Horizon Perfekt

Another off-the-cuff camera review



I bought the Horizon Perfekt while I was working for Lomography. This is a panoramic camera with a swinging lens. The film travels along a curved film plane and the resulting images are somewhat cinematic. The Horizon shoots in a 24x58mm format - for reference, a normal full-frame image is typically 24x36mm (2:3 aspect ratio). The Perfekt is an update to previously existing soviet cameras (a common practice for Lomography). Earlier versions of the Horizon include the 202, 203, and S3 Pro. 

The Perfekt allows quite a bit of control - there are shutter speeds ranging from 1/50 to 1/2 split into high-speed and low-speed groups, and apertures of f/2.8 through f/16. Aside from exposure, these settings are also used for depth of field; this is a fixed focus camera, so you would use smaller apertures to get further subjects into acceptable focus. Lens quality is similar to the Lomo LC-A+; it's a compact, multicoated 28mm f/2.8. It’s reasonably sharp and pretty contrasty, but watch out for flare as there's no way easy to shade the lens; avoid shooting into the sun where possible. Don’t expect mind-blowing resolution or characteristic bokeh; this camera was designed for landscape work at hyperfocal shooting distances. There's another Horizon offered by Lomography, known as the Kompakt. The Kompakt is a budget model with only one aperture, f/8, and only two shutter speeds:  1/60 and 1/2. Those limitations mean that you have to be mindful of your exposure and film speed. I'd recommend shooting with color negative film, which gives a little more tolerance for under- and overexposure.

In considering either of the the Horizon cameras, there are some things to be mindful of: first, you’ll have to be careful how you hold the camera. If you grip it at the sides as you would with a normal camera, your fingers will be in the path of the swinging lens and appear in your photos. I recommend gripping the camera from the back, or using the tripod-mount handle (if you have it). A flash bracket could work well here, but I haven’t this myself. Another caution: when shooting panoramas, you need to be very conscious of the camera’s orientation. If the camera is even slightly tilted, your photos will show that. It's easy to get angled horizons! Front-back tilt can also be an issue and will result in curvature of the horizon, but you can also use that as a creative effect if desired. There’s a built-in spirit level to help you out, but shooting handheld will naturally be challenging. Use a tripod when you can!

The final challenges of shooting panoramic negatives come after development. Negative carriers aren't well suited for panoramic images, for starters. You'll also need to devise a method to scan your film - film scanners don't come with holders for panoramas. I recommend the Lomography Digitaliza scanning mask as a cheap and pretty effective solution if you're working with a flatbed. The same goes for printing - you'll need a medium format enlarger with a custom 35mm panoramic negative carrier if you want to make prints (and cut paper to match the unusual image size).

If you're not deterred by any of those challenges, then I'd certainly recommend trying panoramic shooting at least once. Both Horizon models are a bit pricey, but nowhere near the cost of similar offerings from Widelux and Noblex. FYI, the only 35mm panoramic camera with real focusing aids are the Hasselblad Xpan / Fujifilm TX-1 series - and those cost about 5 or 6 times as much as of this writing (prices continue to climb). The Xpan is well worth it if you’re serious about panoramas, but the Horizon is a great way to see if you like the look without the tremendous expense.