If you have been following film photography for a while, you certainly saw at least one panoramic photo taken with a so-called Hasselblad XPAN. If you were like me, panoramic film photography images didn’t get my attention. I think that they’re very niche and they burn through film fast. Very fast. Until I had the curiosity of trying it out with the budget heavyweight Hasselblad XPAN alternative – the mighty Mamiya RB67.

Panoramic Film Photography with a Mamiya RB67 and Fomapan 400
Shot with a Mamiya RB67 loaded with 35mm Fomapan 400.

What You Need to Have

To dip your toes into panoramic film photography, you need the following extensive list of material:

  • A medium format camera that shoots either 6×6 or 6×7 format (you can go even bigger… if you dare).
  • A 35mm to 120 film adapter like this one.
  • Optional: A 35mm mask for your viewfinder. This helps and you can do an approximation by handcrafting one with paper/cardboard/plastic…

As you can see, you just need a 35mm to 120 film adapter if you already have a medium format camera to start shooting some panoramic film photography. If you don’t know the differences between each film format, check this blog post. The viewfinder mask is really optional. What I did was to center some 35mm film over the viewfinder and try to memorize its framing.

Panoramic Film Photography of a dramatic cinematic still
I used a ring light as a directional light source.

From my experience, I would also like to add that using wide lenses from 80mm to shorter focal lengths will help. I only have a 127mm lens and it got really hard to compose my shots in order to have all that I wanted to have – most of the time, impossible. But I managed to get something out of them.

Cinematic Shots With Panoramic Film Photography

I had this brilliant idea of using the 35mm to 120 film adapters that I had bought a month before. The idea was to use a grainy and contrasty film with some harsh light in order to create cinematic shots. Luckily, almost noir-like film stills.

I grabbed my tank camera – Mamiya RB67 with a 127mm f/3.8 Sekor lens – loaded some Fomapan 400 35mm film with the adapters, and finally got someone to bother and do some modeling. I also used a ring light to cast more light over her.

Panoramic Film Photography with  woman staring into the light
It was a challenge to compose with a 35mm crop.

When I started shooting, I noticed two related obstacles that were challenging to surpass:

  1. Composing the 35mm panoramic frame through the viewfinder by eye. I had already centered some 35mm film over the viewfinder in order to have an idea on how to frame. However, it’s easier said than done! I ended up giving a little more space to the upper and lower parts of the composition in order to compensate for framing mistakes.
  2. Using a 127mm medium format lens with 35mm film indoors was not very smart, but manageable. The crop was really closing the frame. To give you an idea of what I had to do, I was shooting from the corner of the room with the model on the opposite corner of the same room for some of these captures.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing this photoshoot! It was something very different from what I was accustomed to doing and it put me out of my comfort zone. Additionally, I also enjoyed the final results which were what I was going for with the limitations I had.

Development and Scanning

I shot the Fomapan 400 film at 160, metered for the highlights and developed it with Rodinal 1:25, and push it towards 800. I did this just to add more grain, contrast, and drama to each shot as I have already done in the past with great success. Rodinal has lots of different uses and I love using it when I need to.

One of the advantages of the Mamiya RB67 is getting these close shots.

I should have used my DSLR setup for this, but for practical reasons, I scanned each frame with my Epson V550. Then I converted them with the Negative Lab Pro Lightroom plugin. I added some contrast in post-editing and cropped the frame edges resulting in all these images.

There are so many things that we can try with film photography while most of them are fairly cheap. This experiment is one of them! This 35mm to 120 film adapter cost me less than 10€/$ and gave me beautiful results! Are you up to the challenge of trying it out? If you already did so, what did you think of the experience and the results? Let me know in the comments!