Photographer Richard Malogorski uses an incredibly complex 1915 Cirkut camera to capture 360 degree panoramas on film.
Although most modern smartphones have a panoramic mode and an increasingly expanding market for 360-degree cameras, Malogorski chooses to use a 100-year-old large format analog camera for its 360 panoramics.
Cirkut are the largest large format cameras ever commercially produced with negatives reaching 70 inches long and 16 inches wide.
Malogorski’s Cirkut Number 8 (meaning the negatives are eight inches wide) has three different motors and three different batteries, each giving a different rotational speed for the camera. It may take an hour to take a photo.
Malogorski explains to PetaPixel that the large toothed ring that turns the camera is linked by gears to the film advancement inside the frame.
If the shutter speed is set to 1/4, it will take 1/4 second for the film to advance 3/8 inch. However, the advance time may vary depending on the battery and motor mounted in the camera.
“Because the film is over 70 inches long, it will take some time to do an exposure because you can only expose 3/8 inch of film at a time,” says Malogorski.
“The rotation speed of the camera and the exposure time are linked. A long exposure means a slow rotation speed and a short exposure means a faster rotation speed since the shutter is always open during the exposure.
If Malogorski wants to change his focus, he also needs to change gears. And not only that, the gears should be of different sizes depending on the desired focus distance. If the lens is focused at infinity, the gears should be different than if it is focused at 20 feet.
“Each gear has a different number of teeth, which makes it possible to change the synchronization of the rotational speed of the camera with the speed of the film take-up drum. It is necessary for the image to be sharp, ”adds Malogorski.
Malogorski says that despite being over 100 years old, his Cirkut Number 8 camera is in excellent working condition since the gears are made of bronze and are therefore quite durable.
“The main thing is to keep the lenses clean. Sometimes I have to take them apart and clean between items, but that’s normal for any type of camera, especially large format ones.
film and print
Malogorksi originally bought the spooled film from Kodak, but the company stopped making the Cirkut film.
“I kept all my reels and started buying Ilford aerial films. Well Ilford stopped selling aerial film so I tried the Kodak antenna which I was having trouble with and then the Agfa antenna which was difficult to work with as it had extensive red sensitivity, which made it very contrasting,” he explains.
“So I contacted Ilford and they started doing 8 inch wide film sets for the Cirkut which comes in a 100 foot spool. It’s HP5 which is 400 speed and I need a high-speed film. I have to order it several months in advance to be sure of getting it.
“It’s expensive. I believe they also do 10-inch-wide films, but it’s the FP4 which is 100 speeds that is too slow for me.
Malogorski says the last time he bought film, it cost him $470 for a 100-foot roll from which he makes 15 negatives. The paper to print on is cheaper but still costs $400 for a large roll that will yield 64 six-foot-long prints.
“But anyone who has ever worked in the darkroom knows that it is, unfortunately, a lot of waste,” he points out.
“Especially on the very first impression, because you don’t know what the exposure is and what the dodges and burns will be.”
Malogorski lives in Dayton, Ohio, but travels a lot in a 1994 Toyota pickup truck that has 489,000 miles on the clock.
One of his favorite subjects to photograph is machine shops repairing farm equipment and welding objects. Unsurprisingly, Malogorski is a fan of repair gear.
“I find them very interesting because the individuals are quite unique and I like talking to them and most of them are very smart people who are very good at fixing things,” he says.
“Anyone who is going to work with the Cirkut camera must be mechanically inclined.”
He also shoots landscapes, visiting the Great Plains states where Malogorski enjoys capturing wide open spaces because the distortion that the camera naturally produces is eliminated.
“These cameras were notorious for being difficult to use, but when I’m shooting in, say, South Dakota or North Dakota, I’m able to step back from the subject and shoot it and the distortion n is not at all apparent.”
A photography purist
Malogorski tells PetaPixel that digital photography barely existed when he got into the business in the mid-1990s.
“All images from the Cirkut camera are contact prints, this means that the prints from the Cirkut camera have been rated for their extreme clarity,” he explains.
“The group portraits are a good example of this, every face was completely visible, was extremely clear and detailed, even when photographed in the 1920s they were extremely sharp and clear.”
Malogorski points out that aerial photography still uses film because of the superior detail of the older technology.
“If you ever have a good chance of looking at a track camera print in person, try shining a flashlight on it and you can see incredible detail in the print that can’t be seen with the naked eye. “, he says.
“I find great beauty in direct photography which is just the lens, the film and the darkroom. No digital manipulation.
Malogorksi claims to be a great admirer of photography from the past, made without digital manipulation.
“I really like a straight image,” he adds.
More of Malogorski’s works can be found on his website. To see Cirkut’s high resolution scans which can be enlarged. Visit this link.
Picture credits: All photos by Richard Malogorski.