Day 54 DIY Pinhole Camera

Sunday, 22 December 2013

WOW, so this is probably going to be one of the most complex assignments so far. In this blogpost I will set out my notes and thought processes from start to (hopefully) finish.

Tools and Materials

  1. Some kind of light-proof container (in my case, we have plenty of used dried fruit canisters in the cupboard, so I used that)
  2. Needle / drill
  3. 35mm camera film
  4. PVC electrical tape to hold things together / seal up any gaps that could let stray light into the camera
  5. Black spray paint (optional)
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Mounting board (or any material that is easy to cut, yet sturdy enough to bear some weight and hold its shape well)
  8. Sturdy box cutter

How I Made It

Gathered materials, mostly from what we had stored in various places around the house. It's like a treasure hunt everytime we have an assignment to do! The only 2 things which I ended up buying were a roll of black electrical tape and rolls of 35mm camera film. Thankfully I found a camera shop run by some lovely elderly folk, just 5 minutes' drive away from home which still sells 35mm colour films.

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I cut out a small piece of the can's bottom to make the pinhole with. It was easy enough to poke a hole through with a needle, making sure that there was ample paper padding under the piece of aluminium so I wouldn't accidentally punch the needle through the table! I sanded down the hole on the side where the needle exited the aluminium. The choice of needle for the desired diameter of the pinhole was a rough estimate based on the formula in this wikipedia article. Then I reattached the piece of aluminium back to the can's surface using electrical tape, making sure that there were no gaps for stray light to enter the can.

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Next I cut a square from some thick black mounting board, whose width equalled the diameter for the can. I cut out a small frame which would accommodate the area of light to shine on the camera film.  The little cut-out rectangle was fashioned into the pinhole camera's 'shutter', as you can see in the previous photo (no wastage!). I covered the entire square with electrical tape, and taped the sides and gaps as securely as I could.

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The square turned out to be really helpful:

  1. It's easier to wrap with electrical tape than a circular surface,
  2. It stops the can from rolling away whenever I want to take a photo by placing the camera on a flat surface!

Then I cut out another piece of mounting board to be made into a flap which would protect the film. This was also completely covered in electrical tape.

Only then did I realise that the inside of the can was reflective (oh crap!)  and that I couldn't paint it black with any of our water-based paints. So after a few moments of panicking about the notion of redoing the entire exercise, I spray-painted the inside of the dried fruit can with THIS stuff - matt black camouflage spray paint! I finally made use of something my hubby bought for his one-off Nerf gun modification project 2 years back. :p

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Now I had to mount the film. I taped one end of film to another end of film from an empty canister, and lay the film across the cut out frame, like so:

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Then I flipped back the film cover and taped it as securely as I could so that no light would hit the emulsion side of the film. I also taped the edges of the film canisters to the fruit can to hold them securely and also to cover any areas that could leak light in.

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Finally, I put an ice cream stick on one end of the empty film canister to be used to advance the film whenever I wanted to take a photo.

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And there we have my very own pinhole camera! I've already had the chance to play with one roll of camera, and this was just sent back to the camera shop for developing. It should be ready in 2 days' time (Tuesday), I can't wait to see if this baby works!

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  1. How to determine size of pinhole for a crisp image
  2. How to develop film using coffee and vitamin C (i.e. make caffenol)
  3. How to mount rolls of film onto a pinhole camera (external)

Notes and Observations

  1. If you're using a can lined with oil and water repellent coating, water-based paint won't work if you want to paint the inside of the can black (to minimise reflections). Believe me, I tried!
  2. The next time I load a new roll of film in, I would practice advancing the film BEFORE replacing the film cover, so that I have a much better idea of how many times I need to turn the ice cream stick before taking my next photo. That way I won't waste too much film, I hope.
  3. While reading this article about determining the exposure time for pinhole cameras (the calculations and equipment went waaaay over my head) there was a note that because the camera has to be absolutely still while the shutter is open in order to take a crisp photo, I'll probably have to find a way to add some weight to it and also find a way to mount it on a tripod.


#1Gravatar imageBojan says:

You are wery interesting person Michelle Ho Chui Yean. I am MuTaBor also a Design 101 mate :-) Very interesting blog as well!

#2Gravatar imageMichelle says:

Hey MuTaBor! I didn’t think that anyone from Design 101 would pop by my blog, hehe. :p I’m thoroughly enjoying the course and I hope you are too!

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