Noblex Vs Widelux. A Widelux photographer’s review of the Noblex.

When I saw the Noblex 135S panoramic swing lens camera at the Matsuya Ginza camera fair in Tokyo a few months ago, I couldn’t  resist comparing it to my beloved Widelux.

By Ahsan Ali.


Panoramic image taken on the Noblex.

 Is the world flat or round? If I trust my eyes it is flat but if I were to believe what a swing lens panoramic camera tells me, the world is round. It sees the world as my eyes cannot see, and therein lies my fascination with swing lens panoramic cameras such as the Widelux and the Noblex.

Noblex vs Widelux comparison.

In comparison, panoramic cameras such as the Hasselblad Xpan see the world the same way a traditional film camera does – with a three-dimensional subject projected onto a two-dimensional plane without the lens moving. I see it merely as a 135 film camera with a panoramic aspect ratio or a medium format camera with a cropped view. What interests me is the spherical “distortion” of a swing lens camera and the way the lens moves and embraces the world in its wide arms.

With this in mind, when I saw the Noblex 135S panoramic swing lens camera at the Matsuya Ginza camera fair in Tokyo a few months ago, I couldn’t resist giving it a try, and as I did so, I couldn’t resist comparing it to my beloved Widelux.

What I immediately noticed were the things I had missed in the Widelux. The Noblex has more shutter speeds, it is incredibly quiet and it has a more accurate viewfinder. Now that I have it safely at home and have put several rolls through it, I’d like to share my impressions.

The Noblex 135S panoramic swing lens camera

The Basic specifications

Let’s get the boring facts out of the way. This Noblex 135S model has the following shutter speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500. It has a 29mm f4.5 lens with an optional 4mm lens shift and an electronic gear-driven lens turret. A switch on the bottom of the camera turns it on and there is a LCD film counter. An additional switch enables multiple exposures.


The Noblex is slightly bigger than the Widelux but it’s just over the border that separates big and small cameras. A similar border is the one between the unfairly maligned Leica M5 and its brethren such as the M2, M4, M6, etc. Decide for yourself.

Noblex vs Widelux

But how does it feel? The Noblex looks like a huge bar of soap covered in a rubbery material but it feels comfortable to hold. It has a grip for the right hand coupled with a thumb rest on the back. Yet, I still came close to dropping the camera thrice, and each time I was rescued by a single rope strap. It has only a single strap lug.

I have to admit, it looks like an elegant bar of soap.

On the other hand, while shooting with the Widelux I use a proper neck strap and either use the “Jeff Bridges grip” to hold it or a Voigtlander ball grip screwed into the tripod mount. I’ve never come close to dropping the Widelux.

Size does matter to me because the bigger a camera is, the more noticeable it is, but the size of the Noblex is compensated by the incredible near-silence of the rotating turret.


The Noblex is quiet, it is so quiet at the slowest shutter speed (on this particular model) of 1/30 that I am unable to hear when the lens has stopped moving. Instead, I have to rely on the gentle thud I feel when it comes to a stop. Not even when I put the camera to my eye and it is close to my ear can I hear the movement. We can probably attribute this to the electronic nature of the Noblex’s turret. The Widelux on the other hand with its metal gears is distinctly audible, both in winding and when the picture is being taken. It also attracts attention due to its, arguably, pretty steampunk aesthetic.


The Noblex viewfinder is a beautiful and superior thing compared to the Widelux viewfinder. The latter shows only about 60% of the frame from the left. On the Noblex, not only is 90% of the panoramic frame visible, but the bubble level is also visible in the viewfinder at the bottom. Now I don’t always use the Widelux viewfinder, but you might, depending on what kind of photographs you like to take. With the Widelux I mostly use the guides printed on the top plate to roughly frame my photograph, but since the Noblex lacks those guides, I find myself using the viewfinder more often…

With a swing lens camera where composition is less important to me than serendipity, I don’t need an accurate viewfinder. But it might matter to those who have a different photographic objective in mind.

Lens Speed and Shutter Speed

I missed the 1/15 shutter speed of the Widelux and its faster f2.8 lens. So I used an ISO 400 and an ISO 1600 film. Despite the Noblex manual suggesting I use a tripod for the 1/30 speed, I was able to handhold it without shake.

Sadly, I don’t think I can use the Noblex at night unless I push HP5, whereas I can still eke out exposures with the Widelux at ISO 400 at night in indoor lighting.

Other Features

This Noblex model, the 135S, has the option of multiple exposures which I briefly tried. One unexpected benefit is that if I click the shutter while the camera is turned off (the switch is at the bottom of the camera), in multi-exposure mode I am not forced to wind on to the next frame. I just switch it on and take the shot again.

Loading the camera is slightly different from the Widelux. Is it easier? I think the manufacturer tried to make it easier but I find it awkward.

Negative Size

The Noblex’s negative is 24 mm x 66 mm while the Xpan’s negative is 24mm x 65mm. The Widelux is visibly shorter at 24 x 59. On the Noblex, I get 19 to 20 pictures on a roll of 135 film while I get 21 full frames on my Widelux.


Noblex vs Widelux vs Hasselblad XPan negatives.

Overall, my heart leans toward the Widelux but the Noblex is a noble alternative for photographers. If you see one at your local camera store, I recommend you give it a swing.

You see more of Ahsan Ali’s work on Instagram at @chilledmaniac

Images © Ahsan Ali 2023.

You might also be interested this article on Ahsan Ali’s experience with the Widelux




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