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

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I think I have found a few tips on how to minimise this issue – but be aware that I’m on my second S3 camera here and they both rip film no matter how hard I try:

  • Don’t worry about film wastage at the start of the roll. Make sure the film winds on well onto the take-up spool.
  • Make sure there’s no slack on the take up spool. If it gets too thick towards the end of the film, the camera will rip the perfos and your film is toast.
  • When in doubt, open the camera in a changing bag and feel if everything is OK in there. I had to take many films out in a bag for developing, rather than rewind the film.
  • If you feel a resistance when rewinding, don’t use force. You’ll rip the film otherwise. Havin said that, this thing makes you “feel” everything is fine upon rewind, and when you open the door the film has ripped…
  • Watch the film counter. If you’re at frame 18, forget the last few shots and rewind the film. You can easily miss the end while the camera rips the end off the spool.

In a nutshell it means that you can’t rely on this camera. Holgas have better reliability than this thing, and as much as I like the results – IF I get to see them – I have no use for a heavy plastic brick that costs me money and makes me sad because it destroys my pictures. Bad Horizon!

Loading the Horizon S3

It is a rather fiddly task to actually put some film in this hungry beast – especially when your out in the field. I reccommend grabbing a spool of expired film and practice the loading / unloading procedure a few times.

This video by Nippon Camera illustrates how to load the Horizon Perfekt:

Once you fiddle your way through countless nooks and crannies, be aware that you can take up slack by pressing the rewind button (which disengages the  sprocket transport roll) until the film is flat in the gate.

Good luck – you’ll need it!

My Verdict

It’s a tricky one… This is a professional camera, not a plastic toy camera (which I’m usually into). But of course, the 24x58mm format and it being a swing lens camera make it a “must-have” gadget for me. The results – if they come out – are absolutely stunning and give your pictures a quality that no other camera can rival.

However, a camera with such a price tag (US $400 / GBP £300 / Lomography £417) absolutely CANNOT and MUST NOT have film eating issues. If you can’t rely on your films ever coming out then there’s really no point in taking it out to a shoot. Even though loading the film is ridiculously complex, it is fun to do – and of course the Horizon S3 Pro looks otherwordly stunning. Being forced to use f11 or f16 for 1-2m close-ups is annoying, so I guess this thing isn’t really made for my style of shooting.

Maybe I’m just exremely unlucky, but in general I haven’t got time for something that doesn’t do what it says on the box. If you’re looking for a panoramic camera, I can’t reccommend this one. Instead, get a Sprocket Rocket or Spinner 360 from Lomography for around a third of the price – and be assured you’ll actually see what you’re shooting.

27 Thumbs Down 🙁

Andy's verdicts - albeit about life in general rather than this camera.

Further Reading:

You can see more of my panoramic output is on Flickr in my New Horizons collection.

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

  1. thank you very much for your informations about the horizon s3 pro…..
    i just bought one and she ate the first two films! i was very surprised, because i was really not a beginner in loading films. i already had a horizon 202 as travelcam. i work only outside and in good light conditions or with tripod. i use only fuji velvia and have really great results from over 12 countries in the world. but anyway.
    with the instruction movie on your website i could solve the problem. one thing is really important: after pushing the small button underneath the camera you must rewind until the end of the film is moving a little bit. the the film is exact in the right position and it will not be destroid….. (sorry, but english is not my mothertongue!)


    • Thanks Christian,

      I’ll give that a try. At the moment I’ve narrowed it down to the brand of film that works better in this camera than others: Fuji and Ilford seem to be eaten, whereas Kodak seems to work fine (in black and white that is). I mainly shoot handheld black and white and I’m loving the results – it’s just so super disappointing that I can’t rely on this camera properly.

  2. Kodak VC seems OK, have had fun with Velvia, but not sure I can blame the film for that. Loading takes learning.

  3. Have you had any issues of banding in your photos? And what do you do about scanning them? The lab I use only has a mask for X-Pan which doesn’t work.

    • Hi Steven,

      I’ve had no banding issues in my pictures, however I have heard that the Widelux produces this problem when the swing mechanics are a bit dirty and hence don’t swing smooth anymore.

      I scan my own film, it would be too expensive for me to have a lab do this (plus like you say they can’t do it). Get a cheap Epson scanner – any flatbed that scans negatives will do. I’m using the V750 but it’s at the top end of the range, however it comes with great scanning software (Silverfast) and a wet scanning mount. You can use the included 35mm scannig mask or invest into a Lomography DigitaLiza to hold your negs.

      The XPan negative size is 24x65mm, and the Horizon produces 24x58mm – so that should work fine in theory, but if your lab have an automation in place then it may get confused. When you scan yourself you’re in complete control over that process. Depends on how much you’re shooting I guess.

      The film ripping problem is definitely related to the film material: Colour materials seem to work fine, classic b/w films apart from Kodak have a problem – at least in my cameras (I’m on my second one with identical behaviour).

  4. Thanks for your email.

    I’ve bought one of the Lomo film holders that you recommend on your site and will be interested to see how that works on my scanner. The labs seem to have an automatic frame advancer on their machinery and the 6mm or so difference is a problem. My favourite lab is still not open since the 22 February earthquake as the 18 story building next to them has been condemned as being in risk of spontaneous self demolition in an aftershock (of which there are several daily).

    My Horizon is fairly new and I had a little banding on some early films, but I have bought a better light meter since and will see if that improves things.

    I have not had the problem that you experience with it damaging film since I had the camera repaired. When I got the camera, it would not advance film properly and tore sprockets, etc. I had it repaired locally (with funding from Rugift, who supplied the camera) and it has worked well since. The camera repairer, was a different story. He asked me to never ever bring it back!!

    I use mostly out of date film when I am playing, and Kodak VC when I am serious. The out of date film is Fuji, Agfa, whatever is around and cheap. No problems with anything, so far. Just have to work out how many frames are possible, deduct one and make sure that the journal shows the maximum number recommended. I surprised myself by being able to load it one handed at the weekend, sheltering it from rain with the other hand.

    It really is the most vexing camera I have ever owned and I have threatened it with sale a number of times, but never got as far as listing it, because once in every film, it creates a beautifully coloured, sharp random result.

    Looking forward to trying the scanner.


  5. I’ve been shooting on the Horizon s3 pro, honestly, any film snapping issues are from not holding down the rewind button. Usually, it takes two good tugs and it’s snapped. But if I remember the rewind button, no problems what so ever. It’s a beautiful camera.

  6. 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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