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Panoramic Film Cameras

17 Jul 2012 8:45PM

I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on the situation I have.

I absolutely love panoramic photography, there is something so special about it in my opinion, its just a great format to view and I find myself more and more often, cropping my files to a panoramic format or stitching images together in PS (this can be unreliable though with digital images and is also very limiting as to what you can do it with, i.e. not long exposures etc?)

So I've been thinking long and hard about perhaps getting a panoramic film camera, but it would mean selling all my canon 5dmk2 and lenses etc to fund it, i'd also need a scanner too.

I was just wondering if you thought this was a sensible move? I 'm very serious about my photography, I sell my work and one day, who knows, I could hopefully do it professionally (everyone probably says this lol) do you think having just a panoramic camera would hinder my progress and opportunity, i.e. commissions etc
I've never really shot with film before so it would be a huge change and learning curve for me, so any insight you can give would be great.
One of my concerns would be the lack of live view etc, I mean, in rapidly changing light, say sunset for example, how can you get your exposure sorted so quickly etc without having live view? surely taking average readings with a light meter would simply take too long? or does this all come with experience?

I know this is huge so I don't expect a reply but if you do, I'd appreciate it tremendously.

Many thanks, and inspiring work!

Simon Atkinson

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Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
17 Jul 2012 9:30PM
It's a massive step if you have no film experience.
There are several ways into film panoramics. There are purpose built cameras with interchangeable lenses (Linhof, Fuji 612 and 617), rollfilm backs for large format cameras, adapters for medium-format cameras (Mamiya, Bronica etc), swing lens cameras (Horizon, Widelux), wide angle 35mm (Hasselblad X-pan) or even DIY projects. You can even just crop an image, but obviously you lose some of the frame and need to enlarge more.
For a purpose built camera, you can be talking big bucks, even secondhand, though a Horizon 202 will get you started cheaply if you can find a good one (Soviet equipment has quality control issues!). Or a Lubitel with panoramic adapter should be less than 30 if you shop around. Consider a cheap 5x4 with a 6x12 rollfilm back perhaps - probably for less than 500.

Interesting why you don't want to stitch panoramics with your digital camera, which will give you all the advantages you are looking for?

Film use comes easier with experience. Metering gets faster the more frequently you practice, but the light rarely changes so quickly you can't adapt to it. With any larger format photography, I find spot metering more accurate, and if you keep your Canons, you can use them to meter. With a little practice, you will know how particular film stock behaves in different light (if you plan low light work, you need to account for reciprocity failure, which doesn't occur with digital).
If you use rollfilm or smaller, it will be easier to get developed and scanned, though specialist developing doesn't come cheap. If you can scan your own, you can get the film developed only and not cut, as some machines will cut right through your frames! Hand processing is better, especially if you do it yourself.

Much to think about!

17 Jul 2012 9:51PM
Thank you for the detailed response sooty.

I forgot to mention that it would indeed be a purpose built panoramic camera I would purchase, i.e. fuji gx617 etc.

I just find digital stitching abit hit and miss sometimes, would this be solved if I bought a purpose made pano head? to cure all alignment issues? the other problem with digital stitching is, I wouldn't be able to do longer exposures would i? even of just a few seconds because the water and or clouds would be different in each frame?

There is definitely alot to think about and in most cases I will probably stick to digital for the time being, but I am so tempted to make the jump...
Martin54 12 542 United Kingdom
17 Jul 2012 10:00PM
Hi Simon, have you tried stitching panoramas with PTGui ? It really is a breeze with this package, you can download a free demo from the site if you want to give it a go. A lot cheaper to buy than a panoramic camera and with a lot more options.
Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
17 Jul 2012 10:28PM
Personally, I think if you got rid of all your digital gear, you would find just a pano camera extremely limiting. Why not hire one for a trial and see if you get on with it?
There is no reason you couldn't use digital for long exposures, just make sure you overlap by a significant amount. Long exposures will give blurred water and clouds anyway, so they should blend ok.
Alignment problems happen most with wider lenses. If you cannot rotate the lens around its nodal point, you will get small parallax errors. Try using a longer lens and shooting more frames to cover the width you need. You can also do more than one row of shots, and if your software only stitches horizontally, stitch in two or more rows, turn the results 90 degrees and stitch the rows together before rotating back.

17 Jul 2012 11:25PM
Thanks for the advice guys, i'll try everything you have both mentioned Smile
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
17 Jul 2012 11:47PM
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13 502 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 8:47AM
I think that getting rid of all your camera gear will be a waste and cost you a lot more in the long run. The way to do proper panoramic shots is with a pano head - I use the Manfrotto 303 SPH. Once set up for your camera will give you perfectly stitchable shots and a lot cheaper than buying a pano camera.


It will also allow you to do full 360 spherical panaramics - as if you are in a ball and looking around up and down.

The key to successful panoramics is panning the camera on the nodal point of the lens (where the light rays cross) which is about two thirds along the length of the lens.

Good luck


Oh, and also set your camera to manual exposure and focus.
puertouk 6 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 8:59AM
Pauls right, go for that gizmo and also purchase professional pano software (Kolor Autopano Giga) Far cheaper than just going for a specialist camera, plus you keep your 5d MKII.
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
18 Jul 2012 10:05AM
It would, as you say, be a big step.

Whether you take it, I suggest, depends on what interests you most - the results or the process.

If you are seriously interested in the process of shooting film using a specialist panoramic camera and becoming intimately involved in the processing of films and then possibly scanning to produce digital files (If I was going there I would be taking the proper printing as part of the entire silver halide process and would see scanning as a step backwards from that), then you have several suggestions for cameras above. My personal choice would probably be the Hasselblad X-Pan as 35mm film might be simpler for you.

But if it is just the results that interest you, then the advent of the 36Mp Nikon D800 has changed the game completely. With it, you can use an ultra-W/A or fisheye lens to take a single shot and then you have plenty of resolution to top- and bottom-slice it to produce a classical panorama with perspective adjustments being applied in Lightroom (or similar).
mattw 14 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 12:35PM
Ah, I'l love to try a Fuji 617 one day. However I don't know I would want to see the 5D2 for the privilege (and I take note that most of the old 617 devotees such as David Noton and Colin Proir ditched their 617s for DSLRs several years ago).

To be honest now, I would love to get a Tilt Shift lens for stitching panoramas without parallax error, although they do cost a bit.

For example
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
18 Jul 2012 1:46PM
These days isn't it a lot simpler just to use a high res digital camera plus medium wide angle lens, and then just crop to your requirements?

It also gives you more control of your aspect ratio, which you can choose to suit the photo, rather than being locked in to a specific ratio.

Just a thought. Smile
Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 3:41PM
A tilt/shift lens won't solve parallax problems for stitching pictures together digitally, as tilting will change the plane of focus and shifting will change perspective. Only rotation around the nodal point will eliminate parallax change, and that position is different in each different lens.

mattw 14 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 4:36PM
Have you used one Nick?

I think the idea is to use the 'shift' movement rather then the 'tilt' in order to utilize the greater image circle from the tilt shift lens. From the link I gave:

One can create digital panoramas by using a sequence of shifted photographs. This technique has the advantage of not moving the optical center of the camera lens, which means that one can avoid having to use a panoramic head to prevent parallax error with foreground subject matter. Another potential benefit is that the final composite photo will retain the rectilinear perspective of the original lens.

Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2012 8:01PM
I've never used a shift lens for panoramics, but I use large format with full movements, so am quite conversant with them. You would have to adjust shift for every single frame of a panorama, so it is possible but is more laborious than using a panoramic head (an option is to get a cheap macro focus stage to mount between camera and tripod so you can adjust nodal point). The whole idea for the OP was to shoot quickly.
Unless you have close foreground objects and wide lenses, it isn't much of an issue anyway.


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