(or what the Widelux manual won't tell you)

By John Stamets


There is only one way you can destroy your Widelux, other than dropping it or smashing it, and that is by setting the shutter speed incorrectly.

1. If you want to change the shutter speed (1/15, 1/125, 1/250 sec), do so only after you have advanced the film, which also cocks the shutter. If you change the shutter speed first and then wind the film (cock the shutter), you will eventually destroy your camera.

This very important point is not mentioned in your manual, but it was included on a separate instruction sheet with new cameras.

(Note: a few episodes of doing it the wrong way will not hurt the camera.)

2. When changing the shutter speed, if the knob doesn't click-stop into place, DO NOT FORCE IT. Instead, turn it back to the previous shutter speed, and try again. After 1 to 3 more tries, it should lock into place. If it doesn't, take a picture at the picture with the shutter speed knob set in between settings.

You will damage your camera if you don't follow the above three points.


The following points will also be helpful in understanding your Widelux:

More about the shutter:

4. If you wind the film part way, then push the shutter button, the lens-turret will swing but the slit-shutter itself will not open. In other words, if you advance the film half-way and push the button, you will not get half-a-picture. You will get nothing. However, this will not harm the camera.

The slit-shutter will not open when fired unless you advance the film the full extent.

By my measurement with a stopwatch, it takes about 2.5 sec. for the camera to pan at the 1/15 sec. setting. Based on that measurement, it should take about 1/3 sec. to pan at 1/125 sec. and 1/6 sec. to pan at 1/250 sec.


5. The view finder is pretty accurate on the left side, but that's about all. On the right side the view is blocked substantially by the proturbence for the lens-aperture.

6. Vertically the view finder shows only about 2/3 of the view.

7. Your own eyeballs are a better viewfinder. Because the panoramic Widelux view is so wide - at 126 it approaches our approximately to 180 peripheral vision - you will find it relatively easy to take good pictures without using the view finder at all.

8. The arrows on top of the camera point approximately to edges of your picture. In general, you will find the arrows a better guide to what is in the picture than the view finder.

9. For most pictures, it's more important take the picture while looking at the bubble level, than through the viewfinder.

10. The only time I actually take a picture while looking through the viewfinder is for action photos when the picture must be taken at a decisive moment, like when a basketball player goes to the hoop, or someone is going to pop a bottle of champagne.

11. The horizontal view is not 140 degrees, as many claim. It's only 126 degrees horizontally. It's 140 degrees along the diagonal of the film, but who cares about the diagonal coverage. Pictures are composed horizontally.


12. The camera's 26mm lens is fixed-focused at 11 feet. You can't change that. The amount of picture in focus (depth of field) is determined by the lens aperture. (f2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11).

At f11 everything is in focus from 3 feet to infinity. At f2.8 the picture is not sharp until about from 10 feet from the camera, and the far distance won't be sharp. If shooting at f2.8 or f4, stand about 10 feet from the principle subject.

If shooting at f5.6, f8 or f11, do not worry about focus, except perhaps for close-up subjects.


13. You can't use flash with the Widelux. If a stroboscopic flash (at typically 1/10,000 s.) goes off when the Widelux is swinging, then you get an narrow band of bright light on the film, at exactly the width of the shutter and wherever it was when the flash went off.

You could use a flash with the Widelux at the 1/250 setting if your flash peaked for 1/6 second. However, there are no such flashes available. The last ones made that would work were the magnesium powder guns used around 1900.


14. Eventually, you are likely to see "banding" in your pictures, evidenced as closely spaced vertical bands of darkness and lightness. Most commonly, this is due to an uneven rotation speed of the lens caused by dirt in the gears. It can be cured by having the camera cleaned and overhauled by a qualified camera repair person (see #16)

15. To help prevent dirt build up, the gear mechanism should be "massaged" periodically by pulling the lens to the right (with shutter uncocked) and releasing it. This will not hurt the camera; it helps it. I do this several times before loading each roll of film. The camera functions even if you don't "massage the shutter."

16. If banding appears, try massaging the shutter more. If banding is persistent, you need to have the camera cleaned. Very few camera craftsmen know how to work on the Widelux. Two who do (these might not be current) are:

Joe Valgoi
Swiss Camera Repair
38 W. 32nd Street, Room 1206
New York, NY 10001

Bob Watkins
Precision Camera Works
ARCA-SWISS Authorized Service
7064 W. Main Street
Niles, IL 60714
Fax: (847) 470-3351

I send my camera to:

Olden Camera
1265 Broadway
New York, NY 10001

17. In my first Widelux, I did not see "banding" until I'd shot over 500 rolls of film. In my second camera, it appeared after about 100 rolls.

18. There is a "natural" and very pronounced banding effect caused by florescent lights, but only if shot at 1/125 or 1/250 second. It will not be seen if the picture is taken at 1/15.

The florescent banding is caused by the pulsation of the light source, which is not noticed by our eyes, but is picked up on the film in the third of a second it takes our eyes, but is picked up on the film in the third of a second it takes the '1/125 sec' speed to make the sweep.

A typical indoor florescent exposure at ASA 1600 will be 1/125 sec at f4 or 1/15 second at f11. Choose the latter to prevent banding and to get more depth of field.


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