A true panoramic camera records an image over more than one film frame, giving an image with elongated proportions. There are many specialist cameras to choose from with this unusual, but very useful, format and below are ones you can consider, starting with film cameras.
Panoramic Film Cameras
Lomography Spinner 360
The Lomography Spinner 360 uses 35mm film, and can take 360 degree photos, fitting around 8 photos on one film. A built-in spirit level helps you keep shots steady, and ISO400 film is recommended.
Fuji GX617 - Discontinued
One of the most desirable panoramic cameras with sophisticated looks and a great feel - just what you'd expected from a Japanese design. The GX617 delivers four 6x17cm shots on 120 film or eight on 220, and has a choice of three interchangeable lenses. The 90mm f/5.6 offers a generous 89 angle-of-view for the interior photographer and creative landscapes, the 105mm f/8 with its 80 coverage is perfect for general landscape shoots and the 180mm f/6.7 offers a more sedate 52 view. Telephoto photographers will prefer the more powerful 300mm f/8 telephoto. Each lens has an integral shutter with speeds from 1-1/500sec, offering flash sync at all speeds and a B-setting.
Hasselblad Xpan - Discontinued
It seems like an unusual move for the medium-format masters Hasselblad to produce this 35mm format camera. The XPan is a dual-format model that offers conventional 24x36mm images but also provides a 24x65mm panoramic format that can be switched mid-roll.
The camera has interchangeable lenses and both its 45mm and 90mm lenses have medium-format characteristics providing large image circles to ensure even illumination across the full panoramic format.
A bright-frame viewfinder and coupled rangefinder are used to compose and focus images and an optical finder is supplied with the 30mm f/5.6 Aspherical.
This camera has all the features of a typical 35mm model including auto film advance at up to three frames per second, DX coding, TTL exposure meter, with centre-weighted readings, an aperture-priority mode and an LCD display that shows exposure info.
Well worth a look.
If you're a travel photographer after a lightweight companion you could consider this compact 35mm Russian option. It's a scanning type offering a 24x58mm negative and a 120 angle-of-view from the fixed focus 28mm lens. Shutter speeds range from 1/2sec to 1/250sec and the aperture control is adjustable from f/2.8-f/16 on a lever above the lens. It's the lowest priced panoramic camera on the market, but the 35mm format is arguably more suitable for enthusiast use rather than professional applications.
A rugged looking beast with a choice of five lenses from 45mm to 90mm and roll-film backs from 6x7cm to 6x12cm. The kit that fits our bill is a SW612 body with Rodenstock 45mm f/4.5 lens and the 6x12cm film holder. It costs well over two grand and produces six exposures per 120 roll. With a weight of 1.57kg it's great to pack in the rucksack and the wide-angle lens also makes it a good choice for architectural photography.
Linhof Technorama 617s
The German competitor to the Fuji, but trailing a little behind on specification with its fixed 90mm f/5.6 Super Angulon lens and archaic film advance system. If scenic and interior photography is your profession this camera delivers, but if you prefer some lens flexibility it obviously has its shortfalls. Where the Technorama does come up trumps is having a rugged die-cast body and, unlike the Fuji, a non-battery dependent shutter which ensure it copes with rough pro treatment. Look out for the new 617SIII which has interchangeable lenses including a 72mm f/5.6, 90mm f/5.6 and a 180mm f/5.6.
Linhof Technorama 612 PCII
Delivering a 6x12cm image, it's not quite the sweeping panoramic of the 617S, but it s fine for many applications and, with the 2:1 aspect ratio, you get a third more shots per film. This model does have interchangeable lenses with three to choose from including a 58mm f/5.6, 65mm f/5.6 and 135mm f/5.6. These produce respective angle-of-views of 97, 91 and 44, making the camera suitable for architectural, industrial and landscape work, while being compact enough for the travel photographer. Once again it has full mechanical construction for trouble free shooting.
Noblex Pro 06/150
There are three variations of this 120 medium-format camera available. All have the basic Pro 06/150 specification, which includes a rotating 50mm f/4.5 Tessar lens that travels through a complete 360 to ensure a consistent speed, and a 146 angle-of-view. They all give six 50x120mm images on a roll of 120 film and have a shutter speed range from 1/30sec to 1/250sec. The difference between the standard Pro 06/150E and the Pro 06/150FE is that the latter has three focusing distances. The Pro 06/150U adds a 3 shift and an extended shutter speed range.
Noblex PRO 175 U
You only get four shots on a 120 roll of film, but this model delivers a large 6x17mm image and offers focus control and shift for architecture. There's also the extended shutter speed range that appears on the smaller 135 and 150 versions. Needless to say, this model is for the serious panoramic photographer.
Baby versions of the 06/150 family, with a similarly solid construction and easy handling, but these take 35mm film and give 19 24x66mm images. Three models are available, each offering slightly less coverage with a 136 angle-of-view delivered by the 29mm f/4.5 lens. The 1/60 -1/500sec shutter speed range of the 135N is extended to 1/30sec on the 135S and right down to one second on the 135U. Both the 135S and 135U have 4 of shift control, and all three are powered by 4xAAA batteries.
An Italian model offering good control of perspective, using its 40mm shift facility. It's initially a 5x4in model with an international back, so a 6x12cm roll film back offering 105 views from the 47mm Super Angulon can be added.
A wide-angle shift camera available in 6x7cm, 6x9cm and 6x12cm formats. The SLV body with a shift viewfinder, 6x12 rotating back and 47mm lens costs around three grand. A tripod thread is fitted on the top-plate so you can invert the camera to get downward shift for use in the studio.
An impressive 150 angle-of-view is created by the 50mm lens mounted in this scanning camera. This roll-film model has just three speeds - 1/8sec, 1/60sec and 1/250sec, but apertures range from f/2.8 to f/22 to ensure versatility in a range of lighting conditions. The neg size is 6x12cm so you get six exposures per roll of 120 film.
Smaller 35mm version of its big brother, offering a slightly shallower 140 angle-of-view, but also a much lower price tag. The camera works on the same rotating lens principle using a 26mm lens to create the 24x59mm exposures per film.
If you're after an enormous negative consider the Art Panorama 240 - it offers the largest frame of all with an amazing 6x24cm image. Great until you realise you only get three shots per film! The less adventurous will happily settle with the more modest Panorama 170 model. This one delivers a 6x17cm image covering a 90 angle-of-view from the 90mm lens.
Panoramic Digital Cameras and Solutions
Below are a selection of digital panoramic cameras that were added to this guide in Nov 2005.
This camera is twice as fast as the earlier MK-2 and eight times faster than the original camera. The system uses triple A to D converters and a dedicated digital signal processor that can deliver a full 360 degree image in less than eight seconds. Image size is 6000 by 65,535 pixels. Sensitivity has been increased to cope with the speed and is about 4 times higher than our MK-1 and competitors. The camera was designed in conjunction with Better Light, the people behind the 5x4in scanning camera inserts, and takes Mamiya 645 format lenses allowing a range from 24mm fisheye to 300mm to be used.
Not a camera but a lens that attaches to any digital camera via camera lens' 46mm filter thread. An adaptor is provided for cameras with other filter sizes. You then take a single photo and the computer software unwraps the panorama at the single click of a mouse.
The lens comes with a multi-ring adaptor and is made of rugged ABS plastic.
SLiVR digital panoramic camera
This camera is a scanner optimised for high-resolution virtual-reality photography producing a 8000x64000 pixel panorama. It's based on the same linear CCD technology used in surveillance satellites and doesn't require stitching.
The camera uses Nikon or Hasselblad mount lenses and works with Windows or Macintosh computers saving in standard image formats such as JPEG, TIFF and PSD.
Spheron VR PanoCam
The Spheron captures a panorama by rotating around its vertical axis while the CCD sensor samples the scene, strip by vertical strip. The camera is contolled by a laptop PC via USB which also acts as the viewfinder and a digitised 6000x12000 image is created. From the notebook, you can adjust camera exposure settings.
The system eliminates geometrical and chromatic aberrations and creates a single pass panoramic exposure in less than a minute under average lighting conditions.
The camera adds digital to a traditional rotating lens panoramic camera formula to deliver a full 360° digital panoramic image in less than 30s. No stitching is required.
It has a Nikon mount lens and offers easy handling.