FAQ camera
David S. Odess
Factory Trained Hasselblad Technician
141 Memorial Parkway #230
Randolph, MA  02368  USA

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) here are taken from newsletters I have written over the years, and from my experience helping my customers overcome problems.

How often should I have my Hasselblad serviced?

This is the question that is most frequently asked of me. Hasselblad recommends that you have your camera serviced every year if it is in constant use, and every two or three years if it gets less use.

Dirt and dust get into your camera, and lubricants dry out and get thick. Having your Hasselblad cleaned and lubricated periodically is the best way to insure that your camera will operate properly, with fewer breakdowns, and lessening the chance of costly repairs in the future.

I've heard that parts for the older C lenses are getting scarce. Is this true?

Parts for the older C lenses are no longer being manufactured, and the availability of these parts is limited to the existing supply.

I have stocked up on as many of these parts as I can, and I will continue to service the older C lenses as long as my parts supply will permit.

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Why did you replace the flash contact and main spring in my lens?

When I overhaul a lens, I usually replace the flash contact and the main spring. Why? Because these are the two parts in the lens shutter that are most likely to break. Replacing them during an overhaul will lessen the chances that they will break during use, causing you problems.

Why did you replace the light trap and nylon stop in my film magazine?

When I overhaul a film magazine, I usually replaced the light trap and nylon stop. What are these things and why do they have to be replaced?

The light trap is a piece of foam that prevents light from entering the magazine when the dark slide is removed. The foam wears, and eventually will wear to the point that it will allow light to enter the magazine and fog the film when you remove the dark slide. This is why it is replaced during an overhaul. It's better to be safe than sorry, and replacing a light trap during an overhaul is cheap insurance.

The nylon stop is a little more complicated. Look at the rear plate of your camera body, and you will notice an opening about 1/16"x 3/4" in the upper right hand corner. When you wind the body, teeth from a gear start to emerge from this opening.

Now look at the rear plate on one of your magazines. You will notice an opening of the same size in the upper left hand corner of the rear plate. In this opening is a gear. If you look at the lower part of the gear, it looks like a tooth is missing. This space is where the first tooth on the body gear goes into.

As you wind the body, the body gear winds this magazine gear, which, in turn, advances the film. Just before the winding cycle of the body has been completed, the gear in the magazine, under spring tension, snaps back to the original position. The nylon stop is what stops the gear in the correct position.

As the nylon stop wears, the opening in the magazine gear gets lower and lower. When it gets low enough, here's what happens: The first tooth on the body gear, which used to go into the opening in the magazine gear, hits the first tooth in the magazine gear. When this happens, you will feel a binding sensation when you start to wind the body. This is due to the fact that the tooth on the body gear, which used to go into the opening in the magazine gear, is now hitting the first tooth. Not good. It will push the magazine slightly away from the body, allowing light to enter between them, which will cause a light leak.

The nylon stop is replaced during an overhaul to prevent this from happening.

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Why did you replace my dark slide?

If you send me a film back for repair and the dark slide is bent or warped, I may replace it without you asking me to. Why? Because a bent or warped dark slide can create problems for you.

A dark slide does a lot more than just prevent light from fogging your film when you remove the film back from the camera body. It also prevents the camera from firing when the dark slide is inserted, and prevents the removal of the film magazine from the camera body when the dark slide is removed.

If the lower left hand corner of the dark slide is bent, it might not activate the release blocking arm that prevents the body from firing with the dark slide in. If this happens, you would be able fire the camera with the dark slide in the film back.

If the upper left hand corner of the dark slide is bent, it might not activate the release button blocking arm, which would prevent the film back from attaching to the camera body, or could prevent you from removing the film back from the camera body once it is on.

A bent or warped dark slide can also cause damage to the light trap or the light trap shield, which would result in light leaks.

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Why did you install or replace the brake assembly in my camera body?

There is a large, powerful spring in the camera body that opens and closes the rear flaps. The original 500 C bodies, made in 1957 and 1958, had an air piston (not unlike the piston on your storm door) which served as a shock absorber to absorb the shock of the flaps opening and closing. By absorbing the shock, the brake would prevent the upper flap from cracking at the axle.

In late 1958, the entire configuration of the gears, springs and arms in the body was modified, along with the brake assembly.

The new brake assembly was a vast improvement over the original brake, but problems started to develop. There was a large rubber disk in this brake, and, after years of use, the disk began to soften up and get gummy. When this happened, the flaps couldn't open and close properly and the camera would jam up.

In 1970 the brake assembly was modified. The rubber disk was replaced by a metal disk with a small rubber "doughnut". It worked great. It was such a good design that, to this day, I have never seen or heard of a body jamming up because of the newer type brake assembly.

But there was another problem. Not with the brake, but with some technicians. They didn't trust the new brake assembly. They had seen so many bodies jam up from the two previous versions of the brake that, when working on a body, the first thing they would do would be to remove the new style brake.

Without the brake assembly, the shock of the flaps opening and closing was transmitted to the flaps themselves. The upper flap, sooner or later, would start to crack at the axle.

There is no way to properly repair a cracked flap; it has to be replaced. Not only is this a pain in the neck job to do, but it is also very expensive.

If I replace a brake assembly in your camera body, it is because you had the older style brake. If I install a brake assembly in your camera body, it is because someone had removed the brake.

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Why did one of my shutter blades break?

Have you ever looked into your lens and gasped with horror at the sight of a broken shutter blade? Not a pleasant experience at all. There is, however, something that you can do to lessen the chances of this happening to you ... periodic maintenance.

A shutter blade is made up of three pieces. First, there is the shutter blade itself. Then, there are two smaller pieces that are riveted to one end of the blade; one on the top and one on the bottom.

There are four holes in this end of the blade. Two of them are the rivet holes. The other two holes are the holes that fit over two pins on the shutter blade ring. As the shutter blade ring moves back and forth, the shutter blades open and close.

It is not uncommon for a crack to appear in a blade. It starts at the inner mounting hole and works its way to the inner edge of the blade. Guess what happens next? Nothing! The shutter blade will continue to operate properly for quite a long time with that small crack in it.

The trouble starts later when the crack starts to go the other way ... from the inner mounting hole to the outer side of the blade. When the crack reaches the other mounting hole, the shutter blade breaks.

Because the crack is very small and is hidden by the smaller piece that is riveted to the blade, you cannot see this crack by looking into your lens. You could have a cracked blade waiting to break and not even know it.

It is for this reason that I completely disassemble the shutter and check each blade during an overhaul. Not many technicians take the time to do this. You'd be surprised how many cracked shutter blades I find.

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Can I use 220 film in my older style Magazine 12?

To adapt the non-automatic magazines for 220 film (magazine 12 with a serial number of 64400 or higher, and magazine 16 and 16s with a serial number of 204200 or higher), the observation window at the back of the magazine must first be made light tight. Special plastic plugs are available for this purpose; they go into the rear window from inside the magazine housing. To fit them, first remove the magazine slide and the spool holder (insert). Then push the plug, with the lettering facing outwards, into the rear window from inside. The inner flange of the plug must be flush with the inside of the window, and the outside surface with the lettering must be level with the rear surface of the opening. Check that the plug fits smoothly, without gaps.

Fit the full film spool and thread the backing paper leader onto the take up spool in the usual way. Turn the take up spool, winding up the paper until a row of dots or a two-ended thick arrow across the back of the paper appears in the middle of the take up spool, as seen from the rear of the spool holder.

Insert the spool holder into the magazine housing and lock it. Turn the transport key on the magazine counter-clockwise to set the film counter to number 1.

Next, turn the transport key forward through nine complete turns. With the magazine 12, this should bring the number 7 into the window. With a magazine 16 or 16s, the number 9 will show in the window. Then turn the winding key counter-clockwise to reset the film counter to number 1 again.

The magazine is now ready for shooting. Take pictures and advance the film in the usual way until the camera and the release both lock up. Then lift up the transport key again and turn it counter-clockwise to reset the film counter to number 1. Then carry on until the last exposure is again reached. At that point, lift the transport key again and wind it through at least six or seven turns to wind up the backing paper trailer before opening the magazine and removing the film.

The procedure is similar for earlier magazines (16 and 16s with serial numbers below 204200 and magazine 12 with serial numbers between 20000 and 64399). The only difference is that the film is advanced 10 complete turns of the transport key to bring the first film frame into position. This brings number 8 into the film counter window of the magazine 12, and number 10 into the film counter window for magazine 16 and 16s.

With these earlier models, the spacing between the film frames tends to get very close at times, with the possibility of overlapping frames.

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The battery in my electric body died in mid-cycle. What should I do?

If you have a 500 EL, 500 EL/M or 500 ELX body and the battery dies while the camera is winding, don't panic! Simply remove the battery, insert a charged battery, and the body will complete the cycle.

If you don't have another charged battery, use the following procedure: Move the "L O T" lever to the "L" position and charge the battery for about an hour. Then move the lever to the "O" position, and the camera will finish the cycle. You should then charge the battery for another 13 hours to get it fully charged.

How should I maintain my ni-cad batteries?

One of the characteristics of a ni-cad battery is that it has a memory. A fully charged battery should give you around 1,000 shots. But if you constantly shoot 500 shots and then charge the battery for 7 hours, your battery wouldn't give you 1,000 shots anymore; it would only give around 500 shots.

In order to insure that the battery will operate at full capacity, it must be fully discharged and fully recharged occasionally. Here's the easiest way that I've found to keep your battery in top shape:

Go to your local auto parts store and purchase a 6-volt, single filament light bulb and a socket. The socket will probably only have one wire, so you'll have to solder or tape another wire to it.

Every few months, place one of the wires on one end of the battery, and the other wire on the other end of the battery. Use a rubber band or tape to secure the wires to the battery and leave it connected until the light bulb goes out. Then charge the battery for 14 hours, and it will be fully charged. Following this simple procedure every few months will help eliminate the memory problem associated with ni-cad batteries and will insure a long life for your battery. Make sure that the battery is fully charged before prolonged periods of non-use.

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My electric body will accept two batteries. Should I operate it with one or two batteries?

Your 500 EL, 500 EL/M and 500 ELX will operate with either one or two batteries. With one battery you should get about 1,000 shots, and 2,000 shots with two batteries. I recommend, however, that you only use one battery at a time in your camera. Why? If you are using two batteries and they go dead, you will have to charge them for 28 hours to fully charge them up. In the mean time, you won't be able to use the body.

If you use one battery in the camera and it goes dead, you can remove it and put the other battery in, and be able to fire another 1,000 shots. Don't forget to charge the first battery as soon as possible. This way, you won't get caught with two dead batteries.

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What is the proper procedure for attaching or removing extension tubes?

If you use extension tubes or extenders with your Hasselblad, it is of the utmost importance that you follow the proper procedure when attaching and removing them from your camera to prevent the camera from jamming.

When attaching an extension tube or extender, always attach the tube or extender to the body first, and then attach the lens to the tube or extender. If using more than one tube, attach the first tube to the camera, then attach the second tube, and then attach the lens.

When removing the components, it is essential that you remove them in exactly the opposite way you attached them. First, remove the lens. Then remove the tube or the extender from the body. If you are using more than one tube, remove the lens first, then remove the tube that is next to the lens, then remove the tube that is attached to the body.


If you mistakenly try to remove the lens and tube(s) or extender at the same time and they jam on the camera, gently try to reattach the assembly to the body, and proceed according to the above instructions. If they will not lock back on to the body properly, don't try to force them on or off. Doing so can damage the front key on the body. If this happens, the front key assembly will have to be replaced, and this is a very expensive part.

If you find yourself with a lens and tube(s) or extender stuck on the body and you can't get the assembly on or off, take the camera to a Hasselblad technician who can remove the components without causing damage to the camera.

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What is the proper way to load film in an older style Magazine 12, 16 or 24?

Unlike the newer style magazines, the film does not automatically stop at number one in the older style magazines. Here is the procedure to be followed:

  1. Place the roll of film on the supply side of the spool holder and pull out a short length of paper leader.
  2. Position the paper leader under the aluminum guide at the top of the pressure plate.
  3. Pull the paper leader around to the take up side, and insert the end of the leader into the slot on the take up spool.
  4. Rotate the knurled knob about two turns, insuring that the paper leader is being taken up on the supply spool.
  5. Insert the spool holder into the shell, and lock it into place with the locking key.
  6. Open the ASA dial on the back of the shell, then lift one side of the film advance key. While looking into the opening on the back of the shell, turn the film advance key clockwise until the number 1 appears in the opening on the back of the shell.

Close the ASA dial, then turn the film winding key counter-clockwise as far as it will go (it will only turn about 1/8 of a turn). At this point, the number wheel will show the number 1 in the window. At this point, the magazine has been properly loaded.

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How can I check my camera to make sure that it is working properly?

When something goes wrong with your camera, such as a broken main spring or flash contact in your lens, you'll know immediately because all of a sudden the camera will jam or the flash won't fire. If the mirror spring in the body breaks, you'll know it because the body will jam up. Of course, it's not good when these things happen, but at least you'll notice it right away, and you can switch cameras and continue shooting.

The big problems happen when something goes wrong with the camera and you don't notice it, like sluggish diaphragm blades in your lens, or a broken shutter blade that's hiding at the edge of the shutter.

You would be amazed at how many photographers have something go wrong with their camera, but don't notice it until it's too late. One of my customers got a call from his lab, informing him that every negative he shot at a wedding was three to four stops overexposed.

He brought the lens to me, and I discovered the problem was that a small spring that controls the diaphragm actuating ring had become unhooked. Although he had the lens set on f 11, the lens was shooting all the way open at f 2.8.

Needless to say, this was a nightmare for my customer. It cost him a lot of time and money, the cancellation of a wedding that had already been booked by a family member of the bride, and serious damage to his reputation.

Why am I telling you about this unfortunate incident? To illustrate a point that no photographer should ever forget:


I am now going to tell you how to check your camera out prior to a job.

Camera body: Remove the lens and magazine. Press the release button, and hold it in. While you are holding it in, check to see that both of the rear flaps are opening all the way. Now let go of the release button, and check to make sure that both flaps have closed completely.

Lenses: Set the shutter speed ring to one second, and set the f stop ring to the largest opening (smallest number). Look into the front of the lens and fire the camera. The shutter blades should close down, then open instantaneously, stay open for one second, and then close again. While you are watching this happen, check to make sure that none of the shutter blades are broken or appear to be out of place. Also, notice how long the one-second exposure actually is. You can pretty much tell how long one second is. If the shutter is dragging at one second, it is an indication that the shutter needs to be cleaned and lubricated.

Wind the body again, turn your strobe on, and attach the synch cord to the lens. Set the shutter speed ring to the fastest speed and set the f stop ring to the largest opening (smallest number). Point the camera and the strobe to a light colored surface, and, while looking through the back of the camera body, fire the camera. You should see a brief, large round flash of light through the lens. If you see no flash of light at all through the lens, check to insure that the "VXM" lever on the lens is in the "X" position (only on the older C lenses). If you see part of the shutter blades instead of a round flash of light, there is a problem, and that lens should not be used. Check each of your lenses using this procedure. If you are photographing a wedding, it is a good idea to perform this particular check each time you change film magazines.

For older C lenses only: Set the shutter speed ring to one second, and set the f stop ring to the smallest setting (largest number), and, while looking into the front of the lens, press the depth of field preview lever on the lens. When you press it in, the diaphragm blades should quickly snap closed. If they close sluggishly, it is an indication the lens needs to be serviced.

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For newer C, CF, CFi and CFe lenses only: Set the f stop ring to the smallest setting (largest number), and move the stop down lever to the stopped down position. The lever should lock in this position. Look at the diaphragm blades, and insure that they have closed down to the smallest opening. While watching the diaphragm blades, press the end of the stop down lever. It should return to its normal operating position, and the diaphragm blades should open all the way.

Film magazine: Remove the lens from the body and put the magazine on. Remove the dark slide and try to remove the magazine from the body. It should not come off the body with the dark slide removed. Insert the dark slide in the magazine and try to fire the body. The body should not fire when the dark slide is inserted. Take the magazine off the body and remove the dark slide. Look at the serial number plate on the magazine and make sure that the light trap or light trap foil is not sticking out of the side of the magazine, into the image area.

Older magazine 12 without the plastic flip out crank: Lift one side of the advance key and turn it counter-clockwise. You should see the number 1 in the film counter window. Fire and wind the camera 12 times while watching the film counter window and the red/white indicator window. Each time you fire the camera, the signal flag should change from white to red. When you wind the camera, the number in the film counter window should advance to the next number. After the 12th exposure, wind the camera and try to fire it again. It shouldn't fire after the 12th exposure. Lift one side of the advance key again and turn it counter-clockwise. The number wheel should return back to number 1.

A-12 magazines with the plastic flip up crank: Flip up the black plastic film advance crank and turn it clockwise. It should stop turning the moment the red/white indicator changes to all white. At this point, the number 1 will show in the film counter window. Fire and wind the camera 12 times while watching the film counter window and the red/white indicator window. Each time you fire the camera, the signal flag should change from white to red. When you wind the camera, the number in the film counter window should advance to the next number. After the 12th exposure, wind the camera and try to fire it again. It shouldn't fire after the 12th exposure. Now remove the insert from the magazine. The number wheel should return back to number 0.

Note: The newer A-12 magazines do not have a number 0. In this case, you will not see any number in the window.

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One of my film backs has a light leak or is giving irregularly spaced negatives. How can I tell which back it is?

Did you ever get your film back from the lab, only to discover there was a problem, such as a light leak or bad film spacing, and you didn't know which magazine was the culprit? This can be a big problem.

There is a way, however, to "fingerprint" your magazines. If you remove the dark slide from a magazine and look at the plate that mates with the rear plate on the body, you will see two small "v" shaped notches on the left-hand side, in the middle. These two small notches are cut into every Hasselblad film magazine, and appear on every negative taken with a Hasselblad camera. I can file one additional notch half-way down on the same side on one of your magazines, two notches on another magazine, three notches on another magazine, and so on.

Every picture taken with the magazine that has one extra notch will show that one notch on every negative. Every picture taken with the magazine that has two extra notches will show those two notches on every negative, and so on.

After the notches are filed in your magazines, should you ever have a light leak or spacing problem, all you have to do is to look at one of the negatives and see how many notches appear on that negative. The film magazine with the corresponding number of notches is the culprit.

How can I use my thumb to save my feet?

When you put a magazine on a Hasselblad body, don't "snap" the top of the magazine on to the body. This creates a lot of pressure on the two feet on the bottom of the body, and will eventually cause the feet to bend. Instead, push the button on the top of the magazine over with your thumb before attaching the magazine to the body.

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Is it better to store my camera bodies and lenses wound or in the fired position?

Hasselblad cameras and lenses are designed so they perform properly with little or no special precautionary measures. This applies to storing cameras and lenses over extended periods of time, so there is no need to fire the cameras or "trip" the lenses before storing them.

Hasselblad engineers have never found any evidence to show that the life of a spring is shortened if the spring is kept tensioned, even after extended periods on non-use.

Hasselblad suggests that cameras and lenses be stored in the wound position. This eliminates the possibility of a camera jam caused by attaching an uncocked lens to a wound body, or vice versa.

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My camera jammed. What should I do?

Even though I think the Hasselblad is the most dependable camera in the world, (ok, I'll admit it, I'm prejudiced), it is possible for it to jam. When a Hasselblad jams, it is usually due to a broken spring. If this happens to you, there is a way to unjam it.

The most likely time a Hasselblad will jam is when you fire the camera. (Naturally!) The blades in the lens will close, the mirror will flip up and the auxiliary shutters will open. So far, so good. But the shutter in the lens doesn't open for the exposure. You know something is wrong, but don't know what to do. Your first reaction is to try to wind the body. That's ok. So you try to wind the body, but it won't wind. Your second reaction would probably be to try to remove the lens. So you try to get the lens off the body, but it won't come off. So here you are with a jammed camera that you can't wind and the lens won't come off.

Here's what you should do:

Remove the magazine from the camera and place the camera on a firm, flat surface. If the back flaps are not open, gently push them open. If you look into the body from the back, you will see two screw heads towards the bottom of the front plate. The larger screw on the right is the screw that holds the front key cover in place. The smaller screw to the left of that one is actually not a screw at all; it is the slotted end of the front key shaft.

Hold the camera body firmly with one hand, and, with the other hand, insert a screwdriver into the slot of the front key shaft (the smaller one on the left). While you are holding the body with the other hand, turn the screwdriver clockwise. As you do this, the mirror should start to move down and the rear flaps should start to close. That's ok. Continue turning the screwdriver clockwise until it won't turn anymore. (Don't worry, you can't over wind the shaft.) At this point, have an assistant press the lens release button and try to remove the lens from the body.

Note: Do not use this procedure with any motorized body or any body with a focal plane shutter curtain!

Warning: Use extreme caution when following this procedure! If the screwdriver slips off the slotted end of the front key shaft, it can hit the rear element in your lens!

Once you have removed the lens from the body, you can determine which component is faulty, and send it in for repair.

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