You may think that anyone still using film cameras is a hopeless dinosaur desperately clinging to an obsolete format, but photo-chemical snappers still have much to offer the more experimental photographer.

Much of today’s best analogue photography is produced by followers of the Lomography (or Lomo) ethic, using quirky, low-tech cameras such as the plastic-lensed Holga and Diana to capture scenes in their own idiosyncratic ways.

While many of these Lomo cameras appear to be little more than toys, made from the most basic components and cheapest plastics, the Horizon Kompakt is a rather different proposition.

The ultimate in retro chic

Despite its name, the Kompakt certainly isn’t compact – it looks and feels like something that’s fallen off a tank. There’s no zoom on the fixed-aperture f8 glass lens, and there are just two shutter speed settings (day and night/indoor), but what makes this camera so special is its ability to take 120-degree panorama shots in a single pass.

Load any 35mm film, cock the clockwork lens mechanism, select a long or short exposure, hit the shoot button and the lens swings round from left to right, progressively squirting light across the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames.

The results can be spectacular, but with just the two exposure options and no light metering there are times when you have to take a gamble on which to use – or cover the bases and take the same shot on both. The lens captures plenty of detail in good light with a little softening at the extremities.

Endless possibilities

Framing through the viewfinder gives an accurate representation of what’s committed to film. You can keep the camera dead level for minimal distortion or angle it up or down to introduce more curvature.

Double exposures and endless panoramas are also possible as the film can be wound on independently of the cocking mechanism, and if you want to add even more weirdness, try cross-processing some slide film (Kodak Elite Chrome works well).

Arrested development

The only problem is developing. High street labs will either reject the film or chop up your prints into pairs of standard 6x4s, so you’ll have to either do it yourself or find a lab that’s set up for these cameras (such as Spectrum Imaging in Newscastle-upon-Tyne).

How do you rate a camera like this? Not on megapixels (it has none), not on battery life (it’s clockwork) and certainly not on the size of its non-existent touchscreen LCD.

How about we rate it on pure gadgety fun? In that case it has to get top marks. And if you like the look of this, it’s also worth checking out the Horizon Perfekt – a close relation that offers greater control over aperture and shutter speeds.


Stuff says... 

Horizon Kompakt review

A brilliantly eccentric 35mm film camera that makes photography fun again