Lenses Rangefinders (Changeable Lens)

The Hasselblad Xpan with a Nikon 35mm PC shift lens – FAQ

A week or so ago I shot a quick test roll through the Hasselblad Xpan II with a Nikon 35mm PC lens attached to the front of it. The photos themselves are far from mind blowing, but it does prove the concept at least. Of course, I’m not the first to do this, but with any experiment using an adapter imported from China, it’s best to test these things out before committing anything important to a roll.

Fortunately, it did work out quite well. So since I’ve had numerous questions on social media, Flickr and via email asking for more details on this setup, I thought I’d do a little post to talk about how well it works and how easy to use it is in the form of an FAQ:

How is the lens mounted?

Simple. I bought an adapter via eBay from China. Search eBay for , and they are sometimes – though not all the time – available. I got mine from.

What is the lens?

The lens is a Nikon 35mm PC lens. PC is Nikons abbreviation for perspective control. The rest of the world calls this a shift lens.

How does it work?

It’s simple really, it’s all down to the size of the image circle. Just like the Hasselblad’s native lenses the 35mm Nikon lens has a much bigger image circle that covers the frame size in the Blad. Unlike the Hasselblad lenses which were designed for a bigger native frame, the Nikon lens was designed this way so different parts of the large image circle could be used. This is how a shift lens works. When you shift the lens, the cameras film or sensor sees a different part of the larger image circle. Put it on the Hasselblad and the film just sees a larger portion of the whole image circle.

_DSC7165

What’s the effective focal length?

What seemed to confuse people about the Hasselblad was the shape of the frame. It’s more like a medium format width, but 135 format in its frame height. The thing to remember is that focal length is a constant, what changes from camera to camera is the size of the frame. 35mm on a 135 format camera is a slightly wide angle lens. But 35mm on medium a format is varyingly wider. As such, across the width on the frame the 35mm lens on the Hasselblad seems to give an equivalent to what you might expect from a 21mm lens on a 135 format camera – maybe a little wider. But with the height of the frame no different to any other 135 format camera, it’s still just equivalent to a 35mm focal length.

Can I use a Nikon 28mm PC lens?

Yes. But the image circle isn’t as big as the image circle of the 35mm shift lenses so you get dark/black edges. Once cropped it cuts the frame size down to somewhere closer to the 35mm equivalent frame. In short, you’re better off with the 35mm PC lens.

How do you focus?

Strangely I thought, I was asked this question loads of times. Of course the lens isn’t rangefinder coupled – but like almost all lenses of its era it has a manual focusing scale with depth of field markings. It’s 35mm so depth of field is deep enough to make this relatively easy, even at wider apertures in close proximity. Some find zone focusing easy some others don’t. If you don’t know what I mean by zone focusing, here’s a little guide I wrote a while back.

_DSC7163

How do you frame the shot?

Conveniently, the outside edge of the viewfinder of the Hasselblad works perfectly adequately for framing. There is a chance of parallax error when close up of course, but it’s nothing to drastic.

Can I still shift the lens?

It’s probably not advised. I’d guess the image circle would become a limitation quite quickly – and anyway, since it’s not an SLR, there’s no way to frame accurately once the lens is shifted. In short, if you have one of these lenses for your blad it’s a damn good excuse to buy the F2 you’ve been thinking about too!

What’s the point?

The 30mm Hasselblad lens is rare and worth a lot of money. This Nikon lens cost me 1/10th of the value of the blad lens. That’s about it for my justification really.

How well does it work?

Here are the shots from my test roll:

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

Xpan ii & 35mm Nikon PC shift lens

I hope that answers most of people’s questions about it, if you have any others please let me know in the comments below.

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    Peter
    August 27, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Man this is really cool…definitely going to look into it. Can’t justify 3k against this option.

    As you said, the very edges of your frame are roughly correct (save for parallax?)

    Handy

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 27, 2016 at 9:13 am

      You’ll have to let me see how you get on if you do!

  • Reply
    Terry B
    August 27, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Hamish, a lovely little portfolio. Scale focusing seems to have worked for you, and you were lucky with that adapter being machined to the correct tolerances. I have numerous adapters for use on my Sony Nex and A7 bodies and apart from one brand in particular for L39 where focusing correlates with the lens scale, most are so far off as to make scale focusing very hit and miss. Fortunately, not an issue with digital.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 27, 2016 at 9:12 am

      I’ve had tolerance issues before, hence the test roll. So yes, happy with the results!

      • Reply
        Kelvin
        August 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

        I find that most adapters from China are made a bit short to guarantee infinity focus but it has the side effect of hitting infinity at a distance before the actual lens infinity marking.
        My solution to this is (depending on the make of your adapter) unscrewing the front mounting plate of the adapter and inserting shims to thicken the adapter. I use a caliper to measure the thickness of the adapter. In this case, the Xpan has a 34.27mm flange and Nikon F is 46.5mm; thus, the adapter should be exactly 12.23mm. I use as much layers of electrical tape as required to come up with the distance. Hope this helps!

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          September 1, 2016 at 7:43 pm

          Great tip!!
          Would you be up for doing me a guest blog post to show how you do this in more detail?

  • Reply
    John
    August 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Great stuff Hamish – a top write up. I use this set up too,. The 35 PC is sharper than the 28 nikkor PC I also have, and does not vignette. And the in finder covetage is very handy.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 27, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Do you use the 28 on a Nikon? I had one once but didn’t rate it much – serious distortion issues

  • Reply
    Michael
    August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Hi Hamish! Looks interesting – how did you scan the negs?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 27, 2016 at 9:08 am

      AG photo lab did it – but the Noritsu scanner I have will do it (at least it will when I eventually get it working)

  • Reply
    Dexter
    August 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    These look great man! Would love an Xpan one day

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    August 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Sort of like putting a big block Ford V8 into a Porsche…
    But, it works – that’s the important part!

  • Reply
    DMR
    August 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    To me, not having tried this, one other not mentioned benefit is the sopeed of the lens. This lens being almost as wide, 35mm vs 30mm, as the Hasselblad lens, has an extra stop or two of speed. The Xpan 30mm lens is an F4, and also has some strong vignetting, so I’ve seen it used mostly with the center Grad ND filter, making the lens mostly a F5.6 lens.

    If this can cover the film plane at F2.8, it would make zone focusing more difficult, but at least in some situations, you’d have additional light gathering for faster shutter speeds in the right situation.

    Thanks for sharing your setup. May have to look into it one day.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 28, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Yes indeed!

  • Reply
    java
    August 29, 2016 at 4:10 am

    so rad. images look tac sharp

  • Reply
    John Kendall
    August 30, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    And the Xpan meter works with the Nikon PC lens?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 1, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Yep

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    September 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Interesting.
    I thought there was absolutely no adapter fot that lovery camera.
    I do it fine with the Hasselblad 45… I thought some times of the 15 but it requires an extra view adapter and a centre filter (also not easy to get already)

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    September 11, 2016 at 10:38 am

    …30 I meant, as you mentioned the nominal and actual when xpanded are different

  • Reply
    Alan
    September 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Are you sure this focal length assessment is correct? My understanding was that the standard 45mm xpan lens was close to a 24mm, and the 30 was close to a 15mm. I would assume this 35 would be more like an 18?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 19, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      The 30 is supposedly around 17mm equivalent – so I’d probably split the difference with you and say maybe as wide as 19-20mm… But it’s splitting hairs really, one way on another it’s pretty wide

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    September 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    That’s a funny thing. Much to do with sensors and cropping and all that stuff.
    The focal length is actually a physical distance from focal plain to lens. That doesn’t change while expanding really; in fact things like depth of field remains exactly equal.
    Right?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 19, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Yeah, equivalents make for a good basis for understanding though. Though yes, there are indeed a lot of constants – but quite often that concept leads to a circle of confusion! (see what I did there)

  • Reply
    George Appletre
    September 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    No confusion really.
    I have that camera and the 45 mm. for about fifteen years. The focal length keeps on being the same when expanded. Just you see both sides of what usually you don’t. Probably with a 15 mm you would see all that length inside the regular 35 mm. film. That’s the “equivalence”.

  • Reply
    Alan
    September 20, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    @Hamish Gill
    Sorry I was just trying to establish how much “wider” the Nikon 35mm would feel compared to the standard Hasselblad 45mm. Checked the spec sheets- the 45mm has a 71 degree horizontal field of view, slightly wider than a 24mm on full frame (~73.7 degrees horizontal). The 30mm has a 94 degree horizontal, slightly wider than a 17mm lens on full frame (~93.3 degrees horizontal). So your assessment of 19-20mm seems right.

    I was under the assumption that the 30 was actually closer to a 15, since the 45 was close to a 24. Thanks for weighing in!

  • Reply
    Bayo
    October 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks a lot for this post. I’m an Xpan owner but never considered that there would be adapters for other lenses.
    While I have no Nikon lenses to use, I do however own Bronica > Mamiya and Mamiya > Nikon F adapters already and hopefully they’d be big enough to cover the wider 65mm width.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 8, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      I’d have thought so – I’d guess even even a 645 lens would cover it … might be wrong though. Let me know?

      • Reply
        Terry B
        October 12, 2016 at 10:07 am

        Hello, Hamish.

        Using Pythagoras, if a Bronica 75mm lens used with their 6×4.5 models is computed just for this format, it will be touch and go if it will fully cover the diagonal of the Xpan, unless it has a little bit of image circle spare. But as Bronica have a fair degree of compatibility between their lenses on the earlier 6×6 bodies, it is conceivable that their lenses may have been computed with this in mind and so will definitely cover the Xpan format.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          October 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

          Good answer! Thanks Terry!

  • Reply
    Bin LIANG
    November 7, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Hello Hamish,

    From the calculation, the focal of view of the Nikon 35mm lens on the XPan is 85.75 degree, which is equivalent to focal length 19.4mm ultra wide angle lens on a 135 camera system.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 7, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Great stuff, thanks for that!!
      I’d be interested to know the maths to come to that…?

      • Reply
        Bin LIANG
        November 8, 2016 at 8:46 am

        You may try this webpage for online calculation. It provides the option for XPan.

        http://www.scantips.com/lights/fieldofview.html#top

        You may only key in the following box “Lens Focal Length____ mm”, for example, 35mm,
        and then select the radio button option 4, and again select “Xpan” from the drop box.
        Finally, please click the button “Compute 1-8”.
        Ding-dong, you will get the results shown in the up right corner.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          November 11, 2016 at 10:07 pm

          That’s brilliant, thank you for that!!

  • Reply
    Michael Przewrocki
    February 13, 2017 at 6:43 am

    I have once see a report by Contax/Yashica-Xpan/TX-1-adapter from china. +-5mm are possible with Zeiss pc-distagon 35/1.8 without vignetting. Only dont know where to get it since i ddint buy at photokina when one seller was there. now no more active.

  • Reply
    Alexandros Damoulianos
    February 22, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Hello Hamish! Is it possible to use a standard Nikon 35mm AI lens like the 2.8? Or does it need to be the PC lens?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 22, 2017 at 8:23 am

      You can mount any Nikon lens with the adapter, but the standard lenses won’t likely have a big enough image circle to cover the frame. The shift lenses have bigger image circles to cover the movements.
      In short, no, probably not

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