Though the company’s roots date back to 1841, it was not until a century later that the enterprise shifted the vast majority of its focus to cameras and related optics. It was then that Victor Hasselblad, who had ventured away from the family business, was approached by the Swedish military to reproduce an aerial camera seized from a downed German plane. Operations took off from there.
Successes from decades ago do not necessarily have clout in the present, however. “We have been a bit slow to move with the times,” concedes CEO Ian Rawcliffe, who stepped up to this position in summer 2013. “We have expert employees who haven’t been used to the fullest. It’s time to improve on that.” One example of this is the introduction of a digital camera only in 2002. “We were a bit late with that,” Mr. Rawcliffe says. “At that time, the management thought film would be in use forever.” At the end of the 2000s, Victor Hasselblad produced its last analogue camera. “The world moves on,” the CEO says. “We have no regrets.”
Victor Hasselblad produces professional and premium still-image cameras for top photographers – particularly in advertising. “Our cameras show true colours and images,” Mr. Rawcliffe explains the difference between a Hasselblad and other cameras. “Our images are the closest to what the eye actually perceives. We have fantastic engineers who can translate what we see into digital images.” Two relatively new developments are the Lunar and Stellar collections. The Lunar line comprises professional cameras that combine vintage style with modern engineering, while the Stellar selection boasts premium cameras that are small enough to be taken along anywhere. These collections serve the pros and the enthusiasts, respectively.
Victor Hasselblad’s service does not end with the purchase of a camera. The company features its own service organization in Europe to limit the time a photographer spends apart from his camera, and 90% of service jobs are done within two days. Similar systems are in planning for Japan and the USA. Modernization is also possible. “Our older models can be outfitted with a digital back for photographers wanting to upgrade their medium,” Mr. Rawcliffe notes. “Devoted fans of our V system can stick with a camera they love and still use more modern technology.”
The CEO looks to the future with optimism and confidence. “We expect to crack open the luxury market and have sales there supersede the professional market within the next five years,” Mr. Rawcliffe describes what is next. Recent discussion has also pitted cameras in smartphones against separate cameras, but Mr. Rawcliffe ensures that there is no competition.
“The sensor is very small, so the quality simply isn’t good enough for professionals,” Mr. Rawcliffe points out. While Victor Hasselblad is strong in Japan, the USA, and Northern and Western Europe, it anticipates that its new premium cameras will open doors in Eastern Europe, for instance, paving the way for its professional models. “We are very much looking forward to the Photokina fair in September and can hardly wait to present our latest developments. There are sure to be a few surprises.”