Thursday, March 4, 2021

Building the Pinhole Lab Camera.

For the ideas behind this camera, a description of its capabilities and examples of its use, please see the links below

The Evolution of the Pinhole Lab Camera

Field test of the Pinhole Lab Camera with revised shutter

 Playing with pinhole panoramas with a parabolic image plane

A 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera

 Ultrawide good news and bad news

Before starting to build one, if you’re not familiar with my methods, take a look at 10th Anniversary Populist Plans for the basics of building cameras from cardboard.

There are two templates for the Pinhole Lab Camera. One makes negatives an eighth of a standard sheet of photographic paper, (2.5 x4 inches, 64x101m), the other a quarter sheet of paper (4x5 inches, 102x127mm). Here is the link to the templates 
Four parts of the template for the 4x5 camera
    assembled in alignment

The material for making the camera is the sort of cardboard from cereal boxes or cartons of beverage cans. It has to be something that will fold. Remember to roughen any glossy surfaces that will be glued.

Some of the parts require double weight stock made by laminating two layers of your cardboard together. The guides for the various positions of the image plane require three layers laminated together. If you happen to have some matte board which is the same thickness as double or triple layers of cardboard, feel free to use that. They don’t have to fold. 

For the largest parts of the 2.5x4 inch camera you’ll need pieces of card stock about 10 x12 inches (254x304mm), for the 4x5 camera, 14 x15 inches (356x381mm).

I’ve set up both of them to print on U.S. Letter paper which should fit on A4 as well. (Make sure to print at 100% and not fit to print) This required the top and bottom boxes of the camera to print on multiple sheets of paper. The templates need to be assembled in alignment when glued to the cardstock as illustrated to the right. With the 2.5x4 camera two pieces make up the top and bottom and with the 4x5 camera, four. The edges which go together are labeled with letters. 

The pictures below were done making several different cameras.

Start by cutting and folding the bottom box.

Before gluing, cut out the opening for the pinholes.

One at a time, glue the sides. Make sure they are straight and the inside flaps meet in the center and clamp them.

Your clamps will probably not reach all the way to the bottom of the box, particularly with the 4x5 camera. Use a piece of double weight card stock slightly wider than the camera to hold the bottom of the sides tightly together while the glue dries.

Cut out the Pinhole Mounts and the Image Plane.

Cut out the Image Plane Guides and round off the tops which will make it easier to insert the Image Plane in the slot under safelight or in the changing bag. Make one pair slightly too wide so that if the fit isn’t perfect, you will have extra width or you can trim it to make the fit exact. It might be worth while to clamp them in to check the fit. The slots should be just wider than the Image Plane and the Pinhole Mounts. You want them to slide into the slots easily but not so it’s floppy. Especially the front slot the Pinhole Mount goes in should hold it tightly against the front of the camera.

Starting in the front (I know, this picture shows me starting in the back - that turned out to be a mistake), place the Pinhole Mount in place and glue the first set of guides to the sides. Make sure the guides remain parallel to each other.

Once again, the clamps probably won’t hold the entire guide tightly against the side so you will need to use a piece of double weight stock to secure the bottom.

Allow it to dry long enough that it won’t shift. Then place the image plane against that set of guides and glue in the next set of guides and repeat. The last set of guides may have to be trimmed to hold the image plane against the back of the camera.

After these are all dry, place the Image Plane and the Pinhole Mounts in the inside slots to make the bottom box more solid and fold and glue the top over it. You might want to put a layer of waxed paper between them to prevent stray glue from sticking them together. Clamp with rubber bands.

If the openings for the pinhole don’t match exactly or don’t match the openings on the pinhole mounts, trim them to match.

You’ll need three identically sized pinholes for each Pinhole Mount you’ll be using. Tape them on the front of the Mounts (the side facing the box). Make sure you don’t cover one pinhole while mounting another. Try to get them as close to the center of each segment of the opening as you can. Cover any gaps.

The shutter consists of a cover, two sliders, one of which is cut in half for the over and under pinholes and separate guides for the top and bottom which was necessary to have sliders come out both sides.

In order to make it as thin as possible so it wouldn’t block part of the image in the widest angle view, it only has two layers which makes it a little tricky to assemble.

Start by gluing the top guide onto the front.

Then clamp the sliders onto the cover and glue the lower guide. (Don’t forget to cut the double side in half.)

Then, on the outside of the shutter, tape the sliders to the front of the shutter to hold them in place and glue the shutter on the front of the camera. Make sure the openings are aligned with the opening on the box. When you clamp the shutter with rubber bands, make sure it doesn’t move. Adjust the rubber bands so it stays aligned with the holes.

Glue a few layers of card at the ends of the sliders that protrude out of the shutter to give you something to hold on to when opening them. Place them so that when the shutters are closed they prevent the slider from pushing open the shutter on the other side.

You may have to adjust the mounting of the pinholes so they’re centered in the opening when the shutter is opened.

The camera of course needs to be light proof. I’ve included a part on the pattern to glue an extra layer on the top and bottom. These could go on the inside if you’re making the camera featuring the packaging design on the outside. The other sides already have a double layer.

Make some marks on the edges of the camera at the locations of the pinholes and at the location of the image planes for viewfinding. I glued some little circles of double weight cardboard to give a little bit of relief which makes it easier to line them up when framing your picture.

The camera has to be loaded and the the Pinhole Mounts and the location of Image Plane changed under safelight conditions, or in a changing bag. The paper is held in place with a few doubled over pieces of tape. I found it easier to tape the paper to the Image Plane and then insert it into the camera. To accommodate not-quite-accurately cut paper, the camera is slightly wider than the negative size, and there is also a bit of extra room at the top. Place the paper centered on the film plane and aligned with the bottom.

I found it kind of a pain to do this in the changing bag, so I made a rudimentary film holder by gluing two narrow guides on the sides of the Image Plane.

And then cut a part with sides just slightly narrower, connected across the top, so I could just slide the paper in and it would stay in place.

I’ve also used this for 4x5 sheets of film, but be aware that 4x5 film is slightly narrower than 4x5 sheets of paper.

When using curved sheets of paper, I found it helpful to glue an additional ridge on the guides where the edges of the paper come to make sure I had it centered with a uniform curve.

It’s a good idea when the camera is loaded to use some rubber bands to immobilize the shutters and move them just before making the exposure.

Please let me know if there are any questions or comments.  If you make and use one of these cameras, I would love to feature your work here at Pinholica.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there! My name is Marcel, I asked for permission to access the plans for this camera. I really would love to test it myself.