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Expand your View with the Reader's Digest Panoramic Camera

The Reader's Digest Panoramic Camera is a plastic 35mm toy with a cropped panoramic frame of view. This chance find in a charity shop re-energized my photographic mojo and started me on the path to manual film camera enlightenment.

Photo by keefmarshall

This camera takes standard 35mm film, but has a horizontally cropped frame of view to produce a panoramic strip across the middle. The width of each shot on film is still the same as a normal shot, so don’t worry, you or your lab will be able to process and scan it as usual – you’ll just get black borders at the top and bottom.

The centre of the picture is reasonably sharp, but it gets quite dreamy towards the edges. The lens covers a wide angle, so you can fit the whole view in easily.

Photo by keefmarshall

There very little you can do with it other than point and shoot – it has a plastic lens with fixed focus, fixed shutter speed and fixed aperture. It’s small and light (weighs less than the film!), fits in a coat pocket and the batteries can’t run out as it doesn’t have any.

You can cover the lens over with a slider when not in use – this disables the shutter button to avoid accidental exposures, which is nice, and there’s no lens cap to lose. Despite being so basic, it seem reasonably well built and mine has so far had no light leaks.

Photo by keefmarshall

Originally these were given away for free to new subscribers of Reader’s Digest magazine, although the camera itself doesn’t have any branding on it, just the box. The same camera has appeared under different names – Ultronic did one which was silver with black trim, and Martell gave some different coloured ones away “To capture that Martell moment!”.

Photo by keefmarshall

Some tips for films to use: There’s no control over the exposure, so you need 100 ISO for bright sunny days, but with light cloud cover it’s going to be 200, and heavy cloud will need 400. This isn’t a camera for indoor or night use, unless you want to push some B&W film to a high equivalent ISO.

This camera was a bit of a revelation for me. I’d bought expensive digital equipment and reached a stage where I was so obsessed with technical perfection that I’d lost my enjoyment of photography. This little piece of molded black plastic, picked up on a whim, with an old roll of Velvia 100 I’d had lying around for years, restored all that joy and gave me a whole new lease of life. I realized that it was all about the picture and enjoying the process, not the equipment. Most of all, I realized that “perfect” was unnecessary, and sometimes a flawed photo is more interesting.

written by keefmarshall

14 comments

  1. superlighter

    superlighter

    great pictures!

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. ooh-matron

    ooh-matron

    Good article, I found one of these at a car boot sale in the UK, still sealed in its original box, cost 50 pence, real bargain.
    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  3. keefmarshall

    keefmarshall

    Yep, mine was only £1.50, still boxed, probably unused. Definitely a bargain!

    I forgot to mention the specs in the article (doh!): As best as I can find out it has a 28mm lens, the fixed aperture is f11 and the fixed shutter speed is 1/125s. It has double-exposure prevention so the shutter is not enabled until you wind the film on.

    If you're hunting for one online, trying searching for "Wide Pic Panorama" as a lot of people list it this way, those are the words on the front.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  4. pearlgirl77

    pearlgirl77

    nice pictures.. i have a similar cam.. and she makes good panoramas too. ;)

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  5. thrillho

    thrillho

    great article and pictures! you just made me buy one online :)
    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  6. simonh82

    simonh82

    Nice photos and great review.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  7. space_they_cannot_touch

    space_they_cannot_touch

    I found a similar one at my parents house, unused and packed. I always assumed it was crap but now I might give it a go.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  8. tumbler

    tumbler

    So that's what it's called. If had one for years (but in yellow and without the 'panorama' printed on it).
    Mine doesn't seem to take the pictures this shapr though.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  9. franvisions

    franvisions

    I have a red one I bough online, I didn't know it was given away for free to new subscribers of Reader’s Digest magazine. It's actually a very nice camera.
    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  10. keefmarshall

    keefmarshall

    Thanks for all the likes and comments! I don't know if the red and yellow ones were also given away by Reader's Digest, or by other people - I know Martell gave away a red one, possibly a blue one too. I haven't seen a yellow one before!

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  11. johnccc

    johnccc

    I have one of these cameras and they are really fun to use .

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  12. avocado-in-a-world-of-cucumbers

    avocado-in-a-world-of-cucumbers

    I found this camera in a charity shop for 50p over the summer! I thought I'd take a chance on it. Having seen your pictures, I'm so glad I did! They look fab.
    The rewind crank is broken on mine though... it's no longer tight in the camera body and pops out. Does anyone have any ideas as to how I could fix it?

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  13. keefmarshall

    keefmarshall

    @avocado-in-a-world-of-cucumbers If it fits in snugly when there's film in there, and can turn the film round, it's probably OK. Otherwise, you might be better off just buying a new one - probably cheaper than trying to fix this one! I'm guessing a bit of the plastic has broken off so unless you've got the bit to glue back on, it's going to be tough to fix properly.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  14. ichdaschaos

    ichdaschaos

    do you know the differences between the one shown in the article an this one: http://www.kameramus(…)-cam-sw.jpg ? (the one with the red circle around the lens and red release button) I bought the one from the article one on ebay for 1€ but in the package was the one with the red details.

    8 months ago · report as spam