The Panomicron: Building a Custom 93x24mm Panorama Camera

All images by Oscar Oweson. Used with permission.

“My camera, that I call the ‘Panomicron’ is a 35mm panoramic camera that shoots 93×24 negatives.” says photographer Oscar Oweson in an interview with us. “It can use any Mamiya Press lens but does not have any rangefinder, zone focus only (so the 100mm f2.8 might not be ideal).” The Panomicron is a Custom Made 93x24mm Panorama Camera. Like many of the newer generation of photographers out there, he wanted to play with a Hasselblad X Pan camera. However, they’re pretty expensive. So he built his own variation.

With a little bit of creative genius, Oscar created a camera that’s bound to get lots of photographers really excited.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Oscar: When I was about 12 I got my first own camera, it was a Sony nex-5, mirrorless was the hot new craze and I didn’t really know much about cameras. I just wanted to take pictures, my mom was the one who chose it. I had that camera for a long time and used it sporadically, but never truly got the hang of it. A few years later I got inspired by all the cinematographers on YouTube and decided I wanted to try making videos seriously. Somewhere on that path, I jumped back into photography and have stayed there since. I’d say what made taught me about film photography was also YouTube, people like Matt Day and Nicolas Llasera are great resources got me hooked on film!

Phoblographer: What made you want to photograph landscapes?

Oscar: In general I photograph anything I find appealing, I don’t restrict myself to landscapes. Now, with my homebuilt panorama camera I tend to shoot a lot of landscapes because of the extreme aspect ratio, It just wouldn’t work very well for most other things, although I want to experiment with other genres and this extreme aspect ratio.

Phoblographer: So in a digital age, why did you choose to shoot analog film?

Oscar: I chose to shoot film because I like the feel of film cameras more, I love winding the advance lever after taking the shot, I love not getting to look at the picture after taking it, it makes me feel like I captured a moment and went on with my life, I get to keep the feeling of that moment and not have to break it by chimping and wondering if it’s sharp enough. It is what it is, and it gets the job done. I don’t need much else. The mystery of what I actually shot also keeps me going, I’d say. It’s wondering how those pictures turned out that makes you want to see them, if you know what you have then the enjoyment ends ten minutes after you get home. But when you have a roll in your camera for a month, like I do, you sort of forget how those pictures were meant to look and you get to see them anew and relive the moments.

As a side note I also shoot digital, I’m no purist, I use and appreciate both.

Phoblographer: Not only are you shooting analog film but you also made your own camera. What motivated the choice behind making it?

Oscar: The motivation to build my own camera came when I wanted to shoot panorama, but judged that the Hasselblad XPan was too expensive to justify for such a specific wish. I also wanted to learn more about cameras, and I doubt there’s a better way of learning than making things on your own and having to figure stuff out. I was originally inspired by a flickr user who built his own cameras*, I used the same base camera as him but decided to use Mamiya Press lenses on it instead (he used a large format lens).

This man helped me throughout my building process and answered a lot of my questions about how I should approach this build. I thank him infinitely. I also got help and Inspiration from Thomas Roma, a photographer and professor at Colombia who also quickly answered my questions. The kindness and eagerness to help of these people in the community motivated me materialize my crazy idea.

Phoblographer: So tell us about this camera. What’s so special about it that fulfills your needs and wants?

Oscar: My camera, that I call the “Panomicron” is a 35mm panoramic camera that shoots 93×24 negatives. It can use any Mamiya Press lens but does not have any rangefinder, zone focus only (so the 100mm f2.8 might not be ideal). It’s built off an old stereo camera that was modified. The Mamiya Lens mount and body are connected by a single 3D printed part that fits onto the old camera. The lens currently on there is the Mamiya 65mm f6.3 wide angle, It’s a Topogon design (4 elements in 4 groups in this case). I built the camera because I wanted a small form factor (relatively speaking), 35mm film panorama camera. For me it’s still a very specific use camera, It’s not my daily driver. But I try to bring it out as much as possible, to experience life in ultra wide aspect ratio, because it really forces you to compose differently. The center of the frame isn’t what matters anymore, you have to make use of the extra space to convey something new. It challenges you, which makes it even more fun to use.

Phoblographer: Do you think you’re going to work on more?

Oscar: The simple answer is hell yes. The longer answer is, I’m on my last year of high school, I have exams coming up in August and until then I’m going to work on things but at a slow pace. After that’s over I will absolutely keep making things camera and photography related. I’m constantly thinking of things I want to try and build, and I already have a couple I’ve decided I want to make. But for many of those projects I’m still lacking a lot of knowledge and know how, so they might take while. Next year I’m hoping to get an internship somewhere where I can develop those skills to do bigger and better things.