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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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