Wordy Wednesday #245: “Adventures in XPan Land”

“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”― Ernst Haas

“How many cameras do you own?” That was the question that Joe Meehan asked me and several photo magazine editors in the press room at one of the last film-based photokina trade shows. The answers were interesting. One former Shutterbug editor said it was somewhere around two hundred. I did some mental calculations and came up with 25, although that might have been a little low. When digital imaging became more popular, I decided to pare down the number of film cameras I owned but one I kept was the Hasselblad XPan.

While branded as a Hasselblad, the XPan was manufactured by Fujifilm who also sold it as the TX-1. The body is made from titanium and aluminum and covered in a rubberized material with a grip for right-handed shooter. Most TX-1’s are a silver, and too me look like a big Contax G1, while the XPan is black.

Three lenses were released for the camera. The 45mm f/4, a 90mm f/4 that I own and a 30mm f/5.6 (that I can’t afford) and which requires a external viewfinder. The built-in viewfinder has automatic parallax compensation with bright lines automatically changing depending on the lens mounted. Focusing is done on the lens that’s coupled to the rangefinder. The back contains a LCD screen showing camera settings like ISO, battery level check and self-timer.

There are two shooting modes, aperture priority and manual. Exposure compensation is available from ±2 EV in ½ steps. Auto exposure bracketing is also available. The Xpan has a focal plane shutter with speeds of 8 sec to 1/1000 sec. Flash sync is at 1/125s. The light meter is a TTL center-weighted averaging type. The meter is set with Auto DX encoded films but can also be set manually.

What sets the XPan (and TX1) apart is that 35mm images can be captured in two different sized formats: 24×36mm size and a 24×65mm panoramic. The format setting can be changed even mid-roll. In panoramic format it can expose 21 images onto 36 exposure rolls, 13 on 24.

When loading the films, it’s completely unloaded onto the take-up spool and the film is goes back into the film canister as you make exposures because of the ability to switch formats mid-roll. Exposures are counted downward indicating the number of frames remaining.


Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available at collector (high) prices or used copies for giveaway prices—less than two bucks—from Amazon.

Author: Joe Farace

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