The Hasselblad XPan is back!

by chris cunningham

My favorite camera ever by far and I currently own about 100 cameras. How did that happen? In 1999 I was working in beautiful downtown Palo Alto. Should of bought a house there, ugh. Anyway, Hasselblad came out with a special new camera called the XPan. I rented it and thought it was amazing. Then I rented it again and thought it was amazing again. So I bought one and it was really amazing once again but now I could use it all the time! It was $1999, like the year, which was an extraordinary amount of money for me at the time, but I was so happy.

One of the reasons I wanted to purchase it is because I was going to Bora Bora and I wanted some special photos. I think every photo I took there was a keeper. Just amazing. Then it broke. Not sure how or exactly when but I was under the Golden Gate Bridge and while looking through the viewfinder it wouldn’t focus. I was standing there wondering what was wrong and I pointed it to a group of people all lined up and silhouetted which I thought was more interesting than the bridge. As I’m looking through the camera being puzzled by what was wrong, I sense this person approaching and come up to my left side. I bring the camera down and look and him and he says with a deep growl, “don’t you fucking take pictures of me you mother fucker”. Uhhhh, what? Who the hell are you? Anyway I just said I don’t know what you’re talking about but I think my camera’s actually broken dude. He just glared at me and walked away. Well then… roid rage anyone? You’re not suspicious at all but I don’t want to die so yeah I’m heading out. So that’s what I think about when I see the Golden Gate Bridge. My broken XPan and someone who is probably locked up now for killing someone at this point in time.

After I moved back to Los Angeles I took it to Steve’s Camera in Culver City and they fixed the viewfinder and all was well. Just a mechanical problem. I also then took it to China but I have never properly scanned those images. I’m anxious to see those so many years later now that I have a scanning setup that is really awesome. Then life happened and the camera went into storage in beautiful downtown Burbank. Ya know, digital was everything now. It sat there for years and it was really the only thing I would want if the whole storage facility burned down. Finally after I went and rescued the storage unit a few years ago I had my XPan back and all was good. Or was it? It didn’t turn on! Noooooo! XPan’s are notorious for being difficult to fix and Hasselblad had to stop making them because they used mercury in the soldering. The European Union banned them and so they’re a rare commodity now and only about 16,000 were made. If the electronics are shot I’ve got a bricked camera and it’s just going on the shelf.

From Vancouver my friend Kevin said when he gets back to LA he’d take it into Steve’s again to see if they can fix it. 1 month, nothing. 2 months, nothing… 5 months later still radio silence. WTF Steve? Where’s my camera? Kevin called the shop and they said they got it to power on for a second then when they put it back together it didn’t come back on. They said they’re done with it and can’t fix it. Come pick it up. Ugh. The only glimmer of hope I had was that they did get power to it so the electronics must not be fried! Now what do I do? Nobody really fixes these things anymore. I resigned myself that it was now a shelf queen.

I did the occasional search over the last couple years. Reddit, Flickr, Discord,, Facebook XPan groups. One name did keep coming up. Wilco. Wilco Jannsen. “Wilco fixed mine!” “Yeah Wilco is great!” “Wilco brought mine back to life!” Oh wow, maybe there is an XPan whisperer out there! So I wrote Wilco in The Netherlands and told him what was wrong and that someone else had tried to repair it. His first question was what did they do and hoped they hadn’t messed it up even more. He said he sees that a lot. Well because children take up all your extra cash (worth it) I never really got around to sending it to Wilco. Then one day I just did. Sorry kid, no new ipad for school. All the way to The Netherlands it went, or almost. About 5 days later the package I sent off came back to me. Yadda yadda yadda you can’t ship batteries inside a camera. But it didn’t have a battery!!!!! I even showed the guy working behind the counter at Canadian Post, look no battery! I packaged it up in front of him and then he only wrote “camera” on it. That was all it took for someone in customs to say “camera, must have battery” so back it goes! OMG So off I went to FedEx a few days later and sucked up the $90 to ship it and whoosh it went on it’s way this time.

About a day after it arrived Wilco wrote me… I thought oh damn he’s got bad news already, but no! He said that’ll be $690 for the repair plus the shipping back. Here’s what is wrong, here are the parts, and yes the last place that worked on it looks like they just stuffed everything back inside like the monsters that they are. Do I approve the price for him fixing it? Oh hellz yes! OMG my camera is going to work! About two weeks later it showed up and there were even fresh batteries in it! When I turned it on all the lcds lit up and the shutter fired. What a beautiful sound. XPan is back baby! One of the things I read on a Reddit thread was from a technician who said “the best way to keep an XPan working is to use it”. Alrighty then, no more storage units for you oh mighty XPan. Also the last two actual sales on eBay for this camera were for $6,500. So I think I made the right initial purchase AND the right decision to get it fixed, but I’ll never sell it.

So here we are, we stopped by the fish hatchery along the Capilano river this week for a short hike to Cleveland Dam. Unfortunately the roll shot by the dam was a bad roll or something. Ah the perils of analog film.