Tag Archives: DIY

MKii: progress with DIY pinhole camera

Thought I would post a very quick update on how far I’ve got to with the MKii.

I drove around for ages looking for somewhere to shoot before I ended up almost back at home at the local church. I set up in front of the spire took a couple of shots before heading around the back into the grave yard. All going very promisingly but then…it broke!

It was the weakest element of the construction that went too. What seems to have happened is the milliput epoxy putty that connected the wooden peg to the advance mechanism failed to grip and therefore started to rotate freely when I’ve been advancing the spool. That is why I have got so many double exposures going on.

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Then, tension has somehow built up between the two spools and the wooden peg broke in two. So, I think I’m going to rebuild it in metal!

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On the positive: The light meter apps and exposure charts that I am using although still involve a little guess work and luck are generally working. At least you can see things with tone and detail.  You can clearly see the church spire and a tree in the above shot. Also in the shot below you can just about make out a grave stone in the left have of the photo. I will hopefully review how I light meter my shots when I’ve had some more success and a little more savvy with the camera.

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Not too exciting but it’s progress. I aim to fix it over the weekend so please check back soon for more results.

If you’re interested to read more about the construction and other result with the sardine tin camera, it all here and here!

Thanks for reading!

Bob

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Sardine Tin Camera: MKii

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My first attempt at making a camera from a sardine tin worked as well as I could have hoped, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

Read more about my first attempt here

One of the shortcomings of the original design [mk1] was that I was only getting around 25 exposures from a 36 exposure film. This I believe, is to do with the width of the ‘exposure chamber’. [might have just made that name up?] By this I mean each section of film had to travel quite a distance between the [light tight] unexposed film roll and the [relatively light tight\] take-up spool. This could  potentially leave the film open to light from subsequent exposures hitting the previous exposure before reaching the take-up spool. To remedy this I added a screen / flap between the ‘exposure chamber’ and the take up spool that will hopefully protect the exposed film and the take up spool from said light leaks. This also means I’ve had to move the aperture slightly off centre.

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The biggest and most exciting modification I’ve made is to the take_up spool. However, I must now confess that although my principal intention was to build a camera from things easily found around the house I have started to stray from this with a few of my modifications. My first attempt of a functioning  take-up spool broke half way through it’s maiden voyage and subsequently some of the film ripped. Also, the design of the take-up spool encouraged further light leaks that aren’t always desired.

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The first advance in design was to replace the former sewing thread spool with a proper 35mm spool and make wooden holders for the spool to sit in.

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Then I made a wooden peg [above] that slots inside the spool hub, allowing it to turn. Into one end of the peg I glued a piece of 5mm K&S brass tubing. This can be bought from most model shops where model train enthusiasts hang out. I found a brass radiator/ central heating key for the advance, as the beer top was a little clumsy which a piece of K&S brass tubing fit perfectly.

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In order to then connect the radiator key to the 5mm tube in the wooden peg I soldered a smaller 4mm piece of K&S brass tubing. I used silver solder as that’s what I had but lead solder that plumbers use is easier to get hold of from DIY shops and is much cheaper. Silver solder is much stronger too. This modification should hopefully make the camera completely light tight.

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Once it came to attaching the film to the take up spool I could have just taped it, like you do with the Holga. However, 35mm spools have a clever little hook thing on the inside of the spool hub which holds it in place. I thought I’d try to be clever and attempt to recreate this by punching a hole in the beginning of the roll…

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…but soon realised that the hole is a little off centre. I punched more holes in the film but made a right pigs ear of the job so just tapped the factory cut attachment from the old roll to my film.

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This time I’ve loaded the camera with 100 ISO film which will make the exposure time around 1.7 seconds.

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All in all I’m pretty happy with the modifications and the advance spool works perfectly. All I need to do now is expose the film, so please check back soon for my results.

Bob

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Sardine revisited

Greenhouse

My greenhouse: Best shot

It’s been a while but I’ve finally got around to developing the film I exposed with the Sardine tin pinhole camera. Check out the results! Of course they’re not the best images; there are flaws but with a little refinement I think it’s the start for something beautiful. I’m just relieved and stoked that it bloody worked! Even with very meticulous calculations there are a plethora of variables and thus still an element of the unknown.

So Bob just how did you do it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Although, I might be going over some of the things I mentioned in my last post about this camera I think it will further highlight the challenges and limitations of making a pinhole camera from a sardine tin.

In principal you just need a sardine tin, make it light tight, put some film in it and expose it – easy aye! Well almost. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the sardine tin is very shallow which, intrinsically creates a handicap. Because the film sits at the bottom of the tin and the aperture in the lid means that it has a very short focal length, i.e. the distance between the film and the aperture. If we consider that the average pinhole is between 0.5 – 1 mm in diameter then having a such a short focal length means that too much light gets through the pinhole risking over exposure.

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Static caravan. I added a warming filter in Ps to try and bring some of the sky detail out.

For a while I couldn’t work out why the focal length affected how much light got to the film, surely that’s more to do with the aperture? This is true but as the aperture gets closer to the film it has to get smaller if you want to achieve an identical exposure. The way I think about this is to remember the aperture is the source of light. Now gather your mental imaging faculties and imagine that your walking along a dark road and there is a person say 300m away walking towards you with a torch. The torchlight appears as a dot or a very small source of light. As you get closer the torch light get bigger until the person is shinning the light right in your face and the source of light seem huge. The light isn’t any more powerful just bigger.

It’s the same with our pinhole cameras. As you move a 1mm aperture closure to the film it gets bigger in relation to the film.

So this means that for the camera to work I need a super smaller aperture or a shorter exposure [or both]. However, the smallest pin I could find was 0.2mm which was still to bit to big and thus would have required an exposure time of somewhere between 1/30 & 1/125, which is just too quick. Ideally you need an exposure time of around 1 – 2 seconds so you have a little room to manoeuvre.

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Farm house: possibly best exposure but upped the contrast in Ps

So what do you do? I can’t reduce the aperture and limited to how short I can realistically and reliably reduce the exposure time. One other option was to reduce the ISO of the film I was using. If you’re unfamiliar, the ISO is how fast the film reacts to the light hitting it. So on a nice sunny day then ISO 200 will probably do you fine. If you’re shooting in low light you might want to use ISO 400, which is more sensitive, and will react twice a quick to the available light. Equally lowering the ISO means the films reacts slower to the light available. The slowest film I could find was Ilford PAN-F 50 [ISO 50]. Nevertheless this didn’t significantly reduce my exposure time.

So I was stuck. That was until I got a great tip off a local photography guru: Bob Clayton. Acupuncture needles!

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I think that’s a massive light leak. I think this exposed well but just can’t see its a tractor front on

So I contacted my local acupuncturist who was lovely and more then happy to oblige to my bizarre request.  Turns out she drives past my house on the way to dropping her kids off at school so one morning she just pulled up and gave me a handful of needles. It felt a little dodgy but I got a collection needles with three different diameters: 0.2mm, 0.16mm and the smallest 0.12mm. [N.B. If you’re going to go this route PLEASE be careful and hygienic with the needles and dispose of them correctly]. The 0.16mm would have worked but using the 0.12mm together with the ISO 50 film gave me a ‘sunny day exposure’ time of 3.39 seconds. Spot on! So nothing left to do but to load the camera and get out and take some pictures.

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Loading the film. Once I had secured the lid I also put black tape around the film holder to stop any light leaks.

My method was simply: Wait for a good sunny day and due to the 3 second exposure use a tripod. Also this freed both my hands to gently operate the shutter. I also took multiple photos of the same thing with different exposure times just in case.

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Camera held by a manfrotto super clamp mounted on the tripod

There were a couple of operational issues with the camera. First I had to guess how much to turn the advance between each exposure and the film did tear which also made loading it into the developing tank a little tricky. Neither were the exposures amazing but I think using a light meter would of help judge / calculate a more accurate exposure time. So, there are a few issues with the design of the camera that I will address these for ‘sardine camera – mk ii’ but considering so many things could have gone wrong  [even in the processing] I’m pretty happy.

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My Dad and my brother-in-law posing next to the tractor. Probably needed to be closer.

This entry is just an update and will hopefully get mk ii operational soon and start to produce some better images.  In the mean time if you have any questions or want to leave any comments I would love to hear from you [please keep it positive].

Please also check out Mr Pinhole’s website as he knows more about it then me and his site has been my reference book throughout this process.

Adios

Bob

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D.I.Y. SARDINE TIN PINHOLE CAMERA

HOMEMADE D.I.Y SARDINE TIN PINHOLE CAMERA

An ambition of my blog is to share with you the things I make. So this is my first blog project, a D.I.Y Sardine tin pinhole camera.

I’ve been making cameras for some time. My first cameras were constructed from modelling board, and I have also made more complex ones from 5mm ply. However, with this one, I wanted to make a camera out of things I could find around the house. So, inspired by the Lomography La Sardina, this camera is made from a sardine tin, a beer bottle top [for the advance wind] and a empty spool of thread, for the take up spool. Everything else I’ve used are random things I’ve hoarded, and I also raided my Dads [the master of hoarding] workshop for a few bits.

I constructed a carrier for the film roll from aluminum. Hopefully this will reduce the risk of light leaks too.

I also aimed to use non-specialist tools too which, consisted of a regular cordless drill with drill bits suitable for metal and regular metal files. I also used a bit of glue, but again this was just regular super glue, a bit of contact adhesive and epoxy putty. The epoxy putty I used was Milliput, which is a two part putty that you mix together and is relatively safe.

There were a couple of materials that I used that you might not necessarily have laying around the house. I used really thin aluminum sheet for the front panel, shutter and film holder. A bit of 5mm ply to support the front panel and some ‘Chicago screws’ to hold it all together. I also used a 0.65mm drill bit [the smallest I have] to drill the pinhole, which I realise not everyone has in their tool box.

Beer bottle top advance.

The decision to use a sardine tin nevertheless was fundamentally problematic. This is due to the depth of the tin [25mm] in relation to the 0.65mm drill bit. Without boring your pants off, in short these two factors make it difficult to achieve a large enough f/shop to ensure the exposure time is physically achievable, i.e. 1 second plus.  With a focal length [distance between film and pinhole, which is the depth of the tin] of 25mm and a pinhole of 0.65mm, this gives my camera an f/stop of f/38. Therefore, if I was to use ISO 100 film, the exposure time would be around 1/4 sec. Even if I’m super speedy I don’t think i’ll be able to achieve this and so run the risk of over exposure.

I saved the original pull tab to retain its sardine tin aesthetic. I also helps when removing the front of the camera.

So, did I modified the camera design or simply buy a smaller drill bit to achieve a larger f-stop?..erm, NO! Nevertheless, there are a few things I can do to compensate for my flawed design.

As I mentioned, the simplest thing to do is reduce the size of the pinhole; 0.2mm would be ideal. I don’t have a 0.2mm drill bit to hand, so instead the first thing I can do is NOT take a picture on a super sunny day. Straight away this will reduce the amount of light available and thus require a longer exposure time. Secondly, I can load the camera with a slower ISO film. The slowest available is ISO 25 which, also will require a longer exposure time. Finally, I can use an neutral density [ND] filter. An ND filter reduces the intensity of light entering the camera but doesn’t change the hue or colour rendition and will essentially allow me to stop down my exposure time.

This is the theory anyway, but I’ll not know if my logic is sound until a bit of trial and error.

With the front removed the take up spool [aka. sewing thread spool] is visible.

Anyway, I’m off to grab my light meter, load the camera and expose some film. So, please check back over the next few weeks to see what this little pinhole beauty yields. In the mean time if you fancy having ago yourself the sheet aluminum and 5mm ply can be found in good model shops. You can find Chicago screws online but I got mine from ‘Le Prevo‘ in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who also have an online store and are super friendly knowledgeable people. I will also post a ‘How To’ tutorial in a couple weeks once I’ve put a few rolls of film through the camera.

Bob

Please also read about my progress with this camera here

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