Business is war, this simple truth I am sure you have heard and agree with it. Especially today’s large enterprises, their lawsuits based on patents, designs, or copyrights etc., basically are happening every minute. What if I tell you there were two industry-leading companies, their targeted customers were basically the same. They not only had NO vicious competition, also based only on a verbal gentlemen’s agreement, reached consent that never produced the opponent’s similar products. You must think it is a fairy tale. But this incredible verbal agreement was really happened in the camera history!
The story took place in 1954, when two camera manufacturers’ bosses met at the Photokina in Cologne. One was the founder of F & H (now known as Rollei) called Reinhold Heidecke, and the other one was the boss from Hasselblad, Victor Hasselblad. After the Photokina, Victor invited Reinhold to visit his camera factory located in Sweden. Subsequently, in 1955, Reinhold Heidecke visited the Hasselblad factory located in Gothenburg; Victor also offered Reinhold hospitality in Råö.
In Råö, each of them was holding their own manufactured camera to take pictures for each other and share ideas and experiences. Reinhold, of course, was holding a Rolleiflex TLR (if you are interested in Rolleiflex history, please read the article “I am a TWIN”), Victor was using his company SLR – Hasselblad 1000F. During their conversation, these two gentlemen made a verbal agreement. Victor promised that Hasselblad would not enter the TLR market; And Reinhold Heidecke also said Rollei would not launch medium-format SLR cameras. This gentlemen’s agreement lasted until 1960, the year of Reinhold Heidecke died. Therefore, since 1960, Rollei started to develop medium-format SLR and introduced its first 6X6 SLR camera in 1966 – Rolleiflex SL66. Because of this agreement, Rollei missed the golden period to enter the SLR market, indirectly helped Hasselblad to achieve the leadership position in medium-format SLR market.
Of course, lacking of competition from Rollei was not the major reason drove Hasselblad’s success. In fact, Hasselblad’s success is the result of at least three generations of effort, with a lot of important business decisions formed, which also contains ANOTHER gentlemen’s agreement legend. Victor’s Grandfather Arvid Viktor Hasselblad (Hasselblad founder’s son), who established the Hasselblad photographic division within the company and thought that the division would not be profitable for the company. But the fate brought him met George Eastman (the company’s founder of Kodak) during his honeymoon in England. Soon after that, George found Kodak company, and formed a business partnership with Arvid Viktor. They made a handshake agreement (Yes! only handshake, and they did not sign documents), which Hasselblad began importing Kodak products as the sole Swedish distributor in 1888. This is definitely a win-win situation. Kodak could open up oversea markets, while Hasselblad could establish capital and accumulate experience through selling Kodak photographic products. Victor’s father (Karl Erik Hasselblad) passed away in 1942. Victor, who had great interest in bird photography, took over the family business. In 1948, Victor Hasselblad developed the world’s first commercial available module SLR – Hasselblad 1600F (N.B. The first camera manufactured by Victor Hasselblad camera was Aerial HK-7 (1941), which was used in the Swedish military planes during the World War II).
Hasselblad 1600F was then improved to 1000F, and in 1957 was replaced by 500C. Hasselblad 500C is really the cornerstone of Hasselblad. Since then, V-system is established, which is the design has been in use for over forty years. The success of 500C, has been favored by NASA. Hasselblad was requested by NASA to develop some cameras (e.g. 500EL/M) for their Apollo Program missions, so that Hasselblad fame. However, the first handheld space camera was definitely not produced by Hasselblad. The story behinds the first handheld space camera will be introduced in this blog in another article.
Business decisions influence the company’s fate, however, product quality is still the most major reason drives photographic product’s success. Hasselblad camera has advanced technology, its modular concept brings flexibility and operational precision to the users. All those reasons have made Hasselblad cameras to become one of the most preferred photographic tools around the world.
Here are some of the photos taken by Hasselblad 500C for your reference. B&W film is Kodak TMAX100；Color negative is Kodak Ektar 100. Location: Gruyere, Switzerland.
Details of the Camera:
Camera model – Hasselblad 500C (Date Code: CR 34854)
Type – Modular SLR
Year built – 1958
Lens – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 (SN: 5251438)
Shutter – Front leaf-shutter (Compur)
Shutter speed – 1 sec to 1/500 sec, B
Made in Sweden