Review: The Widelux Mechanical Panoramic Camera from 1960


ed9119

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#1
Mr Kwan Kee brought along a few cameras yesterday for me to catalog and among these cameras was The Widelux.

This is a fully mechanical swing-lens panoramic camera that was first developed in Japan in 1948 in both 35mm and medium-format models.

The Widelux manages to capture 140 degrees field of view in those days via a 26mm lens that pivots on an axis when the shutter is released.

This pivoting allows for some special effects not available with traditional cameras.

The 'newest' model as of 2006 is the F8 ..... Mr Kuan Kee showed me his ...... an F5 from 1960

This camera from 1960 has a set focus distance ....... 3 feet to inifinity ....... the 2006 model has a set focus from 5 ft to infinity.

There are 3 shutter speeds of 1/10 , 1/100 and 1/300 sec

Trivia fact, the Widelux in its latter years has been used on some NASA missions for its 140° coverage. Of course this model from 1960 did not make it into space as there was no space program then on both sides of the Cold War

Another Trivia .... The Widelux trademark has still a lot of fans and users: one of them is the actor/photographer Jeff Bridges who published a book of his panoramic pictures in 2004.[1]



With the back opened


The back...... notice the unique position where the Lock and Unlock switch is located
 

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ed9119

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#2
The Widelux uses what is called a short rotation, rotating lens that swings from left to right.

Normally, swing lens cameras have a fixed focal length lens that rotates around the camera's rear nodal point and use a curved film plane.

As a photograph is taken, the lens pivots around its nodal point.

A thin slit exposes a slice of light on a strip of film vertically from one side to another in one smooth movement. This exposure normally lasts for a fraction of a second. And usually, these cameras have a field of view between 110° to 140° and an aspect ratio of 2:1 to 4:1. The Widelux swings 140 degrees. This image that is produced occupies 1.5 and 3 times as much space on the negative as a standard 24 x 36mm frame.

Cameras of this type include not only the Widelux but other brands like the Noblex, and the Horizon as well. If you go around Peninsula area in Singapore, you should be able to run into a few copies in great condition. The medium format versions like the Linhof Technorama 6x17 run about US$11,000 even today. So the 35mm versions like this Widelux are a very affordable way to go traditional panaorama.

Because of the pivoting, traditional panoramic cameras usually come with very few shutter speeds coupled with poor focusing abilities..... as stated above, the Widelux focuses from 3ft to infinity

Its aperture dial sits away and behind the swinging lens between f2.8 to f11 (see the pictures )

Rotating lens cameras also naturally distort straight lines

Nevertheless, the engineering ingenuity and thought that went into these cameras are at a different higher level than traditional film cameras.

According to the Widelux resources on dates of manufacture, the F5 in this sample has a sticker that states 1960 and officially seems to be manufactured from 1958


 

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ed9119

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#3
Other technical information

exposed area 24x59mm (21 photos with a regular roll of 36 exposure film)
angle of view:
140º (diagonal)
50º (vertical, I guess when you're shooting ladders, giraffes or lamposts?)
viewfinder area of coverage: 90%
size: 160x85x60mm


DOF table :
f/2.8: - 4' 11" to 49' 2"
f/4 - 4' 3" to 65' 7"
f/5.6 - 3' 4" to 98' 5"
f/8 - 2' 7" to infinity
f/11 - 2' 4" to infinity


 

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ed9119

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#4
Bottom of camera .... you will notice 3 patent numbers


Actor Jeff Bridges actually wrote a user guide on the Widelux which is published here
http://www.jeffbridges.com/widelux.html


Excerpts below:

"There is only one way you can destroy your Widelux, other than dropping it or smashing it, and that is by setting the shutter speed incorrectly."

"....By my measurement with a stopwatch, it takes about 2.5 sec. for the camera to pan at the 1/15 sec. setting...."

"....The view finder is pretty accurate on the left side, but that's about all. On the right side the view is blocked substantially by the proturbence for the lens-aperture....Your own eyeballs are a better viewfinder. Because the panoramic Widelux view is so wide - at 126¼ it approaches our approximately to 180¼ peripheral vision - you will find it relatively easy to take good pictures without using the view finder at all."
 

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ed9119

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#5
I have a couple of sample photographs taken many years ago by Mr Kwan Kee at People's Park and Chinatown area..... will get those scanned and share them here
 

ed9119

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#6
A couple of video clips to share

[video=youtube;CsBBkF07IeM]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsBBkF07IeM[/video]

[video=youtube;LvMeOzkwndk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvMeOzkwndk[/video]
 

ed9119

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#8
amazing camera. was curious how much it cost one today. did a search on ebay, found a good condition around USD2,600. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Widelux-F8-35mm-Panoramic-Film-Camera-Case-Filters-/220835537582?pt=UK_Film_Cameras&hash=item336ad2e2ae
US$2600 ....... a Linhof Technorama used condition is about US$12,000

IF Clubsnap is able to borrow the Widelux for a couple of days, would there be any film panorama addicts willing to put some exposures together, scan the negs and share the images in CS ? Clubsnap will supply the film
 

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#9
US$2600 ....... a Linhof Technorama used condition is about US$12,000

IF Clubsnap is able to borrow the Widelux for a couple of days, would there be any film panorama addicts willing to put some exposures together, scan the negs and share the images in CS ? Clubsnap will supply the film
It will be very fun to hands on that camera. Count me in if there is a chance to play with it :p
 

ed9119

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#10
please...... if any of you have an interesting tale about an old camera please feel free to start a thread on it
 

daredevil123

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#11
Amazing camera! Thanks for sharing! I dropped by Mr Kwan's place the other day, but he was closed. Too bad.
 

ausphoto

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#12
Thanks for posting the great images of the FV...
I collect these and would be keen to get the serial number of the LENS for my database..
 

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ausphoto

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#13
BTW: I have an FV (as well as other Widelux...).
Here's an image with an FV with a slower shutter speed setting
FLICKR /photos/ heritagefutures/6079517074
You can get to other Widelux pics from there
 

ausphoto

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#15
That would be wonderful...
The LENS serial number can be seen when looking into the slot of the turret. You may have to twist the camera a bit, Easiest to see if the shutter is only half wound...
 

ausphoto

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#16
Did you manage to get the lens serial no?
 

ausphoto

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#19
would be really great if you could manage to get the number
 

ed9119

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#20
as I mentioned, will try but no promises .... and HONESTLY it will be a weak try because I've constantly got a whole load of other stuff on my hands what with a regular day-time job and then helping to organize and add content onto this site with the other moderators

so hope you understand that i will try but this is not going to be high priority

give me a shout when you're in town in October :)
 

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