Cyclops Panoramic Cameras

 

My Cyclops is the so-called Cyclops WideEye. It uses medium format film (120 or 220) and produces a negative size of about 55 x 155 mm (6x17 format). This Cyclops camera model and two more models were produced in Orland Park, Illinois, US by Walter Warner, WW Inc. in the early 1990s.


  

Cyclops WideEye

The WideEye was the first of the three Cyclops cameras and uses a 83mm lens producing a 110° field of view. It's almost entirely made of plastic (to be precise: Kydex, a vinyl acrylic alloy) and uses a spring drive for the rotation of the lens with two different exposure time settings (1/60 and 1/120 second).

After a few test shots I realized that my Cyclops that I got off of eBay had one problem: banding. Messing around with the drive mechanism didn't help, it just seemed that the spring had worn out. So I decided to rip the camera apart (not easy with all these plastic parts glued together) and install a stepper motor and battery pack along with a PIC in order to motorize it.

This picture shows the internal drive mechanism of the camera (seen from the front). The spring is located behind the lens and when 'cocking' the shutter it gets wound around the shaft the handle is attached to. The end of the spring can be seen in the picture as the copper-ish looking part.

When motorizing my camera I screwed a plastic box containing the motor and batteries to the camera's bottom plate. The electronics fitted in the space where the drive mechanism was previously sitting. On the top plate I installed a simple switch to choose between two exposure times.
While working on my camera the rear lens element came loose and I had to glue it back in place.

 

Cyclops Mark II

The Mark II featured a 80mm Corygon lens and a lever for variable focus between 7ft. and infinity. Focusing is done my moving the whole curved film plane back and forth. If you do the math, this does not give the same focus for all parts of the negative.

 

Cyclops Mark II owner Gary Alexander who provided the above picture reported that his camera had a loose rear lens element. After fixing that his camera showed banding because of trouble with the spring.

Update: When I met Gary in London in June 2008 he gave me a box with all the Cyclops Mark II parts. It seems all parts are there, so I'm now slowly working on getting this thing back together. The spring looks worn out, so this camera will get a stepper motor as well. This time I plan on using a smoother motor control (using microstepping) and a wider range of shutter speeds.

 

Cyclops Mark III

This was the culmination of the Cyclops line. While the Mark II still used a spring drive which provided only two exposure times the Mark III provides 12 shutter speeds from 2 seconds to 1/125 second. In order to accomplish that the camera has an additional box mounted underneath the main body that contains a rechargeable battery pack, a motor and the electronics.
The lens being used is a 2.8/75mm Boyer Saphir lens (6 lens elements) sitting in a metal lens turret. It's supposed to be the sharpest lens from the Cyclops series. Due to the shorter focal length the field of view is 120° horizontally. Distance settings are extended to reach from 3ft. to infinity.

So far I have only seen two Mark III cameras. One can be seen in the first edition of the book 'Tibet' by Jaroslav Poncar (Edition Panorama). The great panoramic photos in this book are made with a FT-2 camera, but the photo showing the author shows him next to a Cyclops Mark III.
The other one was on offer on eBay in February 2008 (and the seller gave permission to use his pictures here). This camera has more switches and buttons on the electronic box and 16 exposure time settings from 5 seconds to 1/125 second. It was built like that on custom order.

It seems there also exists a Cyclops Mark III EL or simply Cyclops EL that was slightly different from the regular Mark III. Apart from optical differences (i.e. different front cover and what seems to ba a mirror image layout, or maybe they got the image reversed in print) it had wider exposure time range from 15 seconds to 1/250 second (could be just a typo).

Maybe this camera is identical with a Cyclops Mark III One Forty which - as the name suggests - is supposed to have 140° horizontal field of view, which would explain the different shape of the front cover in order to not obstruct the lens.

 

Downloads:

  • Cyclops Brochure (709k, PDF) - a sales brochure describing all 3 cameras and the 'Cyfinder' view-finder
  • Cyclops WideEye Manual (726k, PDF) - operation manual for the Cyclops WideEye, things like loading film also apply to the other cameras
  • Cyclops Mark III Manual (853k, PDF) - operation manual for the Cyclops Mark III
  • Cyclops infosheet (126k, PDF) - info-sheet including a pricelist for all three models

   
Links:

 


© 2008, 2009 Olaf Matthes