Quick 35mm Pinhole Conversion

8 04 2012

J and I picked up a box of cameras ages ago from a car boot, for about £2. Just a collection of cheap point and shoots, some with flash, various formats. I’ve been dipping into them for night out cameras here and there, but mostly they’ve just been awaiting creative inspiration.

Recently, I’ve been very into pinhole photography. I’ve build a large format pinhole camera, and done a few tests with photographic paper, but I don’t have anything worth posting just yet. I’ve ordered a box of sheet film, and am hoping to get some clearer results using that, but we’ll see. Another project in the offing is a Polaroid pinhole conversion, which I’m pretty excited about, but again, I’m waiting for things to arrive.

So, itching to do something pinholey, I fished this little lovely from the box of cameras.

It’s the most basic kind of camera; fixed focus, viewfinder, manual advance, flashless, no electronics. Perfect for my purposes. Handily, the front cover is screwed in, rather than being a click-together system, like many cheap plastic cameras. This made it easy to take apart without breaking anything.

Here it is with the yellow plastic case removed. I’ve pointed out the lensplate, and the screws I removed to lift it off.

The plastic lenses popped out pretty easily with a little pressure, and the shutter lifted away without any hassle. I was left with just the plastic lensboard, with a small hole in the centre where the lens/shutter used to be.
On the rear of the lensboard (which was a flatter surface than the front), I carefully taped my aluminium pinhole, making sure the pinhole lined up in the centre of the old lens area. Then, it was just a simple case of screwing the lensboard back into place, and re-attaching the case.

What used to be the slide across lens cap is now the shutter. The shutter release button has stayed in place, because whilst it isn’t actually attached to anything anymore, it need to be released either right before or right after each exposure in order for the film advance to function.

So, after consulting my light meter, and the exposure guide online, to get an approximate idea of exposure times, the camera was loaded up with Ilford Delta 3200 film, and stuffed in my pocket for the day. The exposure time in daylight, at 3200 iso, was coming up at around 1/15 of a second. I didn’t time any of the exposures, and I tried a few, between a very quick open-close of the shutter, and a few seconds.

The slide across cap really doesn’t work very effectively as a shutter, since the slider is a bit too stiff for quick exposure, and creates too much camera shake. In the end, I started covering the pinhole with my hand, then opening the cap, and using my finger as a shutter.

The film was developed in Ilford Microphen, 1:1, at the manufacturer recommended time for the film rated at 3200. The results are better than I expected. Of course, there’s a lot of camera shake, but the images are clear. The few shots I managed to take with the camera resting on something are relatively sharp for a pinhole camera.

Whilst the sliding lens cap/shutter idea didn’t work so well, I am quite taken by the idea of having a carry-around pinhole camera, so I plan to either rethink this one to improve the shutter function, or find a similar camera with a tripod mount.




2 responses

14 04 2012
Aware of the Void

Such an ingenous idea, I have recenly started to dabble with a bit of pinholery so I will give this a go. Thanks for the info.

16 04 2012
Amelia Griffiths

I’m having a merry old time with pinhole experiments at the moment. To the extent that my other cameras are beginning to feel a bit neglected. I find that there’s something infinitely pleasing about producing a recognisable image out of something so very simple. Something I’ve added since I made this post is a tripod mount to the bottom of the camera. I managed to find a removable one from a different scrappy camera, but it should be easy to pick up something in the right screw size from a hardware shop or similar. I’ve just superglued it to the bottom, and attached one of those mini tripods (which I picked up for a quid from a pound shop). I’ve yet to test it, but I’m hopeful that it’ll help with steadier, clearer shots 🙂

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