Can someone explain the different backs of the 500 series to me?

Submitted by Pirate on Fri, 11/14/2008 - 21:10

Hi, I'm new to the Hasselblad scene and would like to learn about the different backs for the 500 series body...  what back fits what body, what won't fit on the 500 bodies, etc.  Any details that you would care to share, or web sites that tell about the backs so I can learn would be appreciated.





Sat, 11/15/2008 - 02:35


It's not very complicated. All backs (with the exception of very, very early ones. And of the ones made for the H-System, of course) will work fine on all 500-series bodies.

The backs are either automatic (which means there is an automatic stop when reaching frame 1 after loading a fresh film) or not (in which case you must look through a peep hole on the back of the magazine, to see when frame 1 is in position).

The automatic backs have an "A" prefixed to the type name. The non-automatic ones do not.

Some backs are called "E", instead of "A", indicating they have electronic cntacts, conveying the ISO film speed setting from back to 200-series cameras. Other backs are postfixed "TCC", indicating they not only transmit ISO data, but also have a Zone-System setting dial used by the metering electronics inside the 205 cameras.

The other part that makes up a type name is a number, usually indicating the number of frames that will fit on a roll of film. This also contains information about both the frame size and film length.

You will come across :

  • "12" or "A12" backs, producing 12 frames on 120 film, in 6x6 cm format
  • "16" or "A16" backs, producing 16 frames on 120 film, sized 6x4.5 cm
  • "16S" or "A16S" backs, producing 16 frames on 120 film, sized 4x4 cm (Superslide)
  • "24" or "A24" backs, producing 24 frames on 220 film, in 6x6 cm format
  • "A32" backs (very rare), producing 32 frames on 220 film, in 6x4.5 format
  • "A70" backs, producing upto 70 frames on 4.5 m rolls of 70 mm, double perforated film, in 6x6 cm format
  • "A70 100/200" backs, producing upto 100 frames (6x6 cm) on 6.5 m rolls of 70 mm film, or upto 200 frames (6x6 cm) on 13 m rolls of thin-base 70 mm film

There are a few "speciality" backs (even more so than the A32 and 70 mm backs already mentioned), that are very rare, but could be used on a 500-series camera too.

And there are Polaroid backs: All Hasselblad fit Polaroid backs will work on a 500-series camera (though NPC produces a back that will not fit on EL(...) models).




Sat, 11/15/2008 - 04:16

Thanks for the reply, that explains everything!


I have read on another forum in a discussion with a factory trained Hasselblad repairman who says that using a 24 frame back with a standard 120 roll of film is completely capable of working, is utilizing a 24 or even 70 with 120 film worth it?  In otherwords, would it be worth it to purchase 24 or 70 backs to have the extra frame capability in case you wanted to shoot larger rolls than 120 at some point and time?  Or is it really the wiser thing to just stick to the proper back for the proper roll of film?


I could see buying a few 24 backs or even a 70 back even if I'm only shooting 120 film, then if I ever felt like shooting a longer roll I'd have the back already there.  Kinda like buying one big back that can be used for all film lengths.


Thanks again for your help.  I'm finally making this old dream of owning a Hasselblad come true and I know I'm going to enjoy it for a lifetime!




Sat, 11/15/2008 - 10:37

You can indeed run a roll of 120 film through a 24 back. But i wouldn't.

A24 backs are cheap, yes. The fact that they are is telling: they are cheap, because the supply of 220 film is running dry, and they really are not good for anything else. Or, put the other way round, if running 120 film through a 24 back was just as fine and easy as using the proper 12 back, everybody would still be using their 24 backs instead of getting rid of them for next to nothing.

It's not possible to run 120 film through a 70 mm back.

So yes, i'd say it really is the wiser thing to use the proper back for 120 film.

But with A24 backs being as cheap as they are today (a 5 roll pro-pack of 220 film will cost more than the back), you could get one too, for when you want to, or need to, be able to shoot more frames between changing film.


Sat, 11/15/2008 - 15:30

 Thanks again, it all makes such simple sense now.




Sun, 11/16/2008 - 13:13

Found something new:


What does it mean in a description of the back when it says it has a "Release"?   Here is the printed description:




Sun, 11/16/2008 - 14:08

It means the button that is used to remove the back from the camera (i.e. the 'release' button) has "12" printed on it.

It is used as a sign of relative age of a magazine: the earlier ones (before about 1985) had the Hasselblad winged-v logo on the button.

At the time the 12 appeared, some changes to the film insert were made. The major one being that in the older backs there are two separate folding arms that hold feed and take up spools respectively, while in the newer backs the two arms are replaced by a single arm with a spring in the middle. But both types work equally well.

It's difficult to tell whether a back is still in good condition by age only. So do not attach too much value to having an "12 release" or not.

The light trap, sealing the slot the dark slide moves through, of all magazines must be changed every few years anyway. Other parts, like the mechanism in the shell, may need cleaning and readjusting. And, of course, the older a back, the more likely that it may benefit from some tender loving care. But that's an easy and cheap job.  And you never know (unless the previous owner can reliably tell you so) when a back has been last serviced: and older type back may have been serviced better than a newer type. That depends on the owner's service policy, not on when the back was made.

And whether a back has been used to destruction, or on the contrary has been kept quite well and is still in very good working order, does not depend on when it was made. Even older, non-A backs that have been cared for properly will work as well as ones bought new yesterday.

The black paint on backs with black trim peels away rather easily, making these backs look old and beaten much sooner as the backs with chrome trim. But that, of course, is only 'cosmetics'. They may look bad, but that does not necessarily reflect how well they still work.

In short: better look at condition (ask about things like even frame spacing, or light leaks) , not so much at features like the "12 release".



Sun, 11/16/2008 - 20:20

Once again, Q.G., you've proven to be a valued resource to a beginner in the Medium Format arena.  Thanks a million.




Sun, 11/16/2008 - 20:33

Q.G., if you wouldn't mind, could I pick your brain about the Hasselblad 1000F for a minute?


Nostalgia seems the only real reason to have and/or use one of these cameras, so, is there any reason why one really shouldn't use a 1000F?  Any reason along the mechanical lines of any of the parts, or inability to get parts for it should it break...  something like that?  Do you have any views/opinions on this model?


Thanks again,



Sun, 11/16/2008 - 23:30

Nostalgia is a perfectly good reason to own a 1000 F. ;-)

Though many of the ones you can find today need some help before you can use them. So you need some patience and luck to find one that doesn't. Or be very patient and put yourself on the waiting list of the few people still able to make them like new again (that can still be done, yes. Though understandably, i think, parts are very hard to come by, if at all. And things may take a while). But if you do, they are quite usable too. Some of the lenses they use are great, also by today's standards.

But if not for nostalgic reasons, i would not know why use a 1000-series Hasselblad and not a 'modern' one.

No reason why you shouldn't use one either. The only less comfortable things about using them is the lack of an automatic diaphragm (yet you quickly acquire the habit of swinging the lever before pressing the shutter release) and the dimmer viewfinder (still very good, as long as there is enough light). Using flash is a bit of a challenge too (you need to get a flash contact bar - they are not rare, so quite possible), with a very slow synch-speed.

From a collector's point of view, the pre-1957 system is a dream. There are not too many items to chase after, so it's quite manageable. And it's not just for the showcase: you can indeed use all the bits, even after half a century.


Mon, 11/17/2008 - 21:07

Do you also happen to know if the Waistlevel Viewfinder is interchangeable with the 500 series Waistlevel finders?





Mon, 11/17/2008 - 21:39

You mean the one the 1000 F came with?

If so: it is.

In fact, the earliest 500 C cameras were supplied with the very same viewfinder.

In general, all viewfinders fit all V-System cameras, except some 200-series camera, and the SWC(..).