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The starting point: a better panorama camera

I am a sucker for panoramic photographs. It might be living out here in the West, where the horizon is real and powerful in the way it draws you forward, on to itself, making you wonder what lies ahead. It might be that it defines my wanderlust. Either way, I love that kind of shot.

The obvious choices in Panoramic cameras pretty much boil down to two choices: the Widelux and other swing lens cameras, or the XPan and it’s Fuji brethren.  Both have a down side to me. Swing lens cameras like stationary subject matter, and that’s not always what I want to shoot. The XPan is downright expensive and getting worse every day.

I introduced myself to panoramic shots with a faux panorama plastic camera called the Ansco Pix Panorama, and also tried the Vivitar PN2011. These are little plastic cameras that have a mask so they only use the middle of the framed shot to create a sort of panorama. This was all the rage for a while in the 80s and 90s, then everyone moved on. Using a small part of a 35mm shot led to decidedly grainy pictures and the plastic lenses left much to be desired as well.

So, I began to build myself a panoramic camera of my own.

The donor camera for this is a Kodak Improved Art Deco 616. It has a Compur-Rapid shutter with speeds to 1/400th of a second and a Kodak Anasigmat f4.5 124mm lens. While the bellows are light tight, the slow shutter speeds are dragging and the shutter could use a CLA. I’ll wait and see how successful I am with the rest before I do that. I’m cutting polystyrene sheets to make a ask for panoramic shots, and using adapters to shoot modern 120 film in it, as 616 film has been extinct for over 30 years.

Is it a true panoramic camera? Not really. But it should be a vast improvement over the faux-pano plastics I started with. We’ll see how this ends up.

Photos in the gallery above from the Ansco Pix, three taken on a long drive in my 4Runner, one taken on a hike.