Enter the Panon Wide Angle camera, which besides being fucking gorgeous, captures panoramic perfection personified. To most film photographers, a panoramic camera means ultra-cheap, all plastic, fixed focus, cropped down, and point and shoot. At least that was my first impression in the late 2000s, so I left it the hell alone. (That being said, my brother took a stunning photograph of Lendal Bridge in York with one of those little bastards, no shit). 

Then, I came across the knowledge that a plethora of other panoramic options existed, this is where the Panon came in. That name is likely better associated with the Widelux range of 35mm panoramic cameras, or the much more modern Widelux 1500 medium format camera. This Panon is maybe a little lesser known than its contemporaries but is simply put, the chuffing tits. 
Unfortunately, this little (read: large) guy wasn't mine to own, so I only got to take it on two trips out to test it and ensure it functioned correctly. To whoever has it now, you lucked out. Big time. Shit, this is starting to look a little biased, okay then, well, one massive shortcoming is that it is a bitch to get in and out of its little leather never-ready case as the camera is shaped like a brick with the mumps. There we are, no bias, happy days. 
First Jitters
So I think I've covered the super awesome case, there are actually further drawbacks - read: opportunities for user error. I grabbed the camera in a hurry, and pushed it into my camera bag, causing the dividers to crackle as the velcro shifted under the pressure. I also had an FE2 with a 50mm Series E, and a Canon Sureshot Telemax. These are the shoot-quick-move-quick cameras that I tend to use in places where being in a big spot of bother real fuckin' quick can happen, however rare these moments tend to be the older I get. When I arrived in Bristol on April 3rd 2021, the second major "Kill the Bill" protest took place in the city centre. Leaving my car in Trenchard, I ran towards the sounds of trumpets and drums expanding in the streets below. (For those of you who don't know, Trenchard Street Car Park is a large multi-story slap bang in the middle of Bristol, and has a beautiful view of the city below). 
I met up with the protest march just outside Primark as it flowed down Union Street. Photographers lined the walls and grassy embankments as the crowd cheered, danced, and sang. Energy. This, I thought, THIS would make an excellent panoramic photograph. The protestors were lit from behind by the early afternoon sun, and the contrast brought them anonymity, a unified mass of positive intention moving as an individual. I pulled the Panon out of its simply wonderful case and immediately remembered I hadn't loaded the camera prior to leaving as I had the others. I had also spent zero time on research. Loading this camera when you have no idea what you're doing simply sucks. It's not the camera designer's fault, it's mine. Working out how to thread that semi-circle magazine of confounding bullshittery amidst a sizeable crowd, all of the noise, and people climbing everything in sight, was, to put it bluntly, shite. But, there was a penny drop moment, all be it a little too eventually, and away we went, just be prepared to work it out yourself. When this not-so-little guy is locked and loaded though, it's a pleasure to shoot, sheer joy, with a very minimal amount of fuckery in the field. 

Boris Johnson addresses the Crowd in Baldwin Street, Bristol.

Quality and Price
Despite this camera falling into the 'exotic' category, the price tag is far more modest than 'exotic' would usually suggest. This camera ended up selling for £521, or $720, which for what it does and is, is a fucking steal in my humble opinion. The Panon's more modern and sexually active nephew, the Widelux 1500 cost almost as many pounds as its moniker suggest, and I'm pretty sure it's not three times as good.As for quality, that is unfortunately a little more of a complex question. There are those wise sages among us that whisper the generations-old myth "with weight comes quality". So if we apply that logic this camera is built like a symbolic monolith of craftsmanship. It weighs a lot more than it looks like it should, but unlike many other tank-like cameras that feel like bricks in the hand, with this you just feel as if you couldn't kill someone with it. Not because you couldn't, but because you shouldn't. It would be a crime against the camera. The Panon just feels as if it would crumble and die inside, almost as if its innards were made of glass, but the exterior was made of wafer-thin steel and appears to dent far more easily than it should, for some still-unknown reason. 
Controls and Layout
This camera's layout is pretty maddening and handles like nothing else in the world ever should. If this is the first swing lens camera you have ever picked up, you may have your work cut out for you. In all seriousness, you will not be too unfamiliar with this layout as a seasoned panoramic shooter. It resembles such layouts as the Widelux series, or coveted FT-2 and later Horizont cameras. If you've just landed in the middle of nowhere with a Panon in your grubby little hands mind, and have only shot point and shoots, you're gonna have a bad time.
Also, this camera is (probably quite obviously) lacking a light meter, built-in or otherwise. Remembering sunny 16 wasn't such a bad idea now was it eh? Glorious bastards you. If you want precision but a light meter, don't be a cheap bastard with it either if you want convenience. Sekonic manufacture some great meters sub £100.
        "But I don't want to spend a lot of money on a light meter, blah blah blah..."
-Little whiney bitch photographer kids
No one fucking does, we all hate having to buy accessories to an already expensive hobby, but you wouldn't buy an RS4 and then put £20 tyres on it and get it serviced at Quik-Fit so there's your answer. In other terms, light is what quite literally makes up your photograph, and resultantly your story, your iconography, and your meaning. It's likely worth investing in a system that tells you reliably what your eyes are looking at. Film is tolerant, and you can always guess the camera settings very well, but if you're striving for planned perfection then using a light meter is the way forward. If you're desperate for an affordable option and are feeling really cheap, but REALLY need a half-decent light meter, a Weston Meter II/III/IV/V that is sold as working by the seller is a good and cheap place to start. I have some great Weston light meters that are easy to use, just remember that 400 ISO = 320 Weston (or a 1:0.8 ratio) if the meter only works with Weston speed! ​​​​​​​

The moment I caught up with the protest march

Sorry, this is supposed to be a camera review. To cock the shutter, you have to drag it from user right to left using the little tab bit that pokes out from the 'slit'. This is quite different to the Horizont camera that cocks whilst rotating the dial on the top panel. With the panon you drag, and whilst you're doing this, or rather, before or after you have done this, you can fiddle with the little dials within the lens 'slit' to adjust both the aperture and focus distance before you take your shot. Having the ability to manually set focus is a godsend with this camera, as, unlike the Horizont that requires modification for close focus, this can achieve portraits and other close focus feats, straight out of the box. The lens is pretty fast too at 𝒇/2.8, and at 50mm (on 6x12 no less) is wide as fuck. 
Shutter speed is set using a little dial on the top plate of the camera. You are absolutely spoilt for choice with 1/2, 1/50 and 1/200s, no bulb as it's a swing camera. By this, I mean that when the shutter release button is depressed, the lens swings with force back in the direction that you cocked it, exposing an even strip of light onto the film plane as the lens pans across. It looks like a mechanism that should probably go wrong, but this copy has lasted for decades and is still going, so what does that say? With this copy the shutter speeds seem accurate and pan evenly across the plane of the film, more worn or damaged copies will tend to have brighter and darker strips where the lens swings at a varied rate due to resistance as it pans. 
The viewfinder is rather entertaining, it's a simple 'iron sight' setup, or rather, a viewfinder style camera. You peep through the little hole at the back and line up the metal panoramic box on the other side. What you can see through the little hole and within the box is, in theory, in the shot. In my experience, the camera is often a little wider than the box suggests yielding a wider image than anticipated. Sounds like a ridiculous complaint about a wide-angle camera but hey, it is what it is. And to finish off with a final camera layout comment, I'm pretty sure that the camera case has the tripod thread in it, and the camera uses the larger 1/4" style screw, which sucks, as I simply enjoy using the case TOO much, and feel it would distract me from the overall dreadful experience. (I will sacrifice this camera case to the old gods any second I get the opportunity FML). 
Handling in the Field 
I had the film loaded, the shutter cocked, light meter in hand, and off I went. The FE2 and Sureshot held their own as they always, and the Panon kept up with them surprisingly well. An outstanding camera for film economy with four shots per roll, I didn't go ham on the shutter but was also extremely hard with brand new shiny camera fun times so shot a fair few shots that were shit. As the march came to a crescendo in the middle of the road in Baldwin Street, Old City, Boris Johnson addressed the crowd, his giant hands flapping in the wind. He was followed by a series of speakers from the public that spoke their stories, messages, and their truths through the microphone. A supportive and energetic crowd offered tremendous applause and shouts of unity and revolution. When the time came that I had to reload the film magazine, it was easy a second time through. 
I still can't quite let go of the fact that the shape of the Panon and its case makes the camera so often unwieldily, and extremely difficult to fit in a standard-sized shoulder bag. I didn't have this issue with the GW690 II, and that thing felt massive in comparison. Out of the camera bag, however, I found it easy to operate in the field, with very pleasing results and an overwhelmingly positive user experience. For camera lovers and sufferers of GAS, the Panon is really great fun to shoot, slapping its lens about all over places it shouldn't. Massive fun. It was clear that this was a particularly good copy of the camera too, as I am surely not alone in seeing what happens when the gears in the mechanism begin to wear down and the uneven exposure issue becomes commonplace, so make sure that your copy works, or can afford the repairs necessary to keep these cameras going. 
Panorama style photographs 
The images captured by this camera belong in big print. No screen would ever do them justice. This lens is sharp as fuck and packs the already massive frame with all of the detail you could ever need and more. It makes them a little awkward in shape for today's modern social media apps of choice due to the near 3:1 crop ratio, but then again they make for ideal candidates for three-panel seamless sliders, which is a nice aesthetic, just a pity that tiny screens make for disappointing viewing experiences nine times out of ten. 
I would be tempted to print these off at 36" x ≃100" on an LFP, and when I have done so later in the year I'll update this review to reflect that, likely using large scale prints from the GW 690 II for comparison. 
I have also attempted a few verticle panoramic shots using this style of camera, but mostly these experiments have resulted in failure. Almost always the failure here is either not being truly level with the subject matter, which is often uncorrectable, or not enough verticle subjects of interest, leading to a large amount of unsightly negative space. Later in the year is my upcoming Horizont review, I'll be talking about this technique there too, and what I found lead to a lot more success in the verticle panorama format. 
Conclusion & Other Recommendations
If I had the money, and loved panoramic photography, then straight up I'd buy one. At the time I felt as if there wouldn't be anything out there that I could shoot that I enjoyed as much as that shooting experience that yielded a similar result. Then I shot the Horizont, and was genuinely really pleased with the results, despite not being able to set focus as is possible with the Panon. But unlike that latter, the Horizont can fit in a small-ish camera bag, even with its crazy viewfinder attachment clipped into place, and the handgrip. If I needed large scale print quality, however, this is the first camera I would pick up, without hesitation. Being able to manually set the point of focus is invaluable for the discerning photographer, the Horizont sucks for anything closer than about 10' unless stopped down, and in more challenging light scenarios, this is impossible to work with. I enjoy its less-than-perfect output though, which is unlike me. I have seen people use shims to correct this issue with great results. The little lens is great too, and would likely perform well in large scale prints for closer subjects than the original design permits. So there we have it; if you want unshapely hell in a bag, with a high-resolution output, direct control, terrible film economy, then you should buy a Panon Wide Angle Camera. If you want something that fits in stuff, gets oh my lord so many more shots per roll of film, and love Mother Russia, then buy a Horizont. 
If you can afford both then buy both, they're both great. Thank me later. 
I'd buy my Panon either through Flints Auctions, if they have one coming up, always hard to tell, or buy one here through eBay.

Min with a Voigtländer Vitessa 

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