Pinhole Camera

posted Oct 10, 2017, 12:26 PM by Hawken FabLab

Pinhole Camera - Nathan Miao

My initial idea for a project was a laser-cut pinhole camera that shoots on 35mm film. As I thought about the design more and as Mr. Digiorgio pointed out, however, I should have started working on a prototype that shoots on photographic paper instead. The problem with shooting on film was that I had to finish a whole roll in order to see if it worked, while I could take each individual picture on photo paper. At first, I followed guidelines for a pinhole camera that I found online, however after my first three tests, I realized that I would have to expand the dimensions because they were designed for 35mm film. I wish that I originally accounted for the different dimensions, because I had to make a whole new prototype to fit the paper when I already had a working one. The biggest challenge that I faced was figuring out how to make a final prototype light-proof without using any tape on the outside. I eventually solved this problem by adding wooden pieces on the inside of a face to prevent light from entering. I was really happy that I was able to fix this issue before the end of the semester. Throughout the process of this project, I was really able to become comfortable with using the laser-cutters. The final model, cut on 1/8" wood, was glued together with tacky glue and taped on the inside and functions properly.

Attached are the in-progress CDR files and the final SVG as well.

Initial Idea:

My initial idea is to create a working pinhole camera that shoots on 35mm film. It would be made out laser cut wood and 3D printed spools. The "lens" would be created out of a thin sheet of metal, maybe tin foil. First, I would have to create a working prototype that shoots on photographic paper.

Paper Prototype        

I created a prototype for my pinhole camera out of cardstock. The prototype was made by folding cardstock and gluing it together using tabs. I also created a working shutter and latch for the side. I still have to think of how to get photographic paper in and out of the box. I also need to find a material to make the "lens" out of. I will probably start with tin foil.                                                               

Cardboard Prototype #1:

I created the first cardboard prototype for my camera using the laser cutter.I then taped it together in order to prevent light leaks I also added a "lens" using a sheet of metal, which i poked a hole in then sanded. A few things need to be improved: I think I need to create a different shutter that covers the lens better because it may leak light; I need to make a better latch and hinge (I just used tape); I need to add a way to hold the photographic paper. I should be able to test this prototype by next class.

I attached the file I used to cut this first prototype

Test #1:

I tested the camera for the first time. The camera was able to produce an image sort of; it was of the area right outside the darkroom, and the lines of the walls are visible. Not sure what the other objects exposed are, but probably part of the inside of the camera (there is also some glare from taking a picture of the picture). There is an issue with light leaks, but Sklad let me borrow a roll of electrical tape, hopefully that will work better than the masking tape.

Carboard Prototype #2:

I worked on the cardboard model a bit. The main difference was the back, which a changed the tabs a little bit. I also updated the shutter so there is no chance of leakage. I also used electrical tape instead of black masking tape. I still need to be able to make a hinge.

The CDR file I used is attached below.

Test #2:

The second picture taken on the camera turned out a lot better than the first one. While the first one was just a fuzzy image, a clear picture can be seen in this one. There is a railing, trees, and the outline of Stirn Hall. There was still some light leaking in, so I have to fix the design a little bit.

Wood Prototype #1:

I cut the camera out in wood this time, updating the design from before. Instead of having a back with some sort of hinge, I decided to close off the whole camera and create a hole for a piece that would hold the photographic paper. The wood I used for this is too thick at the moment so I have to cut it in 1/16" wood with a slot for the paper.

The CDR file I used is attached below:

Photo Paper Tray:

I cut out a tray for the photographic paper into 1/16" wood. I used the same model from the wood prototype except for a spot for the paper to go. I also added a small piece of cardstock to keep the paper in place.

Test #3:

I took another picture with the updated photo tray and it looks like all light leaks are fixed. The only problem is the size of the image, I need to make the camera deeper so more of the paper will be exposed.

Wood Prototype #2:

I realized from the last test photo that the camera needed to be deeper. I was not sure how much deeper so I decided to create a ratio between the diameter of the last photo and the distance from the hole to the paper. I then used the ratio, which I found to be 3:5, and measured the width of the full photo and found how much deeper the camera should be. I had to add 2.5" to the body of the camera, but otherwise it is the same. 

Test #4:

I tested out the second wood prototype and it turned out very well. The image reaches farther to the edges of the photo paper, and a clear image can be seen. The only problem was that I underexposed the photo; I only exposed for 16 seconds.

Final Product:

I printed out my final prototype. Not much was change from the last one; the main difference was longer guides for the shutter and some guides on the inside for the tray and light seals. My challenge for this model was to seal it from all light without using any tape on the outside. This was really difficult to do because I was unable to tape the inside of the last face. Instead I decided to make wooden pieces that would be glued on the inside to block light.

Attached is the final SVG file that was used to print the final model

Final Tests:

I took these two images together of the same scene. Both showed that I was successful in making the tape-less model lightproof. For the first image, I exposed it for 1 minute and it still turned out a bit underexposed, so I exposed the next photo for 2 minutes, and it turned out better. While the second picture could have been exposed for a little longer, it still turned out well. The only problem with the second photo is that I accidentally bumped the camera during the exposure. However, these tests still demonstrate that the final model is fully functional.

Hawken FabLab,
Oct 9, 2018, 5:58 AM
Hawken FabLab,
Oct 9, 2018, 5:58 AM
Hawken FabLab,
Oct 9, 2018, 5:58 AM
Hawken FabLab,
Oct 9, 2018, 5:58 AM
Hawken FabLab,
Oct 9, 2018, 5:58 AM