Origins of the Russian Hasselblad copies.
This is based on best available evidence and I would be very grateful for any documented proof of the origins.
All indicators point to the Salyut line of cameras being a straight copy of the Hasselblad 1600F. The Russians have been great copiers of Western technology over the years, the Tupelev TU-4 bomber for example is a copy of a captured American B-29 bomber. The Arsenal works had a distinct advantage as they had almost new German tooling for the Kiev Rangefinder cameras, which truly are Russian Contaxes rather than copies of Contaxes. This tooling could have been adapted to produce gears, castings etc., for a Hasselblad copy.
Copying such a complex camera as the Hasselblad 1600F would not have been easy. First there is the stripping down and understanding of how the camera works. Producing the gears would have been the least complicated as these are stamped from metal stock, suitably hardened and then the teeth cut with a gear cutting machine. Castings are a different matter as patterns have to be made from the originals. These patterns need to be slightly larger than the originals as metal shrinks slightly in the casting process. Different metals shrink at different rates so this would have been a complex process for Arsenal.
There follows the production and perfection of a series of prototypes before full scale production can start.
So Arsenal got their hands on a Hasselblad 1600F and likely some technical drawings, probably around 1948 when Kiev Rangefinder production had just moved from Germany to Russia. Quite possibly, Zeiss was the source of the camera as they were developing lenses for the Hasselblad at the time. As Arsenal were painstakingly produced the first copies, Hasselblad were realising the various weaknesses in the original design and, by 1952 had substantially redesigned elements of the shutter and winding mechanism. By 1957 they had abandoned the 1000F in favour of the 500 series with shutters mounted in the lenses.
Coincidentally in 1957, Arsenal introduced the Salyut copy of the Hassy 1600F - effectively now an obsolete camera in the West. There were representations from Hasselblad around Copyright infringement and it is said the the Russians claimed they had developed the camera first and Hasselblad had copied it!
It is interesting to note that the Arsenal factory did not modify the design before launch as per the Hasselblad 1000F. Very likely this would have seriously delayed production as they would have to have sourced a 1000F, stripped it and reproduced the redesigned elements.
Similarities and differences between the Hasselblad and Russian copies.
Since I originally wrote this website, I have obtained copies of Hasselblad 1600F blueprints which clearly demonstrates that the Salyut 1500 was an almost direct copy of the Hassy 1600F. The following images will demonstrate that, and I have added some smaller illustrations to show the key changes which Hasselblad made to the 1000F design.
The biggest causes of problems for the Hasselblad 1600F were:
1) The stacked gear assembly which timed the 1/50th to 1/1600th second speeds.
2) The additional mechanism which, through interaction with the stacked gears, gave the 1 second to 1/25th second speeds.
3) A weak, pronged clutch and lever which advanced and released the shutter.
4) The requirement for all these bulky mechanisms to run off very quickly and synchronised precisely.
5) The suggestion that such a mechanism could be subjected to the daily rigours of a professional photographer.
When Kiev decided to replicate this design in their Salyut 1500 it too suffered with all these issues but more acutely due to the poorer engineering standards and materials. A further Achilles Heal was the self-timer for the shutter (which accounts for the difference in the body casting). Kiev soon disposed of that feature.
Hasselblad 1000F - an attempt to resolve the issues.
When Hasselblad introduced the 1000F, they redesigned some key areas:
1) Elimination of the 1/1600 speed, reducing shutter tension and the speed at which the mechanism had to work.
2) Redesigning the stacked gear assembly (basically adding a third controlling gear and eliminating a rising/falling assembly which was prone to
3) Replacing the pronged clutch and lever with a more robust mechanism.
How Kiev attempted to improve reliability.
Kiev initially only dropped the shutter speed to 1/1000th Second in their Salyut 1000, soldiering on with the Hasselblad 1600F design unaltered in other respects.
However once the Salyut ‘C’ was introduced around 1970, Kiev made some key improvements to the design:
1) They eliminated the pronged clutch and lever in favour of a Hasselblad 1000F influenced solution.
2) They redesigned the way in which the mirror assembly interacted with the shutter release.
They did not redesign the stacked gears (presumably due to cost and the retooling that would be needed). This would remain the Achilles Heal of the design for the rest of its time in production.
The Kiev 80/88 saw a further redesign of the winding mechanism, introducing a small pin which engaged with a sprung dog. This pin took the full load of winding the shutter curtains and was prone to wear/snapping, the symptoms being the shutter releasing as it is wound, or just the mirror being set as the shutter knob is wound on.