January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

Turning theHasselbladX-Pan into a 6X7cm Camera

Usually photographers use stitching software to create panoramic photographs combining, side-by-side, frames taken with a regular format camera. On a recent vacation trip toJamaicait occurred to me that I could do theinverse ‚ use the panoramic XPan to shoot a series ofverticallystacked frames, creating the equivalent of roughly a 6X7cm frame.

Owners of theXPanwill know what an exciting and capable camera this is. (If you haven’t already done so, please readmy review). High-quality scans are capable of producing images every bit as sharp as those from a medium format camera (albeit one that produces a narrow frame). But, wide-format panoramics aren’t appropriate for all scenes, while switching the camera to normal 35mm format loses the medium format potential that I love about the camera.

Below is such a photograph taken hand-held with the Hasselblad’s 45mm lens. It’s comprised of three frames, stacked vertically. 

The photograph seen here isn’t any great shakes as art, but it does serve to illustrate the remarkable resolution (and therefore print size) that one can get using this technique. By combining these 3 frames (with about a 50% overlap between each one‚ needed for competent stitching), I ended up with a 100MB file when scanned at 3200 DPI. This is capable of producing a 20" X 30" print at 240 dpi‚ ideal for a 24" carriage printer such as theEpson 7000 or 7500

It’s important to keep in mind when taking these staggered vertical frames to use a wider lens than you might otherwise. The reason for this is that the digital stitching process will "lose" about 25% of the total width of the upper and lower frames due to the manner in which the software needs to "stretch" these frames to adjust for perspective distortion. Also, one of the tricks of producing images suitable for stitching is to keep the exposure constant between frames.

The stitching software that I use isPowerStitch. Unfortunately this extremely powerful (and expensive) program is now no longer available from the publisher. Other programs are capable of doing this type of stitching though, ranging in price from shareware to several hundred dollars.

One reputedly very powerful (and also free) product for digital stitching isPanorama Factory. I have no experience with it but it’s been recommended by several correspondents. (It is also reputedly complex and difficult to learn‚ but then so isPowerStitch). If you’d like to see some work by a photographer who has  worked extensively with this product and a small digital camera, have a look atMax Lyons’web site. 

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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