Friday, November 20, 2015

Populist Precursers: The Nickon

I guess at the time – circa 2006 – I thought that name was hilarious.

I'm a little vague on why I built this camera fairly soon after the one I made to take to Florida.  The lack of a tripod mount was irksome, and the back that would just fall off if the rubber bands weren't in place also bothered me.

One feature of 35mm I had gotten really intoxicated by was how portable it was so I also think I thought the foam core was a little overkill and I wanted to make a little more compact camera that would fit more easily into a pocket.

I only used this camera for a little while before I made the next one, and dug it out again for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day in 2014 and made several upgrades.

Originally it just had a piece of tape for a shutter and I made and added this three layer simple slider no more than the day before WPPD. I did it in kind of a rush and aligned the top of the shutter channel assembly with the top of the box, rather than aligning the top with the top of the shutter itself. Sticking out over the top of the camera like this gets in the way of viewfinding and lets it flex back and forth a little more than I'd like.

The pinhole is 35mm from the film and I'm a little obscure on why I picked that.  I always associate 35mm lenses with point-and-shoot cameras, and maybe I had some idea that's what I wanted (although I prefer comparison to Leica's M series). When I used SLR's, I did have a 35mm lens, but I used 20, 28 and 105mm focal lengths a lot more.  I have an Olympus XA2, which I truly loved, that has a fixed 35mm lens. My sister-in-law referred to it as my spy camera.  People have referred to the Populist that way.

Once again, I had the foresight to put a label on it specifying it was f219. How's that for specific. That makes the pinhole 0.15981735159817mm. That's starting to look like a repeating decimal. I don't think I measured it that precisely.  It must have been .16 and I rounded up the f ratio.  Mr. Pinhole says .248mm is optimal, but I had been using too small pinholes successfully (which actually are better for closeups), although I have seen evidence of diffraction in images with this camera (see below).

The pinhole is drilled in the same just-barely-thicker-than-foil brass as the one in the Florida camera and I just pricked it with the tip of a needle as little as I could.  It looks like it might be a little non-circular, but that could be a little flare effect on this iPhone photo. It's too inset in the camera body to get a sharp scan. It looks OK through a loupe, but I can't seem to get photo of that.

The back is a box that fits snugly over the front. I wanted the camera to be light tight without rubber bands (You can see from the first photo above that I used the rubber bands anyway.)  This is the basic plan I've continued to use for the Populist and its variants.

I put some spacers to keep the film cassettes up toward the back. The tripod mount at the bottom is  a layer of foam core with a 1/4" x 20 square nut inset into it, glued to the bottom and capped with a piece of card stock. Again, this is the design I've used from then on with all my cameras.
The bolt on my otherwise excellent Bogen/Manfrotto tripod is particularly short and wouldn't engage the nut through two layers of card stock, so to use it in 2014, I had to make a cutout for the quick release adapter.

Another 2014 mod was the addition of a clicker.

The image format is the standard 24x36mm.  I remember not liking verticals in the longer 24x50 format and returned to the conventional aspect ratio.

It still had the take-up cassette inside.  I assembled it in reverse of the normal orientation, with the knob down and film going out left, so I didn't have to construct a one-knob-up – one-knob-down solution.  I'm pretty sure I just intended to unload and rewind in the darkroom, and I didn't put a second winder hole for rewinding (most people use a whole additional winder).

BTW, I checked once with my local film processor and they said they could process the film with the cassette backward in any event.  The disadvantage to no rewind method is you can't reload in the field without sacrificing the last frame.

Note the clicker sticking through the top right sprocket hole – eight clicks per frame.

The winder is the same as the Florida camera, 3/8" wooden dowel with a collar to help with light leaks through the winder hole, and if you put a rubber band over it,  that helps keep it from falling out and getting lost. Same scheme for most of my cameras since.

For viewfinding I just put dots.  I think putting something 3D like beads is more effective for accurate composition, but this gets the job done.

I didn't take many photographs with this camera and I lost the scans in the great hard drive crash of 2007 (I thought I had it all backed-up) but I uploaded this one to Flickr.

I had quite a good time with it on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day in 2014.

– the footstool by the window in the sunroom

– a crocus poking out of last year's undergrowth.

– the promised photograph with evidence of diffraction from a too small pinhole.  Note the rainbows in the spikes around the candle flames.

And the picture I submitted to the WPPD gallery - it was a cold rainy day and Sarah in a hoodie and huddled underneath the blankets seem to capture the day.

Next in the run up to the Populist: Alspix' matchbox camera.

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