View Full Version : Xpan,Fotoman, etc. -- differences?

Colin Corneau
03-18-2008, 01:35 PM
I currently own a Widelux F7, and have been interested in breaking out of the usual boundaries of a photograph (4x5 or 35mm formats)

I noticed the Hasselblad Xpan, and am interested in the perspective it offers. But, there are other similar cameras to this and my question is:

Are there are any signifigant differences (apart from minor aspect ratios, I don't care too much if the image is 6x17 or 6x12, etc.) between these types of cameras?
I'd like to know as I look around and certainly before I buy anything.

Many thanks

david b
03-18-2008, 01:45 PM
The Xpan is a wonderful camera. If you like working with 35mm film, then it is great. You can see some of my work with it here. (http://www.davidbram.com/)
If you want to stay with medium format film, why not get a 6x9 and crop it?

Ted Harris
03-18-2008, 01:57 PM
There is a huge difference between the wide field and panoramic cameras. The Xpan is technically a wide field camera and the Noblex is a true panoramic. The Noblex' swing lens (similar for your Widelux) has a much wider field of view. If you go to the Noblex website http://www.kamera-werk-dresden.de/index_eng.htm you will see a numberof pictures that clearly show the difference.

Also the following fro the Widelux website:

There are two camps in the world of panoramics. The more common cameras use a stationary wide-angle lens and simply ignore the upper and lower edges of the coverage area with a mask. This type of camera is good for architecture, as the lens is rectalinear and all straight lines appear straight.

The Widelux uses a swinging lens in a turret, and a vertical slit which moves accross the film and lays down the image with a moving swipe. This camera can usually cover a wider field than fixed-lens types. Because the moving lens is only sampling a small sliver of the image at any one time, small objects appear with natural aspect ratios, but large straight spans are often not straight.

With a stationary wide-angle lens, objects near the edges will become visibly distorted. Faces in the corners are a big no-no!

On the other hand, the Widelux swinging lens treats objects with equal proportion, taking each one as it comes into view during the scan. So all human faces will appear with natural roundness from the center of the image to the sides. This is great for group portraits. Architecture is treated differently though, and a long wall becomes a blimp, with a fat center (head-on angle) and dwindling side wings (oblique angle, distant subject).

Sharing the Widelux camp, the Russian Horizon 202 & Horizont and the German Noblex all use a swing-lens turret.

Ian Grant
03-18-2008, 02:13 PM
Don't let the Noblex Imorters get you Ted, I think they might immortalise you :D

The swing lens systems have their own distortion, a 6x17 is a nice compromise and Fotoman and particularly Gaoersi are very good value for money.


Colin Corneau
03-18-2008, 02:13 PM
I've used and loved the Widelux, and am familiar with its look and how it works.

But I guess I want the option of a slightly less distorted look - there are differences with how the Xpan functions and I find its images very appealing.

David, very cool work. Do you have the 45mm lens with your Xpan?

03-18-2008, 03:57 PM
It's an obvious thing, but I'll point it out anyway. The Fotoman and the Xpan are completely different kinds of cameras. The Fotman relative to the Xpan is big, and heavy, and wears a large format lens in a shutter on a helical, and makes 7 inch wide negatives. The Xpan compares as small and light, and behaves in a much more conventional fashion, and makes much smaller negatives. Their respective strengths and weaknesses are practically opposites. A careful consideration of what and how you are shooting, and what your final intention is, will reveal the proper system for your work.

Ted Harris
03-18-2008, 04:11 PM
LOL Ian,

Totally agree. You can eliminate all/most of the distortion but only by being very careful with camera placement and swing lens/swing body cameras are very specialized tools. The importers would probably be horrified if they saw my 150F as it has been well used. That said, it is the only camera I have ever owned that paid for itself with one job.

david b
03-18-2008, 04:38 PM
The Xpan shots on my site are all done with the 45mm lens.

It's a great lens that does not need the center filter, in my opinion.

I've owned the 30mm on several occasions and never really liked it.

To me, the xpan works best when hand held.

Early Riser
03-18-2008, 05:24 PM
I own a bunch of Fotoman 6x12 cameras. I use it with lenses ranging from 65mm Grandagon to 360mm tele nikkor. I carry 3 bodies routinely, I keep a 180mm Sironar and 270 Tele Nikkor on dedicated bodies as they have large cones and are somewhat inconvenient to remove in the field. I also carry a body with a 120mm symmar-L and will remove that lens and swap it with an 80mm Super Symmar-XL. That same body also has the Fotoman shift adapter attached as wider lenses tend to prefer rise/fall of the lens rather than tilting of the camera.

I have a 360mm Nikkor tele also on a dedicated body. This puppy has a really long cone and gets carried in a shoulder bag. There's a cone available for the 400mm fuji tele. The Fotoman's advantage is in it's simplicity. It has very few moving parts and no bells and whistles. The film advance is primitive but offers excellent film flatness because you can counter rotate the two film knobs and tighten up the film just prior to exposure.

A GG is available and I advise getting it. I use the Linhof Universal viewfinder with 612 mask, in lieu of the Fotoman viewfinders. If you are working with wides to wide normal lenses you can use this camera hand held, also assuming reasonably fast film and light.

Trevor Crone
03-19-2008, 12:19 PM
Camera's such as the Noblex hold the film in a curved film plane. With this type of camera straight lines parrallel to the film plane are curved, where as camera's such as the X-pan, Fotoman, etc., hold the film in a flat film plane and therefore straight lines parrallel to the film plane are straight.

I use a Noblex 135UC which uses 35mm film and gives an angle of view on the diagonal of 135*. Being fairly compact and quick to use I use it almost exclusively for street photography. I enjoy its wider narrative.

On occasion I also use a Linhof 6x12cm roll film back on a 4x5 camera, mainly with lenses from 35 - 110mm.

Ian Grant
03-19-2008, 01:19 PM
As Trevor says you need to think long and hard before going down the Noblex, Horizon route because of the curved film plane. I considered buying one but need more accurate rendition of landscape & buildings.

My Gaoersi 6x17 is quite practical to hand hold, but then where I live the light is nearly always good and that makes a huge difference. Personally I prefer the extra quality of using 120 compared to 35mm so never really thought about an Xpan.


Colin Corneau
03-19-2008, 10:48 PM
Again: I own a Widelux now and like it - just want something with a flat-film-plane setup.

Film size is a consideration, for sure. But loading up any kind of film means for me, by definition, taking a bit more time and being more careful. Whichever format, I'd use slower film and a tripod when going anywhere near 1/30th.

I may even sell my F7 and some other gear to get a new pano system - any hints on a ballpark price (apologies if this is veering off topic)

03-31-2008, 03:25 AM
I've just bought a secondhand Fotoman 612. You get 6 images per 120 roll film. Mine came with a 65mm Caltar lens. I am pretty amazed at the lack of distortion at the edges of the frame.

I have a couple of test images here:


They aren't technically brilliant, they were my first two images taken with the camera, and they are compressed for the web. The prints on A3+ paper are stunning (in quality at least).

I used an X-pan for a few years and always got superb images if lab processed, but never could get great scans from the negatives (Epson 4990).

Easier and better scanning of the 6x12 negatives was my decision to go to the Fotoman.

Oh, and although the Fotoman is bigger and heavier, it is built like a tank, no batteries or electronics, and I can use my LF lenses when I get the appropriate cones.