Panoramic Views

Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Have you ever wished for better vision? That is, not just to see more clearly, but at the same time to see things that you've missed seeing--or remembering--because there was just too much to take in at one time.

That was me, too, until I came upon this incredible camera, the Noblex panoramic. It sees and remembers it all. And better than I could do it, myself. Boy, if there were anything that I'd suggest you putting on the top of your holiday shopping list (along with health, wealth, and time to enjoy them both) it would be this camera.

This is one of those absolutely incredible things that I've always had in the back of my mind--ever since my high school panoramic graduation picture. You may be too young to remember those days, but we all stood before one of those rotating cameras and then some joker would run from one end of the group to the other, getting in the picture twice.

It was funny then, but it was also intriguing. All of these thoughts came back to me recently when Shutterbug Editor Bob Shell asked me if I'd like to do a report on the Noblex panoramic camera. Do I have to tell you that I jumped at the chance? With all the traveling I do, I thought it would be a fun new adventure for me. What I didn't realize was that it would change the way I looked at the world--forever.

Here's the scoop about the Noblex camera that I tested. It actually has a rotating lens. Just imagine...a picture that shows what you might see if you held your head in one position and let your eyes go from as far as you can see on your left to as far as you can see to your right. Well, it even goes farther than that.

In some of my first pictures I saw some kind of blur on both sides of my pictures. A closer look showed me that the blurs were my fingers. I wasn't holding the camera the way the instructions tell you to do, so my hands were in both sides of the images. Come on, now, give me a break. The angle of view is that much? Yep.

And the quality is great, too. So sharp, it's unbelievable. All in a handheld 35mm camera that almost fits in your pocket. There is a medium format that they make, too, but I opted for the smaller, handier version. Now that I'm so excited about creating panoramic images (and spending so much time doing it) I'm almost wishing that I had the larger, "more serious" version of the camera. I'm thinking of all the sales potential in creating panoramic photographs.

Of course, I actually started using the camera at home. Pictures of the front of my house and all of my neighbors' houses were a must. Talk about excitement. These will be my holiday gifts to all the people around me. Just check out the picture of my pool, shot through the curved living room window. Yes, that's not a distorted image. This camera is almost distortion-free. I couldn't believe it.

And look at all that detail--all the way from the deep shadowed area to the very bright areas in direct sunshine. On top of that, the picture was made through a darkly tinted window. Can you believe the quality of that lens?

Then, there are all these pictures made on-board Carnival's Destiny. Check out the wedding ceremony. It was taking place in the ship's library. The people on the left side of the picture were actually way to my left, as I was there holding the camera. The bride and groom were all the way to my right. You've just got to look through this viewfinder to know what I was experiencing. You can be pointing the camera at people and they don't even know it, because they're so far off to the side. Talk about fun and excitement.

The photographs made on the deck were all made in a matter of minutes. The hardest part of working with a camera that has such a wide sweep is to keep the horizon line level. Even with the built-in spirit level it was pretty difficult. I now know that you really need a tripod to keep the horizon straight. You're better off taking a picture like I did of the souvenir carts on Key West. You don't even see a horizon line.

I also learned that when you had foreground interest in the photograph, it was more exciting. You can also do verticals, I realized.

To say that I enjoyed the camera tremendously is the understatement of the millennium. Coming into San Juan, I shot a series of pictures, each one more fun than the previous. I finally ended up liking the picture I took with all the people on the ship's rail looking at the island. What a difference between what those people saw and got in their snapshots and what I caught with my camera.

I even got up onto the ship's bridge and photographed the captain at the helm. Hey, no round steering wheel anymore. All computers. Oh well, I won't worry about who's steering the ship when I see the captain at dinner next time.

Okay, let's get down to business now. Here's what I learned about the Noblex camera, itself. The camera uses the principle of the lens rotating 360° for each exposure. The film rests on a curved film plane, and it's exposed through a constantly moving shutter slit. During the first half of the rotation the lens drum is accelerated to a constant speed. This ensures absolutely even exposure of the film during the second half of the rotation.

The results are a distortion-free photograph with an angle of view of 136°. The instruction book (which I wish I could find right now) says that the lens corresponds to the natural space perception of the human eye. I really think that it's better.

Anyhow, let me fill you in on some more details about this panoramic adventure that I've launched for myself. Okay, I've got some great negatives, I thought to myself. But how am I going to get good prints from them? No problem at all. I located a fantastic lab that specializes in panoramic printing.

Custom Photo Images has the most comprehensive facilities practically anywhere in the world to produce panoramic prints from their own negatives and/or yours. What a find. It's run by Addie and Peter Lorber. You haven't lived until you've met Peter. They're in Boca Raton, Florida and can be reached at (561) 361-0031. E-mail them at:

Peter will hang from a balloon basket, airplane, skyscraper, or whatever it takes to get a panoramic shot. He'll shoot up to 60 rolls of film to be assured of a great picture. He's in demand throughout the world as one of the experts in panoramic photography.
I caught him just before he was taking off to fly to Canada for a spectacular sporting event. His panoramic services are in demand internationally.

He represents and uses the Swiss made Round Shot Camera system with negatives up to 7" tall. Length of the negative? Beyond what you and I could ever imagine. He's had to figure out unique ways to just store his file of negatives. I'm simply amazed and dumbstruck at what Peter has in his Boca Raton lab. You can't believe the enlargers and other equipment.

Certainly, if history isn't being made by panoramic cameras, it will be remembered through their imaging. I, personally, have been bitten so strongly by this whole concept, I'll never be the same. You can be certain that there will be more and more Noblex shots in my catalog of favorite pictures that I've created in my lifetime career.

I am ready to take on the excitement and thrill of seeing panoramic photography in my future.

Maybe, after the holidays you might feel the same way. At any rate, you can find out more about the Noblex cameras by calling R.T.S. Inc. at (516) 242-6801 and telling them that you heard about their cameras here in Shutterbug.

Who knows? Maybe, you might end up seeing the world with a broader perspective.

Just a little more advice: keep your fingers out of your pictures, and keep your feet on firm ground.