Searching for the Perfect Panoramic Camera


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A number of years again, I managed to discover a beater of a Hasselblad XPan for a music. I’ve tried to discover a capturing model that may assist me stand out from the gang, and the panoramic format appealed to me. I did not understand it on the time, however this buy despatched me down a relatively obsessive path, looking for one of the best panoramic cameras for information and editorial work.

To be sincere, it has been a little bit of a visit down the rabbit gap. Whereas the XPan might be essentially the most well-known physique (and rightly so), it is from the one panoramic digital camera helpful on this function. In actual fact, there are a number of cases the place it is lower than superb. 

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XPans have a number of issues going for them that make them the only option in most circumstances. First, the standard of the lenses is prime notch. The optics charge up there with among the highest high quality lenses of the period: they’re sharp, contrasty, and with virtually no chromatic aberration or undesirable flare, even with no lens hood. Second, not like different devoted 35mm panoramic cameras, the XPan is a rangefinder physique, which permits for much extra exact focusing. Third, the digital camera permits for aperture precedence capturing, which lets you focus on composing your picture relatively than determining your publicity values. In a newsgathering surroundings, these are all extraordinarily precious options. You need to have the ability to work in a rush, in spite of everything. 

So, the place does the XPan not work out as effectively? And what cameras do I flip to for these instances? 

Hasselblad and Fuji solely launched three lenses for the XPan physique: a 30mm, a 45mm, and a 90mm. I personal the final two, however the 30mm is relatively costly and out of doors my present finances. For large angle work, I’ve turned to 2 totally different our bodies: my Widelux FV and a handful of Horizon-series cameras. Each the Widelux and the Horizon function lenses that rotate on a central axis, with an finish outcome that’s much like an XPan, but additionally very totally different in a number of key methods. First, the XPan exposes to a flat floor, whereas the Horizon and Widelux have a curved movie airplane. This makes for fascinating wide-angle photographs, however it could additionally distort your picture, notably should you do not take the time to correctly compose your shot or should you’re too near your topic. Additionally they lack any type of automation: no gentle meters, no automated publicity. The Widelux has a much better lens, although the FP is an earlier mannequin and may be troublesome to service. The Horizon is way cheaper (and nonetheless out there model new!) however is a product of Soviet-era engineering. Most trendy examples are wonderful, however the high quality management for earlier fashions was everywhere. 

With rotating-lens cameras, you run the danger of banding points. Banding is when you’ve gotten uneven exposures because the digital camera rotates, resulting in streaks in your picture that can not be simply repaired in put up. They’re delicate items of apparatus, and there isn’t any guide focus both: for something nearer than six toes your solely choice is to shut your aperture down, which might not be superb in sure settings. However the benefits are nonetheless there: for large angle or inventive pictures, the rotating lens can do issues the XPan simply is not able to. I extremely recommend studying a few of Jeff Bridges’ books. He is been capturing his Widelux on set for many years and has produced some actually exceptional work through the years. I’d additionally recommend having a look on the work of Teru Kuwayama, who introduced his Widelux with him whereas embedded in Afghanistan.

I are likely to carry the Widelux when there’s not a bodily hazard to the digital camera itself and once I wish to put an emphasis on picture high quality. As I stated, the digital camera is 60-plus years outdated and is troublesome to service. Bob Watkins at DAG Digicam Restore has serviced mine through the years and does superb work, however he is a part of a quickly shrinking group of technicians able to repairing or CLAing these our bodies. If there’s an opportunity of bodily injury (whereas overlaying, for instance, protests or the rest the place there’s an opportunity for bodily impacts or environmental injury), I will carry certainly one of my Horizon cameras. They’re comparatively rugged, and it is cheaper to exchange them if issues go pear formed. 

There are different choices I’ve explored as effectively. Noblex makes a collection of rotating lens cameras, each in 35mm and medium format that are speculated to be superb. Lomography launched a panoramic Holga a number of years again, which is surprisingly spectacular and which I will carry out with me from time to time when the temper strikes me. When you shoot giant format, there’s plenty of 6×12 by 6×17 adapters, however these are cumbersome and are not usually suited to the form of work I do. It’s also possible to discover any variety of panoramic 35mm adapters for medium format cameras, however they run into the identical points as the big format ones: they’re troublesome to alter out within the area or once you’re in a rush. They’re nice for panorama or sure editorial work the place you’ve gotten loads of time to fiddle with them, however should you’re in the midst of a press briefing, large protest, otherwise you’re hanging out the again of an plane in flight, they’re simply an excessive amount of work for me.

Lastly, there’s plenty of level and shoots and SLRs which have panoramic capabilities, nevertheless it’s essential to notice that these will not be the identical as true panoramic cameras like those talked about above. For essentially the most half, these merely crop down a regular 35mm body to panoramic dimensions: in different phrases, you are dropping a ton of element. That stated, I’ve had some actually nice outcomes with the Nikon N70QD. Mixed with a pointy lens just like the 105mm f/1.4 or an 18mm f/2.8, and you may make some fascinating and distinctive pictures. To my information, there isn’t any devoted “true” panoramic 35mm SLR, although I’ve seen some fascinating selfmade our bodies through the years.

To say that information and editorial work is troublesome could be a large understatement. It is deeply aggressive, and there is a whole lot of underemployed shooters on the market. It’s a must to hold searching for methods to face out from the gang. My panoramic work won’t ever substitute my digital cameras for day-to-day capturing, however there’s at all times going to be a minimum of one in my digital camera bag always. You by no means know when will probably be helpful.


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