Over the past year I've been spending more and more of my time learning
photography. Since I also enjoy woodworking, I've had a lot of desire to
build my own camera. I'd like to design and build a 4" X 5" view camera and
thought that building a fixed focal length pinhole camera was a good place
This site includes several documents and drawings showing the construction
of my pinhole cameras, along with some of the photos I've taken with them.
I've tried to make this project as affordable as is possible. However, I
did spend some extra money on two items. Since I want to eventually wind up
with a 4" X 5" view camera, I designed my pinhole camera to use standard 4"
X 5" film holders which cost about $26.00 locally. (They can be had much cheaper
used, or from mail order companies.) I also decided to buy a set of micro-drilled
pinholes from Pinhole Resource
so that I could pick and choose the pinhole diameter needed to give my
cameras their best possible resolution. This set of 12 different diameter
pinholes cost $24.00.
Other than those two expenses, the parts cost for the cameras was very
reasonable. Most of the parts are readily available at most hardware or hobby
stores. I specify MDF for construction of the majority of the camera parts
since I like using it, and I had half a sheet sitting in my garage, but
I think that normal particle board would work just about as well. I now
build most of my cameras from 3/4" basswood, which is very light and also
looks nice with a good finish on it.
If you construct a pinhole camera, please send me email (
) and let me know how it went. Please also send me any ideas you have
Building a pinhole camera
Building a stereo pinhole camera
Using your pinhole camera
Pinhole photography gallery
Stereo photography gallery
Back to home page
- "Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique" by Eric Renner
is probably the best all around pinhole photography book I've found. It costs
about $30.00 and is available from
. It includes chapters on the history of pinhole photography and the physics
of pinhole optics. While I find most of the 'art' in the book to be uninspiring,
it contains many great ideas for unusual pinhole cameras.
- Jay Bender's Pinhole Photography Kit contains a very good booklet describing
the physics of how pinholes work along with chapters on construction and
use of pinhole cameras. It is available for about $20.00 from
. The kit also contains shim stock for making pinholes along with a slide
rule type exposure calculator and a method for using an enlarger to measure
pinhole diameter. Jay Bender also has a Pinhole Camera Kit available for
about $80.00. However I have not built his kit, so have no knowledge of
its difficulty level.
- "The Beginner's Guide to Pinhole Photography" by Jim Shull is a good
basic introduction to pinhole photography. This book is probably the best
choice for teaching kids about pinhole photography. It cost me about $18.00
and is available from: amazon.com
Other project ideas
- These cameras really need viewfinders. I can easily make really fragile
ones from balsa wood, but I want something a bit more rugged. These cameras
get tossed into bags and backpacks when I go out and they need to be able
to take at least a little bit of abuse. One possible viewfinder could be
made by cutting small grooves in the top and one side of the camera that run
from the pinhole to the corner of the film holder. By sighting down these
lines it would be possible, but slow, to compose the photo.
- Using a biscuit joiner, I can make 45 degree miter joints on the four
sides of the camera which will allow me to use oak veneer MDF or solid wood.
This way the body and back of the camera will be real wood, which should
be much more pleasant to look at than flat black. Basswood is a good choice
for construction using solid wood since it is very light.
- I've got to come up with something better than surgical tubing to hold
the film holder in position. I'm working on a design using spring steel,
but haven't built anything yet.
- All of these ideas can be enlarged upon to build an 8" X 10" pinhole
- One of my favorite pinhole cameras is a Lubitel, which I took the lens
out of and replaced it with a pinhole. The camera is very small, light weight
and uses standard 120 film which is much easier to develop than sheet film.
It also has a real shutter which makes it easier to use. Some of the results
of my pinhole Lubitel can be seen in my pinhole gallery