Buyer’s Guide to Panoramic Cameras

Panoramic cameras are a popular type of camera which lets you take wider-than-usual photographs and is usually sold in regular 35mm format. Most of these cameras are fairly inexpensive and they have been manufactured by a number of different brand names. However, there are several factors to be taken into consideration before purchasing a panoramic camera.

Switchability: While the majority of panoramic cameras do have a switch to turn the panoramic feature on and off (often marked “Panoramic/Normal”), you should make sure that this option is available before making a purchase, unless you only want to take panoramic photos. Panoramic cameras known to have this type of switch include the Vivitar PN2011, Capital KX100 (see next paragraph), and Lex35 Panoramic.

Model Names: When buying a panoramic camera, be sure not to confuse similar model names. The Vivitar IC-100 and IC-101 look similar, but the IC-101 is panoramic and the IC-100 is not. Also, the Capital KX100 comes in two versions with the same model number – one is panoramic, the other isn’t, so you should check for the word “Panorama” on this camera before buying it.

Flash: Most panoramic cameras do not have a flash or a way to attach an external flash, probably because they are most often used for bright, outdoor photography. However, if you want the ability to use a flash, some are available with this capability. The Vivitar PS45P and PS54P have built-in flashes, and some generic panoramic cameras can have an external flash attached to them. The Ansco Pix Panorama, Ultronic Panoramic, and Vivitar PN2011 have no ability to use a flash.

Aperture/Speed: Few of these cameras offer aperture or shutter speed settings. Three exceptions are the Benz-Gant HelioFlex 3000T, Widelux and Horizon 202. The Benz-Gant is a mildly expensive (usually $15-40) semi-SLR panoramic camera with four aperture settings. The Widelux and Horizon are substantially more expensive and have a different method of taking panoramic photographs than the other cameras mentioned here. They also have more settings and an unusual apperance.

Other Features: Unlike lower-cost standard 35mm cameras, almost every panoramic camera has a built-in lens cover. Tripod sockets are fairly common and can be found on the Vivitar PN2011, Lex35 Panoramic and others. Some panoramic cameras are commonly sold with a small tripod, which is useful to preventing shaking of the camera and/or to take photos of the same exact position repeatedly. Few panoramic cameras are motorized or have timers.

Other Formats: While most panoramic cameras use regular 35mm film, there are a few which use other formats. Several panoramic cameras – mostly made by Canon – are available which use the Advanced Photo System (APS) format, although they are not very common. A few digital panoramic cameras are also available. There don’t appear to be any 110mm cameras of this type.

Shopping/Prices: Internet auction services and shopping websites are the easiest place to find these cameras, usually for under $15. Panoramic cameras can also be found occasionally at drug stores, thrift shops, and yard sales.

Overall, these cameras allow for an inexpensive way to try a new type of photography, and may provide better results for some types of photographs.

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