That time I shot with a...

My First Shots with the Pan-Holga 360 – by Sonny Rosenberg

November 10, 2022

The Pan-Holga was created by the inventor Richard McCaleb around 2003, at least that’s when he sent it to Cory Armantrout who I just bought it from. I was compulsively perusing various kinds of cameras on E-bay when I stumbled upon the Pan-Holga, when I expressed an interest in it, Cory offered to sell it to me for half the listed price, needless to say I couldn’t resist!

The Pan-Holga, which I’ve re-named the Pan-Holga 360 to differentiate it from the current crop of 6×12 Holgas, is a 6×27 full 360° rotating 120 format Holga. The negatives are 11 inches long!

Unlike some panoramic cameras which swing the lens across the film plane, this camera essentially rotates the film and aperture around a pivot point. The camera is indeed quite lo-fi as there is a lot of banding induced by the somewhat jerky motion of the gears driven by the battery powered motor.

The exposure of the Holga-Pan 360 is fixed by the aperture, which is adjustable by changing the width of the aperture slit. It’s currently set to accommodate ISO 100 film. One would double the width of the slot for ISO 50 film, etc.

The aperture assembly, you can also see in this photo how the gears of the motor drive the winding mechanism of the film.

As soon as you flick the switch the Holga begins rotating and exposing film. To avoid making a panoramic selfie I had to follow the rotating camera around so as to stay out of the view of the lens.

The shots below are pretty boring subject matter wise, my front garden, my house and my neighbor’s house, but at least they give you an idea of what photos from the Holga-Pan look like. I’m including detail crops from each shot because at least on my little lap top screen a panorama of the native aspect ratio generated by the Holga-Pan 360 doesn’t display all that well.

Actually, I think that in the future I won’t normally use this camera to take the 360° panoramas it’s capable of, I’ll probably just do 180°s or 120°s so I don’t have to chop them up. I’m even entertaining thoughts of getting an archival printer that will accept rolls of paper. I’m thinking that I should be able to get decent size prints from the gigantic negatives this camera generates. Plus, I’m sure I’d sell a million prints at least, no?

The shots below were taken on Fuji Acros II 100 and developed in Cinestill Df96 monobath. They were inverted in Lightroom, but other than that and some cropping, were untreated. I realize that I’d get even more of the panoramic effect if I cropped the images tighter vertically, but I wanted to show what the photos straight out of the camera look like.


The right half

And the left half

Our front garden, terribly exciting stuff I know.

The left half of the above shot.

And the right half.

The view from my neighbor Shaun’s driveway.

The left side of this view.

And the right side…

As alway, thanks for reading!

For more photographic oddities like this, check out my little blog The Daily Lumenbox.

Sonny Rosenberg is a semi-retired Ceramics teacher who lives in Reno Nevada with his wife and three cats.

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  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    November 10, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    Wonderful stuff!
    Not sure why it is producing dark bands top and bottom. Is the lens designed for 120? Interesting effect all the same.
    I wonder if stand development might get you less banding.

    • Reply
      sonny rosenberg
      November 10, 2022 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you Bob! I’m not sure either. For some reason I had assumed it was the original Holga lens, but that may not be the case.
      Good point about the banding too. I think stand development is definitely worth a try. Richard McCaleb didn’t leave behind much documentation, but he did suggest lubing the gear train that drives the camera, which I’ve done, but haven’t shot the Pan-Holga since.

  • Reply
    Stephen Fretz
    November 10, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    They remind me of photos sent back by early lunar probes. It would be interesting (?) to document a given neighborhood as though the camera were sent from earth to another celestial body.

    But this is just me ranting 🙂

    • Reply
      sonny rosenberg
      November 10, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      Actually I think that’s a really interesting idea Stephen. I’ll give it a try when the weather improves here.

    • Reply
      David Hill
      November 12, 2022 at 9:56 pm

      That’s a *rant*, Stephen? You’re welcome anywhere 🙂 Very cool stuff, Sonny. I also wonder about the lens coverage, which seems .. insufficient. The electrical-tape-lensmount suggests its a donor lens taped into place?

      • Reply
        sonny rosenberg
        November 13, 2022 at 1:54 am

        Thanks David! That makes perfect sense now that you mention it. I’m sure you’re right, but I wonder why the original lens wouldn’t have worked? Or maybe it was a salvaged camera with a damaged lens?

  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    November 23, 2022 at 8:13 am

    Excellent article.

    • Reply
      sonny rosenberg
      November 23, 2022 at 10:08 am

      Thank you Chris, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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