Viewfinder

A conventional 6 X 7 medium format camera is able to take the same photographs as an XPan: in geometric terms, the images have the same characteristics or "fingerprints." The 43 mm lens of the Mamiya 7 and the 45mm lens of the XPan have the same horizontal angle of view. But one element (fundamental in my opinion, even if it seems insignificant) makes all the difference: the viewfinder. It is very difficult to compose and frame in a format that is different than the viewfinder's; it just doesn't appear right. Therefore, when photographing with a nonpanoramic camera, I suggest that you buy a ground glass with grid-markings, or better still, that you install two small masks that cover up the high and low areas.

Detachable viewfinder for a Noblex 150 U.

Even if it is technically possible to make panoramic photographs with a modified, conventional format camera, my own experience, as well as that of my peers, has shown that it is difficult to work on a regular basis in this way. Don't painters sometimes cut specific windows into cardboard to view the intended format at the end of their outstretched arms? This is a major reason why, apart from the simple fact of getting the most out the height of the film (35 mm or 120), fervent enthusiasts decide to purchase a real panoramic camera. However, this process is reconsidered in discussions of joined panoramas made from conventional cameras. In that situation, it is impossible to have a preview of the final photograph, apart from sweeping the entire scene; and more and more, this is being done with the camera held in a vertical position. Only those already accustomed to the conventional cameras being used will be able to easily preview the future joined photograph and not be thrown off-track.

The viewfinders of panoramic format cameras (which are neither reflex nor capable of measuring distances) are often detachable and usually provide a sharp and very clear view. On the Noblex 150 and the Fuji GX617 for example, they contain three multicoated lenses, allowing for a very bold range of contrast. And once again, even though the viewfinders are normally quite sharp, they neither control the actual focus of the camera nor solve the parallax problem. Therefore, it remains necessary to pay close attention to position of the viewfinder at the moment of framing, always making sure that it is aligned directly behind the lens and on the same axis, regardless of whether the viewfinder is detachable.

Sometimes the grid-markings of certain viewing screens are already marked with a panoramic format, as in this case. The two lines above and below the median line allow an elongated format with balanced proportions to be cropped from it.

The geometry of this Norman, facade is respected in this photograph taken with a Fuji 617 (90 mm). Photo by Herve Sentucq.

The geometry of this Norman, facade is respected in this photograph taken with a Fuji 617 (90 mm). Photo by Herve Sentucq.

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