It’s not an easy camera to use: you need to keep the horizon absolutely in the centre of frame (or else it curves), and level, and you can’t point directly into a bright light source. But respect these rules, and the results can be spectacular.
I was in any event hooked, and in 1982 I took my first summer job (working at La Mare Vineyard as a general dogsbody) with the express intention of saving enough money to buy a camera of my own. By the end of that summer I was the proud owner of a Canon AE1. It was a toss up between the Canon and the Olympus OM1. (Ironically, over the last few years I have turned to Olympus cameras as my preferred “vintage” models – the design quality is simply exquisite.)
I went through my University years with my AE1, gradually adding lenses, but making the classic beginner’s error of buying the cheapest lenses I could find. (You should always spend good money on the glass – it’s far more important than the camera in determining image quality.) For a while I used a very primitive Photax preset lens, which – when coupled with screw in close up filters – degraded the image so much the results were actually quite interesting.
Heading into the late 1980’s I upgraded my cameras, buying both a Canon T90 and the tank like Canon F1N. These were the cameras I carted around in the 1990’s on my 4 month trip to the Solomon Islands.
Then one or other of those two chunky cameras was always with me in Tajikistan on multiple trekking trips with my friend Pete Burgess. My rucsac was always topped off with a camera bag weighing more than 5kgs: a camera, 50mm lens, 24 or 28mm lens, 70-210 zoom lens, various filters, and at least a dozen rolls of film.
Looking back it seems astonishing that I carried so much gear. Pete wasn’t impressed since the huge amount of camera gear in my rucksack meant he had to carry vast amounts of food, fuel and camping gear. He also spent a lot of time waiting for me to unpack my camera, and then pack it away once a photo had been taken.
Now I’m back in Jersey, and most of my film photography gear is still in storage. But I have managed to bring back an old Zeiss Ikon 6×9 medium format camera. It’s pretty ancient, but I’m loving putting some rolls of film through it. It’s a slow camera to work with, everything is manual, right down to having to cock the shutter before firing, but there’s something about the process that feels like a useful antidote to the immediacy of digital. Gradually, film is seeping back into my consciousness. There’s nothing good enough to share yet from the Zeiss, but there’s a whole batch of films about to be sent away for developing…
At the same time I’ve resurrected one of my Dad’s old Olympus OM1 cameras. It’s a pleasure to hold, and every time I look at it, I want to go out and take photos. I’ve bought a 28mm lens for it on eBay, and I’ve just started playing with that too. One of the great pleasures of both the OM1 and the Zeiss Ikon is that I’ve discovered there are so many interesting film stocks out there. Some are films that have been resurrected, some are entirely new. Analogue Wonderland has a terrific selection. One I was particularly pleased to see was Scala – a black and white slide film. I only ever exposed a couple of rolls of Scala in the 1990’s, but the results were utterly unique.
Newly inspired by the potential of film, I’ve also bought an Olympus 35RC – a tiny, fixed lens rangefinder camera which is another design marvel. The idea is that it’s small enough to carry with me almost anywhere.
But it is the Horizon 202 that is getting the most use. The extreme perspective only works for a very few subjects, but when the subject matches the format, it really is special.