Horizon S3 Pro: my Russian Panoramic Camera from an Alternate Reality

The U-500 is pretty much the same as the S3 Pro apart from its shutter speed settings: it has 7 instead of 8 in total. It gains an extra 1/500th shutter speed at the fast end, but it sacrifices both the 1 second as well as the 1/30th. Like the S3 Pro, the U-500 has both the fast and slow sweep options and costs the same as the S3 Pro.

It’s worth noting that the mechanics of the U-500 (and Sport) differ from the S3 Pro in that the fast sweep is twice as fast – hence the loss of 1/30th. If you look at them side by side you’ll see that the S3 takes one second to complete the fast sweep, whereas the U-500 does it in half the time.

All aperture settings are the same as on the S3 Pro.

Horizon S3 Sport

The Horizon S3 Sport is a tad cheaper than the S3 Pro and loses the slow sweep option altogether. It therefore only features 4 shutter speeds from 1/500th to 1/60th in one stop increments.

All aperture settings are the same as on the S3 Pro.

My good friend Dave Lee

 

Horizon 202 vs. S3 Series

One enthusiast has caused a stir on the web when the S3 came out: he claims that although the lens of the S3 is better than on the 202, the integration causes pictures to be less sharp at f16 on the S3. Zenit has acknowledged this problem and minimised the issue, but it is unclear if this is completely fixed as of 2010. See his comparison here.

Focussing

Here’s the bad news about this camera: you can’t focus this thing. It’s a fixed focus camera. At f2.8, everything from 5.5m to infinity will be in focus, everything closer to the camera will be blurred. That sucks big time! The only way to get things closer to the camera in focus is by using a smaller aperture and making use of depth of field.

Here’s a handy guide courtesy of the manual:

Aperture Depth of field, m
2,8 5,5–∞
4 3,9–∞
5,6 2,9–∞
8 2–∞
11 1,5–∞
16 1–∞

 

Major Criticism: even though these cameras are designed for landscapes and “stuff far away”, no landscape photographer in their right mind would ever use a fully open aperture. Portrait photographers on the other hand do this all the time. The camera should have been constructed so that f2.8 focusses things close up, and the smaller apertures (say f11 and above) would include infinity. Sadly the Widelux has the same problem and I find that it’s such a wasted opportunity. Whenever I want to shoot indoors in small rooms, I have to do this at f11 or f16 – where it’s so dark that I’d badly need f2.8 to help me out.

Beware of fingers in the Hrizon's field of view...

 

S3: The Film Ripper

I’ve shot over 20 rolls with the S3 Pro now, and I’m loving the results: the picture format is amazing, focus is sharp and contrasts are great. Sadly though, more than 80% of my films have ripped or otherwise been eaten by this thing. Not good! Some of my best shots will never see the light of day – that’s very disappointing.

I’ve noticed that this seems to happen with Ilford black and white film more than with colour film, so film thickness is likely responsible for this tragedy. Dummy colour films I don’t care about have no problem in this camera – but Ilford Delta 3200 (which I’m being forced to use due to the aperture tragedy mentioned above) rips halfway through the roll or when I’m rewinding. HP5 does the same. I have yet to try Kodak T-Max and Fuji Neopan but fear it may be a waste of money.

About Jay Versluis

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8 thoughts on “Horizon S3 Pro: my Russian Panoramic Camera from an Alternate Reality

  1. Hi.

    I picked up a used Horizon Perfekt and a Widepan Pro II. And then I picked up a (vintage Hansa mechanical self timer). **Problem is** No matter how much I fool around with the Hansa the needle that’s supposed to trigger the shutter is way too short for the Perfekt. Advice anyone? And. When I look at all the mechanical self timers on eBay, it looks like the needle length is generally the same. Hmm. Basically that’s it. How are people using a self timer on a Horizon camera? Thanx.

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