I decided to make a pinhole camera. My first instinct was to build one from scratch, but since developing isn’t realistic for me right now, I used my old DSLR with the body cap for the pinhole. It’s fast and easy and you get to see the results right away. It only took a few minutes to make. I spent far more time looking for instructions and watching YouTube videos than it took to do the work. This is the video I found most helpful.
I have read that one of the issues with pinhole cameras is getting enough light, requiring longer exposures. I was concerned that my old camera wouldn’t work for this because the reason I retired it was that it had suddenly stopped working in the low light conditions I was accustomed to working. And, by low light, I don’t mean very low light. With my current camera I can work in lower light than before, so that turned out to be a good thing.
Well, using the old camera is working, which means my old camera now has new life!
The reason I was afraid to use my “good” camera is the pinhole. Yes, it’s just a pinhole, but it exposes the guts of the camera to the elements. You can buy prefab “pinhole body caps” that do not have an actual hole, but that runs counter to what I wanted out of this project. I have also read that a microscope slide can be used to cover the pinhole. Now that is something I may try, both to protect the old camera and to feel comfortable using my good camera and see what kind of results I can get with a camera that doesn’t require as much light.
One of the exciting things is getting to see the results right away. I can’t see anything through the eyepiece, so that’s weird because that’s how I normally shoot. I have to look at the screen on the back of the camera. That could be something to do with my camera, though. When I got it out and was testing it to make sure it still worked, I noticed that everything was blurry in the eyepiece, including the numbers and other technical details it displays. Hard to say if that is my eyesight. I do use reading glasses, but not when shooting and don’t have that issue with my other camera.
So, shooting outside, I can see the image on the screen before I take the shot. Inside where the light is lower, I cannot. I have to guess at where the camera is pointed. A longer exposure is needed, and after I take the picture, it will display on the screen and I can adjust for the next shot based on the results.
The initial images are interesting, but require some post-processing. I did this in camera raw, converting to black and white and making adjustments to the lighting, sometimes to sharpness and other settings. I’m still playing with it, and have a lot to try with the setting while shooting. Shooting is done all in manual mode. Plenty of combinations of ISO and exposure times to play with. No aperture adjustments, of course.
The next step, in exploring this, would be to make different sized pinholes. You can even use multiple pinholes. There are calculations for the distance of the hole from the sensor and size of the hole. All kinds of stuff to dig into, if you’re willing to spend more time on those aspects than shooting. And, I may find that the refinements are worth it. But for now, I am exploring what I can do with what I have made, and that’s exciting.
Making the pinhole “lens” (technically, this is lensless photography). All you need is:
Safety pin or straight pin
- Drill a small hole in the center of the body cap. They say it must be dead center, so I tried my best to get it there. My hole is about ¼ inch. The size of the hole in the body cap does not need to be exact.
- Smooth the edges and inside of the hole with sandpaper. And be sure to clean out all the little bits and dust!
- Cut a piece of aluminum slightly smaller than the inside of your body cap. I made mine round, but it doesn’t have to be round.
- Poke a tiny hole in the aluminum using a pin. My safety pin was bending, not poking through, so I used a straight pin which was stronger. I set the aluminum on a block of wood to do this. A cutting board would work, too.
- Sand the aluminum smooth, too.
- Tape the aluminum inside the body cap, covering all of the edges with tape so no light can seep in. Again, you want to center that tiny hole, but don’t fuss over it.
- Use the Sharpie to blacken the exposed aluminum inside the cap, to reduce any possibility of reflection.
- Put the cap on your camera, just like you would your lens.
And that’s it. Takes longer to type it than to do it. A tripod is recommended because of the longer exposures, but don’t let that hold you back if you don’t have one available. You can stabilize on a surface. A shutter remote is a good idea, with or with a tripod.