F2-72 Panoramic Camera


One major point of debate when it comes to panoramic photography is which aspect ratio is needed in order for an image to be called 'panoramic'. For me this starts at an aspect ratio of about 1:2.5. Thus, I wouldn't call 6x12 panoramic. For some reason this 1:2 aspect ratio looks to 'square' to me. Almost like looking at two square 6x6 frames being butted together.
The Hasselblad Xpan with it's 1:2.7 (24x65mm) is right at the edge of where it starts to get panoramic for me. I have seen many photographs taken with an Xpan where I thought the image could be slightly wider. And since the 30mm lens for the Xpan is getting more expensive each week it seems, I decided to go to the workshop and build my own camera from parts I had available. For reasons of portability and film availability I decided to go with 35mm film instead of roll-film.

In a way the resulting camera is similar to the Pannaroma that was build in small numbers by Thomas Roma. His camera was a Nikon F body milled out to give a 24x72mm frame (1:3 aspect ratio) and used a Mamiya 6.3/50mm lens. However, I wanted to go wider... (but built a Pannaroma knock-off anyway)

Pictured above is a Nikon F2 stripped down to the essentials. (All Nikon F2 lovers please forgive me! I swear this camera was already broken before I took it apart.)
The lens is a Sinaron digital 4.5/35mm lens with a 120° angle of coverage. It seems to be a re-branded (or slightly modified) Rodenstock Apo-Grandagon. The image circle is large enough to almost cover 6x12. (See Gary Alexander's website for a camera that uses the 35mm Apo-Grandagon in front of a 6x12 back.)
In order to get the panoramic image I milled out the film frame to twice it's normal width. So in order to transport the film to the next frame I simply wind twice. Consequently, image format is 24x72mm resulting in a 1:3 aspect ratio and 18 exposures per film.
Since the flange-focal distance of the lens is 43.2mm and the F-2 body is rather thick there was no place to fit a ready-made helical focus mount between the two. So I had to go with fix-focus, setting the lens to it's hyper-focal distance for f11.

Due to the rather large diameter of the lens and the limited hight of the camera body the lens is mounted with about 3mm upwards shift. Light fall-off in the corners is about 1.3 stops. The Rodenstock center filter corrects about 80% of this.

In order to make taking pictures more predictable I installed a 15mm Voigtländer finder. The finder's internal image mask is reduced to the correct format using black masking tape. In place of the dial that selects the exposure time on a regular F2 I have a bubble level installed.

© 2009 by Olaf Matthes