Recently, I’ve started working with the Widelux – which allows for ‘decisive moment’ panoramas – a specialized Japanese camera now out-of-production, after the Panon factory burnt down . The camera achieves this through a neat 26mm lens that swings across the curved film plane allowing for a 126 degree field of view (140 diagonally across the negative), roughly approximating what we see in front of us. Unlike the extreme distortion you get in ultra-wide or fisheye lenses, the widelux preserves detail evenly while giving a subtle form of distortion. (Detailed explanation here.)
Photography has always been a way for me to share my experiences, to give a sense of the spaces out there. Panoramas offer a unique aspect ratio to engage viewers. The fact that most 35mm SLRs and DSLR cameras are in 3:2 aspect ratios has intensely affected how we frame, process, print and digest imagery. The exact reason we settled on 3:2 seems to be a point of contention – one photographer attributes this ‘golden rectangle’ sizing to Oscar Barnack, who is credited with engineering the first still-photo camera capitalizing on surplus 35mm cinema-film. As with any new aspect ratio, I’ve found myself re-creating rules of composition and lighting to work with the widelux.
A lot of point-and-shoot cameras use the 4:3 wider ratio, which more closely matches the increasing glut of widescreen monitors and TVs. As the costs involved in creating digital sensors drop, maybe a digital panoramic camera to span across your HDTV (that isn’t insanely expensive) might become a reality.
In researching panoramic photography particularly related to the widelux, material out there has been relatively fragmented and sparse so I’ve written this post to aggregate and showcase some of the most useful and inspiring info and imagery I’ve found. Of course, this is far from final and any additions or corrections are welcome. More after the jump.