Tag Archives: Film

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.


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!


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.


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!



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Sardine Tin Camera: MKii


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…


…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.


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


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.



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SLIM-WIDE: a summer romance


The slim-wide is modest and understated but a true backyard shooter. It’s the reincarnation of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, which has a huge cult following but is now made by the guys at Superheadz.

At first it was quite easy to be underwhelmed by this modest little camera but is simplicity is what makes it so special; it does one job and it does it beautifully well. It partly to do with the lens which is pretty wide at 22mm, which considering fisheye lenses start at around 15mm and our own angle of view is somewhere between 35 – 50mm [relative to 35mm film] you can squeeze a lot in. It means that the angle of view is around 90 degrees or in other words, if you have your fingers to close to the lens then there’s a good chance your fingers will feature in the shot.


However, the wide angle isn’t it’s only trick. The Vivitar was know for producing lens flare, sharp and vivid shorts and heavy vignetting. I think this reincarnation delivers on all three. This was my first roll of film through the slim wide and I was pleasantly surprised and delighted with the outcome. When put into perspective I don’t think a similar priced digital camera could produce shots anywhere as pleasing. It’s also important to bear in mind that like it’s contemporaries at Lomography there’s little quality control on these plastic lenses so each one will have it’s own personality. Some may give more lens flare and vignetting but I think this one’s hit it just about right.


Nevertheless, I think I underestimated the wide angle slightly and I possibly could have got a little closer to my subjects. For example, with the photo below I possibly could have stood where the drain cover is and still got the building, phone boxes and bloke on the phone in shot. Or better still, just the guy and the phone boxes would have made a much better photo.


I think this really highlights why I continue use and get excited to use cameras such as this. Primarily for the level of chance or imminent failure when using ‘toy’ cameras that often leads to many a happy accident. But secondly to reenforce the fundamentals of photography. Cameras with such limits of functionality [like the slim wide, if not all toy cameras] the strongest tool we have in our toy camera box is composition. Since there’s no way of influencing the exposure you just have to keep you eyes pealed for that killer moment, aim to be in the right place at the right time with the knowledge your slim-wide is instantly ready to go [as long as you’ve advance the roll!] I think that purity is something to embrace.


Finally, I think it’s important to know what conditions the slim wide performs best in [same with all toy cameras] and thus play to it’s strengths. The slim wide is a true backyard shooter that loves the sun. So take it to the beach or to a festival. Don’t worry if you get sun lotion on it or spill a bit of beer over it and most of all encourage lens flare because that’s what it wants. So now you know it loves the sun and how wide the lens is so I implore you to use this to it’s full potential. If you’re after hipster status then you might find the slim wide a little underwhelming. But if you want to bring your photography back to basics then I think the slim wide is a great addition to your quiver.



Bob – pinbox

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LOMOKINO Super35: Test One

1/4 frame

I’ve been staring at the Lomokino that has been sat on my desk for the past month waiting for favorable weather. Well, I got tired of waiting so one overcast Friday afternoon I called Chris to see if he fancied heading out for a skate and to test out the Lomokino; and that’s what we did.



If you’re unfamiliar with the Lomokino it’s an analogue movie camera. Unlike other consumer film movie cameras, like a Super-8 the Lomokino uses regular 35mm film, pretty nifty. But this doesn’t mean that you can only capture 24/36 exposures. What’s clever is the Lomokino splits the conventional 35mm aspect ratio into four, thus capturing four times the number of exposures per roll. Therefore, if you are using a 36 exposure film, the ‘kino will capture 144 pictures.

The film is loaded in much the same way as any other 35mm camera and advanced using the crank on the side of the camera; each exposure signaled by a ‘click’. My favorite feature of the ‘kino is its continuous aperture, i.e. it has no step between each f/stop, ergo you can change the aperture whilst shooting. For example, if you’re moving from indoors too outdoors you can stop the aperture down avoiding over exposure, even though a little flaring looks cool on film.

I picked Chris up, loaded the skateboards and headed to Micklefield. Micklefield, a former mining town, hasn’t much going for it other than the bizarre windowless corner-shop and an awesome skate-park! It was midday, and although Jeremy Kyle had finished we had the park to ourselves. The light was really flat and rather dull. I was worried I’d not get a decent exposure so loaded 400 ISO and attached a mono-pod for stability and to make the camera easier to hold.

The ‘kino takes a little getting used too; I struggled with the ergonomics of simultaneously using the crank and the viewfinder. Eventually, I stopped using the viewfinder and lined up the shop the best I could. It is also important to keep in mind the super wide aspect ratio that is captured. For this reason, in a couple of shots either cut Chris’ head or feet out of the shot.  This isn’t great if you can’t see the skateboard your mini skateboard film. Having said that these issues can be easily worked around and I feel the results outweigh any minor shortcomings. Regardless of my teething problems with the Lomokino, I am totally smitten with the results. The slight vignetting and soft focus gives the shots a much more tactile human quality. The results are more evocative of 1960’s southern California then Micklefield 2012.

After my outing I decided to get the films developed at a high street 1-hour photo. This was simply for speed and the fact that they will also scan the negatives. Once I got home I imported all the scanned images into final cut and made a quick edit. Ok, it wasn’t that simple but the entire story is too lengthy and boring, plus it might do for a future ‘how to’ blog?

To conclude; The camera’s design is reminiscent of early 20th century movie cameras but that doesn’t mean that it worth is that of mere nostalgia. Rather, the Lomokino is another creative tool that can be taken as seriously as you want. What I think is most innovative and exciting about the Lomokino is that it really gets you to think through the entire filmmaking process. The cameras inherent low fidelity and clear limitations allows you to be more dynamic and responsive to the conditions you’re working in; it becomes important to consider the film stock, rehearse shots, and deliberate how those shots will go together side by side. The potential of the modest camera will go as far as you wish to take it. It can be used to capture a few memories in motion, experiment with a few techniques or employed to make a short film.

Anyway please view the short film I put together from my first test rolls of film. It’s not much of a concerto, rather a little ditty but hope you enjoy it all the same. Click the image below or visit https://vimeo.com/43613608

Thanks for reading


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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.


Please also read about my progress with this camera here

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Finding the Drip with a Toy Camera

Polaroid shot by Geekchau.tumblr.com

…I used to put Polaroid’s in a container with seawater, sand and pebbles. I’d swirl it all around to get scratches. It’s this random element that I call ‘the drip’… My whole life is spent in search of the drip; it can change everything. [David Bailey]

During my relatively short career as an animator/filmmaker I have experienced what David Bailey refers to as ‘the drip’. It is what my tutors at Art College referred to as happy accidents or serendipity, and was pretty much what Art College was all about; losing control and removing yourself from prescribed notions of Art.

It is quite a leap to force serendipity upon your trade, in many cases for fear of getting it wrong. But as it has been said many times and in many different ways, “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter” [Julius Comroe Jr]. In other words mistakes can always render useful in the creating process and often go hand in hand with success, progress & discovery.

This picture it taken with a Holga 120CFN and a redfilter on from the BKS picture blog.

Serendipity, happy accidents, the unknown, whatever you want to call it, is for me what using a toy camera is all about: finding “the drip”. Simple construction, limited settings, inconsistencies and aberrations in the cheap meniscus lenses and other inherent flaws warp fidelity. These gives each camera a unique ‘personality’. This personality finds it’s way on to film and allows the Holga et al, to create unique, charming and indiscriminate photographs and make the ordinary extraordinary.

Awesome shot by Darwin Wiggett. Captured with a Holga 120 CFN.

Therefore when you use a camera with little fidelity and clear limitations, all you’re left with is your vision and sensibility for a great shot. With their jocular façade and a predisposition for inaccuracy our toy cameras assume a more spontaneous approach, nurturing naturalistic candid photography with a subordinate approach to technique. Thus increasing the opportunity of finding ‘the drip’.

Bob @pinbox

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