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35mm pinhole photography

Many first attempts at pinholing involve replacing the lens of an SLR (or DSLR) with a pinhole. The results obtained are usually disappointing owing to the mirror housing inhibiting the short local length’ required for ‘sharp’ pinhole photography.
A pinhole 5 cm from the film plane produces an image of 15 cm diameter. To make full use of the 24 x 36mm area of the 35mm format, the pinhole should be around 1cm from the film.


This homemade camera makes use of this versatile film format by assembling a pinhole on the back of a cheap plastic 35mm camera, then flipping the film upside down so the film is pointing backwards in the camera. Exposure is done through the rear of the camera, so making use of its wind-on mechanism.
With care, the results obtained not only exploit the unique qualities of the pinhole, but can also produce sharper images than many lenses. They also work brilliantly with flashguns (See here)


1. Find a point and shoot plastic 35mm camera, (£1 -00 each at
car boot sales, junk shops)
2. Using a small drill and a hacksaw, remove the pressure plate and
cut a 24 x 36mm opening in the back. Careful as PCB can shatter.
3. Build a 7mm high mount out of black card.
4. Make the aluminium pinhole Instructions here.

5. Fix the pinhole to the mount with black insulation tape, then stick on to the camera back, making sure no light comes in at the corners. 
6. Use insulation tape to make a light-tight ‘shutter’ to stick over the hole.
7. Tape over the lens in its ‘open’ position, to enable the camera’s original shutter and wind on mechanism to work without exposing the film.
8. Reverse the film by spooling it into a reusable cassette in total darkness, with the spool upside-down so the emulsion is pointing backwards. Always write the type of film on the cassette.
9. Load the film as normal. 

How to use the camera.

Rest the camera on a surface in front of the object to be photographed. Carefully replace the tape shutter with your finger, making sure no light enters the hole. The exposure starts when you release the camera, and finishes when you place your finger back over the hole before carefully replacing the tape.

Flipping film 35mm.jpg
final 35mm.jpg
35mm 1 .jpg

Exposure Guide

Sunny = 3 seconds. Cloudy = 10 seconds. Indoors = 10 minutes +
Colour negative film gives excellent results owing to its massive exposure latitude. Even gross over­ exposure can result in a good quality image.

* Rely on gravity to keep the camera steady, rather than your hands.
* Avoid pointing the camera into the sun or the flashgun.
* Concentrate on the foreground. Objects in a plane receding away from the hole look far more dramatic than objects flat to the film plane.
* Wind on after each photo to avoid double exposures.
* Feel free to ignore the advice above!

Unloading the film.

After rewinding the film in the camera, wind the exposed film in total darkness back into another reusable cassette, and take to the processing lab with the type of film written on the case.

Collect your final prints, and spend the next hour figuring out just what you have been photographing!

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