1970 Horizon (USSR)

The Horizon is one of my favourite cameras and it’s so fun to use. It was made by the KMZ factory in Russia, home to the better-known Zorki rangefinders and Zenit SLRs. It’s a 35mm camera that takes a single shot across 58mm of 135 film. There’s a 28mm f/2.8 lens mounted in a rotating drum and the film runs across a curved guide behind it so that the distance from lens to focal plane remains the same throughout the lens’s travel.

The concentric rings on top of the camera select the aperture and shutter speed. The aperture control closes aperture blades inside the lens as usual but, because the camera doesn’t have a normal shutter, the shutterspeed works a bit differently than usual. The back of the drum that mounts the lens has a vertical slit of variable width. Changing the shutter speed affects the size of this slit. The speed of rotation remains constant no matter what settings are selected. The camera is fully mechanical, there are no batteries or other electrical circuits, winding the film on, not only cocks the shutter but also winds a spring that powers the drum rotation.

There’s an accessory shoe mounted to the front which is intended mostly to mount the optional viewfinder rather than a flash, there’s no sync socket as it would be a bit pointless given the way the camera works.

The camera is a blast to use. You need to have it on a tripod or sitting on a solid surface as the drum rotation takes little bit more than a second so, regardless of the shutterspeed, that’s your actual exposure time. You’ll also want it to be level, either horizontally or vertically otherwise you get a curved horizon or curved verticals depending on the camera orientation. Without a viewfinder, composing is a bit tricky but the lens is prefocussed to infinity so you don’t have to worry about that. Because it’s a panorama rather than an ultrawide, there’s no distortion as long as you are level. Physically it’s heavy, solid and surprisingly well made. The lens is small but sharp enough for the purpose. I like to bring this camera along for trips to the mountains or if I know I’m going to be going up a tower for some vertical panoramas.

Sample Images