Pros: Solid & reliable with great optics and extremely bright screen.
Cons: Flash TTL dial needs lock-setting, winder not reliable.
Having being a successful professional wedding photographer since 1988 I have the good fortune to be able to afford any medium format camera money can buy. In fact I have owned and used practically all the top brands made in the last 12 years. I have finally settled for the 503CW with the 501C/M as a back up for my Hasselblad system.
Here is my opinion of the 503CW in reference to its performance for portraits and wedding photography. This current model was the improved version over the 503CXi which in turn was originally based on the 500C/M with the incorporation of through the lens (TTL) flash feature and an acute matte bright screen. The basic camera is totally mechanical in design and coupled with the equally mechanical Carl Zeiss optics you have a camera that will operate consistently without any batteries. Its precision craftsmanship and total compatibility with all accessories guarantees that the Hasselblad will withstand the test of time and command a high resale value. In fact you can still use a film magazine or lens made 30 years ago on the latest camera.
The 503CW has the following important improvements that are worth noting:
1. Longer sliding/gliding mirror which allows you to see the entire image especially when using a longer telephoto lens. All previous models with the shorter mirror results in a black area (vignette)in the viewfinder as the mirror is not long enough to show the full image.
2. A soft-touch shutter release button. Although the old style works just fine this redesign has improve its operation and appearance a lot.
3. Acute matte focusing screen. This has got to be the best and brightest focusing screen for any medium format camera. No other competitor has a screen that can match this superb screen. But the irony is that this screen is not a Hasselblad invention but made for Hasselblad by Minolta of Japan! In my opinion this is the single most important refinement of the Hasselblad as it is pointless to have the sharpest optics if you then ruin your images because you can't focus properly dur to the dim focusing and inferior focusing screen.
4. Built-in TTL flash. Please don't mistake this to be a TTL exposure meter. Hasselblad has managed to incorporate a photo-cell to measure the flash exposure off the film plane, through the lens and thus give accurate exposure even if colored filters or extension tubes are fitted to the lens. The TTL flash exposure will work with three flash makes, viz. Metz, Quantum Q-Flash and Sunpak with the use of the appropriate TTL module. The ISO film speed is set via a dial on the left hand side of the body. This is a great idea except the dial turns too easily and during the hectic pace of a wedding you can accidentally shift the ISO setting without realizing it thus getting wrong exposures. In my opinion Hasselblad should have improved this dial to incorporate a locked ISO setting with a release button to prevent accidental shifting of the dial.
5. Motor drive capability. The 503CW can be fitted with an ergonomically designed motor drive grip which replaces the film advance crank. This unique motor drive even has an Infra Red remote release feature and comes with a round remote release strung on a thin leather strap. While this motor drive is a great accessory it needs some improvements before it can match up to Hasselblad's reputation for reliability. My brand new winder appears to have some interface problems and would jammed after several shots. I had to uncouple it and reattach it before it would operate again. I also found that my AA batteries would go flat if I leave it in the motor drive. I guess Hasselblad should stick to what it does best: a totally mechanical camera that keeps on working & working.
6. A new base plate with two rubber ribs has been incorporated to the base plate has improved the appearance and handling of the 503CW. This allows better mounting to a flash bracket or tripod.
Overall this is a precision-made professional camera that is worth its high price as you can count on it to work every time you need it to. If you are serious about making a living as a photographer only the best is good enough. Using a Hasselblad increases your self confidence and credibility tremendously. It indirectly leads you to achieving greater work thereby justifying you charging more for your services. After all you are shooting with a Hasselblad not a 35mm SLR that the bride's uncle is using. I know that it is not the camera that counts but the person behind the camera who creates the image. But in the wedding photography business the art of people handling is sometimes more important than the art of picture making. And the successful professional has to develop a great showmanship to command a high fee for his service. Having a Hasselblad contributes a lot to that image. After all it is a totally mechanical camera and you have to know how to take a decent photograph before you can use it!