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