As the New Year gets underway, time to scratch another camera off the 'wish list': The KMZ Horizont, 03 January 2024

As the New Year gets underway,  time to scratch another camera off the 'wish list': The KMZ Horizont, 03 January 2024
Just before Christmas 2023, Ade Taylor pondered on BlueSky, 'Ok, what’s the last camera you’ve talked yourself out of buying, for me it’s the Fuji GX617, for how long though I’m not sure 😂'. Coincidentally, at the same time a camera that I have long had on my 'wish list' had appeared on not one, but two of my favourite camera websites and so I replied, 'A KMZ Horizont, though the conversation is not over yet. I keep on telling myself, I have a Sprocket Rocket, do I really need another panoramic camera?' To which Slippery Jim did Griz replied, 'As an impartial outsider, the answer is Yes, Yes you do.😉'


I've been interested in getting a panoramic camera for a while now. For the past year at least a Horizon Perfekt, the Lomography version of the KMZ Horizon 202, has been offered on the classifieds site OLX, though at 200€ I've been reluctant to try and acquire this one. So a panoramic camera always remained on the back burner; a camera that I would love to own, but probably never would.
And then, just before Christmas 2023 two KMZ Horizont panoramic cameras appeared; one on the Kamerastore website for 99€ and one on my favourite Portuguese website, Cano Amerelo, for well over twice that price. Of course,  my first instinct was to keep an eye on the Portuguese site, because although the Horizont was well over 200€ it was in fully working condition. In contrast,  on the Kamerastore website the camera was not functioning properly, stating that the 'Shutter aperture mechanism does not work properly.'

The Horizont is an example of a swing-lens panoramic camera. The whole lens assembly rotates at a constant speed and exposes a wider strip of film than would a normal fixed lens camera in this case 24×58mm. The way that the shutter speeds work on the Horizont are that there's a flap that widens or narrows the vertical slit that forms the shutter. The rotation of the lens remains the same but the size of the window opens or closes which controls the amount of light hitting the film and hence the shutter speed. When the window is wide open then the shutter speed is slow, about 1/30s, and when the window is nearly closed, the shutter speed is faster, say at 1/125s. Another dial on the top of the camera sets the aperture, between f2,8 to f16. According to what I have read, the 'sweet spot' of the camera can be found at a shutter speed of 1/250s and f8 with ISO 400 film. According to the description on the Kamerastore website, it's the aperture flap of this window that is not functioning properly. 

Despite this, to cut a long story short I went ahead and ordered the KMZ Horizont from the Kamerastore website on Christmas Eve. I asked the Kamerastore to hold shipping until 02 January and it arrived this morning, one day later. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was see what was up with the shutter aperture and it was quite straightforward to see what had happened. At some point in the cameras history a previous owner had either tried to fix an issue with the camera themselves or had sent it away to be fixed. There were clear marks on the film re/wind knobs and the shutter/aperture dial where these had been unscrewed to be removed. The shutter/aperture dial was also not fitted properly to the top of the camera and was at a slight angle. My conclusion was that the dial wasn't refitted properly to align with the shutter speeds. The shutter speed does seem to be consistent after several exposures, but only putting a film through the camera will confirm that it is working properly. 

Launched in 1967, some 49,849 Horizints were produced by the Soviet manufacturer KMZ (Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod) from 1967-1973. On the top right of the camera is the model, the Горизонт, suggesting this was built for the home or Soviet market. Models produced for the export market usually had the inscription 'Horizont', the translation of the cryllic text. The serial number of the Horizont is 6905007, which tells us that this model was made in 1969, the first two digits of the serial number, and it was number 5,007 off the production line. Whether that is for each year or a cumulative total of the model produced I'm not, but whichever, it's a nice number.

On the top of the Horizont is a dial where you can show the shutter speed, the aperture and there's also a dial for the film speed, though this does not actually do anything apart from act as a reminder. On my model, intended for the Soviet market, the final is in the standard DIN and in ГOCT, which I assume is either the Soviet measurement of film speed or a Cryllic translation of DIN. As mentioned before, I suspect that at some point in its history someone has tried to repair this camera, if repair was required, and when replacing the shutter speed dial has not been replaced properly. It does work, but the speeds do not line up with the little arrow on the camera body.

The viewfinder of the Horizont is a fascinating device. Unlike most cameras with a viewfinder built into the camera, the viewfinder here is detachable and covers the film rewind lever. It slots into a cold shoe on the front of the camera and when loading and removing film is taken off to allow access to the film rewind. The front of the viewfinder is a large distorted lens, and if you look through the rear window you will see a distorted image of roughly what the view will be. Apparently, it's never quite what the actual image will be like, and that's half the appeal of this wonderful camera.

So the next post for this camera will be loading and taking the first roll of film. I've set the aperture and shutter speed as best as I can for ISO 400 film and have a couple of rolls of colour and black and white film to play with. I've also been advised that it's important to get the film on the take up spool as tight as possible otherwise there is the possibility of the film jamming or breaking. Suffice to say,  I reckon the KMZ Horizont eill be a camera with a steep learning curve. That said, I'm up for the challenge. 

#TeamHorizon, #TeamHorizonT, #BelieveInFilm, #Panorama, #Widescreen, #Soviet,

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