Posts Tagged ‘Widelux’

Bow Creek Panoramas – 1992

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

DLR Viaduct, Bow Creek, Leamouth Rd, Leamouth, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1982 92-1j61pr_2400

At the end of 1991 I finally bought my first panoramic camera, a Japanese Widelux F8 which I couldn’t really afford. It was a camera that took around 21 pictures on a 36 exposure film, with the film curved around a part of a cylindrical path with the lens pivoting around the centre of the cylinder.

Bow Creek, Bridges, Leamouth Rd, Tower Hamlets, 1992 92-3a42a_2400

The lens is a 26mm f2.8, though it needs to be stopped down to around f8 for most pictures as the camera is fixed focus at around 6 ft and only gets sharp at infinity when stopped down. Winding on the film winds up a clockwork motor and returns the lens to its starting position. On pressing the shutter the lens swings around through about 140 degrees, exposing the film through a slit at its back which swings across close to the film. It has 3 shutter speeds, 1/15, 1/125, and 1/250th, but even at the fastest speed it still takes rather longer to actually complete the exposure.


The design keeps lens to film distant constant – at around 26mm – right to the edge of the film across a negative 24mm x 56mm. If this was flat, the distance to the corner would be more like 40mm and so objects at the edges get stretched to around 1.5 times actual size. This camera eliminates this distortion, but at the expense of introducing its own which you can see in these pictures. This becomes particularly noticeable in the curvature of most straight non-vertical lines.

Pura Foods, Bow Creek, M & J Reuben, London Sawmills, Wharfside Rd, Newham, 1992 92-3b52_2400

In particular, horizons become curved unless the camera is kept absolutely level. The pictures of Bow Creek were made with the camera on a sturdy tripod and with the help of a spirit level. There is one on the top plate of the camera, but I found a larger separate one more useful.

Bow Creek, Orchard Place, River Thames, Lower Lea Crossing, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1992 92-1n12_leamouth_2400

Although the angle of view is often stated as 140 degrees this is perhaps misleading and I think probably is the angle across the diagonal. Rather more useful is the horizontal angle of view, which I think is just slightly over 120 degrees. Theoretically it would be possible to create a full 360 degree view in three exposures, but practically it needed four, though I don’t think I ever succeeded on the few occasions I tried to make one.

Later I made many more panoramas here and around London, particularly with a similar Russian camera, the Horizon or Horizont which was rather more convenient to use, as well as a few with a much larger medium format version. I also used a Hassleblad X-Pan, a nice camera which was panoramic only in format, with a similar negative size, 58x24mm, but using rectilinear lenses which can’t acheive a really wide angle of view.

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.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.