The recent news and articles regarding DJI becoming the majority share holder of Hasselblad has me thinking. Simply put, Hasselblad is a storied and important brand in the world of photography. In recent years the company has suffered more downs than ups. It makes me wonder where Hasselblad can go with the powerful and far reaching new technology company that is DJI.
As long as I have been in the world of photography, even as a young boy, I have known about the unparalleled quality of Hasselblad cameras and glass. Obtaining a Hasselblad of my own was a long time goal and certainly meant achieving a measured level of success by owning one of their cameras.
I bought my first Hasselblad from a doctor. He bought the camera intending to shoot landscapes on the weekend. In typical doctor fashion, he never found the time and sold his camera off. So I picked up a mint 500CM that only had a few rolls of film run through it along with a handful of pristine lenses. The equipment was perfect and I felt like I had arrived.
At that time I think the mind set about camera equipment was different. Many photographers, myself included, viewed buying gear as an investment. An investment in myself as a photographer and ever improving professional sure, but also an investment in the physical equipment. Meaning if you purchased the right equipment an took good care of it, there existed the opportunity to recoup most of your costs by selling it in the future. That is no longer true in today’s world of photography. My feeling is that equipment is almost, not literally, but almost disposable. Technology is moving so quickly now that cameras are far out paced by new models sooner rather than later.
Oh my first Hasselblad was amazing. It was glorious. It felt luxurious in my hands. The shutter release button was purposeful, solid and reactive. The camera sounded great as the mirror clicked up and the shutter released. How clearly I remember the action and the sound as you manually wound the camera to advance the film. I was grounded with that camera, truly in touch with the way it operated. It was like driving a fine Italian sports car.
Hasselblad’s were well built, solid tanks of cameras produced for the military by request of the Swedish government. Hasselblad’s earliest roots can be traced back to a handshake deal between Arvid Viktor Hasselblad and George Eastman, who formed Kodak, for film distribution in Sweden. But it was after WWII that Hasselblad as a camera company took shape when Victor Hasselblad turned his sights to the consumer market by building unmatched cameras with a unique design and style. They were solid. They were reliable. And they were so good that they went to the moon.
The advent of digital photography created some real changes for Hasselblad. The transition from film to digital was not easy for the manufacturer. Through multiple partnerships, and multiple changes in ownership, a revolving door of CEO’s and poor product decisions, Hasselblad has had a rough go it. The storied brand lost it’s way, was beaten up and misunderstood. Many, including me, feared that the historic brand would see the lights go off for good. This past couple of years Hasselblad has found it’s footing again with solid leadership, a return to it’s foundation and roots, along with new and relevant products.
I have shot with many bands of cameras in my life, most brands actually. But the one constant in my camera bag, and camera safe, has been Hasselblad. Since I bought my first 500CM three decades ago, a Hasselblad has been my go to camera. I hope that DJI will bring new life to a brand that is so important to the photographic world. And I hope that Hasselblad’s future will be as important to to the photographic process as it’s historical relevance.
Written by RGG EDU Founder, Rob Grimm