The Leica Xpan

Konjščica mountain cafe in Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

The traditional wood-slat roofed mountain café and its jumbled assortment of sheds I placed towards the right-hand side of the photo which meant that the dirt track led up to it from the left. With the high mountains of the Slovenian Alps as a wonderful backdrop to define the subject, it was almost a cliché but it worked so well as a panoramic photo. I took the photo with the intention of cropping the top and bottom. My long-gone Hasselblad Xpan came to mind again and I decided that I’d shoot with panoramic format in mind this trip to see if I could recreate the style that the Xpan gave me.


Waterfall in the Voje valley Triglavski National Park, Slovenia.

I sold the Hassleblad Xpan to fund my Leica M9 some years ago. I had used the Xpan on my travels around Romania, with the photos being exhibited in many museums across Eastern Europe. The widescreen cinematic feel gives a new perspective on photography. Unlike photographing and stitching several images together, the range Xpan is literally like a panoramic Leica, you can capture the decisive moment in widescreen. This just isn’t possible with any other camera, but of course, the Xpan is a film camera with all the constraints that analogue brings with it in the digital age.

The gorges, ravines and mountains of Slovenia proved a fitting subject to give this plan a try. The next few days saw me leaning over bridges, camera held vertically, looking down into rivers cutting through limestone rocks bordered with trees. On one occasion I was holding on to a small tree with the camera in my right hand stretch out to get the shot I wanted. It’s not easy holding a camera in one hand and shooting vertically. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean. Although vertical panoramas can prove a problem to display on computer screens, I really like the effect and am very pleased with what I got — waterfalls obviously being the easiest of subjects to experiment with.

Children play on the veranda of their house in Danesti, Szekely region of Transylvania Romania. 2001. Hasselblad Xpan and 45mm lens .


Haymaking on land near Szekelyderz Transylvania Romania. 2003. Hassleblad Xpan and 45mm lens

I also managed a few candid shots of my family and fellow walkers as well, but I would like to have had more opportunity to develop this side of photography that I used the Xpan for so much in the past.

One possible way to cut out the unwanted parts of the 35mm format is to tape over the top and bottom of the Leica’s 21mm hot-shoe mounted viewfinder. This gives a very similar format to the Xpan. However, the big downside is that you can’t switch between panoramic and 35mm formats without using a new viewfinder, something you could do on the Xpan with the flip of a dial.

Turning hay in a traditional wildflower meadow after cutting, Voje valley Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Having worked on the images in Lightroom and cropped them, I am very pleased with what I achieved. They do have the Xpan feel. I just need to get used to imagining the images better as I frame them in the viewfinder, but it is something I intend to keep working on. Any chance Leica would even consider producing a digital Xpan? Never say never. Who would have thought about producing a digital camera without a screen?

Hikers arriving in a rainstorm at Konjščica mountain cafe in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

My wife and daughter taking a break, Konjščica mountain cafe in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

The mountain village of Rjavec, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

Near Rjavec, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

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