April 25th was World Pinhole Photography Day where participants around the world are encouraged to build or buy pinhole cameras and take a picture to post onto the World Pinhole Day website. I unfortunately missed out last year as my travels for work hadn’t left me enough time to create my camera – I could have bought one, but what fun would that have been?
That being said, there are some beautiful pinhole cameras being sold such as the zero image and the Holga 120 Wide Pinhole, and you can even buy body caps for an SLR or DSLR that can turn your camera into a lensless wonder!
Why pinhole? Why not? I mean honestly, I couldn’t make a lens, I wouldn’t even know where to start, so if someone such as myself wanted to make his own camera I think my only option is the pinhole route (please correct me if I’m wrong!). So, with the help of Pinhole Photography: A Beginner’s Guide, www.mrpinhole.com, and the flickr pinhole group, I was able to successfully build a pinhole camera that took some pretty good pictures IMO.
So how did I do it? Well, I continued my love with Baltic Birch plywood (it helped that I had a whole bunch left over from the caterpillar crib) and made it by stacking 10 layers on top of each other with pre-cut holes for the chamber and film reels. The idea is that this could be made with a CNC or laser cutter (Ponoko) and assembled at home by anyone. By using 120 film it was easy to get holes and a take up spool. For the pinhole, I used some metal from an old cocoa can and bought a pin vise (micro drill) to make a 0.4mm hole. the entire camera was held together with threaded rod and cap nuts. The small red window for the camera was made from a red translucent file folder, it didn’t work very well and was hard to see through, but better than nothing I guess.
My only real disappointment was the shutter. I ran out of good ideas at this point, and faced with a time crunch, I went with the ol’ electrical tape method. Film advance was from an old stereo volume knob. I had planned to round the edges with a router and then varnish the whole thing, however the camera wasn’t perfect and I’m not sure I’ll use this one again.
Here is one of the pictures (Ilford FP4+) that I developed myself with ilfotec DD-X. Note the great depth of field you get when you have f245!
Issues – so a few issues with the camera. I measured the slits for the film based on an old paper backing I had. Unfortunately the film is the thickness of the paper backing + the film, so it was a bit snug. It worked well in some ways as the film stayed flat and no light leaked around the red window, however it was VERY tight to advance, and eventually stripped the mechanism. The film was bottom loaded (just like a Leica as I liked to think), this along with the wider than anticipated film was a huge pain to get into the camera, cool to tell your friends, but a pain nonetheless.
Next time – next time I think I’ll make a wider format camera, possibly a panoramic type one like the Holga mentioned above. I was pretty amazed at how easy the entire project was, and think more people should try to make their own pinhole!