#1179. Panoramic … Everything

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Mar 15

Photo school costs $10k to $200k. But here’s all you need to know.

Tuscan Pano 1

Recently, I’ve been spending way too much time watching a film-photography centric channel called Grainydays. I’ve published multiple links to it in the past, but here’s another one, because it is simply too good to be ignored 😉

The fact that one-man (filmmaker, photographer, humourist and scatologist) band Jason repeatedly declares that the Mamiya 7 is the best camera every produced, bar none, does a lot for my appreciation for his videos.

Much like the universal Top Gear rule of petrolheads is that you are not one if you haven’t owned an Alfa Romeo, the universal – DS approved, to boot – Grainydays rule of photographers is that you ain’t one if you haven’t owned a Mamiya 7. I’ve owned two, which makes me some sort of king among the elite. A third might grant me demi-god status and I’m seriously considering it. Again.

Tuscan Pano 2 (from Volterra)

But the Mamiya isn’t the cause of your suffering on this page. No, it was the X-Pan’s Japanese cousin, the Fuji TX-1, featured in some videos, that triggered this bout of panoramic frenzy.

The combination of that highlight rolloff that film still trounces every single digital sensor so devastatingly at, and elongated format, proved irresistable to me.

That’s exhibit 1.

Tuscan Pano 3

Exhibit 2 comes from a position diametrically opposite to the Fuji’s. Cue RED Digital Cinema.

My growing love for all things cinematography is a secret to no one. Certainly not to friends and family, who have to put up with the repeated obsessive disorders.

The RED Komodo and Raptor both offer 2.4 : 1 framing, and almost film-like image quality that keeps me awake at night, you see.


But as I inch closer to pulling the trigger on one of those expensive creatures, impostor syndrome kicks in immediately, to put me back in my stills-centric place. I’m a tog, who am I kidding? What makes me think gear of any price or quality will turn into anything anyone will ever want to watch?

So, instead of brooding …

… I took to Lightroom, randomly slapped a 2.4 : 1 crop on a bunch of recent photographs from Italy, plus a Cine Preset of unkwown origin, just to see what that would look like.


Well, would you look at that?

All along I thought Nolan was a genius, Deakins above human comprehension and Kubrick a direct channel between The One and mere mortals.

Turns out everything looks good in panorama and photography is dead easy!

The lie

Proof :

Above is a semi-boring rendition of a lovely little lake in France, not far from the Italian border.

Below are quasi-random panoramic subframes of this image, and most of them look better than the original.

The reality

See? That’s all you need to know about photography, really. All those guys are frauds.

Buy an auto-everything camera. Shoot anything. Crop to 2.4 : 1.

That’s it.

Anything works

Cine is just a teeny weeny bit more difficult. You need to write a script with real characters, conflict, story, work out pre-production, block, stage, light, direct, shoot, edit.

But really, that’s 4% of the work. And the pano format is doing 96% of the heavy lifting.


Whodavthunk? 😉


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  • Dallas says:

    Thanks for the tip Pascal. Great images BTW.

  • Boris says:

    Hm, sadly never owned a Mamiya, but I had an XPAN for a couple of years. Maybe you can make an exception 😉

    I bought it just a few weeks after it was released in Europe. Lovely camera with a great lens, but I hated the process of scanning the Velvia slides.

    • pascaljappy says:

      No exception needed Boris. You are automatically in a category of your own 🙂 🙂 🙂 I still marvel at your book months after receiving it. Incredible work!

      The scanning process is what made me sell my Mamiya 7, twice. It’s simply too expensive and painful. But, having seen a video of a person using a digital camera as a scanner with very good results, I am again quite tempted. The look is hard to reproduce in PP.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

        Unlike the rest of DS, you are well aware of my enthusiasms for panos – my best to date is the 10:1 pano above our bed. But tomorrow I’m heading to my commercial printer to get another three measuring 4 or 5 to 1 printed. Two are a pigeon pair from the waterfront of Bordeaux – the other is Strasbourg’s fantastic cathedral, at sunset – the golden hour lighting up the facade on the front of the building in all its glory.

        And no I don’t have a Mamiya – or Fuji.

        Tell you what – how about you wheel out the Hassy? On a pano head on the tripod?

        You’re quite right about the “lie” and the “proof” – too many photos fail to achieve picture-status, simply because they have too much crammed into the one frame.

        Another suggestion – you won’t find this easy with boats, but it’s not impossible – a lot of the time, a pano looks better if it’s vertical, instead of horizontal.

        And borrowing from your own resources – set the resolution at 360 ppi, and have another look at the image.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    That post brings a nice fresh smile 🙂 Then one must admit….

    And BTW, I don’t qualify… I had a Mamiya, but the RZ67 with a 110 and a 180… drats, missed the admission in “the” club 🙁

  • Lad Sessions says:

    As a outsider looking wistfully into the window of the gear club, I too take delight in panos (and your images!). Most of my panos, however, are not crops but stitched together, with the originals panned handheld. Some are pleasing, some not. But I use them to give the wider scene, not for more intimate details. I shall have to repair that hole in my photographic repertoire. (I have so many holes in my photography that I resemble Swiss cheese!) Anyway, thank you for sharing this post Pascal.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Some of those are stitched, others are cropped. But since this was already a wide lens (24mm eq fl) the stitched versions show a lot of distortion. Compare the first (cropped) to the second (stitched) of the boat series, for example 😉

      Thanks 🙂

      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Distorsion can have a strange, pleasing effect… many filmmakers love anamorphic lenses for that precise reason, and it is a fun exercice to focus (hem, sorry, couldn’t resist :D) precisely on those “oval-shaped” sides… must be a psychological thing?
        At least for curved shapes like this boat… I nearly always notice it, then “accept” it 🙂

  • PaulB says:


    You had me with the images from Tuscany, especially first and second to last images. Though I agree with Pete. Verticals should be included. There is at least one vertical in your full frame image, and I do like your follow up images.

    Concerning the gear club. I am afraid that I will fall short of entry into the Mamyia 7, or dedicated pano wings of the club house. My only medium format cameras were Argus and Rollieflex TLRs, which don’t crop well. Though, I can anchor the large format section of the Great Hall of pano. Back in the day I modified 4×5 and 5×7 dark slides to give me two 6×12 and 6×17 images per sheet of film. It wasn’t very portable, but it was great fun.

    Today, my pano images are limited to cropping or the pano setting on my iPhone.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Paul, that’s a whole nother level of heroism. Large format is hard enough. But modded large format? I bow to you, sir 😉
      6×17 … oh how those big Fujis called to me.

      The iPhone is a good camera. Sometimes, my mind wanders, and a Mamiya 7 + iPhone pair begins to feel like the rational thing to do. Then I wake up 😉

      • PaulB says:


        Be careful when walking near vintage camera stores. The big Fujis still sing, but the Siren’s song when the Linhof sisters join the chorus is almost irresistible. Sometimes you can even hear them through the internet.

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          Ah, yes – I had a Linhof once – I still dream about it, and what it could do. It cast a long shadow – I’ve been mostly interested in larger cameras ever since. For a long while after the Linhof, I put 35 mm aside and concentrated on 6×6 or 6×9. 35mm and FF DSLRs have a “convenience factor”, but it’s quite likely that it’s the Linhof’s shadow which makes me avoid cellphones as an option. Doesn’t have to be “reasonable” – just has to be “a fact”!

  • philberphoto says:

    Ah, Pascal, you know very well that I hardly know the difference between Mamya and Mamma mia! You also know that I shoot predominantly “short game”, where a pano and a cinematic look are not an option. So I take exception to this post being exclusive and discriminatory. You discriminate against bald, overweight, talent-challenged, mean old fogies. Shame on you, Pascal!

  • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

    Anything new or different has some appeal… but really the composition works because you have years of training your eye. Nice images but not to just give pano the credit. Different formats can also be utilized to have the eye move around differently… something else to break the routine from looking at typical formats.

    As to comments on digital and film: A digital camera like Arri or Blackmagic can do what film does and more… even halation can be simulated by a decent colorist. Cinematic look is just that… a look… digital can be used to create many looks… yes including cinema. (Just check out Dunkirk… painstakingly mimicking film with digital.) But not to digress too far.

    2:1 format is a nice way to go pano as well. A really nice feature of a long pano is the one dimension is a wider view and the other direction narrow. For example with 2:1 ration a 25mm lens will be that in horizontal while looking like 50mm in vertical. For example, this can work well with say a portrait on one side with landscape on the other.

    Another consideration might be with getting too busy. Is the pano cropping two sides of the view or is it adding to two sides? Just as Hasy had that nice square format, thought, insight, or learned reflex to composition is important.

    I guess my feeling is that pano, like the rule of thirds, is something that is there like an option, but is not the creator of good composition.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Jeffrey, my post was a bit of a joke. I don’t consider the great cinematographers to be frauds just because they use panoramic formats 😉

      But I agree entirely with you: format alters the way the eye scans the photograph. In my very short composition “course” (over a few posts) I wrote that choosing the format is always the first step in composition.

      And, yes, using a camera and process that preserves a huge amount of information in digital files, a lot can be simulated in post with a lot of realism. I will be posting an article about this towards the end of next we. I think Dunkirk was shot on film (Imax) by Nolan, but there are others shot in digital for sure.

      2:1 is lovely. Back in the day, there were lovely 6×12 cameras (Horseman and Fuji ???) that were sadly well out of my financial reach, but today the format lives on in the Vistavision sensor RED is using for the Raptor camera. It’s the one I’d like to buy, but it is quite expensive. Still, it brings a great unusual format, plus 16:9 and 2.4:1 are available without requiring too much cropping.

      Back to Dunkirk. Apparently, it was projected in multiple formats (Imax and conventional). So shooting it must have been a compositional nightmare to avoid the busy feeling you mention but also leaving empty sides. My admiration for those cinematographers is immense.

      All the best

      • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

        Might find this interesting:

        Walter Volpatto was the colorist for Dunkirk and explains how the digital seen in theaters was made from the film. Nolan certainly is great at what he does, but it would not get done if not for the collaboration from many others.

        The 2:1 format is hardly limited to Red (ha, they would likely try to claim patent for it.) And such does not require Vistavision. I can utilize that 2:1 format in my Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K camera with resolution to spare and far better image quality because of their new sensor design. I just have to use a wider lens for the smaller sensor. My Otus 28mm works great with it. (also the camera is $6K, less than many still cameras that can approach 80 Mpix)

        As to the format, I have always liked a vertical for the way I can read information off of it. I would caution though as to stretching it far as the image becomes more of a scroll (as you alluded to above.) But then this scroll might be a nice place between a still and a movie. (now I am thinking some transition like M.C. Escher might have done.)

        Back to stills and formats. I know one one photographer who did a lot of work as circles… the image circle of the lens (and in platinum.) I do not recall other muti-sided formats and it does seem most are rectangles. So where does it become a pano… is there some specific ratio? Is it subject dependent? Is it size dependent? I can feel it being pano at 2:1 as that is like two squares. But is there some ratio at which pano begins?

        • pascaljappy says:

          Thanks Jefferey. Did you get to see that Masterclass? There’s only a short clip there, but the program Volpatto describes does seem very interesting!

          Yes, I think RED would love to patent 2:1. Even to patent the concept of filmmaking, if they could 😉

          The Ursa Mini Pro does look to be very competent. Does it deal OK with low-light situations? I’m going to be outdoors a lot, filming animals at dusk. The FX6 is the obvious choice, I guess, but I’m looking at other options. And how does Red raw compare with with Blackmagic RAW? My reason for not buying the FX6 is that ProRes RAW seems to be a nightmare with Resolve. I’m not a pro filmmaker and really need the simplest process. That’s my n°1 reason for looking at the Komodo.

          We have (copies of) Hokusai vertical panos at home, in my son’s room. To me, they are mesmerising. Probably because we are not used to viewing top to bottom, but left to right. So they force us to “discover” the images everytime we see them.

          What format qualifies as pano??? Hum great question. Wiki has this to say, in line with your suggestion “An image showing a field of view approximating, or greater than, that of the human eye – about 160° by 75° – may be termed panoramic. This generally means it has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or larger, the image being at least twice as wide as it is high. The resulting images take the form of a wide strip.”

          Cheers 🙂

      • Lovely 6×12 cameras… were you maybe thinking of the Linhof Technorama 612PC? It was my dream camera for many years, until I got one, or two to be precise. Turned out to have hopeless ergonomics, terrible lens flare issues, and very frustrating film transport issues. They looked cool though. 2:1 crop on the X1D is far less trouble….

        • pascaljappy says:

          Aaah. Never meet your heroes, right? Yes, digital cropping is so much more convenient. And I feel the X1D is the natural successor to my beloved Mamiya 7, in many ways.

  • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

    oops, yes, sorry, I thought that was the link. The master class was 4 hours long and it seems now one must pay to see it. Somehow I registered and saw it free. (I think it was from Cullen Kelly’s “Grade School”.) They spent something like three years making inter positives and negatives and comparing their latest digital with an approved film copy by trial and error and their shear abilities. I used to build enlarged negatives and positive and masks (analog) for platinum printing which some of this was a reminder.

    The 12K eats light (hehe) but produces great color. For getting into cinema I would recommend the Blackmagic Pocket 4K. It has duel ISO (400 and 3200)(the 12K is 800) and costs about $1300. It has a MFT mount but several adapters are easily found for many lenses. These sensors are both made to work best at these ISO. With a fast lens the pocket should have no problem at dusk but it is not intended to be a nocturnal camera like some Sony. How does Resolve deal with Braw? They are both made by Blackmagic Designs to work together. Braw (12-bit 4:4:4) is great… and the files will be smaller than Prores raw 4:4:4. The Pocket can record to Braw, Prores and Avid codecs. (the 12K only to Braw) Also to keep in mind that with a Pocket 4K the only necessary extras are lens (and maybe adapter), data card(s) and batteries. (overall much less expensive than Komodo +++.) Also check out their ease of operation.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Jeffrey, that makes a lot of sense.
      So you made platinum prints? That’s brilliant. The process you describe also reminds me of cibachrome.


      • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

        For what it might be worth I have a Guide to Pt/Pd Photography at:
        It has not been updated in a while, but can still be informative. I saved it when att stopped hosting free websites, but never got to building myself another site.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Brilliant, thank you. If you have an html version of this or would like to, I’d be very happy to host it on DS for you, in your name, of course.

          All the best,

          • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

            It was originally in html but I changed to pdf so as to retain the format in various browsers or if someone wished to print out a hard copy. The internal links may not be all there, but most seem to still work. It is all copyright but I don’t mind someone printing out some of the pages for their own personal use (like taking into their darkroom.) It would take a half ream to print it all. Chapter 17 is not included as it involves a process developed by someone else written up by me. If there is interest in the manufacturing of Ferric Oxalate Powder it details with illustrations a successful way to to so. I would be honored for you to host. It would be easiest to just provide the link I gave you above. If ever I did put back the html and the calculators or the FO process, they would be links off that cover page.

            • pascaljappy says:

              Perfect. I’ll create a link to it on the blog, then and will also mention it in next weekend’s roundup of links. Thank you for sharing this with others.

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