Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spotlight: Widelux F7

The Widelux F7 in mid-rotaion

First introduced in 1975 by Panon Camera Shoko Company, the Widelux F7 35mm panoramic camera is a thing of beauty. Through the use of a rotating 26mm F/2.8 lens, the F7 is capable of capturing a breathtaking 140 degree angle of view.

 The Widelux is capable of making fantastic images, but it takes a bit of practice. At first, the camera can seem pretty limiting. The Widelux F7 has only three shutter speeds (1/15th, 1/125th, 1/250th), and an aperture range of F/2.8 to F/11. This limited range of stops makes it difficult to shoot with in very bright light, as well as in dim light. One of the most maddening features of the Widelux is that it has a fixed focus lens. Yup, adjusting the focus point is impossible. The 26mm lens is forever focused at 10 feet, and the only method of "focusing" is by adjusting the aperture to increase or decrease the depth-of-field. Even with the large depth-of-field of a 26mm lens, it is very possible to miss your focus at F/2.8 and F/4. The plus side of the fixed-lens deal is that from F/5.6 to F/11, you don't have to think about focus as long as your subject is more than 4 feet away from you or so. Just shoot away!

Top View. Notice the cool green level!
The Widelux demands a certain kind of grip. You have to keep you fingers far away from the rotating lens, or they'll show up as nice out-of-focus blobs in your final photograph. Try to keep your fingers on the top and bottom of the camera, and away from the front plate. You'll get used to it in no time.

Being a panoramic camera, the Widelux's negatives are much wider than normal. Standard negatives are 24x36mm, while Widelux negatives are 24x59mm. This being so, you get less shots on a roll of film. A 24-exposure roll will typically get you 14 exposures on a Widelux. A roll of 36 usually gives you 20 shots. 

One other thing to note is that the viewfinder does not show you even close to the entire field of view. You'll get much more information in the final negative than what the viewfinder shows you. I plan on doing some tests in the near future to find out exactly how much (or how little) the viewfinder actually shows.

After a few rolls, you start to get used to the camera's quirks and limitations, and you can enjoy the Widelux for what it is: A sweet panoramic camera. The Widelux makes photography feel new again. Shooting with the "Lux" is a completely different experience than shooting with any other camera. One of the greatest parts about the Widelux is that no one knows what it is. This fact, along with the ultra-wide angle of view, makes capturing candid photographs much easier and less stressful than with a "normal" film camera. You don't have to have the camera directly facing your subject in order to get them on film!

 I had a lot of fun shooting with my Widelux on vacation last week in Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some images I made while down there (I used Ilford HP5+ film):