Hasselblad XPAN review - kinda

A while back I shot with that camera and hated it. But I loved the panoramic format. Since Fuji617 was way to big and expensive I took the Xpan out once more and I loved it. Probably my sudden turn around in feelings towards the Hassie came from the fact that I began to use rangefinder cameras rather extensively and the way camera handled was not a "cultural shock" anymore. Owning a body with 30mm, 45mm and 90mm covers most of the situations. To my surprise, I got the most out of Xpan in Africa while shooting handheld (despite it's slow lenses). I love the format, I love the camera but still I have some wishes to the manufacturer when they will be designing the Xpan II.

Xpan itself is a strong and durable piece. Solid, metal construction justifies the amount of money you spend on the camera. In the box (kit) you will find: a camera body, batteries, strap, bubble level (which is so bulky that there is no point in carrying it), tripod coupling plate, hard case (bubble) for 45mm lens, hood, lens and caps. Camera with 45mm lens is very well balanced. Viewfinder is bright and clear. Since camera has an AE mode you donít have to take your eyes of the finder when tracking the subject or framing the pics. BUT there is no shutter speed display in the window (only plus, minus and bulls eye). So if you work with low light you have to take your eyes of the finder and look at the back door LCD where info is displayed. Itís a major inconvenience. The panoramic/regular photo switch is very small and hard to operate if you have gloves on or if your hands are cold. Besides that the camera is as good as it gets.

But how do you display the images? Ok if you shoot print film most of the labs will be able to process them. Itís expensive but it works. If you shoot slides standard E6 processing is fine and good enough but request the lab not to cut you film. As far as projecting the Xpan shots: Mamiya in order to accommodate their 35mm film adapter for their 7II model released a special slide frame that has an opening that is right for the Xpan exposure. Itís a self sealing 6by7 frame. The hardest part is cutting the negatives than after that put it in the frame fold it and you are done. Finished products can be displayed in Cabin projectors. Well frames can be bought from B&H for about $45 for 50 frames. Cabin projectors can be rented or bought. To scan the slide film I use negative strip carrier for my film scanner and scan two sides and than stitch them. Flatbed scanners with transparency adapters will do faster job than film scanners but the scans wonít be as good.

There is a new bag available from Billingham called Panexia that is designed to hold the Xpan with 45 and 90. Looks nice and is not that expensive. This bag is not available in the US but can be bought from Robert White at really good price.

A while back customer walked up to me at the PMA show in Vegas and showed me his Xpan with rear stripped to the bare metal. He said that it was his jacket zipper that rubbed against the bottom plate. There is no way that this was normal. According to Hasselblad it was a mistake with first production run and it was changed now. But just in case my camera has a nice layer of tape in all exposed metal places which not only works as a protector but it does a great job in improving the grip.

Lenses for Xpan:

30mm f/5.6
Comes with hard case, hood, viewfinder and center filter. This lens gave me the real feeling of panoramic photography but it is very slow. Without center filter pictures have a tendency to have darker edges. And with the center filter you have to add 1.5+ EV to the exposure which makes it pretty dark lens especially if you use Velvia and try shooting handheld. But on the sunny day it is really not a problem and for a real quality pano shots you should be using the tripod anyway. The width of the lens is a standard 21mm which is too wide for many shots. This is the lens that proves the old saying that wider does not necessarily means better. It's the least used out of my lenses but it comes quite handy on occasions. Camera gets little bulky with the viewfinder and lens mounted. Since lens is rangefinder coupled you have to look thru the mounted finder to frame the picture, than thru regular finder to focus and than shoot. Itís a hassle and since there is no parallax correction pictures up close have to be compensated for. Also when you use the lens in regular 35mm mode you still have to utilize the separate finder. 30mm focal length canít be displayed in the camera viewfinder. So if by any chance your favorite focal length for street photography happens to be 28-35mm there goes your cover and anonymity when you whip out the Xpan with big and bulky finder mounted on it. And to answer the question that some may have: it is ok to mount a center filter and on top of that a slim Heliopan UV filter. It will not overshadow the picture.

45mm f/4
Comes with the hood but no center filter. This lens doesn't really need a center filter but on few occasions I could have used one. When in doubt just shoot two exposures: one fully open and one at the speed that still would allow you to get the desired effect. I hate lenses that are around 50mm. I just seriously dislike the perspective and look, but this lens in a pano mode is as wide as 24mm keeping the height of the 50mm. That combo is what makes the Xpan special and this lens the most used. Since this lens is small it will fit in any bag. This camera with a combination of another body with fast lens will be pretty sufficient set for street/travel photography. Lens is very sharp and well made but that goes for all the lenses available for Xpan.

-Shade on the 45mm is blocking the cap. Need to take of the hood to put on the cap. Little pain but no biggie.

90mm f/4
Is great for portraits and close up work. Lens comes with caps and plastic (bubble) case. Center filter is really optional but if you get one it can be exchanged between 90mm and 45mm.

Some suggestions:

-Put the shutter speed readout in the viewfinder. It drives me nuts not being able to see the shutter speed.
-When using 30mm lens in ďnormalĒ mode I would like to use camera finder for framing not the external one
-Make one fast lens and it doesn't have to be a panoramic lens. Just a standard 35mm f/2.0. That way I can utilize Xpan in more ways aka low light/interior type shot.

Click here to see some of my Xpan work

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