23 frames / A Whole Roll of panoramic images with the Horizon 202 – #FullRollFriday – By Thodoris Markou

You want to get into panoramic photography but don’t have the budget for that Hasselblad Xpan you’ve always drooled over? You need something new, an exhilarating experience, a way to burn through excess film? Well, get a Russian panoramic camera!

In recent years I’ve been travelling around the rural landscapes of Greece with a medium format camera loaded with color film, trying to capture the feeling of the places and the people. The Greek landscape can be sunny and harsh, and this presents me with a difficult situation: I stumble on a lot of images I itch to shoot, but they either don’t fit with the project I am working on, or they are better served by black and white film. Rather than forgo them, I decided to spice things up a bit and use a Horizon 202 panoramic camera as the “shoot everything I come across” camera. I tend to combine it with Ilford Pan 400 film, which I usually push a bit for the extra contrast and the allowance to shoot at f/11-f/16 as much as possible.

This simple mechanical camera demands nothing from you apart from a little bit of basic light metering. Even if you miscalculate the exposure, the latitude of black and white film takes care of it. Moreover, I am a fan of contrasty, messed up black and white images, so I don’t care for over/underexposure. I just use the Sunny 16 rule every time I encounter different lighting conditions, and the camera is ready for point’n’shooting.

Obviously, since this is a cheap Russian camera, it also has a lot of quirks. The major quirk is that the rotating turret assembly is prone to light leaks and strange flares, so you’d better try and shoot in overcast days or with the sun safely behind your back (which is extremely difficult in always-sunny Greece). The 28mm lens, while extremely sharp, has its focus fixed to infinity, so forget about close-up scenes and out-of-focus backgrounds. Also, loading up the film is a bit of a hassle. On the other hand, the camera is fully mechanical and the nature of the rotating turret means you can handhold slow speeds.

This roll of Ilford Pan 400 was shot in the space of a few hours, during one of my road trips in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece. The weather was cloudy with sunny bursts, and this suited me fine. I developed it on Kodak HC-110(B), scanned it on a Pakon F-135 scanner and jazzed up the contrast a bit.

Ilford Pan 400 contact sheet, shot with Horizon 202 panoramic camera.
Ilford Pan 400 contact sheet, shot with Horizon 202 panoramic camera, marked with candidates for keepers.

The digital contact sheet shows the extremely funny sequence of events that developed between the cat and the dog. I believe that contact sheets are quite valuable, since they allow for instant comparison between frames, and they reveal insights in the photographer’s method. I decided to keep 4 of the 23 photos, with the cat-dog photo being the best candidate for the long run.


A field in a village of Epirus, Greece. No idea how that light leak appeared in the middle.
In the middle of the road.
A body of water, first exposure.
A body of water, second exposure, shot for safety reasons: there’s a sun behind those clouds, and this camera does not do well against the sun.
I’ve no idea why I shot this frame.
A barbary fig.
A partially covered car in a backyard.
My vehicle. I must have liked the light. Or just wanted to waste a shot.
Another body of water, extra contrasty.
An overturned car in a ditch. Someone told me that a car had been flipped over some days ago, and I spent half an hour looking for it. In retrospect, it was better suited to color film (which I did shoot).
An overturned car in a ditch. second exposure, different frames. This is one of the keepers.
An overturned car in a ditch, third exposure, slightly different framing.
A dog playing with a cat (you can only see the cat’s tail), in the vicinity of a field of sheep.
The cat shows up a bit. I shot half of the film in the space of 10 minutes there.
While I was waiting for the dog and the cat to do something interesting, I turned around for one frame. Nothing good came out of it.
The cat decides it’s had enough of the dog…
…and walks away nonchalantly, while the dog casts a “hey, why are you leaving?” look around. This is one of the keepers.
The dog turns around to me, feeling rejected.
Going for the extra close-up shot, which didn’t really pan out. Also, a slight light leak on the left side of the frame (which is also kinda present on the right side of the previous frame).
Scattered sheep in a field. Notice the straight horizontal lines and the light spots on the top, courtesy of the Horizon 202. I still have no idea if this is due to the camera back, or the rollers, or the rotating turret. I doubt if this camera can properly be fixed, so I just put up with these quirks.
Scattered sheep in a field, in the moment when the sun went behind a cloud. This is one of the keepers. (see, no horizontal lines!)
Scattered sheep in a field, third exposure, final frame of the roll. Less daylight, but you can still notice the horizontal lines on the top.

I hope you enjoy the images, and that you may consider getting your hands on such a camera. You can even buy them “new” on eBay (but they will still have all of their quirks). You can see more panoramic images in my website, or you can visit instagram for my latest work.

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16 thoughts on “23 frames / A Whole Roll of panoramic images with the Horizon 202 – #FullRollFriday – By Thodoris Markou”

  1. One key to these rotating turret cameras is when capturing a landscape with a distant horizon – the horizon has to be in the middle of the frame – otherwise, curvature.

  2. Babak Farshchian

    Lovely photos from one of my favorite countries! You are very good at capturing the mood of these places. I also think the frame format and the wide angle lens of these cameras help to immerse oneself in the place –Xpan does not have the same effect despite its price! I have an older version of this camera, metallic version. I love it even though I also have light leaks in mine. Changed the seals but seems I have to open it again and check the seals again. Keep the good work Thodoris!

    1. Thanks Babak..! The light seals keep bugging me everytime I use it, especially in sunny weather. I really can’t see a way out of it, apart from avoiding shooting it in harsh sunlight…

  3. Great article! I wonder if those lines are actually from the pakon. I also have a f135 and every so often I get a dark line across (usually) the top of the frame. On the negative you may be able to tell especially with the sky if the line is from the pakon or the negative. May not be the problem but it does look similar to the issues I had. Hope that helps!

    1. I’ve since upgraded to a Noritsu HS-1800, and maybe you’re right, I haven’t seen that many horizontal lines. I will make a proper test, shoot a whole roll in sunlight and see how the Noritsu treats it. Will let you know!

      1. I suppose you could also rescan the negs that have lines with the Noritsu. Interesting mini-review of a very interesting camera, and nice sample shots!

        1. My biggest trouble since acquiring the Pakon (and then the Noritsu) is that I’ve started storing my negatives in uncut rolls. Moreover, having a roll film scanner made shooting and scanning 35mm film so easy that I found myself shooting a lot more, and the uncut rolls soon piled up. Now I really don’t know where each film is, and that makes re-scanning a serious hassle…

  4. I used these a lot back in the late 70s at art school. Great machines! Some really interesting results to be had from using them vertically rather than horizontally.

    1. They work wonders when shot vertically, indeed, but Greece is a horizontal country (not a lot of high-rise buildings) and shooting vertically would soon lead up to a shortage of subjects. 😀

  5. The lens on the Horizon is set to the hyperfocal distance which gives a greater depth of field range than if it were simply set to infinity. The chart below is from the user manual which is available online.

    They are a great camera and a lot of fun to work with. Thanks for the review.

    Depth of Field Table for the HORIZON-202 Camera Lens

    Aperture Depth of field, m
    2,8 5,5–∞
    4 3,9–∞
    5,6 2,9–∞
    8 2–∞
    11 1,5–∞
    16 1–∞

    1. Well yes you are right, the focus is not fixed to infinity. I did some calculations and the lens’ focus is fixed somewhere between 10 and 12 meters, with the main point of always keeping infinity in focus.

      Sadly, this does not allow for close focus when shooting full open. I would love to use this camera for portraits. 🙂

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