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360 Spinner Camera aka Panoramic Camera [Apr. 6th, 2011|06:43 am]
Not too long ago I bought this camera:

It's the 360 Spinner by Lomography.com. You put 35mm film in it, hold the camera's hand grip - attached to the bottom of the camera - and then pull and release the cord attached to the handle. The camera spins a full circle around and, while it does so, it advances the film across the camera's pinhole aperature. The result is a very wide photo giving a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Here is an example of a shot I took with B&W film:

The lens on this camera has a very wide angle: even though I am less than an arm's length from the camera, the camera was able to pick up my whole upper torso. Heck, my right hand is only inches from the lens just seconds after I released the pull string. The three people on the left are only 6 to 10 feet away and yet it looks like they are 20 or more feet away.

You can also see how everything is in focus in this picture: the watch on my right arm is focused just as sharply and the cars in the background. The depth of focus is almost infinite because the aperture in the camera lens is so very small. It's almost like a pinhole camera. Because of this, it is almost impossible to take a bad picture with this camera.

However, the pictures from the Spinner are not perfect. Look at the arms of the woman in the middle of the picture above: her arms are unrealistically long. Obviously the camera distorts images as is spins around, especially if the subject is moving. Also, the light levels seem uneven, especially in the second picture: You can see vertical bands of light through out the photo. I can't really say why it is doing that but perhaps the movement of the camera is not as smooth as I thought. It felt smooth in my grip but maybe a hesitation of even a millisecond or less is enough make a noticeable change in the picture.

Since the camera creates images that are five or six times as large as your regular 35mm image, special instructions must be sent to the developer: "develop only. Do not cut negatives". When I get the negatives back, I cut them and put them in the scanner.

Speaking of scanners, I had to get get a new one to post the images above. At first I put the panoramic negatives in my Konica negative scanner but the device is designed to split the negative into different pictures and I ended up with six files for the one panoramic shot. Below is what I put together with Photoshop:

The gaps are caused by the negative holder which frames individual photos in the negative.

So I tried scanning the negative using my old HP PSC 950 all-in-one printer. Although I wasn't expecting terrific results, I was expecting a decent image. Six years ago I scanned a few negatives and got decent recents. Check out this scan I made a while back:

Which I Photoshopped and got this image:

Not super great but decent. Here's what I got when I tried to scan a panoramic negative about a week ago:

Yuck. So I bought a cheap Epson scanner from Staples. It has a negative holder (without any framing struts to obstruct the negative, which is a bonus) and it produced the results you've already seen. Very encouraging. As a result I've gone out several more times with my Pan Camera to take panoramic shots.

I have already shot two rolls of slide film and I will post the results when the film comes back. It takes two weeks to process the film (they sent it to Wisconsin) and so it will be a while before I can report back with results.