There are many things I want, nay, need (ok just want) in life. One of those, for as long as I can remember (honestly, 1 year max probably, I can’t really remember), is a Hasselblad Xpan. Unfortunately, these little pieces of wonderful sell for $1500 and up including only one lens (45mm) on Ebay. While I’m sure I it’s only a matter of time before I cave and blow some cash on one of these, I have been trying my best to stall myself as I look for less expensive alternatives. My first attempt was the Pan-o-gull, a modified Seagull TLR with a DIY panoramic mask in the film chamber. In my opinion I think it turned out quite nicely, and all for the low price of a piece of construction paper ($0.25). While I was happy with the results (and the cool name I made up), it was definitely not an Xpan. The focal length of the Seagull made the panoramic picture about as wide as a standard 90mm lens, which is great for some pics, it doesn’t always lend itself so well to panoramics. The negs weren’t quite as wide as an Xpan, you could only take panoramics, and of course it was missing a built in light meter.
So the search continues, and this week it has brought me to the Vivitar PN2011 panoramic focus free camera. How much did this little gem set me back? $4, $11 including shipping. First impressions: it’s “focus free”, sweet, one less thing for me to screw up. It’s made out of 99% plastic and probably doubles it’s weight when you insert a roll of film. As for features, it can take panoramics AND regular 24mmx36mm negatives. The camera switches between formats by a plastic mask that slides to cover the top and bottom portion of the negative, so in fact you are getting a smaller negative when taking panoramic than when in normal mode.
After one roll of film I was fairly disapointed with the results. The pics were all blurry (some might call it “soft focus”, but it’s blurry). I’m not convinced that the mask in the viewfinder matches up with the mask in the film chamber either (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention on some shots). Overall, not so hot, especially if you view the pics larger than thumbnail size.
Was it realistic of me to expect a $4, 20 year old focus free camera to perform on par with $1500, 10 year old professional range finder camera with Hasselblad lens? Dare to dream, that’s all I have to say… Seriously though, at $4, it was a fun experiment, but I likely won’t put many more rolls through this camera.
Is my lust for an Xpan still present? Heck ya. If anything these experiments are only serving to fuel the fire. One day it will be mine, oh yes…