Low-Tech Panoramic Photography

Tøyen© Jon Grepstad

In September 1990 Alfred A. Blaker wrote an article in Darkroom Photography, “To toss or not to toss?” The article evaluated the recently launched Kodak Stretch 35 camera, Kodak’s second disposable camera, and explained how – with a few tricks – you could modify the camera and turn it into a reloadable, reusable one. Blaker claimed he had obtained 8 x 10 inch enlargements that looked close to what he got with his other 35 mm cameras.

The Kodak Stretch camera has a 25 mm two-element plastic lens, was originally loaded with a 12-exposure roll of Kodacolor Gold 200 film, and produces 3 ½ x 10 inch panoramic prints from the exposed 12 mm center strip of the film. The lens is remarkably good. In tests Blaker’s colleague Ctein found that the two-element lens resolved about 50 line pair/mm in a doughnut-shaped area about a third of the way out of the center. In the center and in much of the area outside the doughnut ring the resolution was about 20-30 lp/mm. The image rectilinearity was also quite good. The camera has a curved film plane to compensate for field curvature. The camera has a lensless viewfinder. A simple shutter operates at about 1/100 sec. The aperture is f/12.

In February 1991 I bought a Stretch 35 camera, carefully prised the camera open, pulled out the Gold 200 film, made a few changes so that the camera could be reloaded, and in my darkroom loaded the camera with about 12 frames of an Ilford XP-1 film. I chose XP-1 because of its latitude (ISO 50-800, best results at ISO 320-400). The camera has to be loaded in the dark since exposed film is spooled into the film cassette, not out of it, as in a 35 mm SLR. You load the camera by spooling the film from the cassette onto the storage spool.

The pictures below are some of the pictures I took on my first roll with the modified Stretch 35 camera one day in February 1991. The picture above was taken in the Oslo Botanical Garden, those below on an island with ruins of an old Cistercian monastery in Oslo. The prints are approximately 9 x 23 cm.

The panoramic format is a fascinating format to play with, a new way of seeing.

Hovedøya© Jon Grepstad

Hovedøya© Jon Grepstad

Hovedøya© Jon Grepstad

Hovedøya© Jon Grepstad

Hovedøya© Jon Grepstad

Literature:

Note: Single use cameras with flash have a capacitor that can hold a charge even when the power to the circuit is taken away. The charge can be powerful and represents a real danger. For this reason I recommend modifying only single use cameras without flash.

First published 1 August 1996. Last updated 1 May 2014.