Using The Hasselblad X-Pan by Brett Price

Using The Hasselblad X-Pan by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

I recently purchased a Hasselblad Xpan with the 45mm f4 lens and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on it for your website. Thanks again for making a site where people can do this. In light of their recent (laughable) offerings as a company I’m still optimistic they can change course and still make excellent cameras like they used to. Hopefully this semi-review/experience can breathe a bit of hope back into people, even if now its only nostalgia. I’m still hoping for a digital Xpan!

This camera has a cool story, I bought it from a teacher of mine who happens to be the Cinematographer of some excellent films such as Anchorman, Beetlejuice, and Jumanji and it was actually originally purchased while filming Anchorman. I believe he shot around 6 rolls through it total and has pretty much sat inside the original packaging until I purchased it from him. It’s as mint as it gets :)

I started shooting the camera as soon as I received it and I must say, in terms of build quality and feel, it’s as solid as a Leica. I honestly didn’t expect this only seeing photos of it online. For some reason the exterior looks very plastic-y which seems to throw off the conception of weight and build quality. Its pretty heavy for a camera its size but handles extremely well. I personally love shooting with it and its been my go to camera lately. I love cinema and movies and for some reason nothing makes a shot more cinematic looking that being in a near 3:1 aspect ratio. I don’t feel like my photos are all that different from what I typical shoot but this camera gives them a look that is extremely interesting and cinematic.

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If you are interested in one of these cameras there are a few things I learned upon receiving it that I didn’t know (good and bad). There is actually a way to make the camera shoot normal 35mm aspect ratio as well as panoramic. There is a switch on the back that opens and closes a set of “blinders” inside the camera. I don’t really understand why this was done or why anyone would want to use it but ok, it’s there. The camera loads the entire roll into the take up reel when you first put the film in, this means if you accidentally open the camera, you probably just flashed most of your roll. I see this as good and bad, the good news is the shots you’ve taken are protected, the bad news is that you might loose a whole roll of film if opened. I doubt this will happen I just found it interested due to the fact it works almost totally opposite of any other 35mm camera I’ve used. There is no shutter speed indicator in the viewfinder (only on the first model is this a problem). So if you shoot on auto you have readouts as to what is being properly exposed and what is over and under. Much like a Leica you have — O + near the bottom of the viewfinder but this is always the case rather than on an M7 it would tell you the exact shutter speed.

The images you get from the camera are sharp. very sharp in my opinion. I don’t really see the tell tale 3D rendering I’m used to with my 501cm but its got a nice unique look to it regardless. Its stiffer to use than you would think, which is a plus in my opinion and its pretty easy to focus with the rangefinder patch being brighter than my M7.

Anyway I bought the camera on a whim and its quickly become one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy the photos. I constantly update my tumblr account with new work if you want to check out more in the future as I update. Its: BrettPrice.tumblr.com

Happy Shooting,

Brett Price

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47 thoughts on “Using The Hasselblad X-Pan by Brett Price”

  1. Not sure if this was answered before but are you still using the Plustek 7600i? Are there film holders that support such crop?

  2. I bought an XPan (+ 45mm and 90mm lenses) a bit less than a year ago and it’s been a slow burner for me. The camera is very solid and the quality of the lenses is fabulous – if a bit slow for dawn / dusk shots without a tripod. However, I’ve recently bought the 30mm lens and I feel inspired to get out and use it for some panoramic landscapes and even stick some fast film (Portra 800 or push XP2 Super a couple of stops) and shoot some panoramic street.

    It’s a very different experience and, as it’s not an SLR and doesn’t have Nikon or Canon emblazoned on the front, people don’t seem to take too badly to having it pointed in their direction.

    My output is still 90% + film – but that’s not to say I dislike digital, as I don’t: I have a Nikon D800 and Fuji XPro-1 – both of which are stunning cameras. However, I have no desire for a digital version of the XPan as I can stitch digital files together if I want to. This is just a sublime camera which, as Robert Sloman (above) says, makes me see things differently – and that’s hard to say about any of the other 35mm or MF cameras I have.

  3. I’m a long term user of Fuji TX-1 and use it regularly. I bought it when it first was released which I seem to recall was before HB X-pan, though if that’s true, it was only a matter of weeks or months between.
    Sea and landscapes are my favorite subject with this camera. Having written that, I now recall several faves that are neither. This is the only camera that I use that always amazes me and encourages me to see differently. I like the process. I have 45mm silver as per Fuji and 90mm black as per HB. I am trying to recall what excited me first when I learned about it. I think it was the novelty, but it turned out to offer so much more! I bought one sight unseen. I use the center filter always. The lenses are slow to be sure, f 4.0 and even lose one stop with the center filter but I find myself using the lenses on Fuji X-Pro 1, yes there is an adapter. Often thought about a digital version. Would buy one without hesitation.

  4. It’s the dimension of *time* that XPan photos capture in such an amazing way. Those images are something entirely different because the time expands in all directions. It’s overwhelming and beautiful. We need more cameras like XPan — now, Hassy, resurrect the XPan, really, rather than glueing wooden grips on Sony’s cameras.

  5. So glad you wrote this article. Yes it has foibles (if you don’t fully switch from panoramic to 3:2, the camera locks up and flashes ‘P’… Until google gave me the answer I thought I’d ruined it!), but if you are wavering about whether to take the plunge, just do it. I *love* my XPan. It encourages you to lookout for ‘cinematic’ compositions. It’s a great way of seeing the world. If anyone’s interested, here’s s a set on flickr of Xpan shots I did on the seafront in Brighton, UK, including the pier that sadly burned down… http://flic.kr/s/aHsjEAo33v

  6. Looks like a nice camera. I never really wanted one because of the format and the amount of lens for it. One person of many years ago was a medium format photographer, Hassi. He told me he love the camera for personal and fast work. He just used what ever part of the frame for the print. IQ, per him was as good as my Leica stuff. It was a great Fuji camera. Nice pics.

  7. Wonderful shots, thank you. Btw, my Ricoh GR1s does the same thing – spools the film then winds it back into the cassette as you take photos. I love this feature, very reassuring somehow.

  8. Great pictures… Interesting camera….obviously Fujifilm knows how to make slightly quirky cameras…. Also, it’s interesting but just from its physical looks you could see the appearance similarity between the X-pan and the X-pro1. …. So it seems there is a bit of institutional memory at Fuji as they design gear….

  9. Brett It is nice to see something different – thank you for ths

    You require a different way of thinking and working the more you depart from a 5×4 / 4×5 ratio – how many 35mm size images are more effective or pleasing when cropped, how many people just shoot horizontal images? Unless you are very careful or deliberately go for an angled horizon, very careful framing or a tripod is required. And the wider you go in format the more care is needed, particularly where you introduce people into the image. 1×2 or 1×3 formats have obvious landscape and empty space capability but can also be used to make artistic statements as in the examples you gave where the space around the people adds more to the image than a conventional format crop would do. If you want the ultimate in digital wide format for 3+ meter wide prints check out / hire the Seitz 6×17 digital camera for a day … but another way of working… If you want to do it cheaply either a Lomo Bellair 6×12 or an old 6×6 or 6×9 folding camera and masking tape across half of the viewfinder.

  10. Great pictures, very “cinematic” indeed. I am reminded of pictures taken with a Widelux, which has a panning lens. Jeff Bridges uses one and has done some great work with it.

  11. Great work Brett…I think you’d go to the next stage by focus and recompose with these. But that’s a personal preference, not a critical.

    I’ve been tempted to get this camera for street photography for some time…..thinking, thinking…

  12. Thanks for sharing. I can also vouch that this is a great camera. I have the Fujifilm TX-1 which is exactly the same as the Xpan (Fuji actually manufactured the Xpan) and I absolutely love the wide format. Gives for a very unique perspective.

  13. Wonderful format. I have good luck to see a camera that works in the way I like a lot (I crop several of my photographs in 3:1.3 proportion) and bad luck cause I have a new object of desire.

    I’ve used the proportion mostly with urban landscapes and some birds… but I see now that the effect with persons is like see as another world.

  14. i’ve been exploring an xpan/tx for a while and this isn’t helping control the lust. the piggy bank will stay intact for now (not full enough yet). very interesting backstory to this xpan! thanks for sharing! i like the lovely photos a lot but agree that there’s something about the composition and colors of the swimming pool shot that sets it apart from the others IMO.

  15. I find these photos intriguing, largely for the sense of drama that permeates them. However, except for the swimmer, the panorama frame is hardly used. They would crop down to regular size quite well, in fact in Steve’s web site, the sidebar has tight crops and they hold up very well. #2 would be more interesting to me if you tried a vertical shot.

  16. I own an XPan myself and I would agree with most of what you said short of a few minor things. As far as build quality, the pint comes off very easily and it is difficult to find an XPan that has been used at all that doesn’t have at least some paint chipping at the edges. The rangefinder, while bright, is nowhere near as good as that of a Leica. I actually find it pretty bad compared to that of my MP, M7, M9. And third, the format can quickly turn into a gimmick like instagram, and when you really look deeper at composition, you will see that there are very few photographers that are able to fill the frame successfully with this format. You can take decent photos with this camera all day long, great ones is another story.

  17. Thanks for all the comments so far! To answer a few questions… These scans come from a mix of the Noritsu Koki lab scanner courtesy of FilmBoxLab here in Nashville and my Plustek 7600i. The scans on the Plustek were done as 2 separate frames and then stitched together in Photoshop. I believe the only one from this set that I did myself was the last one (b&w). The films shot were Portra 400 and Ilford 3200 developed in Rodinal.

  18. I have an x-pan but haven’t composed quite as you have…thanks for sharing your perspective and opening my eyes a bit…

  19. For quite some time I’ve lusted for one, but i came to the conclusion, that the format only “works” in very few cases. In my opinion, all the photos above except the first (and maybe the pool one) – although nice – would benefit from a 3:2 format and especially an offset composition (something I also constantly need to remind myself on when using RF).

  20. I love my XPan, it is quite amazing in terms of build quality and image quality, but i think it might be time to part with it for now and maybe get a 6×6 hassleblad camera, in the future i might make a 35mm film adaptor for it to take wide pictures again.

    one thing i do have against the XPan is that the lens is not that fast, what drew me towards the XPan was the wide aspect and having a mediumly fast lens (maybe f2.0 but i’m just dreaming) would be really cool as it would help give it a more pop against the background

    also in terms of the shooting 35mm + panoramic, it was a camera designed for professionals who would like to do this, it means you don’t have to carry around 2 film cameras, 1 to shoot wide format and 1 to shoot normal format.

    1. I believe Hasselblad produced a wide 35mm back for The 500 and 2000/200 series cameras in the 1980s – it may have been 24 images from a 36 roll.

          1. Now they are unfortunately but if you have a 500cm already it is cheaper than an X-pan

  21. Of course the X-Pan was a rebranded Fuji TX-1, just as the recent absurd Hassleblad offerings are rebranded Sonys. I had an X-Pan for a few years and loved it. If digital hadn’t come along, I’d still be shooting it. What I am shooting is sweep panoramas and stitched panoramas with my digital cameras. All the issues with wide angle lenses and the edges of sensors would arise with a digital X-Pan, so don’t hold your breath on a digital X-Pan. Hasselblad is one of those companies that went bankrupt, has transferred ownership, and bears little relationship to the original. At least Victor Hassleblad lived to see his cameras on the Moon.

  22. There is something absolutely wonderful and captivating about Xpan photos – like converting movie frames into still images. These are incredible!

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