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A broad approach


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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A broad approach

8 Jan 2021 7:26AM   Views : 484 Unique : 361


It’s a long, long time ago that I first heard about panoramic pictures: around 1969 or 1970, there were articles in Photography about an old Kodak panoramic camera that someone had discovered and started using 50 years after its manufacture, and Amateur Photographer reviewed the Russian Horizont. Both were tricky beasties, because the lens moved…

One of the latest gadgets to get popular (there’s a review of one in this week’s AP) is a motorised slider bar, so that a video shot of an essentially static subject has movement: you’ll have seen it in numerous TV programmes – very slow movement of the edges of the frame, either zooming or panning. So slow it’s not noticeable, but just kicks the animation up a notch. But both the Kodak (which used 120 roll film) and the 35mm Horizont used a lens that pirouetted on its optical axis, spraying an image across film that was held in a semi-circle inside the camera.


The professional version, used for countless school and college pictures, apparently moved very slowly, and there are stories of wayward students posing at one end of the image and legging it to the other end, arriving just as the scan was complete… But I am not aware of ever actually seeing such a picture, or meeting a perpetrator.

The Kodak and Horizont cameras were both fixed focus – it’s much more complicated to focus a lens in a rotating mount! Shutter speed was adjustable by altering the rate of rotation in the Kodak, and I rather think that the lens rotation provided the ‘shutter’, while the Horizont had a focal plan shutter with the possibility of altering the width of the slit to give 1/30 to 1/250 second exposure. The aperture was adjustable, too!


The lens is a 28mm f/2.8, and stopped down to around f/11, the depth of field runs from a couple of metres to infinity. It’s unlikely that you’d need more than that, really. The viewfinder slots into a vertical flash shoe like fitting on the front, and there’s a minimalist pistol grip. Why? Because the lens housing sticks out from the front of the camera and gives 120ᵒ field of view, holding the end of the camera leaves fingers in the image. On both sides.

There was a later rebirth, the Horizon, with standard Russian plastic instead of Zenith B style metal. The viewfinder’s attached, but there was no pistol grip…

Rarities, and potentially unreliable: and I was lucky enough to have a hands-on experience with the Noughties alternative: made by Fuji, but sold in Europe as a Hasselblad, the X-Pan has a full range of speeds on the electronic shutter, interchangeable lenses, and even variable format. It is very, very smooth! The standard 45mm f/4 lens gives a mere 75ᵒ coverage, though the wonderful 30mm gives nearly 100ᵒ, But on a very flat piece of film… Like the Russian cameras, the X-Pan produces a negative nearly twice as wide as a standard 35mm camera.


There was a Mark II, but the range was discontinued long ago. Nominally, this was because of the metals used in construction: in reality, perhaps, the onset of digital imaging meant that the days of any panoramic film camera were numbered…

One tip, if you go this sort of direction. ‘Rule of Thirds’ isn’t enough with such a big frame: if you look at Colin Prior’s panoramic landscapes, you’ll see a wealth of subsidiary subjects spread across the frame, telling a complex and satisfying story. Starting out in the Eighties, when he shot with Linhof medium-format cameras taking 3 or 4 frames on a roll of 120 film, Prior is the absolute master of panoramic images… Look up his website.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 Jan 2021 7:26AM
Have a look HERE for an insight into the Horizont...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 Jan 2021 8:42AM
I really meant to include this one, too. So many people never turn their camera on end: an even more pronounced tendency with panoramics. Some might need to turn their TV sets on end, as well...
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
8 Jan 2021 1:25PM
And the gold mask in the last image, whats that all about. Or did you throw that in to make sure we
were paying attention? SmileSmile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 Jan 2021 2:13PM
You sussed it, Dave.

Just avoiding having my face in yet again...
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
11 Jan 2021 7:51AM
Lomo has a plastic panoramic film camera. It works mechanically by pulling down a cord. It spins 360 degrees Probably you can avoid showing yourself if you hold it above your head.
Pentax Theta digital camera has two ultra wide lenses positioned as the faces of Janus, the two faced god of Romans.

pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
11 Jan 2021 7:58AM
I have always evangelised "Frame follows form" so I accept the fact that a long vertical may just be the right option if the form of the photographic subject suits it.
Hence a camera with lots of framing (aspect ratio) options is a nifty piece of kit!

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