Posts Tagged ‘Horizon’

Digital Panoramas on the Thames Path

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Digital Panoramas on the Thames Path
I’ve long had an interest in panoramic photographs, both in taking them and also appreciating the work of well-known photographers who have made panoramic images. From the earliest days some photographers wanted to make pictures with a wider field of view than was possible with a normal camera and lenses, and the first patent for a specialised panoramic camera was filed in Austria in 1843, using a curved Daguerreotype plate and rotating lens.

The earliest existing panoramic photographs appear to be those by Friedrich von Martens made in the early 1840s – such as this example on Wikimedia dated from 1846. There are also paper prints from the same era, presumably made from calotype negatives. As well as making single exposures with an angle of view of around 150°, von Martens and others made panoramas using multiple exposures, often with normal lenses. Martens produced what was probably the first 360° panorama using three curved Daguerreotype plates.

Normally we use cameras with rectilinear lenses to render straight lines in the subject as straight lines in the picture. But as the distance from the lens centre to the film or sensor gets longer towards the edges and corners, the image magnification also increases. This begins to be noticeable with extreme wideangle lenses, although more of a problem with some subject matter than others.

Although I’ve worked with a full-frame lens at 12mm, I’ve found that for general purposes a practical limit is around 15-16mm with 18mm generally more useful, corresponding to an horizontal angle of view of 90°. Beyond that the image stretching usually becomes too noticeable.

The first really popular specialised panoramic film cameras were the 1899 #4 Kodak Panoram and the Circut, patented in 1904 and produced in a range of sizes until 1945. Some were still in use until recently for producing long roll photographs of perhaps 800 pupils sitting in rows on the school field. They rotated slowly enough for some students to run around the back of the group and appear at both ends. Cameras of this type were used to great effect by photographers including Josef Sudek.

Having made several multi-image panoramas and found the process limiting I bought my first rather more modest panoramic camera, a Japanese Widelux taking images on 35mm film in 1991. Later I bought a Russian Horizon which gave similar results, and a 120 format Chinese model. I still have these along with a Hasselblad X-Pan, not really a true panoramic camera, but using a panoramic format – with the standard lens it only gives a similar angle of view to a 28mm lens, and even with the 30mmm wideangle I mainly used only around a 90° angle of view.

These cameras were the main reason I continued using some film after going digital in 2002. But some years later I found a way of working with digital cameras to make panoramic images, using a fisheye lens and then ‘defishing’ this with software to give a similar image to those made with the swing lens cameras.

These pictures were taken seven years ago on a short walk along one of my favourite sections of the Thames Path in London, from Vauxhall to Wandsworth on Sunday 5th January 2014.

I took images handheld with a Nikon D800E using a Nikon 16mm f2.8 fisheye lens, and later converted them using an Equirectangular projection in PTGui software. I now generally use the more convenient Lightroom Export plug-in https://www.imadio.com/products/prodpage_hemi.aspx ‘Fisheye-Hemi’ from Imadio.

You can see larger images and many more from the walk at Thames Path Panoramas on My London Diary.


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Panoramic Carnival 1992

Sunday, October 11th, 2020
Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992

Although I’d been making the occasional panoramic image over the years, taking a series of pictures and painstakingly cutting and pasting several prints to produce a seldom quite convincing join, it was only late in 1991 that I finally bought a camera capable of taking true panoramic images.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92001_2400

It’s hard now to imagine how difficult it was to produce panoramic images back in those pre-digital days – unless you could afford an expensive panoramic camera. Nowadays many cheaper digital cameras come with a ‘panoramic’ mode (though I’ve never managed to use one to produce an image that survived close scrutiny) and both specialised “stitching” software and more general programs such as Photoshop make joining several frames just a matter of a few clicks.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92004_2400

It was the Soviet Union, and Krasnogorsky Mechanicheskiy Zavod  (KMZ) that first introduced a reasonably priced panoramic camera to a wider audience, with the Horizont, available from 1966-73, but at the time I wasn’t interested in panoramic photography. Like their Zenith SLR cameras which I started serious photography with this was pretty basic and had a possibly undeserved reputation as being something of a problem to use.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92011_2400

When I bought my first panoramic camera in 1991 it was a Japanese model, a Widelux F8, a similar swing lens camera to the Horizont but with a wider 140 degree angle of view and rather smoother operation. It was also considerably more expensive and I think cost me almost a month’s salary.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92020_2400


Although the camera worked smoothly, its viewfinder was abysmal, and I made landscape pictures with the camera on a tripod and using two arrows showing the field of view on the top of the camera body, with a spirit level in the accessory shoe to level the camera. But for the carnival and similar images of events I used it handheld.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92022_2400

In later years I bought the revised version of the Russian camera, now with a similar mechanism encased in a plastic body and called Horizon (there were several slightly different models.) The viewfinder was so much better than than Widelux and thankfully incorporated a spirit bubble – and the cameras were less than a tenth of the price (I used at least two over the years, one ridiculously cheap from a clearly illegal operation in the Ukraine, evading any customs duties.)

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92024_2400

The only colour images I can find from Notting Hill Carnival in 1992 were taken with the Widelux, and appear to have been taken in two relatively short periods, one on Ladbroke Grove and the other on Elkstone Rd. There are some more, some rather similar to those in this post, in my Flickr album Notting Hill Panoramas -1992.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.