By Kes Murray, Registrar
Working in an archive, you come across some interesting objects. One of the most interesting objects that I’ve come across are panoramic photographs.The archival collection at the Oshawa Museum has a quite a few, ranging from scenery to group photographs. As I am a very curious, I started to wonder about how early panoramic photographs were made…
Early panoramic photographs were tied to the development of the daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography. Multiple daguerreotypes were taken so that the individual images would overlap. After, you simply place the photographs next to one another and you would have a panoramic, although a little broken up. The example from the Library of Congress shows how an early panoramic photograph would look.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the first panoramic cameras were made. In 1897, Multiscope & Film introduced the Al-Vista camera. This camera stayed still as the lens moved 180 degrees. In 1899, Kodak introduced the No. 4 Kodak Panoram camera. This Kodak camera, like the Al-Vista, stayed stationary as the lens moved along a spring. The No. 4 Kodak Panoram had 142 degree angle of view.
In 1904, Kodak manufactured another panoramic camera called the Cirkut. Unlike their previous No. 4 Panoram where only the lens rotated, the Cirkut camera itself rotated, allowing a 360 degree view. This camera became popular with commercial photographers, as it allowed large group photographs.
Although the Cirkut became popular, it produced a distorted view. Since the Cirkut rotated 360 degrees, curved scenes came out looking flat. This is best seen in a panoramic photograph I took of our three houses. If you have been down to visit us, you know that the walkway from Guy House to Robinson House in straight. However, the panoramic I took makes it look like the pathway curves. This is, again, because I had to rotate the camera and thus the photograph becomes misleading.
To correct this distortion, photographers would position groups in a curve, so that the photograph would make the group look like they were standing together. The 116th Ontario County Battalion panoramic photograph example shows how this would look like.
Today, many of us have panoramic camera in our pocket. Our panoramic photograph setting on our phones function the same way as panoramic cameras of the early 20th century, physically rotating the camera along 360 degrees.
Thanks for coming along this panoramic journey with me!