Panoramic photography

The first panoramic cameras appeared only a few years after the official invention of photography, in 1839. The advent of flexible format film made their use considerably easier.

Panoramic images have a wide field of view, closer to the human eye’s view than standard images. The desire to widen the field of view emerged very early on in the history of photography. The first panoramic images, landscapes most of the time, were made up of several images placed side by side. Specifically-designed cameras soon appeared. Two types can be distinguished for film.

They can be rotating: the camera turns on itself. The rate at which the film feeds from one reel to the other is synchronised with the rate of movement of the camera. This system gives 360-degree views, or even more if the camera makes several rotations.

They can also have a swivelling lens. It sweeps the photosensitive film layer, which is set in a semi-circle in the housing, a shape to which film, unlike other formats, easily adapts. These cameras can take pictures with a maximum angle of 180 degrees.


Alpa Rotocamera SM60/70, Pignons SA, Ballaigues, Seitz Phototechnik AG, Lustdorf, Switzerland, from 1979.
Designed by Hermann Seitz and manufactured by Pignons SA until its closure; the camera is rotated on its own axis by a motorised drive while the 70 mm format film is advanced behind a slit, thus allowing 360 degree shots, with a few extra degrees to make the joint. Production of this camera continued at Seitz Phototechnik AG in Lustdorf.
(MSAP/collection Alpa Bourgeois Columberg)