From WPPD 2009.
This April 24th is WPPD, and I know that I will be out and about doing some pinholery. Pinhole cameras are the most rudimentary cameras imaginable. To make one, it doesn't take much more than a light-tight box with a tiny pinhole at one end, and a piece of film or photographic paper at the other. Compared to some of my Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club photographers, I am just an occasional pinholer. Some of those people are really accomplished users of pinhole cameras, and several of them have made some outstanding pinhole cameras that are far more than the stereotypical oatmeal box.
John Baird of Dexter, MI has a wonderful panoramic pinhole camera that uses 120 film and it's a work of art, as are his photographs. Ross Orr, of Ann Arbor, has a camera design that was featured in an issue of MAKE Magazine, and that camera also uses 120 film, and is one that I will build someday. Bill Bresler of Plymouth, MI has some awesome pinhole images that are best seen as large prints. Matt Callow, also in Ann Arbor, has been making simple pinhole cameras and making wonderful images from them. These are just a few local photographers that I know, and if you look on Flickr or APUG, you will undoubtedly find many more.
Why have pinhole techniques remained popular in this age of technology? One of the most endearing traits is that of simplicity. Please don't tell me that you have an iPad app that mimics the effect of a pinhole. You are totally missing the damn point. That's about like telling me that you have an internet girlfriend that you chat with online. Or, that you can play air guitar. These are not REAL things, they are facsimiles, and just because you have a paint program does not mean that you know anything about mixing a palette of acrylics and applying them to canvas. Get my point? Pinhole cameras are hands-on fun that can lead a person into creating some very poignant and impressive imagery. Because they don't require much in the way of technology, they can be really creative tools in the hands of the right person.
Another feature of pinhole photography is that because exposures can often take more than a few seconds, the quality of time is altered. You are no longer getting an image in a fraction of a second, but anywhere from 1 second to many minutes. The time is stretched, and anything moving within the frame can be blurred. A creative photographer can use that to great effect.
The third great thing about pinhole photography is that of the optical nature of the pinhole itself. Depending on the focal length and film size, you can generate extreme wide-angle aspects of a scene, or you can go for a more natural aspect ratio. Because of the simplistic nature of pinhole cameras, you can experiment with all kinds of containers to see what works for your vision. It could be a 35mm film can or an old Dodge van converted into a roving pinhole camera.
While yes, you can buy a pinhole camera - either in kit form or pre-assembled, you can easily make one yourself. There are also downloadable templates for creating a pinhole camera that looks like a 35mm, or a Hasselblad.
You can consult the Pinhole Resource for pinhole sizes, templates, and tips on making pinholes. The Luminous Landscape and Pinhole Resource sites have more information on making your own pinhole camera.
As far as kits, here are a few:
1. STD 35 paper-bodied 35mm kit
2. Perhaps the best value overall- a plastic-bodied 35mm kit for less than $10!
3. How about a STEREO pinhole camera kit?
4. Then, there is the paint-can pinhole camera...
Books -- perhaps the best book out there is "Adventures with Pinhole and Home-made Cameras, by John Evans, and published by Rotovision Books in 2003. It's still in print.
I'll probably be using my Holga Ultra-wide pinhole camera. It's one of the best values out there for a wide-angle camera that takes 120 film, and the results are good. But the beauty of pinhole cameras is that they can cost virtually nothing, and produce priceless images.
Have fun on WPPD!