5 Frames… On a panoramic-mod Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 and Rollei Retro 400S (EI 4200 / 120 Format) – by Pablo Olvera

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I have an obsession with panoramic photos and the cameras that take them. Walk into a museum or historical exhibit and chances are you’ll find a panorama; often impossibly long and expertly taken by masters of the past. Often there’s a bigger opportunity for unintended scenes, objects, people, and situations to be captured in time. Finding these candid moments are just one of the many things I love about the format.

After shooting dedicated panoramic cameras with swing lenses, and using 35mm film with 120 adapters to expose it in 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, and 6×9 format cameras I had a realization. I had struggled with adapting 35mm to expose in medium format, but why not adapt medium format to give me the negative size I wanted? I got to thinking and after looking at my cameras I decided the Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 would be a great camera to do this. It has a modestly wide 75mm Novar f3.5 B – 1/300 lens and utilizes a manual red window film advancement system for its native 6×6 exposures. The qualifications for this panoramic build end there, so if you have a camera that meets “red window” and “6×6” you’re set to make your own.


I narrowed the film gate to 24mm x 56mm by cutting an old broken darkslide and attaching the pieces to either side of the film gate. I ended up with a very narrow “portrait” orientation film gate. Shooting the camera in portrait actually gives you landscape photos! Now on to the most important thing of note: the film and it’s advancement. To keep our exposures neatly spaced and without overlapping we will have to use the countdown markings between the numbers for regular 6×6 exposures. These are the big dot, medium dot, small dot in-between numbers. If you’re a strict Kodak only shooter you may not know what these are! Unfortunately, I have not found any of my Kodak paper backings that have these markings. Fuji, Ilford, and Rollei all have these and I’m positive there are countless other film stocks with these.

I loaded Rollei Retro 400s into my camera and advanced past the arrows and stopped at the very first big dot before the “1” marking. These big dots are exactly halfway between numbers so exposing at every big dot and number gave me double the exposures for 6×6 frames, 24 in total. You could get away a 25th exposure after you turn past the “12” marking but it’s a guess since there are no markings to guide you on where to stop.

Finally, I masked my viewfinder to match and I was ready to shoot. The 5 photos you see are all hand developed and scanned using Cinestill Df 96 Monobath and an Epson V600. I really enjoyed making this panoramic mod to my camera and I was absolutely thrilled to see the negatives when they came out. I hope you enjoy them, and if you decide to make your own you’ll find just how fun it is.

~ Pablo


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