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Couple More Pics

Posted 2009.10.13 21.32 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I took a few more shots with my pinhole camera today. I’m still kind of amazed at how it works, and still chuffed to have made it myself.

There was only one glitch this time, when loading the camera, the leading edge of the film caught on some of the felt and dragged a bit of felt into the image. Otherwise it worked really well.

I was hoping the shot of the boat would turn out better – although I have an idea of the wide-angle-ness of the camera, I don’t have a good idea yet about how it frames the images. There were a few other shots I did that came out rather crooked – I don’t know if I need a rudimentary viewfinder, or just a level… At any rate, there’s no more technical issues I think – the issues are in learning to use it.

More Pinhole Pics

Posted 2009.10.12 19.23 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I took some more shots today with my home-made camera. Made a silly mistake though – the 0.3mm pinhole is about three and a half f-stops from the big misshapen pinhole from Saturday, but I forgot to adjust my exposure times accordingly. So a lot of shots were under-exposed.

Still, a few came out not-too-bad. It’s a bit of a soft dreamy look, and I still find it amazing that the images come out at all, with no lens, just a wee little hole.

I still need to fix the film gate along the top – the felt is still getting in the way a bit. Other than that, and the under-exposures, it’s working pretty well I think.

Home Made Camera: Update

Posted 2009.10.12 10.29 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

So after all the excitement on Saturday of taking and processing pictures from my home-made camera, yesterday I sort of settled down and evaluated.

Pinhole shots are expected to be ‘soft’ but my shots were too soft. I asked around, and it was suggested that the hole I was using was too big. I wasn’t sure how to measure things that are in the less-than-millimeter range, but then I got an idea – I’d use my negative scanner, and scan at a super-high resolution, then just count the pixels of the hole.

It worked, and also provided a very good enlarged view of my pinhole – not only was it too big, it was a mis-shapen mess! The pinhole equivalent of trying to take pictures with a lens that was cracked and scratched all over. No wonder my shots were so ‘soft’ aka blurry.


You can see in this comparison, the left side is the pinhole I was using on Saturday. Yuck! The right side is a new pinhole I made, that I’ll use on my next roll to see how it goes. It ought to be much sharper. The funny thing is these pinholes were both made with the same pin, in the same piece of aluminum – just obviously I was way more careful on the second one.

On the camera itself, I also finished up some more work on it yesterday – I decided that the winding knobs are good enough so I finished them off, I have a simple but effective mechanism for holding the back in place, and I added a second ‘shutter’ that hopefully will work in tandem with the pinhole – i.e. allow me to open and close the aperture without moving the camera around too much.

Camera Front

Camera Front

Here is the face of the camera. The knobs have been finished off, and I’ve added a new shutter mechanism for the pinhole module.

Closeup of Pinhole

Closeup of Pinhole

The pinhole is punched in a razor-thin piece of aluminum, I’ve actually got three different holes in the aluminum so I could move it around and select the different holes. The aluminum is held in place by the brass strap, which is coated with black felt at the back.

The shutter is another piece of brass which rotates up out of the way. The pivot point has two washers and a spring, which allows me to adjust the tension while still keeping it tight. It too has black felt coating its back. There is a brass ‘pin’ to stop the shutter at the right point when it is closed.

Camera Back

Camera Back

The back of the camera is held in place by a fairly simple system, although I could improve it later. At the bottom of the camera I added two small bits of wood to hold the bottom of the back, and towards the top at the sides I drilled two very small holes, and just have a pair of brass nails that slide in and out, to hold the upper part of the back in place. I added another brass nail as a ‘handle’ to help extract the back once the sliding nails are out of the way.

The process of taking pictures is wonderfully complicated: First you set the camera in position on a tripod or whatever, angle it as best you can. There’s no view finder, just point and hope. It is a ‘wide angle’ so it will capture quite a bit of the scene. Second, you slide up the darkslide / safety shutter, after ensuring the pinhole shutter is closed. Third, rotate the pinhole shutter to the open position, being careful not to jiggle the camera.

Count off the exposure time, then rotate the pinhole shutter to the closed position. Fifth, slide the darkslide / safety shutter closed. And finally, crank the film advance knob while looking through the back window, to get the film to the next frame.

Home Made Camera: Results!!!

Posted 2009.10.10 23.15 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

Today I had the opportunity to take some photographs with my home-made pinhole camera. It was a lot of fun, and some anxiety and excitement about what would come of it. I also found some definite issues that need addressing before I try another roll.

First, just relying on friction to hold the back in place was a Bad Idea. Very quickly the back was loose and I had to hold the camera carefully when moving it, to keep the back from coming off. Second – though fortunately not till I was finished – the tripod mount came out so I have to do some work on that to re-attach it more securely. And finally, my ‘shutter’ is too stiff. More of a darkslide than a shutter – I found I had to keep a finger over the pinhole, open the ‘shutter’, then remove my finger for the exposure. Then cover up with a finger again while I wrestled with the ‘shutter’.

But enough about the problems – what of the pictures? As soon as I got home tonight, I got to work. Nervously processing the film, double-checking to make sure I didn’t make a dumb mistake like putting the fixer in before the developer. When the fixing was finished, I couldn’t wait to open the tank and peek in while the rinsing was going on. There were images! As soon as the rinse was done I pulled the film out and looked at it – there were 12 images! I could see at once some were over-exposed, some were under-exposed. But pictures! My home-made camera made images! OMG OMG OMG!

Check them out:

All my outdoor exposures were about 5 seconds which was about twice as long as they should have been. When I scanned the negs, I adjusted the density to compensate. The indoor shot worked out really well as-is.

I must admit, I’m totally chuffed with the results. The biggest image problem is with the felt that helps move the film smoothly – I forgot to trim it after it was in place. So the image frame is all funky shaped and every image has a blob of felt fiber in the top-left corner where a big tuft of felt was sticking out.

Home Made Camera: Night 5

Posted 2009.10.09 19.57 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

Not much happening this night, in fact. After working on the camera for four nights in a row, I’ve decided to take a break. I buffed the camera body and decided that two coats of tung oil were good enough. I didn’t get replacement knobs, or find better springs. I just assembled the windy-springy-things as-is for now.

And I didn’t put any more thought into holding the back in place – friction-fit seems to work ok for now. With the knobs in place and a temporarily passable solution for the back, not much else to do but…

I loaded a roll of B&W film in it, ISO 100, and will take it out tomorrow in the sunshine and see how it goes.

Camera specs as good as I can tell / measure / guess:

  • Format: 120
  • Image size: 56mm x 57mm
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • Aperture: f/168

I can’t wait to get it out and get some pictures.

Assembled & Loaded

Assembled & Loaded

Back of Camera

Back of Camera

The camera back hasn’t been sanded & finished yet. I’ll do that after I’ve worked out how to secure it. I was looking at little brass latches, but the back is only 1/8″ thick and there’s not much there to bolt to. I also thought about little screws, bolts, or even just nails to slide in and out. Nothing has quite felt right though.

Home Made Camera: Night 4

Posted 2009.10.08 23.37 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

A step or two forwards, a step or two back?

Tonight, I lined the interior of the body with felt along the film path (to help the film move smoothly and scratch-free) and the periphery of the chamber (to help keep it light-tight). This was fairly easy, calling upon all the cut & paste skills I learned in kindergarten.

Then I worked some more on the windy-twisty-springy things. They now work better – I ┬áran my dummy-roll completely through from one end to the other. There were some hitches but if it were real film, it would have been fine. I’m still not 100% satisfied however; so I didn’t finish them off. I might look at some alternatives. The springs I have are ok but not perfect, but I’m lazy and impulsive and might not bother hunting for the perfect ones. The knobs I got are ok but too small, making winding occasionally painful. I might just use some small furniture knobs instead.

I re-made the pinhole ‘properly’. Last night’s version was just tinfoil. Tonight I cut apart an aluminum soda can and flattened & filed down a square of aluminum, then punched a better hole.

Finally, I sanded the body smooth all around, and then treated it with two coats of tung oil. I may give it a third or fourth coat tomorrow, depending on how it looks.

The only thing that didn’t get addressed tonight was how to secure the camera back. The idea I had before proved to be unwiedly. For now, the back is tight enough that friction holds it. If I haven’t come up with a solution by the weekend, I’m going to run a roll of film through it with the back just wedged in place. Ditto the winding knobs, if I don’t have a perfect solution tomorrow, I’ll use my imperfect one and go for it. Either way, Saturday there should be pictures!

Home Made Camera: Night 3

Posted 2009.10.07 23.45 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

More progress tonight. I found something to use as a ruby gel on the film counter window: something I had laying around the house, cheap and plentiful, and related to cameras. Well, not ruby, but orange… Some unexposed leader from colour film! The orange mask on the negative is a good substitute. Finally, I coated the back of the back plate in black felt to provide a bit more lightfastness, as well as a soft plane for the film to roll against.

Although building a camera on the fly without plans is unbelievably cool (I’m a legend in my own mind!) sometimes it leads to wasted materials and mistakes. I ended up shelving the shutter I had built last night and went with an even simpler sliding design – just pull it up to expose, slide it down to shut. To mount it flush against the front of the body I had to lay another veneer of wood, but I ran out of oak. So the front is now yellowheart wood. Actually so is the back. Symmetricalicious.

So finally I used another piece of brass as a strap across the front. I made a small hole in the brass and then placed a bit of tin behind it. And then poked it with the pin. Voilla! Pinhole!

The only things that are left for me to do, are to finish the twisty windy springy things, and hook up the thingy that holds the back in place. Oh and I’ll stuff some felt inside as well so the film doesn’t get scratchy running over the wood bits.

Oh and then I have to sand the whole thing, then finish the exterior with tung oil to make it pretty.