When I got the chance to try out a medium format swing lens panorama camera, the Widelux 1500, it took my breath away. And it’s not just because of the weight—almost 2 kg!
The Widelux 1500 is a beast of a machine. It’s big, heavy, and it yields negatives as big as small prints: 6 X 12 cm. Jeff Bridges has the 35mm version. The 1500 is the medium format version. It can focus at any of seven settings, from infinity to 1 m. and it has shutter speeds of 1/8, 1/60 and 1/125 of a second. The Widelux 1500 covers a 150 degree view. One roll of 120 film will give you 6 exposures.
I was pretty excited when I first tried this camera, but it turns out to be a slightly more difficult camera than I expected.
First of all, it’s pretty heavy. Keeping the camera still is quite a feat. Plus, the 1/125 speed produces a powerful blow when the lens comes to a stop, like a gun slamming into your sholder. Even the 1/60 speed will give you some movement. This movement is not always a problem, though, as you can see from these pictures. The trees are in the picture twice, but who cares? And the multitude of windows in the houses enhances the image, I think. Putting the camera down on the ground, a wall, table, or on a really sturdy tripod and holding it firmly will help with this.
A second problem: for some reason, I forget to advance the film more ofthen than in other cameras. Again, not always a bad thing, but it can lead to disappointment when you’re going for that crystal clear panorama.
A third problem, more inherent to the camera: banding. This is an old camera, and somethimes you will see overexposed strips on your picture. The Internet tells me this can have several problems, most likely to do with the gears of the schutter not moving even. This might be fixed by a complete overhaul, but I’m not going to risk that. My particular camera has been ‘serviced’ before, and after that the problem actually grew worse. I’ll live with it. Not hard, because it doesn’t always occur. Maybe in my case, it’s not the camera, but me, moving too much. After only three rolls, it’s still undecided how bad the problem is.
But don’t let all this talk of problems keep you away from the Widelux. It’s a wonderful, fun, camera, and when you get the hang of it (like I did on roll three), it can give you some stunning pictures that make it all worth your efforts. They’re wide, curvacious and delicious! The swing lens lets you capture movement as people cycling or walking by end up multiple times in the same picture. It’s the most fun I had with a camera in quite a while.