Pinhole photography can be rewarding for its inventiveness, creativity and innovations, often times re-thinking the way that an image can be captured. When you remove controls like aperture settings and glass (or plastic) optics you’re free to manipulate the basic element of photography - capturing light. Some of the most creative minds I know are finding new ways to capture light into a compelling image. I'll blog about other inventive cameras in another post, but today I wanted to consider pinhole cameras from designers and makers.
Innovation is why I’m particularly thrilled to be part of the pinhole community online. There are cardboard cameras like Kelly Angood’s Videre and flatpack designs like Original Pin , both of which require some assembly. You may also have seen several variations of 3D printed pinhole cameras online like Clint O’Connor’s Pinhole Printed, this minimalist design by Clay Kippen and Todd Schlemmer’s P6*6. It’s wonderful when modern design technology merges with pinhole photography, the earliest form of image-making.
I first learned of Todd Schlemmer’s P6*6 3D printed pinhole camera when this link on Believeinfilm was posted via Twitter. A few months later, Todd himself tweeted that he was looking for other photographers to give feedback on both building the camera and using the included user’s guide. He was printing the individual parts as a kit for users to assemble and wanted some input on the build instructions. I jumped at the opportunity to test the camera and luckily my friend EspressoBuzz was eager as well. The only pinhole camera I’d successfully built to this point was my anamorphic soup can which wasn’t as sophisticated as the P6*6.
The P6*6 kit was delivered the week after I responded to Todd’s post. The parts were easy to identify - main camera body, lens, shutter, winder, etc. EspressoBuzz went straight to his toolbox and set to work building the camera, completing the project just days later. I was able to convince EspressoBuzz to bring his allen wrenches and assorted files to help me build my P6*6 that weekend. Getting the pieces to fit required some filing, but I had the camera loaded and ready to expose its first roll in just over an hour.
Here is the first frame from that first roll:
I was pleased with the results and sent some feedback to Todd about building the camera and shooting that first roll. Since then there has been a stream of conversation with Todd literally printing out solutions for me to test. For example, the camera top snaps onto the body but didn’t always feel secure so Todd designed, printed, then mailed a clip to resolve the issue. I also had a faulty camera body in the first shipping so he sent a replacement within the week. It’s such a rare treat to collaborate on a project like this, especially because Todd is so quick to respond and find a solution.
I have no doubt that the design for the P6*6 pinhole camera will continue to evolve, though I’ve become rather attached to it already. I posted my first few rolls to my Flickr set here: P6*6 and EspressoBuzz posted his first results to 52rolls.net. If we've piqued your interest check out Todd’s Thingiverse to download the 3D printing files or Tindie to purchase his kit which includes everything you’ll need to build and shoot pinhole. The user’s guide includes detailed information on pinhole photography, shooting tips, film selection, reciprocity charts and a detailed explanation of exposure. There is also a glossary of photography terms and useful online resource links for the aspiring pinhole photographer.
A few thoughts if you are shooting the P6*6:
- Put a washer on either side of the screw attaching the shutter, it's easier to open and shut.
- Be sure to open the shutter all the way so it doesn't get into your frame.
- Some gaffers tape is helpful to prevent the film from scratching.
- Definitely use a tripod to keep the camera steady.
If you have one of the mentioned pinhole cameras, including the P6*6, or know of other inventive cameras please let me know. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts (successes and failures) about the cameras and your experience shooting them. Thanks for visiting today and see you online.