Hasselblad SWC/M Super Wide Camera
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
The Hasselblad SWC (Super Wide Camera) family of cameras had a production life span from 1954-2009. From researching online my particular camera model, a Hasselblad SWC/M with CF lens attached and a spirit level built into both the camera body and the newer style view finder seems to be dated from around 1982-1988.
Hasselblad SWC – Intro
A Hasselblad SWC/M comes with a Zeiss Biogon 38mm f4.5 CF lens attached. Unlike the more common Hasselblad 500 series / V-series camera models the lens on the SWC cameras does not detach. The SWC is a camera designed and built around the very well-regarded Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens. It is not like a normal 500 series Hasselblad camera (as I think of them) as it has no mirror/ ground glass / waist level view finder setup you normally find at the heart of every Hasselblad. Instead it just has an external viewfinder to aid basic composition. To focus the SWC camera I need to use hyperfocal distance (like I would on a Leica rangefinder camera for street photography) and dial in a preferred focus distance on the Biogon lens (such as 2 meters) and then roughly gauge by eye this distance from the camera to the subject. As the camera is a wide-angle camera there is greater depth of field (DOF) than on say a long lens (especially once the SWC lens is stopped down). The 38mm Biogon lens is roughly equivalent to 21mm on a 35mm camera sensor so gives a pretty wide field of view compared to the standard 80mm Zeiss kit lens on a Hasselblad 500CM Classic which is equivalent to 50mm in 35mm camera terms.
Hasselblad SWC – First Thoughts
My first thoughts when collecting the Hasselblad SWC/M were small, compact and lightweight compared to the Hasselblad 500CM + telephoto lens(es) I had been using prior to picking up the camera. The SWC has a very solid and audible clunk when you release the shutter. Much more so than my 500CM and 501C and much for fluid movement but then it is a newer camera so perhaps to be expected. The SWC finder view is big and bright but also very distorted so it is difficult to retain a mind-set that the photos will not also look distorted. The spirit level built into the SWC finder is a very nice touch as you can see if an image horizon is level without taking your eye from the finder. Well done Hasselblad. The CF Zeiss Biogon 38mm lens looks very similar to all my other Zeiss CF lenses and is solid and seemingly well-built.
Hasselblad Wedding Photography
When I do Leica wedding photography with my digital Leica M240 camera one of my most used lenses is the Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8 lens. I have a 28mm Leica Elmarit-M f2.8 lens but found the 28mm focal length not quite wide enough in situation with lots of people and/ or confined spaces. The 21mm ZM Biogon is great for bridal prep shots with multiple bridesmaids in a small room or during a wedding ceremony to capture the bride and groom and some of the guests in the background. For previous analogue film weddings I found the standard lenses on many of my medium format film cameras too narrow to capture everything. For a Hasselblad wedding I have the Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 which is the same as 28mm but nothing wider. Sometime it is just nice to have a super wide lens to photograph a whole room such as the inside of a church. A wider lens also has a great depth in focus so for moving people photos taken in a candid street photography / documentary wedding photography style it is easier to nail focus with a wider lens than with a telephoto lens (when using manual focus). This was one reason/ ‘excuse’ to buy a Hasselblad SWC/M.
Hasselblad SWC for Street Photography
Leica cameras are popular street photography cameras when focused using hyperfocal distance. As mentioned briefly above it means I set a desired distance and aperture on the lens and this gives me a certain range in focus (say everything between 1-3 meters). Once set it basically makes a Leica camera a full frame 35mm point at shoot camera (if you keep your subjects within the area in focus from the camera (Ie. if something is 4m away I need to walk closer before taking the photo or move the distance on the lens to further away before taking my shot). The same methodology can be applied to the Hasselblad SWC camera, setting an aperture and focus distance on the 38mm Biogon lens. As the 38mm is equivalent to 21mm in 35mm terms it gives quite a deep depth in focus. (Telephoto lenses have a much shorter distance in focus at any aperture). The SWC camera can them become a 6×6 medium format point and shoot camera for street photography, weddings or otherwise. The biggest restriction in the UK is sufficient light so the SWC is more suited to bright conditions or high ISO film stock than low light photography for this technique.
Hasselblad SWC for Travel Photography
One big selling point of the Hasselblad SWC for me is the compact size and relatively low weight. The Hassy SWC/M weighs under 1.4kg (with camera, finder and film back attached) and in comparison a Hasselblad 500CM camera + 80mm kit lens + film back weights closer to 1.6kg (but for the lenses I use the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 CF lens alone weighs 1.1kg!) For my overseas model photography photoshoots I tend to take with me the smallest cameras that provide sufficiently high image quality (and are fun to use and reliable). It could be argued that my Mamiya 6 and Fuji GF670 are more suited as medium format travel cameras but I much prefer the rendering of Hasselblad lenses to the Mamiya glass and I find the GF670 fragile (currently awaits repair) and not exciting to use (even if it is a very capable camera).
Hasselblad Fashion Photography
Another reason to buy the Hasselblad SWC is for my Hasselblad fashion photography. I love the Hasselblad telephoto lenses such as the Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 lens and Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 lens for portraits but to photograph clothes full length a wider lens is often easier. The Hassy SWC 38mm Biogon lens could be deemed too wide but many fashion photographers have used wide lenses in the past to give their fashion photos a different look. I think I may use the SWC camera more for wedding photography but I hope I can also use it for some of my model photography to add some variety to my work. For environment portraits a wider lens is also very beneficial as it helps to capture both the model and their environment. I have shot many times in Budapest for example and taken headshot / half body portraits yet the surrounding location detail outside the field of view might have added additional interest to the images if included. I think of all the locations I have done model photography the city that screams “use a wide lens” the most is without doubt New York city. I need to go back soon! On a previous visit to NYC I used my 35mm Hasselblad XPan camera for a wider view but found I usually prefer 6×6 format to panoramic for my model/ fashion portraits. Using both the wide-angle Hasselblad SWC/M and a standard Hasselblad 501C /500CM body side by side gives me the best of both, with the option for wider environment portrait / wide angle fashion look photos and also shallow depth isolated headshots and portraits with a longer telephoto lens. When using two Hasselblad bodies I also have the advantage of the Hasselblad V system being modular. (See more below).
Hasselblad Modular Cameras (Specifically Film Backs)
One huge advantage of investing into the Hasselblad 500 series (V-series) cameras (including the SWC camera) is the cameras are modular in their design. This means I can unclip a standard Hasselblad A12 film back (or any other film back) from any Hasselblad 500 camera and use it on my new Hassy SWC/M. Having multiple film backs to use can be really valuable during a Hasselblad wedding for example. If I was using a Mamiya 6 camera for group photos and finished my roll of film mid-session I would need to halt proceedings, rewind the film and reload with fresh film to continue. When using a Hasselblad I carry multiple pre-loaded film backs and as soon as film finishes in one back I can quickly unclip and attach a second back with film loaded ready to go. Another advantage of multiple film backs is I can load one back with colour film and one back with black and white film. For Hasselblad fashion photography (or film weddings) or any client shoot I can shoot a mix of colour and black and white film and swap the backs between cameras. For example shoot a wide scene in B&W on the Hasselblad SWC then take the back from the Hasselblad 500CM (loaded with colour film) to capture a colourful confetti group photo straight after. The 500CM can then capture some B&W wedding portraits on a long lens and so on. I would travel with at least two film backs for model photography trips and if possible carry 2 Hasselblad bodies too, the SWC/M and a 500CM or 501C.
Hasselblad Focusing Screen Adapter 41025 SWC/M
An obvious disadvantage of the Hasselblad SWC/M is the fact that the viewfinder does not allow for critical focusing. Maybe it is because I have used Leica rangefinder cameras intensively for a prolonged period but for much of my photography I like to line up straight lines (horizontal and vertical) in a scene with my frame lines in the viewfinder. For example at a church wedding I would centre the viewfinder to the church aisle to capture equal detail on both sides and ensure it is aligned to the straight edges of the walls. With the Hasselblad SWC the finder view it is only a rough guide of composition. I would hate to have to crop every SWC photo after scanning to straighten and centre each picture. Luckily there is another option
Hasselblad and Leica Cameras
Hasselblad SWC – Specifications
As with many of the cameras I own and have talked about on this blog, Ken Rockwell has also reviewed the camera and kindly details all the specifics of the Hasselblad SWC on his site. Rather than me repeat the same camera facts please see a link below to Ken Rockwell’s SWC review
Hasselblad Resale Value
One good thing about investing in older Hasselblad film cameras is they seem to hold their value quite well (and even appear to increasing in value/cost over the last 12 months or so). If I find the Hasselblad SWC/M camera isn’t really for me at least I can say I tried it. I would never have discovered my love for Leica and Hasselblad cameras if I didn’t take the chance and move away from the camera(s) I used at the time. I never know, the SWC/M might become my new most used most loved film camera! Either way I will enjoy finding out!
2015 Hasselblad Wedding Photography: Alex & Lisa Wedding Venue: Barton Hall Hotel, Barton Road, Barton Seagrave, NN15 6SG, UK http://www.MrLeica.com December 2015 Intro & Apologies! I know the days and weeks past by in a blur but I can’t believe it is almost two years since I shared any wedding photographs! Really sorry for the […]
2017 Film Weddings
I covered Nick and Naz wedding photography a few weeks ago in the UK and they asked me to use analogue film cameras only. I had a very enjoyable day and used a variety of film cameras – Hasselblad, Mamiya, Leica and more. It also made me realise I had not shared any wedding photos since 2015! I am now on catch up! More to come! 🙂
Destination Wedding Photographer
To my frustration, on the same day as the UK wedding I was also asked to photo a wedding in San Francisco, all expenses paid etc. I added it to my list of destination weddings I was asked to cover but for some reason was not able to attend!
- San Francisco
I did manage to get to a wedding in Florida in 2014 and fingers crossed 2018 will bring more great destination wedding photography opportunities! 🙂
Hasselblad Portraits – Hamburg Models
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
*(I will add more photos to this post as I process the film so you might want to check back in a month or so if interested).
Hamburg Agency Models
Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica.com
I wrote this while waiting for my flight home after an amazing few days of model photography in Germany last weekend. I collaborated with local model agencies here in Hamburg and photographed 11 models in 2.5 days, back to back. Good times!
A big thanks to M4 Models and Core Artist Management for giving me the opportunity. It was my first visit to Hamburg so I organized all the models remotely in the build up to the trip. Overall we were lucky with the weather with only a few spots of rain in total. Almost all photos were shot outside on the streets of Hamburg working in the area close to the hotel. The standard of models was generally very high and although I selected the models I photographed almost every one surpassed my expectations. I’m very excited to see the results.
I kept camera gear very simple and I only had 8kg hand luggage to work with anyway. My digital setup was the Leica M240 camera and Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar pancake lens. For analogue photos I managed to fit in my Hasselblad 501C 6×6 medium format film camera plus the Zeiss Distagon 60mm f3.5 lens. I shot all black and white film and the majority was Fomapan 100 film shot at ISO 400.
Models included Phila and Antonia from M4 in Hamburg and Anita over on contract from Number One Models in Budapest. I then had Janna, Carmen, Cailtin, Sofia, Chantel from Core and also for a change male models Tomas, Aaron and Chris also from Core. I expected to be working with all German models but I got to meet Dutch, Hungarian, Australian, American all signed to the Hamburg model agencies.
Some of the female models were of really high standard and a joy to work with but it was the male models that surprised me the most. All three of the guys produced really strong images and I loved how I can light men differently to women opening a whole new world of lighting oppotunities. I try to give girls flawless skin with light but for guys any ‘imperfections’ just added character. I hope the resulting photos look as good as I remember!
I shot 11 rolls of film and plenty of digital too so can’t wait to see the resulting images. I was happy with all the equipment I’d taken to use and would not hesitate to pack the same setup again.
If the agencies like my work I’m already hoping to work with some of the models again soon! 🙂
Sample Photos – Leica M 240
Leica M6 vs Hasselblad 501C (+ vs Leica M8)
(..or 35mm film vs medium format film)
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
I did a shoot with Stacey recently in my home studio in Coventry UK. I decided to shoot my Leica M6 35mm film camera up against the medium format 6×6 Hasselblad 501C film camera. To give the Leica M6 rangefinder a fighting chance I loaded it with the super fine Ilford Pan F 50 film and attached the super sharp Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens. I did do a few wider shots with the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii lens which is also nice and sharp. The Hasselblad was already loaded with Kodak Tri-X 400 but for some reason I thought it had Fomapan 100 film is so shot the roll of Tri-X 400@100 and developed accordingly Both rolls of film were developed in Xtol developer. Click any photo for more details.
Here is a sample of the film scans:
Hasselblad 501C + 120 Fomapan 100 Medium Format Film
Leica M6 + 35mm Ilford Pan F 50 Film
I was also using my digital Leica M8 for the shoot and it still impresses me as to how film like the Leica CCD sensor appears. Here are a few examples.
Leica M8 Digital Camera
Leica vs Hasselblad – Results
I think the Leica M6 was at the top of it’s game and thanks to the choice of Ilford Pan F 50 film. I actually preferred the Leica M6 photos on the whole to that of the Hasselblad. That is quite an achievement as the Hasselblad has done nothing but impress me since my purchase. The real test will be using the Hasselblad 501C + Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens + 120 Ilford Pan F 50 film for sharp lens and super fine grain film. That said, it’s great to remind myself of how good the little 35mm Leica film cameras can be.
Big thanks to Stacey for putting up with my usual array of quirky cameras pointing at her! 🙂
Hasselblad Portraits – Colour (NYC I)
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
In December 2015 I took my Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera to teach a 1-2-1 model photography workshop for a week in New York. I took two Hasselblad lenses; a Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 CF lens and a Zeiss Distagon 60mm f3.5 CF lens.
Here are some of the colour film negative scans, lab developed and scanned. I have split them by film stock and model. Some models got more keepers depending on the light on the day. I used an old Hasselblad A12 6×6 film back and it seems to have a light leak top left of the images. On bright days photos were more affected I think.
120 Kodak Ektar 100 Film Portraits
120 Kodak Portra 400 Film Portraits
120 Fuji Velvia 50 Film Portraits
Hasselblad Portraits – B&W (NYC I)
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
In December 2015 I took my Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera to teach a 1-2-1 model photography workshop for a week in New York. I took two Hasselblad lenses; a Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 CF lens and a Zeiss Distagon 60mm f3.5 CF lens. I took all photos on 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 film which was then developed at home in Xtol and scanned with an Epson v800 flatbed scanner.
Here is a selection of 6×6 Hasselblad portraits from the models we worked with on the first of two photography workshop weeks in New York. Click any photos for more details about the model, lens and developing.
I have used and still use many different film cameras and digital cameras and I think my 500 Series Hasselblad is the best of the best. I enjoy using the Hasselblad and I love how it makes and ordinary scene look really special with minimal effort. Some of my film photos may look perhaps over edited but in reality all I do is adjust contrast, sharpness and remove dust specks to the majority. The Hasselblad does the rest.
I do like the small size and convenience of Leica cameras (as seen on the second NYC workshop) but when I revisit Hasselblad portrait photos I think the extra effort involved is more than repaid by higher image quality. By this I mean the weight and bulk of the Hasselblad camera (and if I use a monopod too) is worth the effort as I get higher resolution images from the medium format film and Zeiss lens combination. Medium format gives me sharper sharp areas and softer soft areas next to each other all in the same photo. With 35mm I can have soft or sharp, not both in the same image. The Hasselblad XPan 35mm rangefinder camera bridges the gap with resolution to match a 6×7 panoramic 120 film image yet shot on 35mm film. An awesome combination that you will see much more of!
Colour film Hasselblad portrait photos still to come from NYC plus all those photos with the Leica M3, M6, M8 and XPan on the second trip.
- New York Model Photography Workshop – 1
- 35mm Hasselblad XPan Camera
- New York Model Photography Workshop – 2