Hasselblad SWC

Super Wide Camera (1954-2009)

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Hasselblad 903 SWC

Hasselblad 903 SWC with fixed BIOGON T✻ 38mm f/4.5 lens and included finder (this sample made 1989, 11.5 inches/0.29 meters close focus, Bay 60 filters, 33.2 oz./941 g). With an A12 6×6cm 120 back as shown it weighs about 48 oz./1,360 g and sells for about $3,000. enlarge. I got mine at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

Hasselblad 903 SWC

Hasselblad 903 SWC and finder (no back). enlarge.

 

Hasselblad 903 SWC

Hasselblad 903 SWC, no finder and no back. enlarge.

 

January 2016   Hasselblad   Mamiya   Contax   LEICA   Zeiss   all reviews

Hasselblad SWC Manual

How to Use Ultra Wide Lenses

Why We Love Film

How to Shoot Film

Why Fixed lenses Take Better Pictures

 

Sample Images

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Sunset at the beach with eroded cliffs

Sunset at the beach with eroded cliffs, 5PM, 26 January 2016. Hasselblad 903 SWC, B+W B60 CR1,5 filter, focus set to 15 feet, f/8 at 1/15 on original Fuji Velvia (not Velvia 50; this is original Velvia frozen when new and expired 2006-09). NCPS process and scan. bigger.

 

Introduction

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Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

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The Hasselblad SWC is an all-manual mechanical camera with a permanently attached super wide-angle lens and a removable viewfinder. It has a 91º angle of view similar to a 20mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Any of the SWC versions works with any Hasselblad magazine made from 1954 ~ 2013 to use either 120, 220 or 70mm film to make 6 × 6 cm (2¼" × 2¼") or smaller images. These magazines are interchangeable so you can swap film type, image size or use a ground-glass back.

It has no light meter and has no rangefinder or other focus aids other than an optional ground-glass back. Its depth of field is so deep that all you have to do is guess the distance and set it on the scale.

You set exposure with a hand-held light meter, with an app or simply by experience on its convenient EV scale. All is explained at Usage; it's a very easy camera to shoot.

All versions of the SWC have a level either on the body or in the finder, and all versions allow you to see this level as you're using the finder.

The Super Wide is all about its lens: a satellite-grade ZEISS BIOGON 38mm f/4.5 with a built-in shutter. It has roughly similar to a 20mm lens on a 35mm camera.

The 38mm f/4.5 Biogon lens stands out for its complete lack of distortion and lack of mechanical vignetting. This makes it ideal for shooting wide-open, with extreme sharpness and little additional light falloff. This is why this BIOGON has been used chosen for decades for use in aerial surveillance as sell as hand-held available light medium and large format shooting: it excels when shot wide-open as we need for both applications.

Most are sold with a magazine, but it a magazine isn't formally part of the camera.

Hasselblad digital backs work on the SWC, but not very well because digital backs are not designed to work with its special lens. You'll get weird colors at the sides for exactly the same reason you'll get these same problems on LEICA digital with traditional ultrawides like the 1955 21mm f/4 Super Angulon: film doesn't care, but digital sensors hate it when light hits the sides at shallow angles. SLR lenses avoid this because their retrofocus design ensure light at the sides hits the sensor at relatively direct angles.

 

History

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It's been the same camera and the same lens ever since 1954 with only minor changes.

While Hasselblad had to do something to keep people buying this same camera for sixty years and therefore trumpeted each of these minor innovations as if they were gifts from God, as you'll read they are only minor. In each case everything about the camera is unchanged except for the minor improvements as noted.

The only significant changes have been automatically cocking the shutter with the film advance as of 1959, T✻ multicoating in 1973, adding Polaroid back compatibly in 1980, changing from Series 8 to B60 filters in 1982, moving the bubble level from the body into the finder in 1986, and dumbing-down the optical design with unleaded glass in 2001.

 

1952: Biogon lens patented

The Biogon 91º f/4.5 lens is patented by Dr. Ludwig Bertele of Zeiss in 1952. The best known of these is the 75mm f/4.5 for 4x5" press cameras, which has 10 elements.

The 38mm f/4.5 lens used in the SWC is a simplified design with only 8 elements.

The Biogon stands out because it has very little mechanical vignetting, as well as being sharp out to the corners even wide-open.

It's designed to be shot wide-open for available light shooting with not much more vignetting than when stopped down.

 

1954-1956: Supreme Wide Angle Camera

The Hasselblad Supreme Wide Angle camera was introduced at Photokina 1954 to take advantage of this lens.

You have to cock the shutter separately from advancing the film. It has two reversible scales, one for feet and one for meters. The focus ring turns 180º and the finder has a small prism and magnifier to let you see the bubble level on the body as you look through the finder.

These take Series 8 filters held in with a retaining ring.

Hasselblad made about 600 of these, serial numbers 1,001 to 1,600.

It listed for $4,200 in 1954, considering inflation ($470 at the time).

 

1956-1959: Super Wide Camera

Except for the name change from "Supreme" to "Super" and the focus now turning 320,º this is the same camera as before.

Hasselblad made about 1,400 of these from serial number 1,600 to 2,999.

 

1959-1969: Super Wide C

The Super Wide C adds combined film & shutter cocking with a more familiar "C" style silver lens barrel.

All bodies are chrome with black leather.

 

1969-1973: Super Wide C

In 1969 Hasselblad added a rubber bumper on the back of the viewfinder, and made a black lens an option.

The bodies are all still chrome with black coverings.

 

1973-1980 Super Wide C T✻

In 1973 Zeiss added T✻ multicoating. While lenses now only come in black barrels, the bodies now come in black as well as chrome.

1969-1980 SWC serials 3000 - 15471 then 141001 and up.

 

1980-1982: SWC/M

The SWC/M was modified in 1980 to let one use the Polaroid 100 back.

Hasselblad raised the finder and lowered the tripod mounting plate to clear the larger back, an added a ratchet to the wind crank.

 

Photokina 1982-1985 SWC/M with CF lens

Hasselblad introduced the new Prontor shutters for their lenses at Photokina 1982.

The SWC now has a CF style lens barrel, meaning a Prontor shutter and taking B60 filters. The body is unchanged.

The Prontor shutters still have a red line over 1, 2 and 4, which means nothing on the SWC.

 

1986-1988: SWC/M with new finder

In 1986 Hasselblad switched to a new finder with a built-in bubble level.

The bubble level was therefore removed from the bodies.

 

1989-2001 903 SWC

The 903 SWC adds "Palpas internal coating," claimed to control internal reflections better. That's another name for blacker paint, and seeing how the lens is so close to the film that light never gets to bounce off the inside of the camera anyway, not a big deal.

These sell for about $3,000 used in January 2016.

 

28 August 2001 - 2009: 905 SWC

Hasselblad  905SWC

Hasselblad 905 SWC: note blocky rubber grips on focus and aperture rings.

The first downgrade in the history of the SWC, the 905 SWC replaced the original Biogon with a watered-down version using only unleaded glass. The leaded glass of the original Biogon was removed to aid the health of those who working around the lens' grinding and polishing stages.

This new lens isn't quite as good as the original, but close enough.

The lens is now also a CFi version, meaning that the feet and meter scales are the same color to make them confusing.

The CFi lenses downgraded from metal to a plastic filter mount, enthusiastically called "Makrolon" by Hasselblad's marketing people.

Hasselblad for the first time threw in a free lens shade to ease the pain.

 

Specifications

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Camera Body

One piece cast aluminum alloy.

Interchangeable film backs and ground glass adapters.

Works with digital backs, but digital backs don't work well with the BIOGON lens.

 

Finder

Interchangeable Nr. 52036 finder with bubble level visible on top from on top of finder, as well as looking through the finder.

0.23x magnification.

 

Filters

Bayonet 60.

 

Lens

BIOGON T✻ 38mm f/4.5.

8 elements in

38.6mm actual design focal length.

 

Actual Image Size

55.0 × 56.0 millimeters H × V (78.49mm diagonal) on 1993 A12 magazine.

 

Angle of View

91º diagonal.

72º horizontal and vertical.

 

Diaphragm

5 straight blades.

Half-stop clicks to f/22.

 

Shutter

1/500 ~ 1 second plus Bulb (on shutter ring) and Time (around shutter button).

 

Flash Sync

X sync at all speeds up to 1/500.

 

Focus

Manual scale focus.

120º rotation from infinity ~ 12" (903 SWC).

 

Close Focus

12'/0.3m, marked.

11.5'/0.29 meters actual

 

Size

 

Optical Center

55mm (2.17") above tripod mounting face.

 

Body Only

113mm (4.49") tall.

112mm (4.41") wide.

126mm from lens to back of tripod plate.

 

With finder

153mm (6.00") tall.

112mm (4.41") wide.

134mm deep from front of lens to finder eyecup.

 

With finder and A12 magazine

153mm (6.00") tall.

112mm (4.41") wide.

147mm (5.71") from front of lens to back of magazine.

 

Weights

SWC (1961)

Complete camera, finder, film and back: 48 oz. (1360 g) with finder, filter retaining ring, A12 magazine and film.

Camera & finder only: 33.210 oz. (941.5 g) with series 8 retaining ring but no back.

Camera only: 30.115 oz. (853.75 g) with series 8 retaining ring but no finder and no back.

Finder only: 3.095 oz. (87.8 g).

 

903 SWC (1989)

Measured

48 oz. (1360 g) with finder, A12 magazine and film.

33.205 oz. (941.4 g) with finder but no back.

The 51063 rear protective cover weighs an additional 0.700 oz. (19.9 g).

A loaded A12 magazine weighs about 15 oz (425g).

Finder alone weighs 2.270 oz. (64.4g).

903SWC alone weighs 30.940 oz. (871.1g).

903SWC, finder and rear cover weighs 33.915 oz. (961.4g).

 

Rated

33.2 oz. (940g) with finder but no back.

48.2 oz. (1,365 g) with finder and magazine (no film).

 

Included (903 SWC)

Body, chrome (Nr. 10052) or black (Nr. 10201).

Finder (Nr. 52036).

Neck strap.

Lens cover.

Rear cover.

(Film magazine not included when new.)

 

Performance

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In 1999 I had a version from 1968, serial # TRW8326 and lens serial # 4241589. I'm reviewing this particular sample. Mine had the chrome barrel, mechanical depth-of-field calculator and a series 8 filter thread.

It was not as sharp as my Mamiya 6 50mm lens, or the 43mm lens on my Mamiya 7 which is the direct competition to this camera. Because of this I got rid of my 1966 sample. I suspect the problem was simply the need to guess at distances, or most likely, mechanical misalignment suffered over all the years. Even an original camera from the 1950s should give spectacular results if in good shape. I also hear Hasselblad is great at repairing even ancient cameras, so by all means unless you shoot directly into the sun as I do go get an early version cheap and make sure Hasselblad can bring it up to spec for you, since it's the same or better than the newer models. The multicoated versions made in the past 20 years or so of course are better if you shoot into the sun.

Mine had light leaks and ghosts if pointed into the sun (single coated lens). It has no distortion.

 

Shutter

903 SWC

My 903 SWC shutter is within a third of a stop at every speed. Skipping 1/500 which is 1/3 of a stop slow, it's within one-seventh of a stop at every speed, and if we skip 1/250, it's within one tenth of a stop at every other speed.

Half of the speeds are within one-fourtieth of a stop!

This is superb for a mechanical shutter:

Marked
Actual
Actual
Error
1
987 ms
1/1.01
0.02 stops fast
2
509 ms
1/1.96
0.025 stops slow
4
236 ms
1/4.2
0.08 stops fast
8
118 ms
1/8.5
0.03 stops fast
15
58 ms
1/17
0.10 stops fast
30
31.7 ms
1/31.5
0.02 stops slow
60
15.9 ms
1/62.9
0.025 stops slow
125
7.4 ms
1/135
0.08 stops fast
250
4.3 ms
1/233
0.14 stops slow
500
2.4 ms
1/417
0.30 stops slow

These are measured wide-open, 21 January 2016.

 

SWC

My SWC (1961) shutter is slow at the highest speeds, and sticks sometimes at the slow speeds. It needs work; also each of these speeds tends to vary a little from frame to frame.

Marked
Actual
Actual
Error
1
950 ms
1/1.05
0.07 stops fast
2
480 ms
1/2.08
0.06 stops fast
4
250 ms
1/4
± 0.00 stops
8
117 ms
1/8.55
0.10 stops fast
15
63 ms
1/15.9
0.01 stops slow
30
34 ms
1/29.4
0.12 stops slow
60
18.6 ms
1/57.8
0.25 stops slow
125
10.0 ms
1/100
0.36 stops slow
250
5.6 ms
1/179
0.52 stops slow
500
4.1 ms
1/243
1.07 stops slow

These are measured wide-open, 03 February 2016.

 

Compared

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Compared to the Mamiya 7 and 43mm lens the SWC is primitive, which makes sense for a camera designed 50 years ago. The Zeiss Biogon for the SWC is an abbreviated 8 element design from the original 10 element design. The Mamiya 43mm lens appears to be a direct copy of the original 10 element Biogon design. The word Biogon is a trademark and may not be used by Mamiya, however the patents on the design itself have long since expired.

This is funny: Mamiya makes the full, original 10 element version which is spectacular, and the current Hasselblad model 905SWC is a dumbed-down 8 element version.

One focuses the SWC by guessing at the distance and setting it on the scale; the Mamiyas have precision rangefinders.

Yes, a new SWC is $6,000 and well made, but no, it is not better optically than the Mamiyas. The advantage to the SWC is the interchangeable backs and better mechanics, otherwise, the Mamiyas are the way to go.

 

Usage

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To focus, use a tape measure or guess the distance and set it on the focus scale.

an app or pro version

 

 

Depth of Field

To calculate the aperture that will give optimum sharpness when you need depth-of-field and don't want diffraction to soften the image, put a new scale over the computer display (C lenses) or depth-of-field scale (CF lenses) and use these half distances (see here for details of how to use these):

Focal length = 38.6 mm (actual design value)

f/

feet
meters
Aperture on Zeiss' scale
4.5
182
55.5
5.6
116
35.2
8
57.8
17.6
(f/1.4)
9.5
40.8
12.4
(f/2)
11
28.9
8.81
(f/2.8)
13.5
20.4
6.21
(f/4)
16
14.4
4.4037
f/5.6
22
7.22
2.2
f/11

(how to use this)

 

Filters

1954-1981 "C" Lens: Series 8

These cameras have all-metal lens barrels with fluted focus rings.

These take Series 8 (a.k.a. Series VIII or Series 63mm) filters.

Series 8 filters are unthreaded filter discs which are held in with a separate threaded retaining ring. If you didn't get this ring with your camera, you got ripped off and will need to find one to use filters.

If you're missing your retaining ring, it looks like a 67mm thread, but 67mm filters won't work because the thread pitch is different. Even if you could thread-on a filter, it wound vignette; the Series 8 filters drop inside the lens.

Series 8 filters are easy to find at B&H, at Adorama and used at eBay

 

1982 - 2013 "CF" Lens: Bayonet 60

These are lenses with rubberized focus rings, the footage scale marked in orange and have an external bayonet for B60 (Bayonet 60mm) filters.

These filters are a little hard to find and usually expensive, but they are easy to use and are the same as almost all other Hasselblad lenses made from 1982 from 50mm through 250mm.

You can find B60 filters at B&H, at Adorama and used at eBay.

 

Recommendations

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Specifications   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Tiffen Bay 60 UV

 

Where to Get Yours

I got mine at at this link to them at eBay. See How to Win at eBay to get yours.

 

Old 905SWC listing

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Canon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

More Information

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Specifications   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Hasselblad SWC Manual

Hasselblad SWC/M Manual

Hasselblad 903 SWC Manual

 

© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

 

 

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January 2016