Hasselblad  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Hasselblad Brand Overview

Hasselblad logo

Founded: 1841 — Göteborg, Sweden
Currently: Victor Hasselblad AB

Hasselblad Brand History

Hasselblad is a Swedish company founded in 1841 by Fritz Hasselblad. The company is best known for its professional-grade medium format cameras like the 500 C/M and is also famous for the heavily modified models they supplied to NASA for various missions, including several moon landings.

The company was originally founded as an international trading company called F. W. Hasselblad and Co. and did not expand into the camera industry until Fritz’s son Arvid, a keen amateur photographer, established a new photographic division to import cameras and film. After meeting George Eastman on his honeymoon in England, Arvid struck a deal that made Hasselblad the sole Swedish distributor of Eastman Kodak products in 1888. Business boomed and in 1908, the photographic division spun off into its own company named Fotografiska AB to address the growing demand.

In 1924, Arvid’s grandson Victor Hasselblad–who shared his grandfather’s passion for photography–left school at the age of 18 and was sent to Dresden, the capital of the German photographic industry, to learn about cameras and optics. After spending several years abroad in Germany, France, and the US (where he also spent time working with George Eastman before his death in 1932), Victor Hasselblad returned home to Sweden.

During the opening stages of the Second World War, an aerial camera was salvaged from the wreckage of a German warplane by the Swedish military. Realizing the usefulness of such a device, the government turned to Victor Hasselblad–who had since left his father’s company following a family dispute–to create one. Victor created several successful aerial models for the Swedish military and supplied hundreds of cameras throughout the war.

Victor took over the family business after his father died in 1942 and set off to make high-quality cameras for the general public. Hasselblad designed and produced a few cameras starting in the late 1940s but things didn’t truly take off until the legendary Hasselblad 500 C was introduced in 1957. In 1962, NASA began taking modified Hasselblads into space, generating a huge amount of publicity for Hasselblad which was already gaining popularity among professional photographers.

Two years before Victor Hasselblad died, he sold his company to a Swedish investment company who eventually went public with it in 1984. Shortly afterward, another Swedish company bought the majority of shares and turned it back into a private company. In 2002, the Hong Kong-based Shriro Group–a longtime distributor of Hasselblad cameras in Asia–acquired Hasselblad and merged it with Imacon, a Danish manufacturer of digital camera backs. Hasselblad continues to produce high-end medium format cameras for professional photographers.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Hasselblad cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 267-269.

“Hasselblad history,” Victor Hasselblad AB, http://www.hasselblad.com/inspiration/our-story/hasselblad-history

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