Make your own 35mm Matchbox Pinhole Camera
This is not an original idea, but this is my spin on it and I thought that APUG would be the perfect home for it. Throughout the article I mention 'figures'. These reside at the bottom of the article as attachments. So, without any further ado . .
This is a neat little thing to do during those periods of the photographic doldrums. If your photography is stuck in a rut then go in a completely different direction. First, we'll go over some supplies you'll need. Don't worry, most of this you already have. I got started for less than $10 USD.
SUPPLIES (figure 1)
You'll need . . .
A roll of 35mm film (slower ISO such as 25 is ideal)
An empty but intact 35mm film cannister with leader still attached
Roll of Black Electrical Tape
Roll of Scotch Tape
Curled piece of plastic (ie. plastic notebook binding comb)
Thin Black Magic Marker
Thicker Marks a Lot Black Magic Marker
And that's it.
HOW TO MAKE IT
We'll start with the matchbox. Empty the matches from the box. They tend to block the light and scratch the film. Now you need to center-cut a hole in the box cover on one side about 15mm x 15mm by using the Exacto Knife. (figure 2) This will be your pinhole square. Now, with the thick black marker, black out the inside of the cover to prevent light bouncing from light surfaces inside the camera. Now cut a hole in the bottom of the tray with the Exacto Knife. (figure 4) The width is up to you but I cut a square 24mm hole. Save this cutout as we will use this later for something else on the camera. Blacken out the inside of the tray in the same manner as the inside of the cover.
Now we will mount the film to the matchbox. CAUTION Be sure the emulsion side is facing the pinhole. Where the film comes out of the cannister, one side is flatter and one side is glossier. The flatter side should face the back of the matchbox. Now, take your source cannister and cut the leader off square with your scissors. (figure 5) And now for the most ingenious portion of this camera. THE CLICKER COUNTER Slice a thin strip of your curved plastic, perhaps 2mm x 1cm with a slightly sharpish tip on one end. Affix this onto the source cannister so that it is aligned with the film's sprocket holes. (figure 6) We'll explain the genius of this later but it is essential. Make sure it is aligned properly and that it does not protrude to far into the sprocket holes as to tear them if the film were to be dragged under it when being advanced through the camera. Feed the film through the cover and slide the tray between the film and the pinhole opening on the front of the cover. (figure 7) This holds the film against the back of the camera. Take your empty cannister with a leader attached and sticking out (you might have to sacrifice a junk roll to supply this). Take the leaders and splice them neatly with the Scotch tape. (figure 8) Draw arrows on top of your matchbox to indicate the direction of the film's travel. I figure, a good reminder never hurts. Now, your camera is beginning to take shape. (figure 10)
Now we need to make this thing light tight. Draw the film back into the source cannister until both cannisters are cinched up snug against the matchbox. Now wrap the cannisters to the matchbox with the electrical tape. Pay particular attention to the corners between the box and the cannisters. Make sure those corners are covered. (figure 11) With the exception of the pinhole, your camera should be sealed now.
To make the pinholeyou need a small square of aluminum foil and to smooth it out flat. (figure 12) Coat one side of the foil with a black magic marker. This side will face in to the film. (figure 13) Lay the foil on a hard surface. Take a sewing needle and, pressing lightly onto the foil, roll it gently back and forth in your fingers until your just pncture the foil. (figure 14) Now, tape the foil to the front of your camera, centering the pinhole to the hole inthe bottom of the tray as close as possible. Dead-on accuracy is not a must here as this is not a seriuos camera. But try and get as close as you can. To make your pinhole cover, take that tray cutout you saved and black out one side of it with a marker. (figure 15) With this side facing the pinhole, tape it to the camera on one edge. Make sure it overlaps the pinhole sufficiently on all sides. Now bend that paper clip in such a way so as to make a T-handle of sorts that will fit down into the top of the feed spool hole.
I also tape a small piece of notebook paper to the back of the camera so I can denote ISO, direction of travel, other pertinent info.
HOW TO USE IT
Now, turn the camera over. (figure 17) It is ready to go. Now, remember that clicker counter. When you turn the crank you will hear a very soft click when you hold the camera up to your ear. That click happened because you advanced the film one sprocket hole past the edge of the plastic. The distance from sprocket hole to sprocket hole is about 4mm. Thus, in advancing the film seven clicks you have advanced to the next frame with about a 4mm seperation between frames. Cool, huh?
You will need to advance the film about 40mm (10 clicks) before you can make your first exposure. Lift the cover for a predetermined amount of time. Put the cover back down. Advance 7 clicks. Lather, rinse, repeat. This will give you over 56 images on a 36 frame 135-roll film.
Now for some technical gobbledygook. (Thank you, Alan Marcus) Your field of view will be about 110 degrees on the horizontal with a 24mm square cut in the tray. That's pretty wide so you will have some image darkening at the corners. If you want to be technical about your aperture it works out to about f/90. The focal length is about 10mm and the needle hole should be in the area of 0.1mm (you can mike the needle to be certain). Using ISO25, the film's key stop would put EV13 exposure at 1/25th at f/5. We can guesstimate that to 1/15 at f/5.6. Now, with an aperture of f/90, an increase of 8 stops, that would yield a sunny 16 exposure duration of 8 seconds not accounting for reciprocity.
WHEN YOUR DONE WITH THE ROLL
Slice the tape from around the cannisters joined to the matchbox, careful not to cut through the film. Cut the film from the source cannister leaving about an inch of leader for the next camera and process the film as soon as possible. Mark it with ISO and processing notes, whatever pertinent info you wish to include. (figure 19) Add about 15% development above the manufacturer's recommendations. Remember, this isn't an exact camera so the processing needs only be as exact as you like.
And that's all, folks. Have fun and enjoy.
NOTE: I had to omit four illustrations so I chose the images that seemed less critical to have as a visual reference. And sorry the attachments are not in order. That's how the dice fell.