The Hasselblad H Series

The Hasselblad H was launched with the H1 way back in 2002, and is still going now with the H6D and the H5X for us film shooters (and those people who don't want Hasselblad's digital backs, who I suspect are the real reason the H5X exists rather than us!)

Anyway, the H has really changed very little for film shooters, whereas the digital versions have been upgraded for the megapixel race repeatedly - for us the only changes that have really taken place tend to be around flash syncs at faster shutter speeds - right up until the true focus system in the H5. 

With this in mind, you can pick up some amazing deals on H1 and H2 bodies, and some equally good glass is now being cycled out of the pro studios.

Here I'm sharing a few shots from the Summer of '14, taken with the H1, the standard 80mm f/2.8 lens and 100mm f/2.2

Hasselblad H1, 80mm f/2.8, Portra 160

Hasselblad H1, 80mm f/2.8, Portra 160

The H1 is big, heavy, lump of a camera. Mine throws in at 5.5lbs (2.5kg). These days most folks watching you shoot with it will assume you're shooting pro video, not stills! 

Weight aside, ergonomically it is well thought out and a pleasure to shoot. There is enough automation for convenience in the form of auto wind and metering without getting in the way of your control of aperture/shutter/iso.

An easy menu and several customisable buttons allow you to get exactly what you want at your fingertips with ease.

Hasselblad H1, 100mm f/2.2, Ilford Delta 3200

Hasselblad H1, 100mm f/2.2, Ilford Delta 3200

The H series also touts autofocus, but don't get excited. I find the autofocus slow at best, and frustrating at worst as I depress the release button only to have it drop into endless seeking.

It's an issue I've seen on Mamiya and Contax systems as well - I may change my opinion if I ever get my mitts on a much newer body like the H5X, but I suspect that MF simply doesn't do auto focus well close up, period. Something to do with the size of the surface area and how the AF mechanism seeks contrast I would think. Thankfully I spent years on Leicas with no autofocus at all, so I'm not missing anything I ever had! And used as an assist or in fully manual mode, the manual focus is quick and responsive. Having raised it, I should stress that this is not a problem every shot, but quite specifically with close up work.

Hasselblad H1, 80mm f/2.8, Portra 160

Hasselblad H1, 80mm f/2.8, Portra 160

For power you have choices with the H. you usually see them on ebay with a CR123 battery grip, which works well enough if you have a CR123 battery charger and a stock of rechargeable batteries. You can also use dedicated Li-ion Batteries from Hasselblad which can be wall charged. There's also a 2032 battery in the film backs, but it isn't necessary, it actually only charges an LED backlight.


When it launched Hasselblad got bad press for departing from their partnership with Zeiss and collaborating with Fujifilm for the H series and it's lenses. If you've been playing with the X-Pro cameras from Fujifilm you will know that this was nothing to worry about. The H system glass, designed by Hasselblad and made by Fuji, has some of the best glass on the planet in it's lineup (including my personal favourite, the HC100mm f/2.2), and you have choices - you can pick up a lens new from Hasselblad, or used from ebay, both will work for you.


As a film camera system that is still being made now with the H5X, and also can be bought cheap in the shape of the H1 and H2, the H system has a lot going for it. It has access to a wide system of lenses which again can be bought used and (relatively) cheaply, or brand spanking new with warranties. Lens performance is first class. In fact I'd place the H above its main fanboy competitor the Contax 645 simply on the fact that Hasselblad still make the full system: lenses, body, backs can all be purchased new, now - whereas the Contax sadly went to an unfair grave in 2005.

If you are going to go for 120 roll film, and you want a system rather than an all in one, this is probably as good as it gets.

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