I 've been using the Xpan as much as my 35mm in my professional work for about three years now and am very excited about the format, versatility, and practicality in the stock photography world. It is also a very compelling format for prints. It's compact, well built, and a lot of fun to use. The Xpan was introduced in 1998 in close cooperation with Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. The lenses (30mm, the standard 45mm, and 90mm) have a medium format sharpness, but with the ease of 35mm camera operation. Also, the 30mm and 45mm lenses can focus to within 2 ft, which opens up completely new ideas for panoramic image making. The amazing sharpness enables me to make very large prints (2x5 ft) when scanning the Xpan transparencies on an Epson 2450 flat-bed scanner and printing on the 7600 printer.
The first update that grabbed my attention was the removal of the ISO dial from the front of the camera. Several times, when reaching for the camera in a hurry, I would accidentally change the ISO. I know others who have had the same experience. Now, the Xpan II displays all of its controls on the camera's LCD on the back of the camera, making for very quick handling and customizing of all settings from a single window. This includes film speed, exposure compensation, auto-bracketing, multiple exposures, flash sync mode, self-timer delay, and film return spooling mode. When viewing through the finder, shutter speed and exposure information is displayed.
Camera And Film Handling
As with the original Xpan, the Xpan II has automatic film loading transport, which totally unwinds the film when loaded and retracts it as you shoot. The advantage is that every exposure is in the "can" and if you inadvertently open the back mid roll, only the unexposed part of the roll is lost. Also, switching between formats (normal 35mm and pan) the camera automatically adjusts the film position to ensure consistency in film spacing and to avoid wasting film. There is a small button on the back of the Xpan, just above the camera's LCD, which changes film formats by simply turning the button. When in "pan" format, there is a "P" visible at the top of the button. When in normal 35mm format, the button is black.
On balance, the features on the Xpan II are an impressive improvement over the original Xpan, of which I still own two, one dedicated to print film and the other for a back-up. For my particular shooting style, the multiple exposure capability and rear curtain sync options are tremendous and right up my alley. A big change is placing all of the controls and programmable options right at your fingertips on the camera's LCD, scrollable by pressing the mode button on the camera's LCD and using the up and down arrows. There is also a "light bulb" icon on the back that illuminates the LCD screen. This is a great camera in every way and I'll be using it more than ever with these great new additions.
Xpan II Improvements
Here's a list of improvements from the original Xpan:
Multiple exposures (up to nine)--This is a great new feature for creating artistic and impressionist images, opening the door to more creative expression in the Xpan format. To achieve multiple exposures, reset the film ISO dial from 50 to 100 for two exposures; from ISO 50 to 200 for four exposures; and from ISO 50 to 400 for eight exposures. Then select the number of exposures using the arrows on the display, after selecting the multiple exposure icon on the camera's LCD.
Warning: Don't forget to set your ISO setting back when finished shooting your multiple exposures or you'll shoot your film at the wrong ISO for a while until you catch it!
Self-timer delay, 2 or 10 seconds--An extra option of the 2-second delay has been added for more control. The 2-second delay can be used if you don't have or forgot your cable release. The 10-second delay can be used for pictures in which you'd like to include yourself.
B (Bulb) time up to 540 seconds (Nine minutes)--The longest possible exposure has been increased from five minutes to nine minutes, but beware...this is not a mechanical setting and will severely drain your batteries. I have used the Xpan for long exposures, but made sure that my batteries were fresh. You can view battery status on the camera's LCD.
Improved infrared film performance--I was getting some fogging around the edges of the frame in the past and the Xpan II has alleviated that. The fog on the original Xpan was around the edges and quite manageable, but is completely gone when using infrared film on the Xpan II, making the image cleaner and easier to scan.
Flash synchronization at the beginning or end of the exposure--Normal (N) and Rear curtain sync flash options are available on the Xpan II. This is a new feature and adds to the creative mix. Having the ability to use flash at the beginning or end of an exposure can greatly change the appearance, especially in sequential movement.
Rewind of film with option to leave a film tip out of the cassette--This has always been an issue with me, having the ability to rewind an unfinished roll to load a different speed or type of film for a particular job. This option is now an easily programmable option on the Xpan II.
A couple of other additions include locking lens shades for the 45mm and 90mm lenses, diopter lens with locking system, and an optional electrical remote cable release.
The price of the Xpan II kit (body, 45mm lens) is $2320. For more information about the camera, visit Hasselblad's website, www.hasselbladusa.com.
Tony Sweet is a professional photographer, author, and teacher living in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit his web site at http://tonysweet.com.