with it as one is with an old friend. As time has progressed, the original plan for putting a digital back on the 503CW has been shelved. I have revised my scanning and post processing techniques and after a great deal of consideration I have decided to continue to use film for the foreseeable future. Fuji Velvia50 and the 503CW are a formidable combination and I am continually searching for ways to improved technique and consequently extract better images from it.
What is the best lens set on V series Hasselblad for landscape photography? I mainly use the Zeiss 80mm CFE Planar f2.8 and Zeiss 150mm CF Sonnar f4, when I need a wider angle of view the Zeiss 50mm CF Distagon FLE f4 is usually wide enough for my needs on square format. The real impact of 6x6cm for me is when isolating elements within a scene to condense the composition rather than the expansive views that are better suited to other formats such as 6x12cm or 6x17cm. There isn’t an answer to the question but a Hasselblad allows you to define your style, it becomes an extension of your vision and your preferences will soon become clear. A roll of Velvia 50 on the lightbox will reveal the clarity and fidelity of the Zeiss lenses and many famous names have been established with these cameras. A regular Hasselblad user understands why it can be a lifelong photographic companion and in some ways the march of progress has unwelcome side effects. The loss of the V Series for many, myself included, is one.
Close in and intimate with the subject, the 50mm Distagon Cfi is a useful choice for filling the frame with the main subject but retaining good depth of field when that is the intention.