Sunday, December 19, 2010

Horizon 202 Panoramic camera

I have always been interested in panoramic photos. Even before the advent of digital stitching I have a couple of specialized rotating lens cameras purchased around 15+ years ago. I have them in two formats: 35 mm which produces a negative 24x58 which people now call Xpan format, and a Noblex 6/150F which uses 120 roll film in 6x12 format. I find the the Horizon 202 is an easy camera to carry around. I often take it on trips and have many photos taken in Newfoundland as it fits easily into a waist pouch.


I have a few Russian cameras & lenses and find that their optics are very sharp. This model has the Arsat lens and rotates to yield a 120 degree view. It has a mechanical mechanism so requires NO batteries. You get around 18-19 shots on a 36 exposure roll of film

(taken from the website)

These cameras are now relatively cheap but not so when I purchased mine many years ago when I had to pay over double the current price. My friend brought it back for me from Prague when he was there visiting.

(top view)

Russian cameras are known for their crude workmanship where the gears are rough. I was lucky that my camera is very smooth in operation thus has no banding issues. The image is produced as the lens rotates through a slit which the light splashes onto the film in a curved arc. There is no distortion on the edges of the image as you are always using the centre of the lens, unlike most wide angle lenses. Your images are sharp across the full width.


There is a viewfinder on top along with a level, which can be viewed inside the finder. It is a completely manual camera in operation and you require your own light meter. I use a digital Gossen, or you can guess your exposure using the sunny 16 rule.

I have never used a tripod with this camera and always shoot handheld. It has a unique way of shooting in low light. Because of the rotating lens you cannot get blur for if you are not steady the lens has moved to a new location. It only affects horizontal straight lines. If you choose your perspectives carefully you should not have a problem. Also unique is the way you set the exposure for low light. You have a two speed mechanical motor; high and low. When on low speed you also open up the slit gap which lets more light upon the film plane, so a 1/2 sec exposure is not really half a second.

I took my Horizon 202 to the IMS Motorcycle Show in Seattle a week ago and took this image from the mezzanine.

You may have to CLICK on the photos BELOW to view full SCREEN

ims seattle motorcycle qwest centre
(Horizon 202: 1/2 sec F8)

This was 10 year outdated Fuji Sensia Fujichrome 100, scanned on Epson Flat bed scanner. Focussing is achieved through selection of appropriate F stops.

This following image was taken inside of a cafe on Commercial Drive

the drive vancouver

and this is a scene from False Creek, Government Wharf


I had not used this camera for several years and these images are from my first test roll to ensure the camera was functioning correctly


  1. What an interesting camera. I've never seen anything like it. I never thought about how panoramas were done before Photoshop!

  2. Great images! I always wanted a Panoramic camera, but they were just out of reach do to the cost. I have tried to stitch a few digital images but was never satisfied with the results. Seems you really need to rotate the camera on the nodle point, just to much work... I may have to look into a Horizon if the price has dropped. GAW

  3. oops! how about nodal point instead of nodle...

  4. Great post. I've looked at pano cameras in the past but too specialized. I usually settled for taping prints together. To minimize distortion, you had to overlap the shots by about 60%. Have you tried the new P&S cameras where you just scan the scene with the shutter release pressed and the images are stitched in real time? I don't remember who makes them.


  5. Very cool indeed. I have seen these before but didn't know much about them. I like it as it adds a new dimension that most people don't have. I wish I had one and had taken it on my tour.

  6. We used to have our school photographs taken with a panoramic device although it seemed to produce a single image? Trick was to run around the back of the group and appear twice in the photo.

  7. that's some nices panos that camera produced! I hope my replacement camera (currently sitting wrapped up under the Christmas tree) does panoramic shots close to the ones you posted!


    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

    Redleg's Rides

  8. Very interesting. I hadn't seen that camera before. For the most part you make it sound easy to use. The images you posted are great. Can see some people had remained still for longer periods of time, while others were caught "in motion". It adds a great effect. But really like the lines of the wharf. -Lori

  9. BlueKat:

    I got hooked on panorama cameras perhaps 20 years ago. When I found out about this camera I just had to have one. Then I purchased another one as a spare. Still brand new in a box never used. Sitting for nearly 15 years on a shelf. I also have a Russian FT2 which I have never used. Plus I can shoot panos in my Mamiya 7 as I have the 35mm adapter


    Often you cannot stitch due to the movement. On a landscape it is okay, but where there are people walking around you have to take the one shot. Under one of the photos there is a link to

    These Horizon 202's produce a very sharp image and they are now fairly inexpensive, half of what I paid for mine. You will love the 24x58 format (same as Xpan)


    I tried the Sony iSweep but the images can only be used for the WEB. Also due to concave/convex problems you should never set your lens to wide angle which the Sony requires you to do. You will not end up with enough megapixels to make a large print.

  10. Gary:

    I have actually taken wedding photos with one. The aspect ratio makes your photos unique in that most people are not accustomed to seeing them. I took one from the top balcony in a church and have everyone in the photo, with the bride and groom at the top.
    I also took a photo of the whole wedding party standing beside each other shoulder to shoulder, which is a very unusual group pose.
    You should have said something. I have a brand new spare Horizon 202 which I could have sent you. There is a trick to loading the film


    Perhaps it was a spinshop. Many years ago there was someone converting Olympus Stylus film cameras to shoot panoramas. The built in motordrive continuously wound the film as the camera rotated, so both were rotating in opposing directions at the same time

    ps: I am having a hard time imagining you running


    I know you stitch a lot of panos. Hope Santa is kind to you.


    the camera is very easy to use. You just have to be careful how you hold it or your fingers will be in the photo on both sides. I shot that IMC photo at 1/2 sec. During the daytime in normal sunlight, all action will be sharp. I shot a soccer game with the camera and you see a lot of action in the photo

  11. Bob

    I think that you are mistaking me for Jack R.: I have been known to run a mile in under 4 hours.

    Fondest regards,
    Nick • eats • Meatballs
    Nikos World