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Panomicron Oxygen review – A 3D Printed Hasselblad Xpan Alternative

Panomicron Oxygen review - A 3D Printed Hasselblad Xpan Alternative

I’ve lately purchased myself a Panomicron Oxygen – a panoramic 35mm movie digital camera that’s the identical format because the Hasselblad Xpan, however at a fraction of the worth. It won’t be as technically superior because the Xpan, however the Panomicron presents me just about as a lot as I might need from such a format of digital camera, it’s extra easy to make use of, and I’m by no means apprehensive that it’d break leaving me with a really costly door cease – factors for the Panomicron Oxygen, however simply how good can a 3D printed digital camera be?

Someday final yr I bought my Hasselblad Xpan-ii. Its worth had elevated to the purpose that I couldn’t justify maintaining it. I wasn’t capturing it a lot, and while actually love the format, the digital camera felt just a little prefer it was wasted on me. I bought it, rationalising that I couldn’t justify protecting it for the very odd event I had a want to shoot the format. I don’t carry “big” cameras typically, and once I do I’m doing so with a really particular objective in thoughts. I might think about myself having that objective with the Xpan now and again, however the truth that it’s so closely reliant on its electronics nervous me. The concept it might sit on my shelf ready for use, after which in the future me decide it up and discover it not working was sufficient alone for me to need to half with it – particularly because it had turn out to be such a helpful digital camera within the time I’d owned it.

I additionally fell into what I referred to as the “landscape trap” with it. I purchased it with the intention of capturing some nicely thought-about Anderson/Yeoman type photographs, and truly simply ended up capturing landscapes. There’s nothing improper with capturing landscapes with a panoramic digital camera, in fact. The truth is, I used to be very proud of a number of of the photographs I took. The difficulty was, I simply felt like I wasn’t doing the digital camera justice. I seemed on the images from the likes of Cal, and simply felt there was a cavernous hole between the worth of the digital camera and the worth of it to my images. I’ve bought numerous cameras for comparable causes – the Leica M-A and Contax T3 are others that come to thoughts – however the Xpan is the one that basically sticks in my thoughts.

The distinction with the Leica M-A and the Contax T3 is that I rationalised their sale within the information that I had different cameras that did comparable jobs. The Leica M4-P is actually the identical digital camera because the M-A, and for the best way I used the T3, just about any level & shoot was shut sufficient. I didn’t have a alternative for the Xpan past my little Minolta Riva Panorama, although truly, that felt just about sufficient for me… That being stated, I did miss the decision of the right broad format. For landscapes or in any other case, the 24x65mm body simply brings a little bit of the medium format magic to a 35mm strip of movie… so I assumed I’d attempt to discover one other digital camera that might utilise 35mm movie in the identical method.

Discovering an Xpan alternative

In fact, that is simpler stated than finished. As chances are you’ll or might not know, there are only a few cameras that take a panoramic frames on 35mm movie. Most 35mm “panoramic” cameras crop the highest and backside off a traditional 36mm broad body. What I needed was a 65mm broad body. Sadly, the Xpan is just about the one digital camera to supply these broad frames with out using a rotating lens. The drawback of a rotating lens is that they will trigger points in case your topic is shifting. This didn’t rule them out for me, however did make me need to discover different choices first.

A customized digital camera

In fact the one actual choice was some one thing customized. There’s a couple of very intelligent individuals on the market lately which might be making numerous varieties of customized digital camera. Most of which reap the benefits of medium and enormous format lenses with shutters. The shutter is the technical sticking level for a lot of DIY’ers – understandably actually, they’re complicated bits of package. Medium and enormous format lenses with the varied Copal, Compur, Seiko and so on shutters supply an answer to the shutter drawback. Although since most of them are greater lenses that cowl greater codecs, most of the DIY cameras that reap the benefits of them are themselves medium and enormous format.

A 65mm extensive body is – as I’ve alluded – virtually medium format. It definitely wants a lens with a medium format measurement picture circle to cowl the body. However for one purpose or one other, there appeared to be only a few DIY’ers on the market who have been making panoramic 35mm format cameras – and none that appeared like they’d be all that serious about promoting one to me. That was till I got here throughout Panomicron on Instagram.

Discovering and shopping for my Panomicron Oxygen

To be trustworthy, I can’t actually keep in mind the timeline. Both I noticed the submit on JCH or one among Oscar’s early prototypes on his persoanl Instagram. Both approach, I used to be conscious of the challenge when I discovered the Panomicron Instagram feed and discovered that he was beginning to make the cameras with the objective of manufacturing a couple of for different individuals. I didn’t contact Oscar right away, however did maintain a beady eye on the undertaking. The truth is, the factor that ultimately made me get in contact with him was a want to know precisely the place he was getting the optics from… one thing I shall come again to in a mo…

By the point I received in contact with Oscar he was ending off his model-four Panomicron Oxygen design and had began taking expressions of curiosity in a brief-collection manufacturing run. We chatted a bit of across the matter of me ultimately shopping for certainly one of his contraptions, however I didn’t commit. That was till he obtained in contact saying that one of many individuals he’d promised a Panomicron to had pulled out, and did I need to take their place. In fact the reply was sure, and never lengthy later I acquired my new 24x65mm 135 format movie digital camera.

A 3D printed digital camera

Once I dedicated the money to purchase my Panomicron Oxygen, I used to be underneath no illusions that I used to be going to get a digital camera that felt like a mass-produced product. That is very a lot a 3D printed digital camera that in some ways is just a little rustic feeling. I feel it’s value allowing for the truth that to have this factor made out of something aside from a 3D printed materials would value an absolute fortune. It’s the 3D printing revolution that permits this kind of factor to exist outdoors of the thoughts of its designer in any respect – so I personally can utterly forgive it its lower than mass-produced really feel.

In fact, some 3D printed issues do look just a little extra polished than this, however there’s extra to that than meets the attention too. As I perceive it, the gray materials it’s made out of was chosen for the sensible cause that it’s mild tight – I feel Oscar likes the look of it too, however clearly making a digital camera from a light-weight tight materials is pretty necessary. Personally, I’m neither right here nor there in relation to the look of this digital camera – it’s not the prettiest factor I’ve ever seen, nevertheless it feels strong and does certainly seem to maintain these pesky stray mild rays from polluting the movie when it’s not presupposed to.

It really works too – although it’s not with out its foibles. For a begin, the shoe that the viewfinder slots into is slightly unfastened to the finder. To unravel this. I simply put a tiny spot of blu tack onto the finder’s foot so when it’s slotted in, it doesn’t come out as straightforward. The rewind knob is a bit of unfastened feeling too. The spring inside it isn’t as robust because it could possibly be so it lifts too simply. It’s a bit fiddly to rewind the movie too, as the strain of the movie feels a bit extra fighty than in manufacturing cameras… nevertheless it nonetheless does what it’s imagined to.

I’ve spoken to Oskar about these points and he tells me he’s wanting into an answer for the subsequent model. In fact, if this was an off the shelf digital camera that may in all probability imply me shopping for an entire new digital camera – which isn’t the case right here. Oskar has stated that upgrades will doubtless be backward suitable, so if I would like the brand new upgraded elements they may simply substitute the bits on the digital camera I have already got.

Foibles out of the best way, there are a few very nice design options that genuinely impressed me. Once more it’s a must to acknowledge that this can be a 3D printed digital camera and never an off the shelf manufacturing digital camera that’s had hundreds of kilos thrown at R&D – as such, what might sound fairly primitive in comparison with some cameras, to me is definitely fairly spectacular once you put it into the context of a digital camera designed by one individual of their spare time.

For instance, while it does lack a body counter, the little arrow for displaying how a lot the movie must be superior is a really intelligent little function that solves the difficulty of how a lot to advance the movie fairly properly. The movie advance is ratcheted too – though not sprung – because of this after you’ve taken your body you push the advance as you’d on another digital camera, you simply should regulate the little arrow till it’s rotated one full circle again to the place it began. When it has, you simply fold the movie advance again to its folded away place.

Funnily sufficient, the function I feel I like probably the most is the lock on the rear door. When the door of the digital camera is closed you simply slot a little bit of plastic over two parallel protruding elements. The great little function is a magnet and little bit of metallic embedded into the 3D print. The little bit of plastic that slots into place is held by tight sufficient magnetic drive for it to not come off by being knocked, however continues to be straightforward to take away when you should. It’s primarily a very neat answer to an in any other case fairly troublesome drawback to unravel given the chosen technique of producing.

The lens and focusing

Past all this, there actually could be very little to the Panomicron Oxygen itself, in need of the lens mount in fact. The lens mount is a M65 threaded mount which is designed to work with what Oskar calls a “Chinese helicoid”. Search eBay for M65 helicoid and also you’ll discover entire load of suppliers of the issues. On to the top of that is mounted a 65mm Copal-zero lens plate. Onto the highest of the helicoid Oscar has printed a distance scale that’s appropriate for the lens hooked up to the plate. The large query that had me initially get in contact with Oscar about within the first place was the place the lenses themselves come from.

The lens

For me, the lens is the actually fascinating bit. As I’ve alluded to, the simplest sort of lens to mount to a digital camera like that is one which has a shutter constructed into it. Because it occurs, many medium format lenses have shutters constructed into them, however most even have proprietary mounts and shutters which are triggered by the digital camera. In truth, one of many solely forms of lens that’s triggered by the consumer independently of the digital camera is the lenses for the Mamiya press cameras. Check out Oskar’s earlier designs and you will notice that these are certainly the lenses he was utilizing.

The lenses he makes use of for the Panomicron Oxygen, and certainly a few of his different contraption are literally Bronica lenses from the ETR and SQ collection cameras. In fact each of those collection of lenses have their very own mounts and have shutters which are triggered by the digital camera. The truth is, they’re electronically managed shutters – however therein lies the answer, fairly than the issue.

The electronically managed shutters are literally zero-measurement Seiko shutters, with the optics screwed into them in the identical approach another lens would screw right into a zero-measurement shutter. The outer a part of these Bronica lenses is successfully a housing for the unit-focusing lens inside. Which means when you take the lens aside, you possibly can extract the entrance and rear optical cells and screw them onto and zero-measurement shutter. This zero-measurement shutter and optics can then be mounted to the m65 helicoid, a focusing scale added to the highest, and away you go. As you possibly can see, Oscar additionally provides a housing of his personal to the entrance optical cell to offer it a glance that’s a bit of extra in-retaining with the digital camera.

My chosen lens

For my Panomicron Oxygen, I opted for a 50mm f/2.eight lens, however have even have a wider 40mm f/four that Oscar is making a housing for. The 50mm is definitely about proper, I simply purchased the 40mm as I noticed a damaged one on eBay going for good cash. I’d fairly like an extended lens, however because it’s scale focusing solely, it appeared smart to stay to a barely wider angle.

The 50mm lens supplies an equal of about 28mm when it comes to horizontal subject of view and 50mm (clearly) when it comes to the vertical area of view. That is maybe the primary downfall of The Panomicron Oxygen in comparison with the Xpan for me. I most popular the 90mm xpan lens to the 45, however don’t fancy wrangling an extended lens with entry solely to scale focusing. Maybe Oscar will make a rangefinder model sooner or later – it wouldn’t be the primary he’s made!


Sadly, at the very least for the sake of this submit, I’ve not had a lot time to make use of the Panomicron Oxygen a lot. The one roll I’ve shot with it was additionally developed by Boots with some chemical compounds it seems like they final modified within the 1999s… so the colors are somewhat bit off. That being stated, hopefully you will get some impression of the potential end result.

Worth and availability

For the sake of readability, I assumed this a part of the submit can be greatest it if got here from the horses mouth, so I requested Oscar. He stated:

The worth listing is on the web site, it’s $450 for a physique solely, $600 for a full setup (helicoid viewfinder and so on..) however no lens, and $1000-1200 for every little thing.

I attempt to make them as out there as attainable, though in fact I don’t have a lot time to truly construct them. I hope to do a collection of three or four quickly, although this depends upon my uni schedule.

In case you can’t afford one constructed by me, or can’t wait, the information are completely free to obtain on the location for everybody to obtain and print.

I do my greatest to reply each message I get from individuals making an attempt to construct it, so if anybody is not sure And needs assist I’m very happy to take action.

Remaining ideas

There are in fact limitations to the Panomicron Oxygen. It’s a 3D printed digital camera and was designed by a person in his spare time (a 19 yr previous at that) and never a staff of seasoned digital camera designers with limitless assets and manufacturing methods at their disposal. Due to this, in some ways it may’t compete with the likes of the Xpan. However truly, for anybody used to utilizing a digital camera with none of the bells and whistles, resembling a inbuilt lightmeter and auto-advance and so on, the restrictions are fairly slight. I can genuinely say, the one factor I actually miss when evaluating it the Xpan for my images is the rangefinder and the power that brings to make use of a barely lengthy lens simpler.

Sure the movie advance lacks a body counter, the viewfinder is somewhat unfastened and the rewind knob rather less than best, however the commerce off is a digital camera that may be a lot much less more likely to brick. I may also get spare elements if I want them – The truth is, if I used to be sufficiently succesful, I might print spare elements myself. In actual phrases, this implies this digital camera – a digital camera designed by a 19 yr previous in his spare time – truly presents actual benefits over and above a Hasselblad.

In fact, for those who get Oscar to make you an entire Panomicron Oxygen, it’s not precisely low cost – although nonetheless lower than half what an Xpan would value you nowadays! Should you get the elements printed, supply a lens, helicoid, lens mount, shutter and viewfinder optics your self you can in all probability save a bit bit of money in comparison with what Oscar costs, although in all probability not that a lot in case you went for the top quality materials Oscar makes use of. Both approach although, he has made the drawings for the Panomicron Oxygen obtainable, so in case your into making this kind of factor your self, you’ll be able to!

For me, there was no selection – I’m positive I might have discovered another person to make one for me from Oscar’s information, however I’m a lot happier supporting him and his concepts instantly. I’m fairly sure this man has an extended and fruitful profession in product design forward of him – if a little bit of my money in his pocket helps velocity up the method, then I’m very a lot on board. Right here’s hoping he continues to focus his consideration on making new movie cameras!

You’ll find Oscar’s web site right here
You possibly can obtain the elements for the Panomicron Oxygen right here
It’s undoubtedly value following the Panomicron Instagram right here
When you didn’t see it, the publish about his newest contraption, the “Holmium” over on JCH could be very a lot value a glance too

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