Pinhole Camera Project – International Pinhole Camera Day

April 29 is International Pinhole Camera Day, something I only learned about when my mom brought home a Kikkerland pinhole/solargraphy camera kit from the local art supplies store (Island Blue Print here in Victoria).  It was a great gift, a pick-me-up that I needed that week.  I was excited not only to practice some papercraft (one of my hobbies), but also build myself a camera and to experiment with my first pinhole.

The project was a bit more than I bargained for…

Kikkerland’s Pinhole and Solargraphy Camera kit costs just under $10 and is complete with three pre-cut papers and the pinhole aperture.

Coming in a nice square box with three pre-cut black cardstock pages and a metal pinhole aperture the kit seemed simple enough and is advertised as complete within an hour.  The paper is strong, flashy on one side and dull on the other (although the instructions don’t say which is inside/outside, the dull usually points towards the outside).

The complete camera looks interesting … and looks like it might work!

Being someone who has made a few paper and plastic model kits, I tend to study the instructions first in case of any curveballs and potential tough spots.  The Kikkerland instructions suggest pre-scoring but not dry-fitting, and also claims that double-sided tape is strong enough for most of the construction.  They lied.

I tried double-sided tape for the front box segment and soon found, even with scoring, that the tape would not hold the pieces together in the proper shape.  I didn’t have white glue or super glue (what I’d recommend using) so used YES bookbinding glue.  This is not a quick-setting glue so caused me a few problems when I wasn’t paying attention, but sets like concrete and worked well enough.

The subassemblies – Front cover/shutter, aperture, and film holder.

Construction is relatively smooth until the film box (inside, where the film sits in front of the shutter).  This piece is a maze of folding and deciding which part faces which way and some parts sit lose once completed.

By now, if you’re following along at home, you will have three box sub-assemblies including the aperture box.  These fit together (for now) but the tricky part is now in front of you.  The film advance spool was the most difficult piece of construction.  It is supposed to be two pieces of paper glued together which will pinch the film end and allow a winding motion.  The two pieces are each folded about four times to make them stiff, but because of the thickness of the paper it is hard to ensure the glue holds.  I left mine under a stack of books for an hour to ensure they set.

To attach the two long pieces together with enough security (and because I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it based on the instructions) I used an awl and two brads (metal folding clips) to hold them together and make the space larger.  After slipping this sub-assembly into the assembled camera and fighting for twenty minutes with the advance knob, it seemed to be complete.

Film advance system was very complicated and is impossible to judge how far to wind…

The complete camera looks interesting, looks like it is made out of paper, and looks like it might work.  I loaded the camera with 100 ISO Lomography brand colour 35mm negative film and noticed one problem right away: the film window doesn’t fit the film.  The film canister does not have a good or secure place to sit and is centered above the window.  I cut off two millimetres from the window and it should work.

Film size problems… a quick fix actually!

Other problems: there is no measured film counter so I’ve been winding the advance knob twice and hoping for the best, but as I shot more the film will build up and I’ll doubtlessly be winding too much.  There is no rewind ability so you have to get the developer to take the film out in a dark room (and ask for the camera back), the shutter flap is so tight it makes all exposures jerky and thus likely blurry, there is a very vague exposure guide (like all pinholes, but still…), there is no viewfinder, and the fit of the two outside boxes is so tight with the insides that you’re not sure if you’ve broken the advance winder or not.

Final judgement: it took me over three hours and bunch of extra supplies to complete this project.  It looks cool, makes people talk, it only cost $10, and if it works it will bring a new element to my film photography.  The downsides are that all my shots will likely be over/under exposed, off target, or shaky, if they turn out at all.

Lomography 100 ISO film completes the project. 3.5 hours, not quite as advertised, but could be cool!

Right now, without seeing my first roll, I’d say it was a bit too much trouble but it was worth a try.  If the film comes back with amazing results it won’t take much to sell me on the technique, but I’ll probably just stick to using my Diana’s pinhole function.

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10 responses to “Pinhole Camera Project – International Pinhole Camera Day

  1. hey, so how did it go? I just finished mine and I doubt it would be lightproof. And I assume I will break the film winding thing quick… I got it as a gift and decided I’ll give it a try. Though I’m more happy for the metal plate with the hole itself, it looks well round.

    • It was ok, some major light leaks, but some looked pretty cool. It’s so hard to decide how long to expose things. Yes, the metal plate is a lifesaver. My winding thing didn’t break, it bended a bit, but is surprisingly strong (partially because I used book binding glue). I totally forgot to post a gallery of the images, so I’ll do that tonight and you can see for yourself! My friend actually has this camera now, don’t know what her results were like.

  2. I found the instructions really poor. There is no way a child could do this and it wouldn`t take much to be clearer in the instructions. Very disappointed in the lack of detailed instructions. Going on 3 hours now.

    • This is good to hear! I didn’t find the instructions too bad but I’m an experienced paper modeller so perhaps that’s why. For me it was more the materials that were tough to work with. Thanks for the comment and best of luck finding one that works!

    • Hi,

      As far as I know, yes, but I’d recommend having a pretty strong glue because the paper is quite stiff. You also want to make sure you glue right to the edges and corners to ensure no light comes through. I used Yes! book binding glue because it is relatively fast-acting and quite strong once set. Best of luck!

      Ben

  3. Hi, I’m experiencing the same problem. The box cover is very tight that I cannot turn the film advancer. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for checking out my site. Sadly, no advice. It was pretty much a one off for me. I loved the experience, and while frustrating, the making-of was cool too. I basically just had complete hope that my film wouldn’t rip, I took hold of the winder, and I gave her all she’s got! Twist, pull, whatever you need to do, and don’t over-estimate how far you do need to turn, I had a lot of blank space on my roll.

      Best of luck, tell me how it goes,

      Ben

  4. Hi,
    I’m assembling mine now. Just one question….when you finally complete assembly and load film into the camera, how do you know when to stop advancing the film? Do you have to guess when the film is properly centered in the camera for exposure or is it indicated somehow?
    Thanks,
    Im excited to use it…just want to get these things cleared up!

    • No indicator, just sort of have to go by feel. Two or two and a half turns should do, getting fewer as you move on (because the film already wound up makes it a bit thicker). Best of luck!

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