"Panoramic" Camera With A Kiev
By Kevin Ing

Click me to see the full, sprocket-hole-riddled film scan
Kiev 88 and Mir-26 45mm, F8 1/60 sec., 24x56mm photo on Fuji Provia.
Click on the image to see the full, sprocket-hole-riddled film scan.

Since I've always wanted a panoramic camera but could never bring myself to fork out the money for one, I took a tip from Holga users and decided to try 35mm film in my Kiev 88 to achieve a panoramic camera-like effect. The same idea should also work more easily in a Kiev 60... but since I don't have a Kiev 60, I'll show you how I did it with my Kiev 88.

But before we start! ... Please note that this is only an experiment. I'm on my fifth roll of 35mm film (as of August 21, 2001) in my Kiev 88 and so I'm still experimenting as I go. I cannot guarantee perfect results... but so far it has been promising.

1. What you need: An old style Kiev 88 film back (NT backs will not work for this), a roll of your favorite 35mm film, a hole puncher, and some foam or whatever you can dig up to hold the 35mm film canister in place.
(I have now rigged up a "custom" adapter using a cut up 35mm plastic film can.)
35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 1
2. I like to use Fuji Easy Loading spools, so I punched a hole in the center of the 35mm film leader. This hole allows the Easy Loading spool to grab the film and hold onto it. I did notice that the film was winding on a bit unevenly because of the tongue, so from the third roll on I've been cutting off the tongue completely so that the end will just be flat.
(The blue arrow was a mistake.)
35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 2
3. Feed the 35mm film onto the spool (of course making sure that the emulsion side of the film is facing away from the pressure plate) and give it a complete wind for good measure. 35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 3
4. Pull the film canister across to the empty chamber and wedge it in there with the foam pieces. You probably want it to be snug, otherwise you *may* have film flatness problems.

Try to get rid of any slack in the film by winding the take-up spool a bit if necessary.

35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 4
5. Your insert should now be ready to go back into the holder.

Once you lock the insert into the holder, you should plug the peep hole in the back of the magazine. I used a piece of black paper and then covered that with good 'ol duct tape. Why is this necessary? Because 35mm film has no paper backing and will get fogged by the tiny amount of light that *does* get in through the peep hole.

35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 5
6. It's probably a good idea to label the film back so that you know what kind of film you have in there.

Now, using the winding crank, give the film two-and-a-half rotations to get it into position for your first exposure.

35mm in Kiev 88 - Step 6
A few more important notes:

The film will be traveling vertically in the film magazine... this means that you have to hold the camera sideways if you want to take horizontal shots. With a 45-degree prism, this is not so hard to do. In fact, with the Kiev 88's square body, I find it easier to manage than a 35mm (without a vertical grip) rotated on its side.

Unless you make some sort of mask for the viewfinder, you will need to remember that the film will only be covering the center strip of the frame. Please compose accordingly.

35mm film has no paper backing and is not as thick as 120 film would be when winding onto the take-up spool. Therefore, the film will not be wound enough and you *will* get overlapping frames for the first 12 shots. If you can remember to do it, after each of your first twelve shots, unfold one of the wings on the winding crank of the film back and give it another half turn. This will prevent frame overlapping (and this is one reason why the NT backs won't work for this... you can't manually advance the film in this way).

When you have taken your 12th shot, advance the film once again, and again give the crank an extra half a turn... then turn the crank BACKWARDS to reset the film counter to 1 (again, NT backs can't do this). Now you will be able to finish off the roll. And, for the remainder of the roll you *should* get nice quarter-inch-or-so spacing between frames without the extra winding after you have cocked the shutter.

When you think you're getting to the end of the roll, advance the film *gently*. If you feel the film advance hit a sudden stop, you know you're at the end of the roll. STOP. Don't complete the winding cycle or you'll likely rip the 35mm film out of the canister.
Insert the dark slide into the magazine and remove it from the camera. Then, finish the winding cycle on the camera without the film back attached... just leave the film back alone, half advanced.

Of course, there is no provision to rewind the film into the canister. Unloading your film is a job to be done in the darkroom or in a changing bag.

Some helpful(?) tips:

Using the 30mm fisheye lens will give you results that roughly match those produced by swinging lens panoramic cameras, such as the Horizon 202. But that is not to say that you *need* to use the 30mm fisheye lens. I found that just about any lens will produce interesting results.

By the way, this method will give you 24x56mm (35x56mm if you include the sprocket holes) images versus the Horizon's 24x58mm frame. 2mm off the Horizon's frame size -- not too much.

If all goes well, you can get about 22 shots on a 36-exposure roll of film. About 16 frames will go on a 24-exposure roll.

Sprocket-holed photography has a bit of an interesting feel of its own.

Since film flatness *may* be an issue (I haven't found this to be true, but it is there in theory), it might be a good idea to shoot with the lens stopped-down.

I've noticed that the film backing tends to get scratched up a little bit as it's running through the film back (no paper to protect it). I may try to do something about this in the future... maybe a paper "shield" attached to the rollers might help?

One last question...

Q: Why would anyone would want to use 35mm film in a Kiev when you can just shoot normal 120 film and crop out a "panoramic" image if you like?
A: I have no idea, but it's been kind of fun. (^.^)


Last update: August 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001