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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  ran 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.

Home Made Camera: Night 2

Posted 2009.10.06 22.44 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I don’t feel like I made as much progress tonight, although I think I did as much work…

Tonight I worked on the film transport mechanism – aka the knobs. I’ve made them complicated as they do 3 things. They have to rotate of course, to allow the film to be advanced. They also have to move up and down, because the bottom part of the spool holders are fixed, so the upper / knob ones have to move so the spools can be loaded and removed. And finally, they are tensioned with springs, so they provide tension to the spools, to help keep the film tight.

The first picture below shows a closeup of one of the twisty springy bits that will be inside the camera. The second picture shows the twisty springy knobby bits test-mounted to the camera body. There is some more work to do with these yet but I’m happy with the design, it’s just some fine-tuning to make it perfect.

After working on that for a while, I made the camera back. Well ‘made’… I cut it and filed it to size then cut a little hole for the film counter. I need to find some ruby gel material (or a cheap substitute.)

Then I worked a bit on the simple shutter mechanism. I had an idea this morning, instead of making the simple shutter and the pinhole together as one module, I realized I could make separate shutter modules and separate pinhole / lens modules. I was still stumped though in that I wouldn’t be able to swap anything with film in the camera. Then this afternoon I got another brainstorm.

I’ll make the ‘simple shutter’ module, then permanently fix it to the front of the camera. It becomes a safety shutter – simple to open and close for use with a pinhole, or close it then I can swap lenses, or add a real shutter and real lens (once I’ve made them.) I didn’t get the simple shutter thing finished tonight, but got the wood and metal bits cut out. I just have to put them together.

Finally, I painted the inside of the camera with black paint. I don’t know if it is matte, I couldn’t find anything that specifically said matte. Generic black is good enough I guess.

Oh and I forgot to mention this last night – do you notice the mini-tripod in two of the above pics? Yeah, I built a tripod mount into the base of the camera.

Home Made Camera: Night 1

Posted 2009.10.05 23.11 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

Today after work, I was thinking about a project. At first I was going to take over the world, but then I figured I could do that next week. This week, I decided to make a camera.

Rather than mess around with silly things like plans or knowledge, I decided to just have at it. I had some requirements in mind, for what I wanted, what it would have to do:

  • It would use medium-format 120 film.
  • The format would be 6×6.
  • It would initially be a pinhole camera, but…
  • It would have to be adaptable to accept a lens and shutter later.
  • It would be made of wood, brass, that sort of thing. No plastic, if I can help it.

So, I got out some hobby wood, a ruler and pencil and started measuring and marking. As I wasn’t using a plan, I determined the best way to proceed would be to build the 6×6 exposure box bit first, then the framework to hold the film spools, and so on. In other words, starting with the middle and working my way out. I’d tackle the harder bits when I got to them, such as the film advance mechanism and the shutter assembly.

To permit the camera to switch between a pinhole setup and a lens/shutter system, I figured to mount a pair of brass bolts on the front of the camera body, then I could make my pinhole setup and a lens board etc. as modular attachments that mount to the bolts. Brass wingnuts would hold the lens / pinhole modules in place.

So after the first night of work, the camera body is almost completed. Remaining assembly steps on the body are fitting the top piece, and building the film transport knobs, then finally sanding it all down. The interior will be painted matte black and the exterior will be finished with tung oil.

I also have to make a back for the camera, but that’s pretty straightforward – the only tricky bit is I need to decide how the back will be secured in place. I have some ideas in mind already though.

After the body is finished, I will build the pinhole module with a rudimentary shutter. Then later I’ll have a go at making a lens module with a ‘real’ shutter, i.e. 1/100th or so.