Surprisingly good camera from Russia
Horizon versus Widelux
Article from CAMERABeurs No. 3, 1992
(translated from original Dutch to English by Frank Rodenburg)
Oblong panorama pictures appeal to the imagination and are considered "cool". The Horizon has been made from 1967 to 1973 and so it has been out of production for almost twenty years. Now the Horizon 202 has been made available, a renewed and improved version with more possibilities. It has already been mentioned in CB3 '91, but under the name Technopan.
The Widelux is the only panorama camera which is almost similar to the Horizon, but is more than fifteen hundred Dutch guilders (tr.: 700 euro's) more expensive. Wim van Bemmel has been working with the Horizon for more than twenty years. He wrote the following comparison between these two cameras.
Both the Widelux and the Horizon work on the same principle as Friedrich von Marten's original panorama camera of 1844. There are now two models: the Widelux 1500 for 120 roll film and the Widelux F8 for 35 mm film. They are made by Panon Camera Shoko Co. Ltd. in Japan, in a fashion reminiscent of the days of cottage industry. The 1500, with a f2.8/50 mm lens, has been released some four years ago as the improved successor to the Panon 120, production of which has been limited to about 50. The 1500 makes six 50x122 mm pictures on a 120 film using a rotating viewing angle of 150 degrees and a working distance from 1 m to infinity. The Horizon has no version for roll film. But there has been made a Russian FT-2 from 1958 to 1965 that used a negative format of 24x110 mm.
Both the Horizon and the Widelux employ a fixfocus lens, with a working distance that starts at 3 m for the Widelux and at 5.5 m for the Horizon. The Widelux has ample depth of field, due to its 26 mm focal length. With the smallest aperture of f11 this ranges from 1.5 m to infinity. In comparison to its predecessors like the F6 the Lux lens (of unknown origin) has acquired an anti-reflection coating and the F8 uses 8 instead of 6 diaphragm leaves. According to the technical specifications, it has a viewing angle of 140 degrees, but in reality this is about 130 degrees. Officially enabling 24 pictures to be made on a standard film for 36 pictures, but in practice 21 pictures of 24x59 mm is more realistic and these can be processed in an amply sized 6x6 cm enlarger mask.
More brilliant lens.
The new Horizon's f2.8/28 mm lens has been improved, too: the colour rendering, for example, is much more brilliant, and allows enlargements of up to 60 cm wide to be made. The negative format is 24x58 mm and normally 22 to 23 pictures can be made on a standard 35 mm film. If the panorama cameras are placed perfectly level on a tripod, and provided one works accurately, a 360 degree panoramic view can be realized in three shots.
In this article's pictures the Widelux F6 shows the name: Kalimar Widelux, Widelux model FVI. The shutter speeds of this model are rather old-fashioned and shown in an odd sequence: 1/10th, 1/250th and 1/100th of a second. With the latest F8 the shutter speeds have, quite obviously, been modernized to 1/15, 1/250 and 1/125.
These three shutter speeds, together with the rather limited aperture range of f2.8--f11 and a camera back that is rather prone to causing light leaks, form the Widelux's weak points. The old type Horizon provided four shutter speeds from 1/30 to 1/250. With the new 202 low-light pictures have become feasible through expansion of the shutter speed range. One now has at one's disposal two ranges of three shutter speeds by switching a small lever, a slow range with 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8, and the other range with 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250. This, combined with a wide aperture range of f2.8--f16, makes the new Horizon 202 a panorama camera that can be used in a variety of light conditions.
No miracles of speed.
In daily, practical use both the Horizon and the Widelux are no miracles of speed. Loading it with film is a job that requires precision and patience. (In our opinion the film loading isn't shown quite correctly on the inside of the 202). The last part of the film loading process is made a bit easier if the beginning of the film, the film tongue, is folded back a few centimeters halfway during the process of film loading (just after it has passed the film track), so it may be inserted into the film take up spool a lot easier when it arrives there.
Film transport in both directions is accomplished with round knobs on both the Widelux and the old Horizon.
With the new Horizon 202 there's a large lever for film transport and a rewind crank for film rewinding into the cassette. The hinge of the 202 camera back seems to be less robust than the remarkably solid, old-fashioned construction of the old Horizon, but this remark can be made about more modern-day camera designs.
View finder in the middle.
The 202's view finder (with built-in spirit level) has now been fixed centrally on the camera body. The old Horizon's view finder had to be removed before rewinding the film because it was placed on top of the rewind knob. And besides, it has happend to me twice in more than twenty years of usage, that the view finder slid off its place while holding the camera tilted for a vertical shot. Happily without further consequences up till now, but matters could have been worse and spare parts for the old Horizon are now no longer available.
In case the new Horizon should need repairs, the camera will be send through to France by the Dutch importers, Provak. Although the Horizon is being produced by Horizon KMZ in Russia, the Russians have left world-wide distribution and sales to the Italian firm of Lino Manfrotto, because of their apparent lack of knowledge of the Western way of doing business. The Manfrotto name may be familiar to you by their line of tripods. In case of repairs, the Horizon is being send to France because the French Manfrotto branch has spare parts and repair facilities at their disposal.
Both in the case of the Widelux and of the old Horizon the excentric placement of the view finder may make it difficult to place the subject exactly in the middle of the picture frame, especially with horizontal pictures. This problem, too, has been solved by placing the view finder centrally.
Changing shutter speeds.
Changing the shutter speeds on both the Widelux and the Horizon has to be done with the shutter cocked.
The new Horizon 202 offers a double improvement in this respect. By placing the view finder centrally above the adjustment knobs for aperture and shutter speeds, the film rewind knob was no longer covered up. So it could be provided with a rewind crank for easier rewinding. But what to be done with the adjusters for aperture and shutter speeds? The solution chosen is a double improvement. The 202 is provided with protruding cams to facilitate adjustment of both aperture and shutter speeds. These cams are situated below the view finder and only come up through the camera top plate after the film has been transported and hence, the shutter cocked. When the picture is made, they sink down again! Simple to use and fool-proof.
Picture made with Widelux (photo: Wim van Bemmel).
Picture made with Horizon (photo: Wim van Bemmel).
Bottom picture made with Konica Panoramate 17 mm discardable camera, for comparison (photo: Wim van Bemmel).
Keeping it horizontal and camera finish.
Both using a panorama camera and using a super wide angle lens have one thing in common, and that is the difficulty in keeping the camera truly horizontal, either when using it horizontally or vertically. The result shows sometimes in strange, unwanted, image distortions and hence, failed pictures, or the effect must be purposely created for the sake of it. That's why panorama cameras are normally provided with a built-in spirit level for horizontal use. For vertical applications an aftermarket universal spirit level, e.g. like the one available from Hama, will be most useful. In the Horizon 202 the spirit level's bubble is very easy to see in the view finder.
Black-and-white, colour negative and colour slide films can be used with excellent results in the Widelux and the Horizon. The end results can be influenced by the application of filters. The Horizon is provided with three filters that use a special kind of spring-loaded U-shaped tabs to fix them in place in/on the front of the camera: a UV (ultra-violet) filter, an ND (neutral density, grey) filter and a YG (yellow-green) filter, especially for black-and-white film. With the Widelux the filters are a pricey option in the form of a pouch with six filters for 195 Dutch guilders excl. VAT (tr.: that's about 90 euro's).
The film development is similar to any other 35 mm film. Black-and-white and/or colour negatives can be home processed and enlarged in any 6x6 cm enlarger. Colour slide film should be mounted in 6x6 cm slides that have been masked down to size appropriately. When home processing is not possible, things might be more difficult, and more expensive. The current film laboratories are not equipped to deal with this panorama format, so you will be dependent on professional laboratories with professional price levels.
When a Horizon or Widelux camera hasn't been used for any length of time, it is advisable to loosen up the rotating mechanism by making a number of "blanc" pictures (by repeatedly cocking and releasing the shutter) before inserting a new film.
A usual beginner's mistake is holding the panorama camera as if it were a standard camera. Although this won't show up in the view finder, the result will be that the photographer's hands will be visible in the picture because of the wide viewing angle. It is therefore advisable to use, at least initially, the hand grip that comes with the camera in the way shown in the 202's manual on page 8, but do keep your right hand thumb under the camera to neutralize any down force created by pushing the shutter button.
Without using the hand grip, the Horizon or Widelux are best held with two hands employed in a kind of U-shape to the left and right of the camera back. The Horizon's hand grip is especially useful when making vertical shots.
It is advisable to make a printing mask for the 24x58/59 mm negative to ensure it stays perfectly flat during enlarging and to prevent the white enlarger lamp's light passing along the negative to influence the results during light metering and exposure of the print.
Some development laboratories are unknown with this "strange" negative format on 35 mm, which may result in negatives being cut in half. To prevent this from happening, mention the fact that this concerns a non-standard image format. An even better safeguard will be to ask the laboratory not to cut the film at all and so return it as a roll.
Both the Horizon and Widelux can make excellent panorama pictures that are very suitable for enlargement. While reading this article you might have guessed that the Horizon 202 has our preference because of its easy operation, its possibilities and last-but-not-least its price. A Horizon 202 will be priced around f 1995,- (tr.: about 900 euro's), not exactly the price of a compact camera, but compared with that of the Widelux F8 –- with a price tag of f 2950,- plus f 195,- for the filter set, which is, strictly speaking, indispensable, totalling f 3145,- without VAT (tr.: about 1500 euro's) -- this makes a much more modest amount for the 202! In this way the price difference between a Widelux F8 and a Horizon 202 is in fact more than 1700 guilders or, in other words, nearly the price of a second Horizon 202! You will agree that such a price difference doesn't compensate for a slightly smaller shutter speed range, one aperture setting less and as only advantages a slightly more robust build quality impression (less "plasticky") and in fact just a ten degrees larger viewing angle of the Widelux F8. My choice will be in favour of the Horizon 202, without any reservations.
Picture made with the new Horizon 202. (Photo: Wim van Bemmel)
The Horizon 202 has its viewfinder fixed centrally above the lens. (Photo: Fred Jansz)
|TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Horizon 202 AND WIDELUX F8|
| ||Horizon 202||WIDELUX F8|
|Angle of view of lens:||120 deg.||140 (=ca. 130) deg.|
|Angle of view of finder:||110 deg.||ca. 130 deg.|
|Spirit level:||in and on viewfinder||on viewfinder|
|Lens focal length:||28mm||26mm|
|Shutter speeds, s:||1/2, 1/4 or 1/8 + 1/60,1/125 or 1/250||1/15, 1/125 or 1/250|
|Sharp from:||on f16: 1m--∞||on f11: 1.5m--∞|
|Weight:||900 g||900 g|
|Price:||~1995 Dutch guilders incl.VAT||~2950 Dutch guilders incl.VAT|
|Extra's:||including pouch, hand grip and 3 filters (UV, ND and YG)||excluding filter set with 6 filters in pouch (195 Dutch guilders excl.VAT)|
|Importeur:||Provak, Purmerend||Capi-Lux, Amsterdam|
Wim van Bemmel
This article was published in the Dutch camera magazine "CAMERABeurs" No. 3, 1992, pages: 61--64. Pages were scanned by Jannes Slot. Text was translated from the Dutch original to English by Frank Rodenburg in 2004.
Original article in Dutch
Horizons archives (in Russian)
J.L. Princelle's visit to the makers of the Horizon-202
KMZ cameras list