It's no Horizon Perfekt, but, for $2 (US), this little point-and-shoot yields some sweet wide-angle surprises!
I was near Phsar Thmei (the New Market) in Phnom Penh waiting for my motorbike to be repaired, when I decided to take a short walk down the street and stopped in at a small photo shop.
Behind the counter, I noticed some small boxes with large letters reading “PANORAMA CAMERA.” Inside the boxes were small black plastic cameras with a white switch on the top. I asked the shop clerk how much for the camera. “$2” he answered. Deal.
The official product name for the camera is the Axehammer AX-828 Panoramic Camera, but in this article I’m just going to refer to it by the most dignified part of it’s name, Axehammer.
Here are the stats:
Focus: fixed; 1.2m to infinity
Winding Mechanism: coupled with shutter release, so no multiple exposures out of box.
Origin: according to the box, made in Taiwan
Here are some cool things about the Axehammer:
1. It’s name.
2. It’s mysterious. Using all my google-ing skills, information about this camera eluded me on the information superhighway. The results are also a bit unpredictable. I found that sometimes the viewfinder was completely accurate, and on other shots, i found myself looking at a photo I had never envisioned.
3. That white switch. The switch allows the photographer to change between modes “N” and “P.” When on “N,” the camera takes conventional wide-angle 35mm exposures. Switch to “P” and you get narrow wide-angle exposures. The photographer can switch modes even in mid-roll.
4. The Axehammer is small and inconspicuous. This makes it nice for some lo-fi street photography.
Here are some shortfalls which might also still qualify as cool to a Lomographer:
Despite it’s rugged name, the Axehammer has a rickety feel to it. Until I got my first negatives back from the lab, I wasn’t sure the camera had actually been closed enough to prevent massive light leaks. It felt like the latch wasn’t tightly sealed. However, the shots from that roll didn’t show any light leaks.
The winding sometimes felt a bit rough. A few times, I was worried that I’d torn the film.
The camera has an exposure counter, but it didn’t work. Again, until I got the negatives back, I wasn’t sure there would be anything on the film, because the exposure counter was still on “S”. “S” stands for surprise.
I’m not sure the Axehammer is technically a panoramic camera. At least, not in the same sense as a Horizon or other swivel-lensed camera. It’s basically a wide-angle point-and-shoot with the option of engaging two little masks which cover the top and bottom 20 percent of an exposure and create a narrow horizontal or vertical print.
There is nothing sharp about the Axehammer. The focus is a bit blurred even in bright sunlight. For these galleries, I used iso 200 film. The sun is usually very strong and bright in Cambodia, where I live. However, for most use, I would recommend iso 400 film.
I found the Axehammer relatively easy to load and to rewind when the roll was finished. It also comes with a handy faux leather carrying case and complete set of instructions in both English and Mandarin.
For those of you already counting out your pennies to pick up one of these $2 beauties, I have some good/bad news. I haven’t been able to locate any online vendors selling the Axehammer. However, Cambodia is beautiful to visit this time of year, so if you’re up for an adventure, grab your passport and $2 head for Phnom Penh!