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.
#3. "RE: "Panorama camera"" | In response to Reply # 1Wed 10-Oct-01 01:27 PM
Here's some interesting material on the Noblex:
The slowest speed of the rotating shutter is 1 second, so to get more time you do multiple exposures. The 135U and 135S with the best features run $1600 and $1700 respectively at B&H (special order). Then there's the additional Panolux metering module for $700.
Keep in mind that with the rotating drum, there are odd things that happen with moving subjects. That can be fun, but also very limiting. I'd also point out that it takes much longer to make an exposure than the shutter speed indicated. For example, a 1/15 sec exposure takes a few seconds to complete.
At least for now, I'm happy with a more flexible and user friendly Xpan...
#2. "RE: Panorama camera" | In response to Reply # 0
Excellent review, well told...
I noticed that the new photo.net product review has the Horizon 202 and the 202s. The 202s overview is quite amusing:
It looks like the additional $300 gets you 1/500 shutter speed and a silent camera. Is the whirring sound that loud on the 202 that it's worth so much to get rid of it?
#4. "RE: Panorama camera" | In response to Reply # 2Wed 10-Oct-01 05:44 PM
No, the noise is not that bad. A cross between the cheapest mechanical self-timer and one of those little clockwork mice we used to have as kids. The first time I tried it out the cats ran like hell, but we've had no complaints from local farmers that their chickens have stopped laying eggs...
It's got two speed ranges: slow (1/2, 1/4 and 1/8th) and fast (1/60, 1/125, and 1/250). Fast bothers nobody, but slow takes about one-point-something seconds and sounds like a wasp with a grudge.
Perhaps I'm being unfair to the camera - it's not in the Noblex class, but I've seen some magnificent work created by them, and used CAREFULLY it certainly does a great job. Unlike a normal wide angle lens, straight lines remain straight and the almost 180 degree coverage is impressive. I just wish they hadn't saved money cutting the wrong corners - a solid metal body would have probably not increased the price by more than $50 in the manufacturing stage, and it would have been a champion!
I'll try to do some more work with it and give you a better impression. Wish I was better organized!
#5. "RE: Panorama camera" | In response to Reply # 4Thu 11-Oct-01 08:40 PM
It's not the camera, but the photographer that makes the worthy image ...so long as the camera doesn't explode !
I remember when "made in Japan" was a sure sign of cheap junk. I wouldn't be surprised to see much better quality out of the former Eastern Bloc in years to come...
#6. "RE: Panorama camera" | In response to Reply # 5Thu 11-Oct-01 09:18 PM
LAST EDITED ON Oct-12-01 AT 01:19 AM (GMT)
If only they'd find some other gainful employment for their former Olympic shot-putters and wrestlers, rather than giving them jobs in the quality control sections of camera factories!
Nothing wrong with their recent glassware, though, and if they'd talk just ONE decent Japanese engineer into helping them out with building a surviveable camera body...