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Spinner 360 Film Panoramic Camera vs Digital Panoramic

Cathy Taylor tests two cameras both capable of panoramic photography, one film, one digital, and sees how they perform.

|  Spinner 360 in Film Compacts
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Lomo Spinner 360
Lomo Spinner 360 Performance
Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR
Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR Performance
Film vs Digital Panorama Verdict

I was watching The Gadget Show on Dave the other night and they were reviewing 360 Panoramic cameras. They were testing out the different kit in Cape Town and capturing all the fabulous scenery, as you can imagine some of the lenses and kit reviewed were rather pricey but luckily not all.

Film Panoramic vs Digital Panoramic

One of the cameras they were using was a film camera called the Lomo Spinner 360, it also happened to win their review. A very neat piece of gadgetry, sturdy and simple in design that takes, as the name suggests, 360 panoramic photos. Lomo cameras (film) have been gaining popularity, especially by the younger and student generation, with the 360 Spinner being one of their more recent additions to their range. We'll start with the Spinner 360:

1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

The packaging for this product is a work of art in itself, a colourful, fresh and funky design,
(did I really say funky), with the outer box adorned with film strip photos from this camera. Inside is a manual, some example photos and instructions on how to achieve the effect, a poster, spare band and lens cap.

1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

The spinner uses 35mm film that you can buy anywhere but it is recommended that you use an ISO 400 for optimum results. If you use ISO 100 or 200 you will need to set the exposure to cloudy. A 36 exposure film should give you approximately 8 X 360 Pano photos.

If like me you are a film virgin and have been used to using digital cameras then you may find loading the film for the first time slightly daunting but rest assured it’s a quick process, there’s minimal fumbling, little or no embarrassment and the sprockets guide the film easily. All that is left to do is select the aperture required. The choice is sunny or cloudy... it's that simple a chimp could do it.
If it’s sunny, use sunny (F16), cloudy then use cloudy (F8) but for any low light situation select cloudy.

The camera has a built in spirit level, tripod mount and hot shoe although there are no contacts points for this.

The Spinner 360 has no batteries and the mechanics rely on a rubber band system that spins the camera when the trigger cord is pulled and released.

So once you have loaded the film and selected your aperture, you are ready.

1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

Hold the camera at arms length making sure the camera is level, pull the cord and let it go. It does a 360 spin in less than a second. This can be done in a variety of styles…and if you prefer not to be included in the shot, with an over intense gaze looking like a nutter, hold the camera above your head.

Lomo pull cord

The results are amazing, you won’t be disappointed. With the imaging spilling over the sprocket holes this gives a truly inspiring and creative result……capturing movement and static subjects. The images are vibrant and curious in their composition.

While using this camera it did attract a lot of attention; school kids, students and a couple of weirdo’s that smelt but the more the merrier, the format looks great with people in it.

Lomo Spinner 360 Performance

Examples below:




Although effective, it didn’t always work well in low light ….


10 11

With this shot of us all sitting around the table, the digital worked much better. The cord would jam if you tried to release it slowly.

The Lomo handled movement much better than the digital although I had to take an interpreter to the skate park as I don’t speak chav.


People like to get involved. Thank you man at the end of the pier.




…and so does the dog. (lovely smile Daisy.)



These weren’t so good but with a bit of digital intervention every one is a winner.



When you have finished your spinning switch the aperture setting to R for Rewind, detach the rubber ring, turn the rewind lever clockwise and don’t stop until the tension slackens, then you know the film is completely rewound. Remove from camera and load another film. Re-position the rubber ring and make sure to change the setting back to sunny or cloudy. If you leave it on R to take your shots your film will be blank.

Films can be developed, scanned to disc with prints... and this is where it all went a bit wrong. After telling me numerous times that they could process the film and scan negs to disc Lomo style, Jessops decided that they couldn’t scan the negs to disc after all as they didn’t have the facility to include the sprocket holes... took them 5 days to work it out. Nuff said.

Unfortunately it got worse, I phoned every lab in Bournemouth and they didn’t have this facility either. One lab found they had problems with light spilling through the neg holes depending on their scanner.

So after wasting a day trying to sort this out I eventually phoned the lovely people at the Lomo lab, they charge £15 per roll to develop, scan to disc and print. So my only option was to go with Lomo online shop. You have a choice between Colour Negative Development (which I used), Black & White Development, and Cross-Processing Development.

In my opinion, if Lomo want to sell more 360 spinners they are going to have to facilitate high street labs offering this service across the country not just in London. Although after talking to Lomo there is a link to various labs that do their processing but unfortunately none in my area.

If you have your own back lit flat bed scanner, scan the negs yourself giving you optimum control over res, saturation etc. coupled with the DigitaLIZA 135 Film Scanning Mask you will hopefully achieve the desired result, although I didn’t try this mask myself.

Value for Money: Spinner 360 Camera - best price Amazon £87 / or £79 with three rolls of film from Lomography (register first), Film - Fuji Superia Xtra X 3 £11.98, Processing 3 films + high res images to disk + prints - from Lomography £15
1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

Spinner 360 Pros:

Great images that can be printed very large
No need for time consuming stitching
Simple to use
Sturdy build
Captures movement
No need for a tripod

Spinner 360 Cons:

The cord would sometimes jam if released slowly
No counter to say how many pics you’ve taken
Lack of local PhotoLabs that can process in this style
The expense of film and the processing of
Waiting for film to be developed
Bulky to carry
No instant view
Not digital

Fujifilm FinePix F500 EXR as a Digital Panoramic Camera

1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

After using a film 360 camera it is only fair to give a digital equivalent the same exposure, so for this review I used the Fujifilm FinePix F500 EXR, the younger brother to the Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR minus GPS and RAW.

A compact and modern design the Fuji F500 offers many features that you would expect from a digital camera, however, for this review, I am only interested in its 360 Panoramic mode. Light weight but compact, this camera comes with the usual battery/ charger/ and uses an SD card.

1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200 1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200 1/200 sec | f/14.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

It’s very easy to navigate through the various menus and to select the Panoramic feature, even with hammer fingers, it couldn’t be easier.

Turn the Mode Dial to Adv. (advanced) and select Motion Panorama 360. From the shooting menu you can select the various image options at this point.

Set the camera to Image quality Fine, unfortunately the only image size setting is S4:3. You can also select different “Film Simulations”, black & white, sepia, Velvia, soft, standard etc…I used standard as it is ideal for a wide range of subjects.

You also have “angle” and “direction” menu.

Panoramic Options Panoramic Options

The angle lets you select a 120, 180 or 360 degree panoramic image very easily whilst the direction menu lets you start shooting from left or right, top or bottom, then press and hold down the shutter release while doing a 360 sweep holding the camera as steady as possible.

You have to be careful not to sweep too slowly or quickly and any erratic hand movements will result in the camera capturing a shortened exposure. If you get The DT’s, forget it.

Once you have finished your 360 sweep the camera does all the stitching itself within the camera. There is no need for frustrating Pano stitching software and hours of PhotoShop work.

Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR Performance

To start with I was using 360 + from left to right and although I was pleased with this photo the resolution was very low, 720 pixels high and 5210 pixels wide for the 360 degree image. Fine if you want an elongated stamp but otherwise not very usable.

1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1250
1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1250

It also didn’t handle movement very well and resulted in faulty stitching or ghosting…sometimes seeing double,(not a very technical term) with noise in low light.

1/120 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 3200
1/120 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 3200
1/150 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800
1/150 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800

1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1000
1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1000

As you can see the above dog shot was a disaster, I took six and none of them stitched successfully due to movement. I also went to the local skate park hoping to get some action shots but none of those worked either. There were a few quizzical looks though, I felt like a rotund Kylie Minogue spinning around, minus the gold shorts of course.

Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR

I then decided I may achieve a better resolution if I changed the direction of the sweep to Up/Down and turned the camera on its side. Resolution is 1080 X 7680.

These reproduced better and I stayed with this mode as you can see in the example below.

1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1250
1/125 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 1250

The camera stitched this shot very well, there are no missing parts, no doubling or ghosting and there is a lot of visual information for it to process,( Its my office, yes I know, it’s a mess) it even handled the variation in exposure without any vertical banding unlike these below.

1/950 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/950 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/240 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800
1/240 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800

As you can see the camera has struggled with the varying light conditions. But sometimes it works well.

1/420 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/420 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/250 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/250 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/350 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/350 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

1/350 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
1/350 sec | f/8.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

And being digital, if it doesn't quite work you can cheat to get the shot you were after.

1/240 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800
1/240 sec | f/3.9 | 6.0 mm | ISO 800

Add your own film strip and the filter of your choice. Download a film strip PSD.

Fuji Panoramic with Film Strip
Fuji Panoramic with Film Strip

Fuji Panoramic with Film Strip
Fuji Panoramic with Film Strip

Fuji, this camera is desperately crying out for a High Res mode. Something like the Sony Cybershot HX9v which captures a capacious 10480 x 4096 resolution, its inability to handle movement also needs addressing.

Nb. For our full review of the Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR - have a look at the Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR review, but ignore any comments about GPS, and RAW, as the F500 does not have these features. Sample photos can be viewed in the equipment database.

Useful Websites: Youtube video on the F500/F550EXR - start half way through.

Fujifilm FinePix F500 EXR Panoramic Pros:

Its digital so the duff shots can be discarded
Solid design
The camera has other functions
You can use the software of your choice
No processing costs
Fits in your coat pocket

Fujifilm FinePix F500 EXR Panoramic Cons:

It doesn’t work very well all the time
Needs higher resolution to be of any use
Fails to handle movement
Sometimes fails to handle varying light conditions
It’s more sausage roll than rock and roll

Spinner 360 vs Digital Panoramic Verdict

To conclude, although both cameras have their pros and cons, for me, I preferred the Spinner 360 by a mile... and will be getting one.

Although waiting to process a film does not give you that instant gratification that digital allows, I found the Spinner 360 pictures to be creative, colourful and vibrant in composition and design. Whereas the digital look like they’ve had the life sucked out and tossed in a muddy puddle; I just need to learn the art of patience while they are being developed... which was quite exciting as it happens.

While the F500 EXR has many other functions, for me, the Fujifilm F500's 360 panoramic feature just didn't work. As it stands, the facility is more of a gimmick rather than a usable function - the resolution is just too small, rendering the photo of little serviceable or printable use. It appears, for the moment, that "the digital camera" has yet to conquer this sweep facility to make it a functional tool in the industry... but I live in hope.

Article by Cathy Taylor.

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CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
Be gentle.......its my first time!!

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Great article Cathy. I can tell you had a lot of fun making it! I've just put the Lomo Spinner 360 on the Christmas list. It truly puts the fun back into film based cameras. I wish there was a 120 version of this as the detail would be incredible.
CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
Mine has just arrived. If you register on the Lomography site http://account.lomography.com/register

you get 10 piggies (10) to put towards your purchase. I bought the camera and a 3 pack of film for 79. Bargain.....and an excellent pressie for Christmas.
Not sure I agree with some of your Cons on the Lomo - no Digital back!? Your buying a film camera!- expense of getting developed and local labs wont do it - Develop yourself! Its not rocket science, and once you've invested a little money in a developing kit you can do 100 of rolls yourself.

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