Panorama 135

Shooting panorama photos has always been tempting to me. I have had my eyes on a Fuji GX617 for a long time, but I never could convince myself that it would be worth spending the necessary money. I considered other panoramic cameras, but none felt as exciting as the prospect of a high-quality medium format 6x17 camera.

For example, there is the Hasselblad XPan, which offers a 24mm x 65mm panoramic frame. A beautifully made camera (as far as I can tell from the pictures on the product page). But that camera is (used) as expensive as the Fuji, and compared to the near 60mm x 170mm the frame is tiny.

Another problem with the cost of those cameras and my urge to own one is my drive and spare time that I have available for getting my behind out into the wild to take pictures. And I have a lot of other cameras that want to be fed with rolls of film.

Speaking of other cameras: I do have a couple of cameras that would be suitable for panoramic photography if they are used together with smaller film sizes. A strip of medium format film in an 8”x10” film holder could give a frame of 61mm x 250mm, which would even make the Fuji GX617 look like it is coming in short a bit. The problem with this is mobility: A 8”x10” large format camera needs a tripod and the camera, lenses and film holders consume a lot of luggage space. It is tedious to lug around. And if you put in all that effort, why not directly use 8”x10” sheets of the film?

A 6x9 medium format camera, on the other hand, is quite easy to transport. You can get decent pictures, even when shooting handheld. And there are adapters that enable the use of 135 film. These adapters can be found cheaply on “the bay” from individuals that 3D print them. I acquired two sets of them. That way I could directly transfer the exposed film into another (previously empty) 135 film cartridge. (Note: 120 film usually is transferred from one spool to another when advancing frame by frame, while 135 film is spooled back into the original cartridge when all frames are exposed.)

I took a Voigtländer Bessa 6x9 and loaded the 135 film with the adapter. It is a simple camera with only a viewfinder and no rangefinder. Advancing film is done by rotating a knob. When used with 120 film, the frame numbering on the backing paper of the film is shown through a small window. This does not work with the 135 film, as it does not have said backing paper. I had to guess how far to advance, and I guessed with way more safety buffer than was necessary. With a better guess, I probably would have gotten about 10 frames onto the film (instead of 7).

While I usually use my Nikon CoolScan LS-9000 ED, a (nearly) 35mm (including sprockets) x 90mm frame does not fit into the mask of the 135 film holder. Luckily, I recently acquired a Howtek Scanmaster D4500 with scanning 8”x10” sheet film in mind. That gave me the freedom to scan the whole frame (including sprockets, which was never an option with the Nikon CoolScan). Unfortunately, dust is the mortal enemy of any drum-scanned image, and my apartment is a paradise for dust.

Using Format