By Ross Orr
Lensless and low-tech, pinhole cameras have always been maker-friendly. But forget the Quaker Oats carton, and go wide with this roll-film, panorama design.
I bought a new scanner recently, and soon found myself spelunking through drawers of old photos from my many misspent years in photography. Some of the most interesting shots were thepinhole camera experiments I had done as a teenager. With ghostly outlines from multi-minute exposures, and shapes warped into boomerangs by curved film, these otherworldly images got me dreaming about pinhole cameras again. So I headed to the workshop to build a new one. And then another, and another. I eventually made more than a dozen, and this “Pin-o-rama” design is my favorite. Unlike simplerpinholes, it uses standard 120mm roll film, which means you don’t have to open the camera and reload after each exposure, and you don’t need a darkroom to process the results — just take the rolls to a photo lab. Also, it’s built entirely from scratch, rather than hijacking the film-transport from an existing camera.
Photograph by Sam Murphy
Set up: p.95
Make it: p.96
Use it: p.101
RossOrr keeps the analog alive in Ann Arbor, Mich. A frequent contributor to MAKE, Ross hacks low-tech gadgets and invasive plants in his spare time.
PROJECTS: PINHOLE CAMERA
THE HOLE PICTURE
A pinhole camera is a light-tight box with a piece of film (or photo paper) on one side and a tiny hole in the other. An image forms because each point on thefilm can only “see” the one patch of the outside world that’s lined up with the pinhole, whether it’s light, dark, blue, red, etc. Because the pinhole does not focus light like a lens, the film can be any shape and a flexible distance from the hole, and the enclosure can be made from any lightproof material. With construction so forgiving, pinhole tinkerers have produced a riot of camera creations,from mint tins to airplane hangars — even animal skulls and hollowed-out vegetables. Pinholes are the most hackable camera type ever devised.
By curving the film, you can uniformly illuminate very wide angles, while getting a groovy, bulged perspective. The Pin-o-rama’s 105º horizontal coverage matches that of an expensive, superwide 16mm lens on a 35mm camera.
To capture detail, we use120mm film, which is nearly 2½" wide and has no sprocket holes. Frame numbers on the backing paper let you put a peep sight on the back of the camera, and wind until the next number shows. To shoot panoramas, we count off every other number, yielding 6 shots per roll.
PROPER PINHOLE SIZE
TOO LARGE: The pinhole’s image comes from overlapping pinhole-sized blobs of light. A large pinhole loses alldetail smaller than its own diameter.
TOO SMALL: With a too-small pinhole, light diffraction smears the image. A smaller hole also decreases brightness, requiring longer exposures.
JUST RIGHT: Calculating proper pinhole size has absorbed much scholarly brainpower. For cameras with typical focal lengths, it’s 0.2mm to 0.5mm.
Make: Volume 09
Illustration by Nik Schulz
SET UP.A G
C D E R F
B H K
I S J T O Q P N U L
[A] Scrap piece of ½" MDO plywood at least 6" square. Medium density overlay (MDO) has a smooth finish that looks nice. [B] ½"×¾" pine strips (2) about 6" long each [C] Aluminum sheet 0.010.02" thick (e.g. roof flashing), about 1' square [D] Tinsnips Photography by Ross Orr [E] Sewing needle [F] Utility knife [G] Jigsaw or scrollsaw or band saw [H] Drill and assorted bits
[I] Drawing compass [J] English and metric ruler or calipers [K] Flat black spray paint [L] Roll of 120mm film and cheap, expired film rolls for testing (2) or one old roll and a spool [M] Light meter or camera with a built-in meter (optional) [N] Slide projector or slide scanner [O] Tuna can or other source of springy steel [P] Black silicone...