There's a detent, but you don't even want to use 1/250th second (apparent) shutter speed. A fellow from Photo.Net asked me for advice, so I'm copying & pasting my email reply to him:

Anyway, the Horizon 202 is an interesting camera, but it's like an Italian sports car: When it puts out a great picture, it's truly spectacular; but you have to bracket like hell since it has no meter .AND. you have a wide field of view, and it can jam on you if you don't load it carefully. For samples of panorama shots from my Horizon 202, see page 5 of the RaceFax 2003 Indy 500 Race Report, shot with Velvia and drum scanned; and the Martinsville Speedway Panorama, shot with EPP and which has a 13x30 inch print copy hanging in Mr. Earle's office.

On the subject of jamming, I don't recommend feeding it bulk-loaded cassettes: Pay the extra couple of quarters for boxed 35mm film.

On the subject of metering, when you shoot outdoors, you have to watch out for uneven scene lighting, as parts of the image can be blown out while other parts are badly underexposed -- Hence the mandate to bracket.

Bracketing is a bit trickier than you would first think, because the shutter speed is increased from 1/60th to 1/125th by cutting the lens in half with a shield: Instead of evenly cutting off a portion of each side, one entire half is cut away (i.e. less of a sweet spot). Going from 1/125 to 1/250 cuts the lens down further into just a filled-in crescent, so I don't use it at all.

So, the way you bracket is to vary the aperture: The lens varies from f/2.8 to f/16 in full stop increments, but the best aperture (as in any 35mm film) is f/8 & f/11. What I do is vary the film ISO for the shooting conditions, so I can shoot at 1/60 second whenever possible. In "sunny 16" (EV 15) conditions this means f/16 @ 1/125 w/100 ISO film, so I use ISO 50 Velvia in bright sun, which gives me 1/60 @ f/16. [Since I develop my own E-6, if I don't want to use Velvia, I shoot an ISO 100 film at E.I. 50 and pull process it down, which reduces contrast further.] The Horizon 202 comes with a cheesey neutral density filter that supposedly reduces exposure by 2 stops (along with a green filter for B&W), but because I don't shoot B&W panoramas, I don't use it because I suspect it has a color cast of some sort.

Just like loading the Horizon 202, shooting with it takes a bit of practice, too: If you don't use a tripod or the bottom bicycle-grip handle, you have to hold the camera by the sides, since fingers on the front will be in the field of view! Also, although the fisheye viewfinder approximates the >130 degree horizontal field of view, it is a rectilinear lens, while the image recorded on the film is an orthorectilinear image, so what you see isn't quite what you get. Fortunately, the film image is actually about 10-15 degrees wider than the viewfinder image, so you have some "wiggle room" when composing the shot in the viewfinder.

Along the "lines" of image composing, the Horizon 202 has one feature not found in any other panoramic camera: The round bubble level is visible in the viewfinder. This is vitally important, since in an orthorectilinear (swing-lens) camera, horizontal lines at the center are straight, while lines above the center bow upwards, and below the center bow downwards -- And this is critical to producing a good image. For example, say you're 1/2 mile across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, shooting the skyline: You'll want to have the shoreline between the water and land splitting the image exactly in half, i.e. river in the bottom half and the city in the top half of the frame... And you can't see the horizontal line bending effect in the viewfinder, because it's a different image projection (rectilinear (fish-eye) vs orthorectilinear (swing-lens)).


You'll notice that I shy away from color negative film in the Horizon 202: I only use it when I have to scout out locations a day or more in advance, such as at a large speedway. What I do is shoot color neg film and take it to Wal-Mart for their $1.75 "soup only" special and tell them to not cut the negs; then I look at the images under a loupe to determine where best to shoot chromes from on race day.

One thing you do not want to do is depend on minilabs to scan & print, as they are not set up for the 24 x 58mm frame size. Again, here is where chromes make things infinitely easier, because it's easier to scan chromes than to scan color neg film with that ugly orange mask.

[But: If you have your own enlarger, then shoot negs and mask off a 6x4.5 carrier to print yourself.]

Scanning is troublesome, because:

A) Film scanners (like the CoolScan) can only handle 35mm frame widths (as far as I know);

B) If you use a flatbed the sharpness will not be good;

C) Drum scanning is expensive -- About $30 at NancyScans.

What I do is flatbed scan for small (up to about 4x10) prints & for Web; then if I have a Really Great Image, I drum scan it for poster-sized Lambda (LightJet) enlargements, up to 30x72 inches from a 24x58mm frame.


All in all, the $239 for a Horizon 202 is still a pretty good deal. The S3 is supposed to have a better lens; but the distributor in Atlanta told me it's not worth the extra $100.

The Horizon 205 is the medium format Big Brother to the 202; and eventually I'll pick up the perspective control (shift lens) version. Fortunately, the Horizon 205 and Noblex 150 & 175 shoot 6x17 frames, which is the same size as the X-Pan (but, of course, with the orthorectilinear film projection vs the fish-eye projection in the X-Pan).

So, there you have it: If you're prepared to get 2-3 "keepers" per roll of film (& have the money to afford the film & processing); and if you have enough patience to shoot several frames per scene with slight angle variations while bracketing, those "keepers" will blow you away.

Dan Schwartz
Sayreville, NJ