Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pinholes and the things you can put them in

Pinholes are the simplest of cameras.  They basically consist of a very tiny hole punched into some surface that is on one side of a light tight container with either film, paper or something to record a picture.  Then a shutter is used to limit exposure time.

Pinhole pictures are typically dreamy-looking soft focus pictures and depending on how a pinhole camera is built they can be very wide angle or have distorted lines.

The first part of building a pinhole camera is making a pinhole.  As the name implies, it can be made by punching a hole in something with a pin or sewing needle.  I personally use brass shim, which can be obtained in rolls from automotive stores or in small sheets from hobby shops.  Alternative materials include tin foil or repurposing the bottom of Pringles cans, soda cans, etc.


Here, you can see me making a pinhole by drilling the brass with a  needle.  The best way to get a small, round hole is to drill just until a bump forms on the bottom side of the brass, then use a sanding  block to sand the brass down until there is a tiny hole, like so…


For this particular pinhole camera, I want to put it on my Canon 50D.  The easiest way to make a DSLR pinhole “lens” is to put a pinhole into a body cap.  You can pick these up on eBay or Amazon for just a couple bucks.  Then drill a hole in the center where the pinhole will be placed…


Use electrical tape to tape the brass pinhole in place…


And you have a pinhole “lens” for your DSLR (or film SLR if you’d like to try that instead)



Since this version of a pinhole has a relatively low focal length, you won’t get photos that are as sharp as is possible from some other pinhole cameras, but I recommend using a low ISO and try making a couple of brass pinholes to experiment and see which ones work the best.  You’ll also notice these pictures require a long exposure time, meaning you’ll need a tripod or stead surface and a wireless remote or shutter release cable can come in handy.  (Some of mine had exposures of up to 20 minutes on ISO 100 inside my lit house).

You might also notice dust showing up in pinhole DSLR photography.  Don’t worry, your sensor isn’t that dirty, but the super small aperture of pinholes means that you have almost an infinite depth of field and will see dust in your photos.  Nothing a minute or two in Photoshop won’t fix.

Another pinhole option (which I haven’t tried but am considering) is obtaining a laser cut pinhole.  You can also buy body caps for certain cameras that have premade laser cut pinholes.  I personally like the DIY approach and the trial and error of it.

I only have 2 days of successful pictures (and I like them more as I keep experimenting), but here are some preliminary examples.

IMG_0398 IMG_0262 IMG_0273 IMG_0278 IMG_0282 IMG_0285 IMG_0339 IMG_0353 IMG_0383

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