Hasselblad vs Kiev 88 (Kiev 88CM/ ARAX-CM + YouTube Review

Looking to buy a 6×6 medium format camera and can’t decide between a Kiev 88 vs Hasselblad?  I had the same decision but now own both. Here I share the pros and cons of each camera for me. (Actual camera is a Kiev 88CM /ARAX).

YouTube! Kiev 88 (ARAX CM) vs Hasselblad 500 CM

>> Join me on YouTube!

1. Kiev 88 (ARAX-CM variant) Love this camera!!

One of the first film cameras I bought was a 6×6 medium format rebadged Kiev 88 camera called an ‘ARAX-CM’. The Kiev 88 was a clone of the 1600 F Hasselblad model hence the nick name Hasselbladski, made in the Arsenal factory in Ukraine.

At the time I also had a more modern Contax 645 film camera but I didn’t like how automated it was despite the amazing and famous Zeiss Planar 80mm f2 lens. I would say the Contax 645 is the camera of choice for many pro wedding photographers that shoot film but somehow I preferred the old fashioned Kiev 88 experience.  So much more rewarding!

My latest student.. Elka!

2. Kiev 88 Camera – A Proper Film Camera!

For me the Kiev 88 is a real film camera. All mechanical, no batteries and manual everything. I also like how compact it is for a medium format camera when using the waist level viewfinder. My crazy plan at the time was to shoot weddings with two Kiev 88 cameras so I bought an original Kiev 88 camera and additional film backs for both the Kiev 88 and ARAX-CM camera bodies. I then bought extension tubes for macro and an array of lenses the fit the cameras.

3. ARAX-CM vs Kiev 88 – (P6 Lens Mount vs Screw Mount)

The ARAX-CM has a P6 lens mount (Pentacon 6)(accepts lenses from my 6×6 Pentacon 6 TL camera) lens mount whereas Kiev 88 accepted screw mount lenses. With a small Chinese adapter from eBay I could use the screw mount lenses on the ARAX-CM which was my main camera body to use.  I then had the second Kiev 88 camera (with chrome finish like the old Hasselblads!) as more of a film camera backup body.

Medium Format vs Large Format

4. Kiev 88 Lenses (+ P6 Mount Lenses)

Kiev 88 lenses I had included Mir 26B 45mm f3.5, Mir 38B 65mm f3.5, ARAX 80mm f2.8, Vega 28B 120mm f2.8 and the mighty Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 180mm f2.8 lens.  My lens of choice was the Mir 65mm f3.5 that let me focus close to give a nice shallow DOF.  This lens lived on my ARAX-CM!

5. I took the camera everywhere, even India!

My ARAX-CM camera travelled with me everywhere in addition to a Nikon DSLR digital camera at the time. Because of the compact size of the Kiev 88 design I took it on trips to Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, and even India.

Fashion on FILM

6.  ARAX-CM (Kiev 88) was my go to film camera

The ARAX-CM was my film camera setup for everything for maybe 12 months and then I bought a smaller 35mm Nikon FM SLR camera.

Kiev 88 ("ARAX-CM")

7. Mamiya vs Kiev 88

After this time my film photography stepped up a gear and I started buying more film cameras. I bought a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II 6×7 camera with 4 Mamiya Sekor lenses 65mm, 90mm 110mm and 180mm. The RZ67 waist level viewfinder is big and bright and so easy to focus with. The Mamiya Sekor lenses also brought a new level of film image sharpness that I had not yet seen. I bought 645, 6×6, 6×7 and Polaroid Mamiya RZ film backs and together the Mamiya kit put an end to me using my ARAX-CM and Kiev 88 cameras. The RZ67 was a bigger camera but I loved the Mamiya bellow lens focusing system to get in extra close without the need for extension tubes. I sold the Kiev 88 camera but kept my ARAX-CM.

8. Kiev 88 sold.  ARAX-CM gathers dust

The ARAX has sat quietly on the shelf as my photography pushed forward at a fast pace year on year.  I moved from Nikon digital cameras to a Leica system and my appetite for perfection continued to grow.

Medium Format Film

9. New kid on the block! A Hasselblad 501C

My latest purchase was a Hasselblad 501C camera.  More similar in results to the Mamiya RZ67  Pro II (when using a 6×6 film back) and also with regards to being more precision/ professional feeling.

10.  Head to head!

It was a few years (or more) since I had used my rebadged Kiev 88 so decided to dust off the ARAX-CM to re-live the experience before the Hasselblad arrived. I love the fact that the Kiev 88 lenses can focus much closer than Hasselblad mount lenses and that the ARAX-CM has a built in hotshoe for strobist photography.

Hasselblad vs Kiev 88

11. Hasselblad vs Kiev 88

Hasselblad vs Kiev 88 – I used the ARAX-CM on a model shoot and I was amazed how difficult it was to focus the dim split screen centre spot with the WLF. I think got so used to the Mamiya RZ67 and later the Mamiya 645 Super WLF that I have been spoilt. I will now sell the ARAX-CM as the new Hasselblad will perform a similar role.

Hasselblad Selfie

12.  Expectations – Hasselblad vs Kiev 88

I didn’t have any expectations for my Hasselblad camera as I have never tried one before buying. I expected the 501C to be pretty similar to the Kiev 88 in many ways but I was so wrong! Yes the do look very similar and yes they are both 6×6 medium format film cameras but that is all. The Hasselblad accepts Zeiss lenses with built in leaf shutters that sync at 1/500 vs the focal plane shutter in the Kiev 88 camera body that syncs at 1/30. The build quality of the Hasselblad feels on par with Leica camera if not better and feels like a Swiss made watch. A true precision instrument. The Hasselblad film back is indeed similar to the Kiev 88 back but just feels better made. The ARAX-CM film back was a different design but looked similar from the outside. The Hasselblad Zeiss leaf shutter lenses add both weight and cost to the equation. Lens for the Kiev 88 can be picked up on eBay for as little as £75-£100 each. Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad however are normally £350-£800 and skywards.

Hasselblad Wedding Photographer

13.  When to use a Kiev 88 / on a budget

I think if you are a photographer that only dabbles in film a few times a year then a Kiev 88 will provide the medium format film experience on a low budget. If however you need a precision tool to get the best possible images while enjoying every moment of the experience then I recommend getting a Hasselblad. I think the Hasselblad together with my Leica M3 film cameras are cameras for life.

14. Hasselblad vs Kiev 88 – Photos

Could I tell the difference between a photo taken with a Hasselblad vs Kiev 88? I think no. Both camera systems can capture sharp images and I think the choice of film used has an equal part to play in the final results. I don’t remember the Kiev 88 ever giving me soft images as such I but just notice that Hasselblad images can look almost unforgivingly sharp when stopped down.

ARAX-CM (Kiev 88) Portrait

ARAX-CM Portrait

Hasselblad 501C Portrait

Core Management Models

15. What is the perfect camera?

For me a camera can create the perfect photo but unless I enjoy the process of making it then it is of no real interest. An obvious example of the is the super sharp Fuji GF670 folding rangefinder camera. Great photos but no emotionally attachment. The Hasselblad somehow makes it fun to take photos of the most simple everyday objects to try to create ‘art’!

The Hasselblad 501C camera has secured itself a place in my wedding photography camera bag together with my Leica M3 and digital Leica M 240. It would be like leaving one of the children behind otherwise!

Hasselblad vs Kiev 88

YouTube: Kiev 88CM vs Hasselblad Review

YouTube: Best Budget 6×6 Camera?

Wait! Do you have film?

After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting!  Have you got film to load?  Here are some of my favourite films that I use in the ARAX-CM./ Kiev88  camera.

400 speed film is better suited to medium format cameras as the lenses let in less light that many 35mm prime lenses. For example a 35mm camera 50mm f1.4 lens @ISO 100 = 80mm f2.8 @ISO 400 on a medium format camera like the Kiev 88.

Colour film:

Black and white film:

You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE

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9 thoughts on “Hasselblad vs Kiev 88 Camera (Kiev 88CM / ARAX-CM)”

  1. I have a love-hate relationship with my Hasselblad. I love it as a mechanical marvel but hate using it as it is such a clunky experience. It is loud and far from intuitive. The need to make sure the body is in the correct state to change lenses or backs is so confusing at times. Last weekend I took mine out for the first time in ages with two lenses and two backs. I ended up bringing all the parts back home after a couple of pictures, having bricked the lot. Of course it was user error and sorted it out later by re-cocking the shutters on the lenses so they mounted again. Great camera but not for the casual user. I can’t imagine how awful a Russian one would be.
    I really don’t understand why you detest the Contax 645 as you know. It is fabulous with the best of all lenses. No quirks, though perhaps if quirks are what you want then perhaps that’s its weakness.

    1. Thanks Jezza. Sorry I could not reply via my phone and was away. Yes I have ahd to read up quick on recocking shutter etc etc with using lenses, backs, tubes so I hear you. I think maybe I like to be more involved in that way but as you say in the moment you can mess up if not thinking. Yes I still believe the Contax is great and I my Nikon F4 is a mid ground in terms of speed of use and automated. I do love the f4 so I can’t promise I wont have another Contax in the future depending on what my demands are.
      That said I do like a good quirk! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67 | MrLeica.com – Matthew Osborne Photography

  3. Great post. I’ve been looking for opinions on Kiev-88 vs Arax vs rb/rz67 vs Hasselblad 50x and your article provided me with the much needed insight. As a hobbyist, shooting only during weekends, I’m using a Kiev-88 and looking to step up my gear. I don’t think my budget is ready to justify purchasing a Hasselblad and am currently on the fence between Mamiya and Arax. Thanks to your description, I think I’m a little closer to deciding in favor of Mamiya for the sharpness, bright viewfinder and bellows. Both offer MLU, so no competition there.

    Again, much appreciated! 🙂

  4. Quite an interesting article. I’ve got 2 Kiev 88s and absolutely love them. I much prefer Soviet glass with them as photos seem much more “natural” compared to the overly sharp and contrasty Zeiss glass. There’s just something special about the Kiev 88s that I’ve failed to find in more modern medium format cameras. Owning 10 6×6 backs and 4 6×4.5 backs means I can load all my 120 film and change backs as I please; such a great feeling not having to finish off a roll to switch ISOs. I know my Kiev 88 along with my Kiev 6C and Leicaflex SL are cameras that I’ll own until they get auctioned off after my passing at an estate sale hopefully 80 years from now :).

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks Aleks and sorry I missed this. 10 backs!! 🙂 Nice. I prefer the screen in the Hassy and the build but I have a soft spot for Soviet stuff. They offer great value vs. Hassy. Great to hear you have a Leicaflex too! They are like a tank 🙂

  5. Did you know that “bladsky” means “wh*rish”? Hence why people from eastern Europe find nickname “hasselbladsky” very entertaining

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