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Merlin Basic Member
Wed 10-Oct-01 06:11 AM

John Schroeder's Panorama thread may have got started in the wrong place, but he's got a very valid question. For what it’s worth…

I have one of these Horizon 202 panorama cameras. It's a mixed blessing.

First, the good news: you get a rotating 28mm fixed focus lens that relies on hyperfocal distance for quite impressive depth of field... even wide open everything from about four meters to infinity will be sharp. The actual optical quality is pretty good - mine is multi-coated, but I understand quite a few left the production line with single coated lenses. The initials "MC" on the lens will tell you. If you're prepared to work slowly, and make sure you keep the camera absolutely level - easy to do because the viewfinder includes a bubble-type spirit level – you’ll get awesome results.

Now the bad news… never, and I include all the Korean supermarket-specials, the Lomo, and the legendary Zeniths, have I handled a camera as badly built as this one! The plastic Sweetex dispenser on my desk is a precision instrument compared to the Horizon; it just can’t take photographs. The winding lever wouldn’t survive the attentions of an average nine-year-old for more than five minutes. Loading film is a job for a trained hamster, preferably an ambidextrous one. Closing and opening the back is best handled with the kind of attention you’d normally devote to an unexploded hand grenade – one wrong move and you’re likely to break off the plastic locking tab, nixing your investment in Ukrainian technology.

I’ve had no trouble with light leaks, but BIG problems with scratched film. A very close inspection of the film gate under a magnifying glass revealed a Himalayan landscape of rough plastic edges – tiny little knives poised to gouge tramlines onto the emulsion side. A couple of hours with 1600-grade glass paper and a final polish using Brasso (!) completed the manufacturing process and film now travels through intact. However, I advance film VERY slowly and I’d advise you to do the same!

The Horizon comes with a neat little hand-grip that bayonets into a slot on the camera base. THROW IT AWAY IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT USE IT! The reason for the capitals is that I’ve already had it separate from the camera once. There I was, holding the hand grip in my clenched fist, with an idiotic grin pasted on my face, watching my Ukrainian wonder weapon whiz along the carpet away from me. By the grace of God, it didn’t break. Buy one of those little grips that screw into the tripod socket, and you should be okay.

Talking of tripods, for some reason I just can’t fathom out, attaching the Horizon to a tripod leaves a 6mm gap between the camera and the tripod. I can only assume that during the planning stage, somebody in the factory spilt a bottle of vodka over a technical drawing, used his sleeve to blot it up, and, fearing discovery and subsequent continuation of his career in a Siberian salt mine, drew a line over the mess with a pencil.

Is it worth the money? Frankly, no. I bought mine used, and paid the equivalent of $250 for it, a fraction of the official price, so I guess I got a bargain. Used gently, it works very well. For black and white panoramas, I modified a 6x6 negative carrier so printing is no problem using an 80mm enlarger lens. As for slides, if you own a 6x6 projector - I have an old, manual AGFA machine – you can use regular 6x6 or 645 slide mounts and mask them with black tape to project. Results? To be fair they’re pretty impressive. The rotating lens mechanism seems robust enough – why they enclosed it in such a feeble plastic housing remains one of life’s mysteries.



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