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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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GOLDEN HALF: roll one


Yep, just another toy camera but this one makes me so very happy. It’s a half frame camera meaning it cuts a regular 35mm frame in half, so a 36 exposure film gives you 72 half frame photos.


See full set here

It pays attention to the details; it looks cool, it’s small, the viewing frame is directly above the lens making framing adjustment a little easier and it’s got a hot shoe. However, best of all it’s got two apertures: f/11 for sunny days and f/8.5 for cloudy days. Although it only has the one fixed shutter speed [1/100th of a second] the two aperture settings give you that extra bit of tolerance to keep shooting in lower light conditions [EV12-13]. This means that if you’re using ISO 100 film you should potentially still get a decent exposure on overcast days and push a evening sunset shots with ISO 400. It coped well on a dull winters day [above] and produced some lovely colours.


The start of a great night in Amsterdam

But the real charm of the camera is the dialogue and discourse that is generated by the two little half-frame photo’s per print. Having two shots of the same subject or moment offers up a conversation and if you happen to leave your camera a few weeks half way through a roll of film you may get some interesting conversations going on. A great example in black & white here from the dude on the bike.

This was my first roll through the Golden Half and there is plenty of scope for creativity and experiment now I know what it can do.

If you want to see more from the set just go here

Bob – pinbox

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35mm and the Holga



I found my Holga! I had this terrible thought that it had been accidentally taken to the charity shop or left behind the last time I moved house. But there in a inconspicuous box lay the most precious and brilliant piece of plasticky tat I own. If you’re unfamiliar with the Holga then is a very ‘affordable’ no frills camera that takes film.

I’m sure there are many that would stick their noses up at these very modest cameras but this is probably because there comparing the Holga et al to super fancy digital cameras. Well STOP that right now! For me the Holga isn’t about if its better of worse than another camera but rather a creative tool; a means rather than an end. For example, when I went to art college we pretty much spent the first month drawing things with sticks or  with our left hand or with our eyes closed etc. This was simply to get us out the mindset that we all had to be classically trained sketch artists. These exercises helped us learn to let go and maybe tap into or find something that we didn’t know was there.  This is something you’ll ever or very rarely achieve with digital and this for me is why film is still relevant and worth using.



So the Holga is a simple camera. It has a shutter with one pre-set  shutter [1/100th of a second], a maximum of two apertures [post 2009 models have two f/13 & f/20]. You have focus although limited [here’s proof http://bit.ly/13mcRj2%5D. Finally, it’s up to you which film you load the camera with and how you develop it which are possibly the two biggest factor in the end result. But in short these limitations force you to approach and think about what you’re pointing your camera at in a different way which can be quite liberating. Also, it makes you really appreciate light metering and auto focus when you do use your digital camera.

HOLGA_FRONTNow I’ve justified my existence I’ll get to the point.

There are 35mm Holga’s available but the model I use can be loaded with both 120 medium format film and 35mm and that’s what I did here.



Here I used some foam cut from a cheap sponge to hold the film in place. There are many way so do this but I like this method as the sponge can be squeezed into the gaps to give a nice snug fit. Once the film is in place you have to wind it onto the take up spool. As there are no sprocket wheel that will catch the film and help in advance easily we have to tape the film to the 120 sized take up spool.

The easiest way to do you is to take the spool out and slide the film through the slot in the spool. Then use some tape to stick it to the spool but making sure the film is still straight. Then put the spool back into place and turn the advance a few time to make sure it’s secure. That’s it, replace the back of the camera and tape it up as you normally would. Remember if your using colour film to tape over the red viewing window so not to let any light in.


Now because there no counter you have to work out how much to advance to film between exposures. Whilst you’ve got the back of the camera off mark the film and the advance wheel and see how many rotations it takes to advance the film on. It’s good to check this but it will be somewhere between 1 full rotation and 1.5 rotations. I find 1.5 is a little too much and I like to use as much film as possible even if there is some over lap so now I just do one full rotation.


Your Holga doesn’t have film rewind crank so you have to do this yourself and this has to be done IN THE DARK! If you’ve got a darkroom then your away but if like me you don’t, the easiest and cheapest way is to use a changing bag. These cost about £15 and are super easy to use. Simply put everything into the bag, put your hands through the arm holes and remove the back of the Holga. Once the backs removed simply take the film canister from its foam holders and start to feed the film back into the canister.


Well that another story for another time. You can obviously send your film off the the lab but it far more fun to process it yourself. If you are processing the film yourself then make sure you put you developing tank in the changing bag as well and instead of putting the film back into the canister just load it straight into the tank.


I’ve skimmed lots of details here. I will hopefully make a video on the whole process soon but in the meantime please get in touch if you have any questions.



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You may not fancy yourself as a Holga wielding hipster, but do not worry; with or without a V-neck t-shirt and obligatory anchor tattoo you can still enjoy beautifully dreamy Lo-Fidelity photography, instantly! Digital photography grants instant pin-sharp images but seldom leaves anything to chance or even our imaginations; sometime it’s just nice to experiment, explore and maybe get a little lost. Miles Roberts, pinboxblog’s first contributor has been out in the field giving the pinwide pinhole lens for micro four third digital cameras a run for its money. Here’s how he got on:


Photography is seeing a resurgence of the analogue look, of Lo-Fi/Lomo. We enjoy the softness and strange coloured images that come from more basic technology. Yet you can take it one step further, you can remove the lens completely; Re-enter the pinhole. The pinhole camera is the oldest way of capturing an image and the same process is what allows camera obscura to function. The process of light passing through a tiny hole, a wholly natural process, was the beginning of our ability to view the world and eventually capture it.

I am a lover of the analogue, working often in 5×4 and medium format as well as lugging round my digital SLR, all of which is exhausting and not very kind on the back. Pinhole cameras can be incredibly small and light, but lets make a key assumption, you don’t want to shoot on film because its EXPENSIVE. If you do, and there’s plenty of reasons to want to, then I hope to be able to write some reviews of some of the brilliant commercially available pin hole cameras out there. For now let’s talk digital.


If you’re anything like me, I am always searching for ways to reduce the size of the kit that I carry around with me and the emergence of the Micro 4/3 Compact Camera Systems was a gift from the photographic heavens. I took the plunge and have adored it ever since. What made it even better is that very quickly a whole host of accessories hit the market. I suddenly had a digital Holga that was about the same weight as its toy counterpart but I wanted to make it a pinhole. I wanted to be able to whip it out on the go, a fun toy, a way to have take a pinhole into the street and as research tool for film re-shoots.

A google took me to the Wanderlust site. The Pinwide quickly seemed like the perfect solution. It is wide, offering an equivalent of 22mm on a 35mm body. So lets talk a little about the types of images you get from a pinhole shot.

  • They will always be soft. In theory a pinhole has an infinite depth of field due their tiny aperture which is usually between f/100 and f/200 but the diffraction of light passing through the pinhole makes it soft.
  • You will get weird and wonderful colours! They’re fun but I’m a hardcore black and white fan. Pin hole images give the sense of other worldliness and almost dream like. Experiment and see what works for you.
  • With the Pinwide, remember you’re working on a relatively small sensor which limits the resolution of your Pinwide images. This is part of the compromise, but it’s worth it. The discreet size and ability to point it at most objects and people without them noticing is a bonus for the whole system.
  • You get a lot of light fall off towards the edges of your images, similar to vignetting on a wide lens. It’s part of the charm – as are the rings of tone that you get in some images. There are caused by the diffraction of light.


Some tips for getting the most out of the Pinwide:

  • Get close if you can. The closer you get to small objects the sharper they will be in you final image.
  • Overexpose. I find that +1 stop gives a bit more to play with in the images. Remember the view on the screen on the camera is only an approximation.
  • Play with your ISO and Shutter speed. You have rapid control of these
  • Post process your images. It’s worth up-ing your detail slider and the contrast to give the images from the Pinwide a bit more punch. Be daring, playful and have a lot of fun.

In a nutshell its a great product for not a lot of money and its a great introduction to the world of Pinhole. Don’t expect pin sharp, think pin soft, think fun and expect to be surprised. Enjoy!

If you would like to view more or Miles’ wonderful photography please visit his  site’s listed below:



More product info on the pinwide can be found here.

If you’re a photography aficionado, an advocate of analogue picture boxes and would be interested in contributing to pinboxblog please get in touch here.

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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