Hasselblad reliability

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Ervin Pohl, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. Ervin Pohl

    Ervin Pohl Subscriber

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    I just bought a hasselblad 501cm with 80cb lens in mint condition and want to expand the system, but came across some forum where a guy was complaining about hasselblad, saying that it is not very reliable. Well it sounded like hasselblad is good only for a display...very fragile, repair needed after every 300 rolls or so, if not CLA every year it will brake....and so on. I should mention that the guy was a professional photographer and he was dealing with a brand new equipment.
    Is there some truth in it? I'd like to hear some experience from other amateur users of the system.
     
  2. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    I bought a 500cm and 80 t* off of a pro photographer that did not get it cleaned in 10 years. I just got it CLA’d and dave said the body was a little dry and a little dirty but worked fine (I had him go ahead and clean it). The lens was dirty and sloppy but worked before the cleaning, now it is beautiful.
     
  3. Pgeobc

    Pgeobc Member

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    Generally, they are touted as paragons of reliability. Maybe the complainer had other "issues." Maybe his was in tough shape to start with.
     
  4. Ervin Pohl

    Ervin Pohl Subscriber

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    The complainer was giving other people advice on buying hasselblad on that forum, since he's been using the system for several years. His experience was mostly with new equipment.
     
  5. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    I have one that jams everytime I use mirror lock up. I can unjam it.
    I don't know if it's because it's a Hasselblad or because it's never been serviced. Probably the latter.
     
  6. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    I've had my 500c/m with 3-5 lenses for about 6 years now. I took the body in for one repair/CLA and a couple backs that had spacing issues. Everything has been going smooth for the last 5 years. People have bad luck with equipment, mistreat and sometimes don't even know how to use it properly and force parts to move in times of desperation and break them (I'll admit to doing this once and learned by lesson). So, really it's based on experience. I've had 5 or 6 MF systems in my time and have settled on the Hasselblad. Any MF system you get will require maintenance, but I know putting the money into my Hasselblad is an investment 'cause it will last another 10 years. If your Bronica SQ-A body goes, you might as well use it as a paperweight, 'cause you can replace it for the same cost as a CLA.

    I personally wouldn't hesitate to expand on your system just because of one guys bad experience/opinion. If you like what you're getting out of the system, expand away! Or just learn to use that one lens in as many different ways as you can.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Hasselblads are precision instruments. They are designed to be used.

    They are not, however, impervious to damage.

    If they are used in something like a busy wedding studio, they will be exposed to moisture, vibration, dust, banging, scrapes, drops (sometimes) and maybe even wedding cake!

    So they do need maintenance if they are heavily used, or abused.

    When manufactured or properly maintained, their tolerances are precise. In order to keep them that way, they need to be serviced.

    Personally, I find that they don't suit me. It is a matter of ergonomics, most likely due to me, not their design. It may be that the "complainer" and Hasselblads aren't suited to each other, and the "complainer" isn't willing to admit it might be at least partly his fault.
     
  8. ooze

    ooze Member

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    I've been using a Hasselblad 501C on and off for about 7 years. When it works, it's fine. But I've repeatedly had issues with the backs; mostly inter-frame spacing problems. More recently, the mirror gets stuck sometimes after an exposure. It releases itself after a while, but then gets stuck again after another exposure.

    What my repair guy tells me is that Hasselbads are cameras which need constant use (and probably regular service).

    I've decided to stick with my Rolleiflex TLR's which have been totally reliable.
     
  9. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Everything mechanical needs some maintenance. And can breake too. Without exception.

    But - from experience - such stories are hugely exagerated.
    I have one 500 C/M body, in regular use, that hasn't been serviced since i got it new 30 years ago, i.e. never. Never a problem either. That is rather silly, but not surprising either.
    Other cameras i have have been serviced since i got them. Not because there was something wrong with them.

    These thingies really are "paragons of reliability", as Geo put it.
    The backs do need some regular maintenance: the foam pad, part of the light seal will go bad, and will need changing every 2-3 years (you can do that yourself. Not difficult, and takes a few minutes).
    And a nylon stop may get dented and then will need changing once every 20 years or so (very much depending on use; you may never have a problem at all).

    If there are problems, most are fixed by cleaning and retightening of screws. Just about all problems with backs are solved by that. Cameras with problems too hardly ever need anything else but readjusting the mechanism.

    The only problems i have had since i began using Hasselblad were with lenses: the fast shutterless lenses have a rather finicky diaphragm mechanism, and on two of mine (110 and 150 mm) failed and needed parts.
    And i once got a used automatic bellows unit, that came with problems. Was fixed.

    There are a few sources for problems with Hasselblads.

    The first is non-use. Leave a camera or lens unused for a longer time (think years) and the lubricants will go stiff.

    The second is over-use. Things do wear. Springs may need replacing once every decade or two. Screws will work loose a bit. Things will slip. That sort of stuff.

    The third is abuse. Don't need to explain that, i think.

    The fourth is people seling their cameras and lenses they have 'exposed' to the first three. Especially nowadays, with prices low, repair costs still high, it's tempting to sell a camera with a problem to an unsuspecting buyer and get a cheap replacement rather than spring for the repair costs.

    The fifth is user error. And that is responsible for 99.9% of all reported problems not due to the first four. If you know what you are doing (and it's not hard: on the 'simplicity level' of being smart enough not to hold a lighter to you shoe laces if you do not want them to go up in flames), you never have a problem.

    The sixth is perception and envy, and 'partisanism'. Psychology.
    Many reports of problems are bogus, put into the world by people who - for instance - would have wanted a Hasselblad but can't afford one, and then start kicking. Out of spite. And to set their own minds at piece with the fact that they have to do without, trying to convince themselves that it would have been a bad thing anyway, that thing they would have wanted but have to do without.
    And you know how it goes: drop the word Nikon in a Canon forum, or vice versa, and all hell breaks loose.
    (And see how Rolleiflexes are "totally reliable" just one post above? :D)

    And finally, things will break. Hardly ever happens. But it can, and will.
     
  10. Ian David

    Ian David Member

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    I've been using a 503CW for about 8 years now. I've never had a significant mechanical problem.

    Ian
     
  11. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I have no experience of Hasselblad but generally people are keen to air their grievances but remain quiet when things are going well. I suspect that the complaints you hear or read about are a very small percentage of the total of users' experiences.


    Steve.
     
  12. ooze

    ooze Member

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    I have not written about Rolleiflexes in general, but "my Rolleiflex TLR's" in particular.

    I'm perfectly aware that different people have different experiences with cameras. What should I have written? Anything contrary to my experience?
     
  13. malcao

    malcao Member

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    Been a Hasselblad specialist and sold the system in mid-80 I would say that the older mechanical cameras worked well but the 2000-series had shutter problems and there was always some problems with the magazines.
    I have a lot of other camera systems that I used and have to say that I had most issues with Hasselblad.
    But very sharp photos when it works :smile:
    (My experience is from Hasselblad system from around 1985-1990).
     
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  15. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    I was a die-hard Hassy fan for many years - I got out of the system when I realized I was much more of a large format shooter and wasn't using it often enough anymore to justify keeping it. I started off in 1994 with a 1960's vintage 500 C with an 80 C (chrome) lens. I bought it from a wedding photographer who had also bought it used. I eventually had to repair it twice - once was minor - a spring for the mirror return went bad. The second was expensive - the regulator that controls the rear body baffle doors had broken due to age and dry rot (at that point it was something on the order of 35 years old), and it was costly because to replace it required basically a complete disassembly of the camera to remove the rotted part. I also had a 500 C/M that was a mid-80's vintage and worked like a charm the entire time I had it. I never had a failure with that body, or with any of the lenses I had (80 C, later an 80 CF, 50 CF, 120 CF, 38 CF on the SuperWide). I had some problems with backs, but mostly minor. I had one of the old #12 backs, the early type, that needed a good CLA. I had some minor spacing issues with my older #12 backs, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a quick, inexpensive (read $40-50) tune up. My A12 backs were all solid with no major spacing issues, except one - and that was because the seller was an unethical sleaze fobbing off his worn-out gear ( he was a professional photographer in LA and he was cleaning out his shelves of stuff that was cosmetically excellent but mechanically exhausted ). When I discovered the problem with the back he refused to even split the repair bill with me. It never worked right, even after a second trip to the shop. In sum, in my experience of buying and using used Hasselblad gear, I had five backs, four lenses, two bodies (three if you count the Superwide), and also the old double-cable release type bellows extension, and they provided me with over a dozen years of reliable enjoyment and consistent use as an amateur. The kit went with me on numerous trips around the US, and to Spain, and never stranded me.

    Just my own personal experience with the system.
     
  16. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    I, too have a Hasselblad 503cx that will lock up when the mirror release is tripped. I finally broke it while re-cocking the shutter by hand. Now it will get its needed adjustment along with its repair. My fault as much as anything.

    I've had Canon F1s break down, Rollei TLRs and Yashica TLRs that have shed parts in the field. I've had old, heavily used C lenses break a shutter on assignment. I've had motor-driven 553ELXs grind through an entire year of catalog photography without a hiccup. Hasselblads are great cameras and no more prone to breakdown than any other system when they are well maintained. It's a necessary expense.

    Peter Gomena
     
  17. blockend

    blockend Member

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    I was a studio assistant in the 70s and 80s when Hasselblad was everywhere and have loaded more backs than you can imagine. The general consensus was 'precision but delicate' and most photographers owned or would hire in a second body to cover breakdowns.
     
  18. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    IMO they're quite reliable. In studio use it was a good idea to have a spare body just as it was a good idea to have an assistant.
    Unfortunately one body + assistant sometimes = using the spare body.
    Biological interface error.
     
  19. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    It will benefit from regular and expensive maintenance, and from being used by a user who knows what the hell he/she is doing with it, at least enough so that he or she can avoid doing something that will mess it up. Anything else, and problems can easily pop up, though they do not always do so. (Sorry if my experience is tainted by my experiences with Volvos and German cars. :D)

    If you want a product made to take the abuse of irregular or no maintenance, and idiot users, get a Japanese camera, IMHO.

    I wonder if there are any parallels with automobiles. My '91 Honda went 244,000 miles on under $1,000 of repairs (Alternator, starter, and distributor where the only things that ever broke.), and it was still going just fine getting nearly 30 MPG and passing smog tests with flying colors when I sold it for $500 six years ago. I beat it into the ground when I drove it, and didn't do anything other than change the oil every 5,000 miles and other regular maintenance (filters, etc.). On the other hand, while I have found the European cars in my life to be better designed and built overall when it comes to measuring raw quality, they have required constant and expensive service and repair. I don't have the personality or the pocketbook to deal with that, myself. $25 for a missing switch knob just doesn't compute in my book. I feel the same way about Hassies. They are a heavy financial investment when you consider what it will take to give one the care it should have, even with today's used market. I think they are one of the smartest camera designs ever, and that they are a joy to use, however.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2011
  20. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Automobiles. Cigars and sotch whiskey next...

    These cameras are very robust. At least as robust as any other make. The idea that they are "delicate" is quite ridiculous.
    (Just an opinion from someone who has bounced his quite a few times too many, having them fall from tripods, pushed off the edge of a table, slide down a slope, even dropped from a bicycle i was riding at speed when the shoulder strap of the bag (a leather covered cardboard box with cardboard cut-out interior, with the only 'padding' being a velvet interior lining) snapped.)

    So don't worry.
     
  21. aluncrockford

    aluncrockford Member

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    I have used haselblads for years without any major problems, the winder for the 503CW has an issue with the locking mechanism but apart from that my P45 tells me that over the last three years there have been 78,000 exposures without any problems ,the ELX did have a issue with batteries but an adapter bought on ebay sorted that problem, so I would say that if you look after your kit and get it serviced then you should have no problems .
     
  22. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I have a 503cxi that I bought used from a wedding photographer. I've never had it CLA'd :whistling: and it's doing just fine. I know I should have someone look at it, but I just haven't taken the time. The only time it jammed was when I put an extension tube on in the wrong order. The only problem I've had with mine is that it doesn't fit my hands very easily so I use it on a tripod 90% of the time.
    And my Fords have been my favorite cars.
     
  23. kreeger

    kreeger Subscriber

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    On Hasselblad Reliability :

    The bodies and lenses - I've been using 500C, C/M, ELM, ELX for 30 years, with the older C lenses. If you consider all the moving parts and complexity they have, Hasselblad of that type and era have been very good and on par with Nikon reliability. But, like other cameras I recommend spares are a good idea when you can afford them. You can buy a spare body for next to nothing and stripped way down they way nothing when you're miles from home. I use 500CM and ELX for my work.

    The backs - have always been known to have some irregular gaps between frames over long use. If you have one body at least have 2-3 backs and have one going and one loaded with another roll all the time. Good insurance is to take a jeweler file and put a notch in the film opening somewhere on each so you can track down a problem with the back when it's got a problem. The light seals which are user replaceable are the most common repair to them. I use a mix of older peep-hole style and late 70 style non peep hole backs.

    A agree with Bethe above - tripod is often necessary for using one.

    I have always used Hasselblads for the amazing characteristics of the lenses available. They aren't the lightest or the most ergonomic MF cameras by a long shot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2011
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Me too agree. 90% of the time I use mine on tripod and the remaining 10% on monopod. These numbers are approximate and may vary.
     
  25. skahde

    skahde Member

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    I bought my equipment used and within the last 14 years each and every part I have or had needed service at some point (4 lenses, 3 mags, 2 bodies). With one exception: All the 2000fcw ever needed was a fresh battery. And it also never jammed ...
     
  26. M Stat

    M Stat Member

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    Just my two cents worth, but when I worked at a camera shop (oh so many years ago), the repair guy used to refer to Hasselblads as "Hassel bombs" because he would get more of them in his shop than any other camera, and yes they were, shall we say, "tempermental". That having been said, I own a Hasselblad system and even though I enjoy working with it, I feel that it could be much more reliable. Luckily for me I have a very good and reasonable repairman to work on it.