Panoramic Photographs

A Brief History of Panoramic Photography

Photographer John A. Dick and his camera used for taking panoramic photographs
enlarge image icon   John A. Dick with Cirkut camera used for taking panoramic photographs. (Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library)

The Cirkut camera was patented in 1904. It used large format film, ranging in width from 5" to 16" and was capable of producing a 360-degree photograph measuring up to 20 feet long. Both the camera and the film rotated on a special tripod during the exposure.

Panoramic view of airplanes, hangers, and pilots
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Pan American flyers and ships; c1927
E.O. Goldbeck
gelatin silver print; 9.5 x 53 in.
PAN US MILITARY - Army, no. 231 (F size) P&P

Cirkut cameras were used mostly by commercial photographers to capture city views, group portraits, and special events.

Panoramic view of an intersection in Davenport, Iowa
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Davenport, IA, 2nd & Harrison Sts.; c1907
F.J. Bandholtz
gelatin silver print; 10 x 47 in.
PAN US GEOG - Iowa, no. 48 (E size) P&P

Unlike conventional cameras, many panoramic cameras distort images. Distortion is most evident in street scenes where the camera is positioned at the intersection of two streets. In this panorama, the straight street, which is parallel with the camera, seems curved. Distortion occurs as the distance between the lens and the subject changes.

Panoramic landscape along the Elbe River
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   [Panoramic landscape along the Elbe]; between 1956 and 1960
Josef Sudek
gelatin silver print; 2.5 x 5.5 in.
PH - Sudek, J., no. 2 (A size) P&P

The Czech photographer Josef Sudek was a master of the Kodak Panoram Camera. He is renowned for his panoramas of Prague. Sudek made contact prints, not enlargements, of his negatives in order to show as much detail and tonal range as possible.

Panoramic view of a beanfield
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon   Beanfield; 1967
Oscar Bailey
gelatin silver print; 8 x 48 in.
PH - Bailey, O., no. 4 (E size) P&P

The panoramic format continues to thrive. Contemporary photographers can choose between traditional panoramic cameras and highly engineered modern models.