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X-Pan Stitching

Turning the Hasselblad X-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 to Jamaica it occurred to me that I could do the inverse ‹ use the panoramic XPan to shoot a series of vertically stacked frames, creating the equivalent of roughly a 6X7cm frame.

Owners of the XPan will know what an exciting and capable camera this is. (If you haven't already done so, please read my 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 the Epson 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 is PowerStitch. 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 is Panorama 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 is PowerStitch). 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 at Max Lyons' web site. 

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Concepts: Photography, Hasselblad, Camera, Medium format, Digital camera, Panoramic photography, Digital camera back, Digital photography

Entities: Hasselblad, Jamaica, Panorama Factory, Michael Reichmann, Max Lyons

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