A Jim of All Trades

Pinhole Camera

with 8 comments

One of the gifts I received for Christmas this year was an awesome Pinhole Camera kit, given to me by my awesome sister.

I’ve heard of people making these on their own or for school before, but never had an opportunity to myself.  I didn’t even know they made kits like this.  I was really excited to receive it and put it together.  Following is a write-up with some pictures of the assembly process.

The camera is basically made of cardboard:

The pieces are punched out of these sheets and glued together.  There were very detailed instructions explaining the steps.  Everything needed was in the kit except for glue, binder clips to hold things together while glue dried, a piece of sand paper, a cutting instrument, and some rubber bands.  Oh, film isn’t included either.

The first step was putting together the internal divider. This will go inside the camera body to separate it into compartments.

Here it’s being held together with binder clips while the glue dries (note my wife’s taste in colorful office supplies).  I might as well point out here, that most of the time was spent waiting for glue to dry.  It took me two evenings to put everything together, but probably 75% of the time was waiting for glue to dry.  It could easily be done in an hour or two if glue drying wasn’t part of the equation.

Next step was to put together the shutter.  It’s basically a piece of cardboard that you manually slide up and down.  Here it is drying; it’s actually upside down in this pic.  The open square doubles as the view finder and handle for operating it. You’ll see what I mean later when it’s installed on the camera.

This was the housing that it gets fitted into.

Around this point I suffered my first cut. It was just a small one and the only one I got through the whole process.  Pretty good for me!

Next the back half of the camera body was put together and glued.

Nifty exposure guide on the back.

Then the front half of the body was put together.

You can see the shutter assembly glued to the camera face in the image above. This was my first of three mistakes; it’s crooked.  Everything was flat and lined up when I glued it on, but you had to put something heavy on top to hold it in place while the glue dried.  I set a telephone book on it (knew there was still a use for that thing!) and I guess it moved the shutter housing a bit when I set it on.  I don’t think the camera will be less functional like this, it just looks shoddy.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the front, now folded and glued into shape.

Ari kept hopping up on the other chair and checking to see how I was doing. (he’s a hard guy to get a good shot of!)

Next the external corners of the body were taped to be sure no light could sneak in.

With everything dry and taped, the inside of the camera could be put together. The divider from step one gets glued into place.

Some more tape is added to inside edges to keep light in check.

Finally, here is a shot of the inside all put together.  On the bottom you can see a block of wood added – this has a nut in it that serves as the tripod mount.  The center now contains the pinhole as well.

I apologize, but somehow I completely missed taking pictures of the pinholes and how they were made.  The kit provided a couple of them, they’re thin squares of brass with a tiny hole already made in the center.  In the center section of the camera you can see a tiny spec, this is actually the pinhole, or to be correct, brass around the pinhole that isn’t quite covered by cardboard or tape.  There were two different pre-made sizes, and another blank for making your own.  It gets taped to another piece of cardboard that slides into the center section.  Sorry for missing shots of this.

And here’s a picture from the front.  You can see the pinhole in this picture too; it reveals my second mistake – it’s not centered in the square where it should be. I simply don’t know how this happened.  No matter how I re-positioned it I couldn’t get it to center.  It’s maybe half a millimeter high and to the right (as pictured) of where it should be.  I don’t know how much this will impact images, I won’t be surprised if the top of them is cut off come development.

All that’s left is to add winders and film!

The winders are made from little pieces of wood, notched on one end to fit inside of and turn the film canisters, and some cardboard wheels and labels.

And here’s a look at film being started.  The end of the roll is taped to a receiving spool that fits inside a canister (supplied in kit).

(I actually had to un-tape this and do it again, with the film sitting flat against the bottom of the spool.)

The spool then slides into the canister, the canister is closed, then it and the roll of film get fit into the front half of the camera body.

Oh, and just to note, the kit recommended starting using 200 speed film.  I usually shoot with it in my SLR, so it works for me!

And with that, the back can be slid on, the winders put in place, and you’re done!

The instructions also recommended adding rubber bands to hold it together tightly. The biggest fear is letting light in.

I really glossed over a lot, even though this is so long.  I should have done better at showing how some things were put together and how the camera works but I wasn’t overly concerned with documenting everything while I was making it.  I’ll also say that the camera pictured throughout the instruction booklet didn’t look perfect.  Mine definitely isn’t as nice, but there were noticeable flaws, the fitment wasn’t perfect, and you could just tell the one used for illustrations was put together by hand too and it’s probably close to impossible to have it looking pristine till it’s done.  So I don’t feel too bad about mine.

Overall it was very fun and not overly challenging to put this together.  The kit also contains a thick book showing different types of cameras, photos taken with them and instructions for operating, metering and judging how long to leave the shutter open.  I think there are even instructions for making other types of pinhole cameras.

I’ve taken just one shot with it so far.  Operating this little light camera will definitely take some getting used to, but I’m really looking forward to it and am hoping and praying that some of my shots turn out.  I forgot to cut off a little dab of hardened glue (mistake #3) on the inside that could potentially rub against the film; I hope it doesn’t damage anything.  I’ll post another blog whenever I get the roll shot and developed.


Written by Jim

December 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

8 Responses

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  1. […] A Jim of All Trades Skip to content HomeAboutx1/9 ← Pinhole Camera […]

  2. Wow, what an awesome idea! Looks like it took forever to make though … I’m sure you’ll do great things with it


    December 31, 2011 at 11:16 am

    • Thanks Heidi! So far so good, and well worth the effort to put it together.


      December 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm

  3. Hello, I simply wanted to take time to make a comment and say I have really enjoyed reading your site.

    fashion photography

    January 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  4. […] took me much longer to fill another roll of film on my Pinhole Camera, but I finally did and got it developed this week.  I haven’t lost any interest in the […]

  5. […] making the Pinhole Camera Kit my sister gave me I’ve become really interested in pinhole photography. I’ve been […]

  6. […] with shooting little to no photos, and nothing with the pinhole. In late August I finally loaded up the little pinhole camera kit and made an effort to go out and shoot with […]


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