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The Series One Hasselblad Cameras 1949-1950

By Rick Nordin
Series One Hasselblad 1600 F - Copyright Rick Nordin

The first series of production cameras (“the civilian camera”) made by Victor Hasselblad was a challenging project. To bring engineering drawings and ideas of what, for the time, was a very complex camera into a functioning machine suitable for professional use must have been an extreme challenge. Two prototype bodies had been made in 1948 and one of these was used in the introduction of the Hasselblad camera in New York in October 1948.

Manufacturing the cameras destined for public sale probably began in 1948 but with modifying and troubleshooting the parts and function took months and the first cameras were shipped to the US distributor in June 1949.

Series One serial number The cameras all bear a distinctive four digit serial number engravings ranging from 0001 to 0308. These first series cameras have a number of distinctive features that make them interesting technologically and historically. They are technical and historical equivalents of the 31 Barnack designed nullserie cameras made by Leica in 1923. These cameras were all essentially hand made with individual parts being fitted and modified to each camera. This makes repairs extremely difficult and extremely time consuming. Master Hasselblad repairman David Knapman reports that these early cameras can take 120 hours of his time to overhaul, clean, lubricate and adjust. To put that in perspective that is sitting at his workbench for three weeks working on one camera body to get it to function as it should!

Because of this delicate and difficult mechanical design, many of these early cameras were returned to the factory for repairs - often within days of the new owners receiving them. Over the first few years of these cameras being sold, the majority (153 of 269 actually assembled) of these cameras came back to the factory for repairs and in many cases if the repairs were deemed too time consuming or parts were not available, the customer was simply sent a new camera. Many of the early cameras served as a source of parts after the series 2 cameras (1950-1953) with their modified internal mechanisms when they were being produced.

However there are a number of the Series One cameras that have received a number of apparent upgrades that make them distinctive. It is assumed that all of the Series One cameras were assembled with their most distinctive feature – a polished aluminum wind knob – in contrast with the black wind knob that all Hasselblad except this first series have. The shutter speed engravings on the wind knob are also different from the series two 1600F and 1000F cameras that follow as the shutter speeds are engraved with shorter exposure times running counter-clockwise as viewed from the right hand side of the body. See the photos below that show this difference.

Series One cameras with polished aluminum and black wind knobsSeries One camera with polished aluminum wind knob
Series One camera with black wind knob

A few of these Series One cameras at present have black wind knobs. It is assumed that these were upgrades done at the factory. Some have the counter clockwise shutter speed engravings as the silver knobs have – implying that they have the original design (but presumably improved) mechanism inside. Others have been reported with a black knob with the clockwise engraving that is the same as the series 2 cameras and it is assumed that the entire internal mechanism was changed over. There are a number of early Series Two cameras that have been seen that seem to use a number of the parts from the Series 1 cameras and in some cases may have been converted from the early cameras. Distinctive Series One parts are the covers over the mechanism on the inside of the body adjacent to the mirror, the mirror assembly, the lens catch mechanism and other parts.

Stamp

The Series One camera body shells and internal chassis are all individually stamped. However it does not appear that the numbers stamped into the shell or the chassis were meant to match each other nor do they seem to match the serial number of the camera. They seem to be simply serially numbered as part of their manufacture. None of the Series two cameras seem to have this detail.

Some of the early Series One cameras have the original style waist level finder that do not have the struts seen when the hood is opened and no release button and with small lifting grips on the back of the hood. The magnifier in these original waist level finders is not spring loaded, and to move it into viewing position it is necessary to pluck it upwards with thumb and index finger. Some early cameras also have the original dark slide without a handle. Both of these items seem to have been systematically replaced with their new improved versions when they were serviced so very few survive. Images below are from an early Hasselblad brochure showing one of the prototype cameras.

Early waist level finderEarly waist level finder
Early waist level finder
Early dark slide handleEarly dark slide handle

So in the light of 55 plus years of time and an initial imperfect design, very few of these Series One cameras have survived. Below is a table of the cameras I have seen or have good documentation on. It is not a long list! The most notable camera is 0001 which is noted in the ledger books as coming into the factory in 1985 for service! The camera is part of the collection of the Hasselblad Foundation, Göteborg, Sweden.

The Known Survivor Series One Cameras
BodyMagazine (now)Lens (now)CommentsShipping infoWhere seen / location
00010001ES0000The first one!20-5-1949
U.S.A.
Hasselblad Foundation, Göteborg, Sweden.
Noted in ledger in factory 1980
000320-5-1949
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
0014CV 11365ET 320Silver wind knob23-9-1949
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
00150026ES 0001
(135 mm)
Silver wind knob23-9-1949
U.S.A.
Ledger 80-03-28;
LP Foto, Stockholm, Sweden, Auction 2003
0024CS 10912ET 105Silver wind knob23-9-1949
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
0060Black wind knob9-12-1949
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
00640152ET 356Silver wind knob20-5-1950
Sweden
Australia
0066Silver wind knob19-1-1950
U.S.A.
Victor Hasselblad
00750136ET 338Silver wind knob19-1-1950
U.S.A.
Westlicht november 2006
01010164ET 456Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
03-03-1950
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
0111CT 31200ET 3199Silver wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
 eBay, july 2010.
01120182ET 113Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
18-3-1950
U.S.A.
Sweden
01660273ET 216Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
6-4-1950
U.S.A.
Chernoff
01700258ET 505Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
21-3-1950
Stockholm, Sweden
LP Foto, Stockholm, Sweden, Auction December 2012
01782-6-1950
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
01880059ET 1053Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
22-4-1950
U.S.A.
Sweden
019822-4-1950
U.S.A.
Sweden
0219CS 10695ET 486Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
22-4-1950
U.S.A.
Sweden
02250160ET 577Silver wind knob8-6-1950
Sweden
Canada
02360256ET 258Silver wind knob6-4-1950
U.S.A.
U.S.A.
02430318ET 515Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
25-5-1950
Kungl. Tek. Högskolan, Sweden
LP Foto, Stockholm, Sweden, Auction June 2008
0259CV 11678ET 543Silver wind knobU.S.A.
02660345ET 382Silver wind knob29-4-1950
U.S.A.
France
02910156Silver wind knob8-6-1950,
Shipped to Swedish distributor
Canada
0292Black wind knob,
counterclockwise engraving
25-5-1950,
Sweden
Italy
02980353ET 213Silver wind knob2-8-1950,
U.S.A.
Canada
0308Silver wind knob15-6-1950
Sweden
Japan

We would like to add to the list of survivor cameras, so if anyone has, or knows of a Series One camera, we would be pleased to hear from you!
nordin@hasselbladhistorical.eu

Text and photos copyright 2006, 2011 - Rick Nordin. All rights reserved.
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