Czech photographer Jaroslav Poncar has always been at ease fumbling with his old 1960s Russian-made FT-2 panoramic camera. After all, the FT-2 has been with him round the world.
It proved a vital companion in South Asia, where he discovered that only a panoramic camera could capture the gigantic landscapes in their entirety, from the Himalayas of India to the sprawling steppes of Tibet.
Out of those trips in the 1960s and '70s came a collection of stunning wide-angle shots that thrust him to the forefront of panoramic photography.
Known for his fastidious technique of cramming as many details as possible into a single frame, Poncar says there's nothing better than an antique panoramic camera like his FT-2, which can capture the "atmosphere" of a place in ways that a digital SLR cameral can't begin to emulate.
He proved his point in his recent exhibition entitled "Paris in Panorama" at the Serindia Gallery. On view were panoramic photographs of Paris from the 1977 to 1985, plus one photo from 2002.
"I selected Paris as my first panorama project because it's a beautiful and photogenic city close to home," he says. "'Pont Neuf' from 1977 was the beginning of my "panoramic" Paris project."
All of the photos - taken with his FT-2 camera and uncropped - reflected the subtlety of Poncar's photographic skills. The colours looked natural, and never too bright, accentuating the genuine atmosphere of Paris.
"I want my photos to make people say, 'Oh, how grand is Paris! Since I'm a big fan of Paris, I want people who haven't been there to say they must go to Paris after seeing my photos."
Poncar says this sense of genuineness in a picture as taken by his antique camera is the charm of panoramic photography, the main reason for his 30-year love affair with the FT-2 camera.
"Panoramic photography is a big part of my life. I couldn't divorce from it. I must be mad!" he says.
Manufactured between 1958 and 1964 by KMZ in Krasnogorsk, Russia - the same company that churned out the Zenit-E in vast numbers - the FT-2 Panoramic camera wasn't produced in such prodigious quantities, numbering about 16,000. It takes in a view of 120 degrees on standard 35mm film.
"The FT-2 is the only panoramic camera in the world that uses a 50mm lens with 35mm film, producing a human viewing angle without the effect of curved horizontal lines," Poncar says.
Not every photographer shares Poncar's expertise with the FT-2. A former professor at the department of imaging sciences at Cologne University of Applied Science, Poncar has since moved to the same school's Institute of Applied Optics and Electronics.
He drew inspiration from the great Czech photographer Josef Sudek's panoramic portrait of Prague. Remembered for his neo-romantic, and even modernist, pictorial style, Sudek created works described as "painterly photography", which resulted in his expulsion from a local camera club.
He founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.
Dealing with a panoramic camera is the biggest challenge for Poncar.
"You have to create a photo on the spot. What you shoot, you get. If you have 120 degrees of viewing, the picture must be the final one, composed according to the rules of photography. You need to capture as many things in one shot - panorama means 'all seen'. I like the fact that you can't crop the pictures.
"It's technically difficult. You need to balance the exposure if the front light and the back light occur at the same time. Then the camera has to be in level.
"Through my pictures, I want to convey the context of architecture in the landscape. That's what panoramic photography does."
He's been carrying the FT-2 for the past 30 years through exotic locales.
Besides the Himalayas, Tibet, India and Nepal, Poncar has been to Yemen, Burma and Cambodia on photographic assignments.
In Cambodia, Poncar made record-setting negatives, measuring 70mm by 2,480mm, and from them the largest photograph ever made of the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat - 62 metres in width. It earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
"May I tell you one thing?" he says. "In other art forms, like painting or sculpture, it's important that your work creates an atmosphere for the viewers. That applies to panoramic photography, too. Hi-tech cameras usually kill the atmosphere. The photos look almost sterile.
"My photos aren't always technically perfect or sharp, but they capture the character and atmosphere."