photography, writing, fine art... stuff ... other stuff ...


6 x 15 cm panoramic camera

Took the chance to experiment with different methods for making panoramic images. Had a lot of fun with a Horizon 202, a swing-lens camera which makes a 58mm long negative on 35mm film ... not quite twice as long as a normal 35mm frame. As the lens rotates during the exposure, it creates an unusual perspective effect, with objects nearer the centre of the frame seeming larger than you would expect in a normal photograph (in fact this is really a more accurate perspective view from a fixed point than we are used to).

Tried using a curved mirror, which has an anamorphic effect, comprssing the image horizontally. I shot self-portraits with a digital camera, then stretched the images in Photoshop to restore more natural proportions.

My favourite panoramic turned out to be a self-build ... or at least, a DIY butchery job on what was once an innocent medium format camera, an inexpensive Agfa 6x6. I took an angle grinder to it, cut it down the middle, and stretched the film gate, using plastic profiles marketed for model railway nuts to construct the extended rails along which the edges of the film run. I played about with the two halves of the camera, holding them apart till the film gate's proportions pleased me. I did this several times, and each time I measured the resulting film gate, I got a figure of 6x15cm, so that's what I shoot. A piece of sheet steel bridged the gap in the camera's top plate, and a piece of hardwood made up the base plate, into which I let a 1/4 inch nut for the tripod. The viewfinder is made from a supplementary lens I found in my box of junked camera parts ... it was designed initially, I'd guess, for a video camera, as a telephoto/wideangle adapter. Masked down with black card and fixed in place with epoxy putty, it does a reasonable job.

The lens is a Tominon 127mm, in a Copal press shutter. There are plenty of these Tominon lenses on eBay at the moment for $30 to $80, in a range of focal lengths. The diagonal of the negative for 6x15 is almost exactly the same as for 4x5inch, and as the Tominon 127 covers 4x5, I could be confident of it covering my neg. The lens sits on a cardboard and gaffer tape mount at a distance from the film plane chosen to put the focus about 2.5 metres out from the camera. With flash I can shoot indoors at f32 or f45, using an inexpensive flashgun designed for 35mm cameras. Flash coverage is fine, because the flashgun is intended for a 35mm standard lens of around 50mm focal length, way wider than the 127 Tominon, and at the small apertures I get massive depth of field. For available light shooting, I can bring the focus in using dioptre lenses; I epoxied a 49mm filter ring onto the face of the Copal shutter, so I can use standard 35mm filters. A +1 dioptre lens brings focus in to 75mm, and a +2 brings it in to 45mm, good for body details.