Hasselblad XPan II Rangefinders

Hasselblad XPan II Rangefinders 

DESCRIPTION

Dual format rangefinder produces high quality panorama or standard format images on regular 35mm film. Every exposure uses the full width of the film, producing panorama shots with an image width equal to those produced by a 6x7 medium format camera.

  • Coupled rangefinder
  • 24x65mm panorama format
  • Focal lengths: 30mm, 45mm (standard lens) and 90mm)
  • Aperture priority center-weighted TTL metering system
  • Flash sync: 1/125

  • USER REVIEWS

    Showing 1-5 of 5  
    [Dec 18, 2005]
    SPG
    Expert

    Strength:

    Overall engineering, design and quality construction and finish - equaly to Hasselblad's great legacy. Superb MF standard panoramic images from 135 format film in an exceptionally compact (relative) and easy to use camera. Intuitive functionality; excellent ergonomics. Top class optical quality from the Fuji lenses.

    Weakness:

    The XPan II does have an Achilles heel - exposure metering. I was disappointed to see that there is no TTL flash metering in this camera, despite the fact that Hasselblad has had TTL flash exposure metering in its V series camreas for more than 15 years. This is an unnecessary exclusion in any language. Less of an issue is the somewhat surprisingly limited exposure range of EV4 at it's lowest - meaning that in both AE and manual exposure modes the camera is very limited in low light shooting unless you use "B" setting. It's only of less an issue because one would sensibly be using a hand-held meter for such conditions to ensure an optimal exposure setting and might as well just set the camera to "B" for exposures longer than 1 or 2 seconds. Finally, given the available electronics it might have been a nice touch to include a spot metering function. This would be a great aid to landscape shooters searching for the mid tone when making panoramic images - nice to have but not a bad omission. Maybe this is just not possible/practical in a rangefinder camera. But, what is a tad annoying is the seeming lack of science that has gone or not gone into the overall exposure metering.

    I was lead to trial an XPan and its "normal" 45mm f4 lens by a professional who was also hugely enthusiastic about this unique and high quality camera. My absolute joy in "discovering" this camera convinced me to buy the second iteration - the XPan II with its 45mm f4 and 90mm f4 lenses plus the centre graduated ND filter for the 45mm lens and the soft leather "ever ready" case. Nicely, the camera is deleicvered with the spirit level for fitting to the "cold" shoe mount and a standard Hasselblad quick release plate (the only exception being the clever little pin on the plate designed to fit into the female receiver on the base of the camera that prevents the plate from rotating on the camera - great design). This camera perfectly fills a "hole" in my systems and is an ideal complement to my Leica M7 135 format rangefinder camera as well as my Hasselblad 6x6 501cm and 503cw camera systems. I say a perfect complement because the XPan is more correctly described as a "panoramic MF camera" rather than as a "135 format camera capable of taking 1.8 x 135 format panorama images". You'll see why I make this very important distinction soon. Using it exclusively in panorama mode, it is my "preferred wide angle" image maker when shooting 135 format with my Leica or shooting 6x6 with my Hasselblad. Firstly, in this day and age of plastic everything, it was so refreshing to receive a new camera made of metal - titanium and alloys for long life robust shooting. Like many, initially I was sceptical about the XPan thinking the lenses were simply too slow. Alas, I learned very quickly that this was because I misunderstood the camera - like all MF cameras f4 is an average maximum lens speed. In the XPan's case this limitation is also a part of the camera's overall compactness and ease of use - an extra stop of speed adds much to size and weight of any lens. The overall size and weight of the camera and its lenses is, together with their superb build quality, outstanding. Both the 45mm and 90mm produce images that are: sharp edge to edge with little reduction in the resolution of very fine detail from the axis to the most extreme edges; very restant of flare and creative effects are possible while shooting directly into light without causing ugly patches of flare; very well corrected for chromatic aberration showing no visible colour fringes; high in resolving power; quite pretty in OOF (bokeh) with quite smooth progression from sharp to OOF; smooth to operate. While I have no use for its 135 format frame images, if you only want to take one camera on a trip, this is an ideal choice - compact enough; 2 lenses will cover just about all needs; 135 rangefinder camera convenience; MF quality panorama images that produce some WOW factor. The 45mm and 90mm lenses live up to Fujinon's great reputation in MF and LF circles - very sharp, lovely colour rendition, very high resolution and excellent correction of optical aberrations. In panorama mode these provide 135 format equivalent AOV to 25mm and 50mm lenses respecitvely - super AOV in most panorama situations like landscapes and travel shooting. But, its greatest appeal to me was that I discovered that in 135 format I see very wide angle image as a panorama and all my 135 format images wider than 35mm are cropped horizontally leaving too little film area for high quality large prints - the XPan panoram images are similar to 6x7 MF images cropped about 50% horizontally leaving lots of room for very high quality large prints. Now, about the camera: the design, engineering and build quality are superb - if you admire Leica M quality, you'll love this. Ergonomically using the camera is enhanced by the "bolted" on rubberised right hand grip that makes the camera very comfortable to use. Functionally it is superbly designed and does not suffer from excessive use of electronics that distract a user from creativity and making images. The shutter is amazingly quiet and the release button is truly sublime to use. The rangefinder/viewfinder is of a very high quality - no, not as superbly engineered as the current Leica M finders, but a close second all the same. The clear shutter speed display in the viewfinder is very desirable in AE mode and the manual mode arrows are intuitive enough. The rangefinder patch is quite easy to focus sharply without any real need to "hunt" back and forth. The viewfinder automatically adjusts along with the shutter blades as you switch from 135 format to panorama. The electronic functionality is simple and intuitive with settings for overriding things such as ISO settings done on an intuitive LCD panel on the back of the camera. All the necessary features like multi-exposure, bracketing and exposure compensation are there. The huge film door is operated by a proper metal catch and is supported by a full metal hinge - quality all the way. Loading and unloading are simple. Nicely the loading fuction advances all the film to the last frame ensuring that should you mistakenly open the film door you will only spoil unexposed frames and the exposed frames are safely inside the film canister. The imaging results? Outstanding - again quality all the way. Film is obviously held 100% flat from edge to edge ensuring the sharp lenses' performance are faithfully captured. Many users ask if the centre graduated ND filter is really necessary for the 45mm lens. My answer is yes and for those who object to paying the relatively high price for one - get over it! It's an aspect of optical physics that is unavoidable and with both colour tranny and neg films, you will get vignetting in most situations without one. The combined cost of the 45mm lens and the filter is still relatively low, especially given their quality. So start out with one already fitted. Yes, this means that the effective speed of the 45mm lens is f5.6, but that's not unusual for MF lenses and with today's great 400 and even 800 ASA films, hand-held shooting remains easy. In summary this is a superbly built and designed camera offering unique versatility and outstanding image quality. It is not a substitute for an outstanding 135 format rangefinder; nor is it a substitute for an MF 6x7 rangefinder - different horses for different courses. This is a unique panoramic camera that uses inexpensive 135 format film to make 21 huge and superb quality panoramic images from a roll of 36 exposure film in a convenient, versatile, compact system built to last forever. I highly recommend the Hasselblad XPan II camera and its 45mm and 90mm lenses.

    Customer Service

    None really required. However, my enquiry to Hasselblad's Australian distributor about the exposure metering limitations proved a waste of time in that they had no local knowledge about it and would need to email Hasselblad in Sweden - did not fill me with confidence.

    Similar Products Used:

    Leica M6 TTL; Leica M7 - range of 135 format rangefinder lenses from 24mm to 135mm. Hasselblad 501CM; Hasselblad 503CW - range of MF lenses from 50mm to 250mm.

    OVERALL
    RATING
    4
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    [Jul 27, 2005]
    Mjjglasgow
    Professional

    Strength:

    Compact and lightweight. Image quality Unique dual format – of course the Xpan’s main strength. Handling. Build quality.

    Weakness:

    Slow lenses Pricey (but then it is truly unique so…) Price of 30mm (great lens though it may be) Fiddly to use filters (but not impossible by any means) The midroll rewind button is a bit tricky (and this should show that I’m having to scrape the barrel weakness-wise)

    This is a unique product which while perhaps not for everyone is superb in its particular niche. The xpan is compact (despite its peculiar elongated shape) and lightweight, especially when you take the size of its lenses into account – just compare it to an SLR side by side. This relative compactness isn’t at the expense of build quality either – its built like a tank and out of all my cameras this is the one I’d be least concerned about dropping. The lenses all have a nice feel too with the focus and aperture rings having a nice firm feel to them – not too stiff to turn easy but you don’t feel its going to slip out of position. The lenses are all excellent quality very sharp and contrasty with a good colour rendition and low distortion (maybe a smidgin in the 30mm in pano mode but considering its 17mm field of view not bad at all). The lenses are generally slow of course – f4 for the 45mm and 90mm, f5.6 for the 30mm and you will need centre filters further reducing available light in panoramic mode for the two wider lenses – this has never been a problem for my uses but for people planning low light photography without a tripod this may be an issue – for general landscape or travel photography its actually no big deal. This slowness is a design trade off for the extra coverage needed for the panoramic format and given the benefits of the Xpan’s dual format capability it’s a small sacrifice to make. Combining the optical quality of the lenses with slow professional film like Velvia or Provia the image quality is great – especially so in panoramic mode when the 24x65mm frame size basically means you are getting medium format quality from 35mm film – its like taking the middle 40% from a 6x7 transparency. You can create some really big prints from this camera that would easily be satisfactory for fine art prints or exhibition purposes. The handling is pretty good – the shutter speed in the viewfinder is a useful touch, the viewfinder is bright the frame lines and rangefinder patch clear. The controls like most rangefinders are pared down to the minimum – focus, aperture, shutter speed with drive mode combined with the on/off in a separate dial – everything else (manual ISO, exposure bracketing etc) is consigned to a menu using the rear LCD. In practice this camera is quick and easy to use and I like the handgrip a lot. The camera is also a good combination of traditional manual features with some automation eg aperture priority, automatic exposure bracketing. Of course this is a rangefinder which has certain advantages and disadvantages. Many people prefer the rangefinder viewing system – personally it took a while for me to get used to composing using the framelines rather than with an SLR but now I quite like it and I actually find it easier to ensure everything is in focus with the accurate manual focussing and excellent DoF scales on the lenses than I do looking through a darkened SLR viewfinder with the DoF preview depressed. The lack of through the lens viewing makes some filters such as polarisers and ND grad problematic. You might think this would be a problem with for one of the Xpan’s core applications – landscape photography – but in practice there are workarounds – just hold a polariser up and look through it while rotating to find the right position before putting it on and for ND grads I find that estimating how much of the image needs to be covered by looking through the viewfinder then positioning the filter to cover that proportion of the lens works well enough – its not perfect but in practice it works better than I thought it would and when I do have problems with my images its never because of inappropriately positioned grads. Its certainly trickier than using an SLR but I think the Xpan’s advantages – size and weight, image quality, dual format etc make up for this. I doubt also that it would be easy to incorporate the dual format feature in an SLR anyhow making this somewhat academic. The ability to switch formats at the flick of a switch is a revelation. It opens up all sorts of compositional possibilities not available with other cameras. Using a panoramic camera is superior to stitching digitally because it allows you to compose the image as a single entity in the viewfinder, to incorporate moving objects, to capture rapidly changing scenes and of course its simply easier and more convenient. Combined with the compactness, build and image quality this is a superb camera for travel, landscapes and can give a different twist to architecture and people-in-their-environment type shots. In panoramic mode you are getting the sort of image quality normally reserved for medium format or EOS 1Ds IIs but just consider how much easier it is to travel around and walk long distances with an Xpan outfit than the above. Its not the perfect camera perhaps for action or wildlife (at least not the sort of wildlife you need 400mm lenses for) but then I don’t think photographers primarily interested in that sort of thing would be seriously considering a manual focus rangefinder anyhow. Price given is in pounds sterling.

    Customer Service

    Haven't used it.

    Similar Products Used:

    Voigtlander Bessa R2, Minolta SLRs and DSLRs

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    [Jul 05, 2005]
    montyaj
    Professional

    Strength:

    Ease of use: the camera is beautifully balanced and handles effortlessly. Loading is incredibly simple and the reverse film transport is an inspired innovation - I did once open the back of the wrong camera and lost one frame instead of twenty.

    Weakness:

    I sometimes forget to switch it on - that's my weakness - but it would be nice if one could switch the meter off.

    I've been using an XPan for about four years. The XPan II has been 'improved' by the inclusion of viewfinder information. Personally, the only information I need in the viewfinder is the view. The lenses - I have the 45 and the 90 - are wonderful. Publishers like the panoramic transparencies and I've got stunning results on Fuji Provia 100F and Velvia 50. The apparent 'slowness' of the lenses has never been a problem. It's beautifully made and it works a treat - a bargain even if you never use the panoramic frame.

    Customer Service

    Brilliant - no matter how dumb the enquiry, you get a polite reply from Hasselblad and their 'Forum' magazine is superb.

    Similar Products Used:

    Various Leicas, Crown Graphic, Nikon F2, Fujifilm Finepix F700/800

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    [Nov 29, 2003]
    Jochem
    Casual

    Strength:

    These lenses are really magnificant. And for this quality extremely cheap compared to Leica lenses. Very easy to use. (film loading)

    Weakness:

    centre filter not standard, but that's about it.

    I love this camera. From the first shots till now I've been amazed about the image quality of slides (Provia 100F, E100G) and scans (Drumscanner) made out of it. After a few weeks I ordered a centre filter for the 45mm. Does really need one, even at f11-f16. I had the opportunity of borrowing a Nikon F100 for a few days and compared the images with the ones from the XPAN. The fujinon lenses are really sharper and adding more contrast.

    Customer Service

    Don't know, never used Hassy service. I don't think I will ever use with this build quality

    Similar Products Used:

    Leica M6 TTL, Nikon F100

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    [Jul 20, 2003]
    Roy Caples
    Expert

    Strength:

    Unique high quality camera with superior lenses for 35mm panoramics

    Weakness:

    Bad location of tripod socket. Also, I prefer 1/3EV step intervals instead of 1/2 for exposure compensation.

    When the Hasselblad XPan appeared 5 years ago, it found ready acceptance by advanced amateurs and quite a few pros (check out the work of Jim Brandenburg, Nick Meers, Neil Leifer, et al, for example). In its reincarnation as the XPanII, Hasselblad/Fuji have addressed most of the shortcomings that plagued the original. It's easier than before to switch between panorama and regular 35mm format. The shutter speed now appears in the viewfinder where it should have been in the first place. Gone is the ISO dial on the front of the camera, its function now assigned to the larger LCD display on the camera back. Here is also where multiple exposures (up to 9) are set, as well as auto bracketing. The new model also provides Bulb exposure up to 9 minutes. The XPanII, believe it or not, accepts a threaded mechanical cable release (no, really, it does!) The 45mm lens,which I purchased with its center filter,is very sharp, providing impressive transparencies with Provia 100. The other 2 lenses, the 90mm and the high-priced 30mm wide angle, have both received high marks in magazine reviews. I look forward to adding them to the system in the near future. I'd love to see this camera as an SLR--don't want much, do I?

    Customer Service

    Too new to say on the XPan, but I've owned several Hasselblad 500 C/M's, plus the new H1 and I can state that the company deservedly has an excellent reputation for service.

    Similar Products Used:

    Fuji GX-617

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Showing 1-5 of 5  

    (C) Copyright 1996-2018. All Rights Reserved.

    photographyreview.com and the ConsumerReview Network are business units of Invenda Corporation

    Other Web Sites in the ConsumerReview Network:

    mtbr.com | roadbikereview.com | carreview.com | photographyreview.com | audioreview.com