Hasselblad - Where It All Began - The Remarkable 1600F
This article includes information about:
- Hasselblad 1600F medium format camera;
- Carl Zeiss Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens;
- medium format photography;
- Hasselblad 1600F review and user performance test;
- sample photographs from Hasselblad 1600F;
- sample photographs of Carl Zeiss Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens for Hasselblad 1600F camera.
The now iconic front-on view of the 1600F with its raised waist level view-finder – a symbol of photographic excellence.
Joys from the past - classic 120 roll film cameras
Like all things Hasselblad 6x6, the 1600F medium format (MF) single lens reflex (SLR) camera’s legacy is both a statement about the best possible quality imaging of its day due both to its superlative Carl Zeiss (CZ) optics and the enduring industrial design and mechanical engineering of the Swedish camera.
I am the proud and, indeed, grateful owner of a 1952 example of the historic Hasselblad 1600F modular 6x6cm SLR camera complete with its: Carl Zeiss designed and built Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens; original waist level view-finder (WLF); and original 120 roll-film back – all of which was made possible by my friend Jurgen Loob in Germany.
I’ve had a great fascination (if not passion) for vintage cameras in both MF and 35mm (135) format guises. Around 7 years ago I started collecting (opportunistically acquired some that I admired for not much more money than we pay for a pro-pack of 120 film!) some relatively iconic brands and models. My purpose was to use them and enjoy the varying “looks” produced by them and their various lenses, designed and built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - from uncoated to early multi-coated optics. But, mine was never a desire to line bookshelves with old cameras. In particular, the early 120 film cameras fascinate me most – “folders” (those which fold open revealing a bellows mounted lens) and twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras alike.
So, for some years I have spent many hours cleaning, adjusting, testing and exercising these marvels of industrial design, precision engineering and overall performance quality in 120 film formats - 6x4.5cm 6x6cm and 6x9cm. Interestingly, when working on these cameras and then using them, I began to learn more about photography than ever before – the process and techniques and even composition in varying formats.
Specifically, working with these early film cameras which, despite their age, use today’s current 120 film media, highlight the three critical components of good image making:
- depth of field – selective focusing and,
Because these all-mechanical tools slow the image making process down to its critical components, you quickly realise that they are making you carefully consider each image element before firing the shutter. In fact, just like when I began using a “modern” large format camera (Linhof Technika V 4x5 inch camera), using these classic cameras has taught me a great deal about the processes required to make good photographs.
This reaffirms my view and advice to others taking up photography for the first time (or more serious photography than family or travel “happy-snaps”), that the very best place to start is with a manual camera (or a full electronic whiz used in manual mode)- learn about the role of apertures and shutter-speeds as well as their role in accurate exposure.
The timeless profile of the 1600F with the Carl Zeiss Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens. 56 years after this 1600F was made the design profile has barely changed.
Hasselblad’s enduring impact on MF photography
But alas, one iconic brand was missing from my small collection of Voigtlanders, Rolleis and Zeiss Ikons etc. and their marvellous model names such as Rolleiflex, Perkeo, Brilliant, Bessa and Contarex. And then there are the wonderful and somewhat amusing but well-engineered features that so many of them had, such as: “barn doors” that revealed small bellows mounted lenses; ET-looking uncoupled accessory range-finders, plunger type film advance and shutter cocking etc..
I acquired most from deceased estates and at the time that the digital “revolution” had its most devastating impact on film cameras of any type – yes it was really possible to acquire a Zeiss Ikon made 6x4.5cm Ikonta in mint condition for just $20.00!
That missing brand and its historic impact on MF photography was, obviously enough, Hasselblad. The camera was the company’s first commercial camera and Victor Hasselblad’s vision – the 1600F. Initially its lenses were manufactured by Eastman Kodak (Kodak Ektar) until Hasselblad switched to Carl Zeiss, which arrangement is said to have enabled a lower cost supply of lenses dedicated to the 1600F (hard to believe that of Carl Zeiss today!).
The impact of this camera goes way beyond the 1600F itself. Moreover, its inventor’s vision and concept was its real impact on MF photography – a totally modular MF SLR that was the cornerstone of a true 6x6cm SLR photographic system specifically developed and designed to meet the demands of professional photographers.
It is important to keep in mind that Victor Hasselblad’s 6x6cm format was not specifically selected to commit its users to a square format, although many, if not most users, prefer to work "inside the square". Rather, it is said that Victor Hasselblad's decision to us the 6x6 format was based on 3 key benefits of this format:
- the user need not rotate the camera for vertical images.
- 6x6cm provides a sufficiently large film frame enabling cropping that would still leave a sufficiently large image for the demands of professional quality image making.
- 6x6cm also avoids the inconvenience / restrictions that a larger framed 6x7cm or greater format imposes due to significantly increased camera and lens sizes and weights.
Eventually, the continuing evolution of the 1600F would give rise to the industry’s arguably most revered MF camera system and brand – Hasselblad and its 500 / 200 series of camera bodies, CZ lenses and a comprehensive range of Hasselblad accessories.
It would offer just about every possible combination of components and accessories imaginable, based around all possible camera types:
– simple all-mechanical in-lens shutter based camera bodies, with or without TTL flash metering.
- motorised in-lens shutter cameras.
- sophisticated focal plane shutter bodies with alternative built-in metering types and optional use of in-lens-shutter and non-lens-shutter lenses.
This would also guarantee professionals and keen amateurs alike unmatched system options, mechanical precision, quality and reliability - a true system based on the best Swedish camera and accessory design and construction. And, to many users this system's most compelling benefit was that it was perfectly matched by the very best German MF lenses available - this excellent system's range of Carl Zeiss lenses.
Side view of the 1600F and the combined film advance and shutter speed selection control. The lens hood actually belongs to a 135mm lens.
The marriage of Hasselblad and CZ that was born during the production life of the 1600F would continue throughout the expanding life of Hasselblad’s 500 / 200 series cameras. It would arguably become the most revered union in the industry’s history and both the Hasselblad and CZ names would go on to become some of the most iconic product brands in the world.
Moreover, the Hasselblad / Zeiss union and reputation for quality excellence would eventually lead to the Hasselblad V series cameras of all ages remaining highly sought after by photographers of all types despite the wide impact of electronic "marvel" cameras and digital imaging.
The concept initiated by Victor Hasselblad was so far-reaching that these cameras would not even become redundant some 40 - 50 years later with the advent of digital imaging, auto-focus and electronic gadgetry. Indeed the Hasselblad V series mechanical / electro-mechanical cameras would be “digital ready” (albeit with some camera body types requiring relatively minor modifications) essentially due to the totally modular design concept initiated by Victor Hasselblad back in the 1930s/40s and many decades before digital imaging was even dreamt of!
While Hasselblad necessarily and successfully moved into the “electronic everything” MF market with its 6x4.5cm H series, the V series and its CZ lenses, remain popular – so much so that the H series’ accessories include a V series lens adapter enabling the use of Hasselblad 6x6cm CZ lenses.
So, having recently received and used my 1600F, my initial review of the legendary camera / lens and film back kit follows. I was especially keen to see the 56 year old CZ Tessar 80mm lens’ performance with my own eyes.
Hasselblad 1600F – a user’s review
Before I comment on the 1600F, some general clarifications are required:
1. All issues of performance are relative – they cannot be absolute. However unless I say so, positive or negative comments should be interpreted being relative to current V series equipment. And realistically, these relative comments should be seen in the perspective of all modern MF equipment – why not, comparison within the 1950s era is hardly useful (or much fun for that matter!).
2. This example of the 1600F is in outstanding mint condition. It has also recently had a full CLA done by a retired Hasselblad technician.
3. This example is what Richard Nordin (in his excellent book “Hasselblad System Compendium”) refers to as a model 2 version – when Hasselblad strengthened / modified the shutter early in its production. He says that records indicate that very few of the original “model 1” cameras exist today. Nordin’s research also shows that this camera has the enhanced mechanism fitted according to its serial number.
4. The CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens fitted to my 1600F seems to have perfect mechanical performance consistent with today’s premium quality German built lenses. This lens is “like new” as can be seen by the fact there is not one speck of dust among the elements. The front element’s “colour reflections” indicate that its multi-coating has not seen any wear as best one can tell without special instruments. The iris’ blades are beautifully clean (no signs of oil) and move very smoothly.
5. The view-finder’s ground glass is an original type in perfect condition with the neat looking centre black lines and “V”. Thanks to Paul - a fellow Hasselblad enthusiast and Hasselblad Forum moderator - and his efforts and contacts, this genuine 1600F item replaced the camera’s original ground glass, which I am told had some small amount of damage.
6. The original “model 2” shutter was fully overhauled a few years ago.
7. Obviously computer screens’ low resolution of 72dpi make it impossible to fully show the quality of the scanned film frames taken. But, my comments are all made based on the negatives viewed on a high quality light panel with a Mamiya 6x7 loupe with 3.5x magnification and focus adjustment.
8. The WLF is in perfect condition – springs to life instantly with a flawless pop-up magnifier.
9. All mechanical linkages are in “like-new” condition. There are no “wobbles” to be found in the lens mount and the film back's fit.
10. I cannot determine the fast shutter speeds’ accuracy, but from an exposure point of view they seem good. My planned next trial with positive film will be a better test of that.
11. All slow shutter speeds seem accurate according the age-old hearing tests one can apply.
So, this beautiful example and its maintenance record should provide an accurate picture of this camera’s original capabilities.
The 1600F and its standard CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens – the colour seen on the lens’ front element is caused by the CZ multi-coating confirmed by the red T nomenclature on the inside rim.
At first glance the 1600F has the iconic appearance of any V series Hasselblad - but on closer examination a few differences become obvious. The “chrome / silver” leading edges have a softer and even arguably more appealing appearance. Whether the metal is a brushed / soft look alloy (probably aluminium) or stainless steel is no matter because it looks great. But when I look at my 501CM and 503CW bodies I also feel their chromium finishes also look great – especially the raised metal brand and model markings on the modern bodies and film-backs.
It is important to note that in every respect of fit and finish this 56 year old camera is totally consistent with my current model 501CM and 503CW cameras. It shows exactly the same construction standards in fit and finish as the current V series models, which is testament to the design and build quality’s longevity.
The WLF has a lovely pop-up opener with the early Hasselblad “V” logo round button. I much prefer this “switch” to the plastic tab we must lift to open the WLFs supplied with more current V series cameras.
The film advance and shutter cocking control is easy to use but not as convenient to use as the current “crank handle” action. Unlike the modern “in-lens” shutter cameras, there is no lens / shutter cocking function between the camera and the lens – thus there is no fear of “jamming” the camera as with 500 series cameras and their “in-lens” shutters.
The tripod fittings on the base of the camera offer the 2 traditional thread dimensions, but not the modern Hasselblad “foot” for use with an Hasselblad quick-release device.
One feature of the original film-back is the “peep” hole behind the ISO reminder dial on the back’s rear. It requires a different procedure to load the film than the “modern” film backs, which needs care to avoid disappointment due to its fully manual wind-on and wind-off actions.
As one would expect of a 1950s camera, the CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 “standard” lens is an all-metal barrel and mount design. By the 1953 build date, T nomenclature and the colour of the front element, the lens is multi-coated but not with the later more advanced T* CZ formula. The lens mount is very different to V series camera lenses but, IMHO possibly mechanically superior. I have no technical reason for this feeling, except that its very positive locking gives it such a better “feel” than the V series cameras. This was totally unexpected.
The 1600F and Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens - even resolution of detail; accurate shutter / aperture exposure; and crisp image sharpness – a winning combination. At 100%, the details of the instruments are perfectly resolved. The lens’ performance does full justice to Ilford’s excellent Delta 100 Pro film.
My initial experimentation / testing
Initially my testing of the camera and lens were simply to enable me to understand how this first Hasselblad camera functions as well as the image characteristics I could expect. The very first film I shot was B&W negative – Ilford Delta 100 Pro.
So firstly, it seems I was a bit negligent (after warnings from fellow Hasselblad 1600F users) about manually stopping down the lens when shooting this film – a failing saved by Delta 100’s relatively wide latitude. It seems because I loaded the film by rolling the paper/film until the "black arrow" showed up on the magazine peep-hole (typical method for old 120 roll-film cameras) caused me problems – the frame spacings were all over the place.
I learnt my lesson. My next film (Fujifilm NPZ 800 colour negative film) did not have that mistake – all frames were perfectly spaced and I managed to stop down the lens before every exposure providing me with perfectly exposed 6x6cm images.
To best test image sharpness we should shoot with a tripod and, if possible, with mirror pre-release / lock-up (not available on the 1600F). I did neither. I wanted to do my testing in “normal” conditions anyway – hand-held shooting. This I thought would provide practical and real every-day results overall. With the CZ Tessar 80mm lens and at a 1/50th second shutter speed, around the axis I got no visibly different sharpness than I get with a 501/503 hand-held and a 1/60th second shutter speed with the current CZ Planar CFE 80mm f2.8 lens.
In my hands the 1600F and the CZ Tessar 80mm lens feel superbly balanced just as if the centre of gravity / weight is right in the centre of the body, providing it with much the same overall feel of a modern 500 series camera.
Wanting to experience all of the Tessar 80mm’s attributes and how any visible lens aberrations affect the images, I experimented with most apertures. I wanted to see the lens’ performance in a variety of situations – direct sunlight; oblique sunlight, close and distance focusing, wide and small apertures and so on. I used the lens wide open to achieve a very narrow DOF to see the bokeh - so lovely - the very round circle iris aperture with the 12 blades produces great bokeh. This one feature of the iris shape is IMHO superior to the current 500 series in-lens shutter lenses’ performance.
The Carl Zeiss Tessar 80mm f2.8 at work – highlighting: beautiful bokeh; very useful 0.5m closest focusing distance; crisp sharpness of the plane of focus.
Physically, my use of the camera was just the same as I’d handle my 500 series cameras. Once I got comfortable with remembering to stop down the lens and load the film back correctly, my use of the camera felt no different to the current 500 series cameras I use regularly.
The 1600F’s balanced weight in my hands was perfect; its ergonomics are just as outstanding as in the current 500 series cameras; and its functionality is just as intuitive. With the 1600F, the 6x6cm format is as compelling as in the 500 series cameras – the 500 series cameras are obviously the logical evolution of the 1600F (focal plane and in-lens shutter cameras). For me the “retro-use” of the 1600F after years of using the latest development variations of it was an amazing experience.
Consider using for the first time the 50 year old iteration of a motor vehicle – while it may be a joyous experience in itself, it hardly measures up well as a day-to-day proposition for obvious reasons. But in the case of the 1600F 50 year old iteration of the current V series variations is to me a very probable day-to-day prospect. Sure, it is more convenient to use “automatic” film backs and auto-stop-down lenses and even a higher geared crank handle for advancing the film and re-cocking the shutter; but, in the slower pace of the more contemplated shooting one does with an MF camera, the 1600F poses little if any day-to-day inconvenience!
Melbourne’s GPO. This image taken with Ilford’s Delta Pro 100 illustrates the Tessar lens’ excellent characteristics: no visible distortion and crisp imaging; good resolution of fine detail. The extreme left of the image shows very minor softening, which at a wider open f4, is very good performance.
I came to this conclusion easily after having spent some hours shooting street scenes and working the 1600F just as hard as I would my 501CM! However, I did have to be careful to remember to keep my eye on the film-back’s counter or risk shooting wonderful scenes on 120 paper rather than the emulsion!
The camera’s shutter
While inferior to Hasselblad's current Acute-Matte focus screen, and challenging in dim light, the 1600F’s ground glass focus screen is reasonably easy to focus accurately. After some practice it is not hard to focus with confidence. It is clear enough to use even when “on the run”. The real difference I encountered using the 1600F was that it required one or two more under-focus / over-focus movements to achieve critical focus than I’d need to make with the current Acute-Matte focusing screen. Of course any macro photography use will require more patience to critically focus the lens.
Interestingly, the focus screen's limitations do not adversely affect critical focusing when the lens' "automatic" depth of field preview viewing is applied by the manual stop-down unless shooting in dim light.
I should also point out that I have not yet attempted flash photography with the 1600F – that I understand is a whole new world!
The 1600F camera is everything you’d expect of a 6x6 Hasselblad camera – the ergonomics and functionality are so similar to current V series cameras, it is a very quick familiarisation path to becoming totally comfortable with it. It is much the same really except that there are more fully manual functions to keep in mind. This is a great testament to the original concept that Victor Hasselblad had developed.
Of course, when in use today, it has some limitations such as the care needed with the shutter. It will be interesting to see how reliable this camera’s “model 2” shutter mechanism is in the long term although this camera will never see the frequency of use that the original cameras must have had in the hands of their professional photographer owners.
But in all other practical terms, the 1600F is a wonderful camera even by comparison with today’s MF cameras. It is a very worthy “user” tool as well as collectible deserving of pride of place on a bookshelf!
Despite the 72dpi image resolution over the Internet, this image made by the 1600F and its Tessar 80mm lens shows its excellent resolution, natural colour tonality, strong contrast and low distortion. The tall building on the left with a “hat” on top IS NOT distorted. The uneven sides of the building create the illusion that the building is not straight. The colours are very accurate, neither the Fujifilm NPZ 800asa film nor the lens have created any colour casts.
The 1600F's standard lens – Carl Zeiss Tessar 80mm f2.8
Actually the very first standard lens for the 1600F was a Kodak Ektar 80mm f2.8 lens, which by all accounts was a very strong performer. But it is the 2nd standard lens that I was most keen to use because that CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens was the first step in what became a remarkably enduring “partnership” to this day between Hasselblad and CZ.
Furthermore, that enduring partnership would eventually lead to a unique legacy that sees users and collectors continuing to invest in CZ lenses for Hasselblad cameras of each iteration – the C, C T*, CF and the current CFE/i versions regardless of which Hasselblad V series body the user selects. Whatever the user’s budget even the earliest camera and lens combinations will produce excellent image results regardless of age.
As in the case of any camera - the body, view-finder, shutter and film compartment are of little value if the lenses made for it are optically inferior. History has shown in the case of Hasselblad 500 series systems that the lenses made in its lens mount are outstanding and are arguably the best available in MF photography. But what of the first CZ lenses made in the 1600F lens mount? Examining the CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens is a good place to start.
Beginning with the lens’ sharpness, it is important to keep in mind that any assessment of a lens’ sharpness (just one of the important performance attributes) is affected by every element of the image making chain – how the lens itself receives and delivers the light/image; how accurately the lens/camera mounts attach and move while focusing (a lens’ mechanical quality is an often overlooked critical element); the film plate’s exact pressure, its positioning and evenness edge to edge; and then the characteristics of the film used.
While I have not been able to make any technical evaluation of the lens mount/mechanics and the film plate’s exactness, I have been able to make a visual and physical judgement from the images taken and viewed under a loupe as well as through sight and feel (i.e. tell-tale signs of inexact fit) of the mechanical elements of the image chain.
The mechanical performance certainly justifies both Hasselblad’s and CZ’s reputations – from the very beginning of this 6x6cm camera system. The fit of each component is precise and to very exacting fine tolerances – there is no movement in the lens / camera mount and a rock solid film back fit as well as seemingly exact film plate pressure. The images on a light-box under a high quality loupe prove that focus from axis to the edge is very sharp if not “razor sharp”. Each point of critical focus regardless of position in the frame was very sharp. It is so good that it may well be superior to some of today’s MF lenses manufactured by other brands.
What really struck me was the fact that the zero free-play of the film back and lens when mounted to the 1600F - in comparison with my current 503CW camera which has about 1mm free-play!
The Tessar’s focus ring movement is a delight to use – silky smooth, exact with no ‘free-play”. It is quite low geared in terms of number of rotation from short to long distance focusing. But after checking my Planar CFE 80mm f2.8 lens, it seems that the Tessar is not really lower geared. Of course, low gearing helps enable very precise focusing but at a price of taking longer to focus on a subject due to the extra rotation required.
However, there are two significant advantages that the older Tessar lens has over the current Planar lens design: the Tessar’s closest focus distance is about 0.5 metre while the Planar’s is 0.9 metre; the focus movement of the Tessar is much smoother and “freer” than the CF version Planar. In this way the Tessar has about the same smoother / freer movement as the CFE Planar. I note this because the focus movement is one advantage that the CFE/i lens range is credited with having over the superseded CF version.
This image was taken at f4 and illustrates how the Tessar lens does not distort the straight lines of the buildings (the wires have curvature due to the tension applied to them and not due to the lens).
The Tessar / 1600F’s lens mount intrigues me – in fact it impresses me greatly. The 1600F’s lens mount is significantly different to the V series cameras – hence the lenses are not interchangeable. However, the 1600F’s lens mount feels more substantial and on closer inspection looks more substantial. The 1600F lens mount is best describes as a mix of a thread and bayonet type, whereas the V series mount is clearly a bayonet mount. Fitting the Tessar to the 1600F requires a ¼ rotation of the lens – at first it feels as if it is screwing in to the mount followed by a bayonet fit until you hear a very positive “clunk” as the fit is completed.
On the other hand, fitting the Planar to a V series body requires only 1/8th of a rotation of the lens. It feels like a very solid fit – as the rotation is completed there is no “clunk” but simply feels more like a firm stop as the fit is completed.
Sure the V series lens mount is very very solid and secure as well as accurate. My point here is just that the much older 1600F has an equally excellent mount mechanism that has a very secure feel. I wonder why it changed?
The aperture ring’s movement on the Tessar is just as positive as it is on all the subsequent V series lens iterations. But, one must be careful to manually stop down the Tessar’s aperture before taking the image. The manual stop-down ring at the front of the lens barrel is very logical to use and is only a minor irritation for the first few rolls of 120 film.
The overall solidity of the Tessar lens is superb – an all metal lens housing built for life! The silver finish is superb and polished metal rather than painted metal.
Another good feature of this generation of Hasselblad / CZ lens is that all the markings are engraved into the metal and then filled with paint. I point this out because the only dissatisfaction I have with the current CFE/i and penultimate CF lens families is that the barrel markings are screen printed onto the paint. As a result many used versions of these latter lenses have parts of the markings missing due to the marking paint having lifted off the barrel’s paint. This is very annoying because it eventually makes the lens’ cosmetics look untidy. But most of all, missing markings can be very inconvenient in use. This one negative feature is obviously unnecessary and not consistent with the quality image both Hasselblad and CZ have.
The Tessar’s optical performance was excellent overall and by any measure - even by today's standards IMHO. It is consistent with the usual brilliant design, engineering and construction by CZ.
In these first tests (in typical user environments rather than scientific testing) in a variety of light, distance and lens apertures, I did not see any significant signs of the most adverse optical aberrations that most commonly adversely affect image quality – distortion (barrel or cushion), astigmatism, flare, chromatic aberration and spherical aberration. Any coma and spherical aberrations were visible under more extreme conditions, but were overall well corrected. Colour tonality was very good and did not adversely affect the natural saturation of Fujifilm’s NPZ 800asa film.
For me the bokeh produced by the 1600F’s Tessar 80mm lens makes this camera / lens combination makes it a valued part of my 6x6cm kit rather than let it sit around idly on a bookshelf! It is very milky and soft with no distracting affects of the iris shape. Out of focus objects retain some structure but not enough to grab viewers’ attention away from the subject. Clearly the 10 blade iris and its near perfect circle shape have contributed much to the bokeh’s superb look.
The lens’ contrast is good – very good and nicely contributes the excellent image sharpness; the resolution from axis out to the field is good. While it is not in the league of today’s best current designs using the best modern glass and aspherical elements as well as current coatings, it is quite typical of many CZ lenses in both 135 and MF formats.
The Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens’ own design and materials was so good in its day using the best components, it will likely remain a comparatively excellent lens forever.
CZ’s design philosophy is very much weighted to high performance throughout the f-stop range and avoids what some call “brutal sharpness” and high contrast. To best explain this is to consider a 135 format comparison. Leica’s Summicron-M 35mm ASPH lens is often regarded as a high contrast lens, so much so that many dedicated Leica M camera users prefer the previous version which does not use the aspherical element design. These users often prefer the competing CZ Distagon 35mm “M” mount lens which also does not use an aspherical lens element – they prefer smoother performance.
If you look carefully, the woman with a computer has a tattoo on her right shoulder – an illustration of the Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens’ strong resolution outside its axis. The image was taken on Ilford Delta Pro 100 film with the Tessar’s aperture wide open at f2.8.
The Tessar’s very low distortion is very good. While I have not seen test data, my own visual tests in the field proved to me that the Tessar design corrects any evidence of pin-cushion and barrel distortion. One building photo with clear sharp edges and electrical cables showed no distortion even at the edges of the frame. So, in use and on the film frame, my eyes could not reveal any distortion.
Resolution of fine detail is an obviously desirable optical feature – it prevents images being “dull” and lifeless just like many lower quality digital sensors and many "budget" lenses produce. Around the axis the detail is in my opinion arguably equal to any high quality modern lens. Naturally, as you look closer to the edges that resolution of fine details tapers off – but, at its worst with the lens wide-open at f2.8, it is still good.
The image above shows excellent resolution of the woman’s tattoo despite her dark skin and its proximity outside the lens’ axis. Generally, sufficient levels of fine detail towards the edges are well resolved when out of focus – enough to show structure. Wide open the lens enables good separation of the subject from the background when low depth of field is achieved by the lens settings.
The image below shows how that tattoo was well resolved by the Tessar with its aperture set wide open at f2.8.
Overall the CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens is a joy to use and optically excellent by any standards. It is a lens I’d never hesitate to you day-to-day. In fact, with its superb bokeh as well as sharpness, it will be used regularly. It is capable of making beautiful images as well as bold images. In summary, the Hasselblad / CZ Tessar 80mm f2.8 lens is excellent!
A 100% view of the woman’s tattoo from the image above. It was only when I saw a print that I realised she had a tattoo on her shoulder!
It is worth noting that the CZ Tessar 80mm lens’ performance was so good in its day it earned the nick-name of Eagle-EYE (ADLER-AUGE) – a play on Hasselblad’s advertising for this lens with a picture of an eagle in the background.
It is worth pointing out that any camera purchase and especially by a professional or keen amateur, is an investment in a system. With cameras of any type the purchase is making a leap of faith that the image quality factor will ultimately be determined by the optics available for the camera’s lens mount!
In Hasselblad’s case, history speaks for itself. Clearly users were mostly drawn to the Hasselblad brand because of its CZ lenses’ exceptional quality. This was well matched brilliantly by Hasselblad cameras’ own design, engineering and build quality excellence as well as its modular “system” approach.
To simply say Hasselblad’s first commercial camera was a success and performed well in its day is to miss the point. Even by today’s standards, the 1600F and its standard CZ Tessar 80mm lens are excellent performers – still after 56 years. Sure the very first 1600Fs built had serious shutter durability issues, making the company revise the shutter mechanism in a number of ways. But that issue was not enough to prevent the industry from considering Hasselblad 6x6cm cameras as the very best, nor from preventing Victor Hasselblad’s dream of a totally modular MF camera offering the very best mechanical and optical quality possible from coming true.
Today, despite such enormous changes in the photographic industry, even the first iteration of Victor Hasselblad's concept remains an exceptional instrument.
The 1600F’s cable release socket shown on the bottom right corner of the camera body requires a proprietary cable release connector. Later models adopted the universal connector.
Photos of the 1600F appearing here are courtesy of Jurgen Loob, in Germany, who retains copyright.
The photos taken by the 1600F appearing here are by Simon Galbally who retains copyright.