Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Populist: Variations with the standard pattern

The basic plan of the Populist is pretty easy to modify to different pinhole to film distances by just making the sides longer (Henry Longbow in Texas made one with the pinhole inset into the camera body to make it shorter) and with a bit bigger diagram and a minor change or two, for 120 film. There's no reason you couldn't make a 16mm version if you had some of that laying around that was still light sensitive.

The Stereo Populist

The first variation I made was a stereo camera pretty early in the process. A Japanese company was marketing a plastic snap-together stereo camera that was getting a lot of posts on Flickr and other internet discussion sites, so I sat down one afternoon, and made a version of the Populist. I just cut off the film chamber ends of the diagrams, supply on one side and take-up on the other, glued them side by side on one piece of cardboard, and then completed it pretty much like any other one-and-a-half Populists.

One thing I learned with this camera that has nothing to do with stereo was that brown cardboard cartons, like a lot of beverage twelve packs are made of are not as opaque as cereal boxes that are grey, so it got covered with tape pretty fast.

I had a lot of fun with it. Here are my two favorites. If you can't get stereo to work with crossed-eyes setup, try this link 

In 2013 I got a bug in my ear about a traveling camera project such as I had participated in a couple times earlier in the century. I took this camera and another one that Earl Johnson had acquired as a contribution premium to f295, tarted them up with the latest Populist improvements, packaged them in nice foam-lined presentation boxes (originally containing Crabtree & Evelyn soap) and sent them off to six participants including one in Ireland, one in England and one on Curacao, a Caribbean island.

Only three out of the six ever took photographs with it, one of the cameras was lost in the mail on it's way back to me and the other is just missing in action. The three that did shoot some film with it made some interesting photographs, with the coolest (but not the greatest stereo effect), being this image by Evan Hughes of the oriel window at Lacock Abbey that appears in Talbot's first camera negative.

The Panoramic Populist

A couple years later, a participant on f295 posted about a beautifully crafted camera he had made out of a wooden dominoes' box, which if you think about how those are packaged, was a long narrow rectangle. He made a 35mm camera out of it just using the dimensions of the box to determine the image format (that sounds familiar) which turned out to be 96mm, two and two thirds the width of a normal 35mm camera. Hmmm...could you do that with the Populist?

This time I just glued two patterns side by side with only one film chamber cut off (36+36+24=96). Instead of the extremely long internal divider, I made the film chambers out of separate little boxes, and this time I had the sense to put internal stops on the shutter to keep it from pulling out. Otherwise, follow the master recipe.

96mm is extremely wide for 24mm from the pinhole. Mr. Pinhole says the camera covers 127 degrees, but the usable image area is only 46mm wide at that distance.

But if you find a subject where it's dark in the middle and bright out at the edges, you can fill the whole format.

Although most of the time, it would drop off to black only covering about 72mm.

The 120 Populist

I occasionally got feedback complimenting me for bringing pinhole to the people, and they personally might try it if there was a 120 version, ya know, more appropriate for pinhole. So about the same time I made the stereo version, I made one.  The diagram is at this link.

Other than just enlarging things, the only differences are that the end of the winder has to be whittled to fit into the slot in a 120 film reel, it has a window and a shutter for the film counter, and I just picked the 60mm pinhole to film distance rather than just use the diameter of the 120 film reel (although I have seen people make cameras that wide angle).

It has a couple little enhancements.

It looks like I got a little bit of rubylith to cover the counter window, although that's completely unnecessary if you're half-way careful about only opening the counter shutter out of direct sunlight. 

I placed a small cylinder around the winder hole
because I was concerned about light-tightness and to add a little more friction to keep the winder from falling out.

I also added a stop to the shutter so it didn't pull right out.

For a kind of large piece of thin cardboard, it's quite rigid.  

I only shot two rolls at the most to make sure everything works.  Using larger film, of course,  does have aesthetic benefits which I didn't appreciate at the time, but for a 6x9cm format it's 3 times more costly to operate and I just didn't get the additional thrill out of it. I was having too much fun with the standard Populist. (I am currently playing with 120 film again)

One funny thing.  This camera is made out of a Kellog's Corn Flakes box which is probably the only one of those I've ever bought.

The Stereo 120

I mentioned that I've been playing with 120 occasionally and was getting intrigued by the quality of the images with the larger format and while the Stereo Populist was off on it's voyage,  I decided to build a stereo version of the 120. I was also thinking that stereograms as we're used to seeing them, are done on 6x6cm negatives.  

Again, it's a simple matter of cutting the ends off two regular patterns and gluing them together to create side by side chambers. Also by this time, I just included all the little improvements right from the start. Unlike the Stereo Populist which at 24mm is pretty wide for stereo, the 6cm distance to the pinhole was more in line with commercial 120 lensed stereo cameras which I found ranging from 45 to 75mm focal lengths. Here's the open back (with The Populist for scale) showing the two chambers. Looks like I added a little stiffening to that middle divider.

Again, these examples are set up for crossed-eyes viewing, so if you need to try again, here's that link to a lesson.

Normally I do a lot of burning and dodging to compensate for vignetting on the 24mm populist and blown out highlights on 35mm.  A revelation with these was that I used the scans directly as I got them from the camera store.

Next up are a few variations without using a printed pattern, and one sort of.

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