A 35mm Pinhole Camera, Quick and Easy

“Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day” is coming up on April 25th this year. If you don’t have a pinhole camera yet and want to participate, this might give you some ideas. I picked up this camera a few years ago from a “Dollar Store” (for $1.00 USD) and easily converted it to a pinhole camera. This photo shows the camera after I removed the plastic lens and replaced it with a pinhole.

$1.00 plastic camera

I have no idea if this particular camera is still on the market for $1.00. But there should be similar ones out there. I post this only to give you an idea of how you might modify a similar camera into a pinhole camera. I don’t have photos of the camera before the conversion, but the conversion was very simple. The camera splits in half, making it easy to get to the lens and shutter. I just poped the lens and shutter mechanism out of the camera and put in a pinhole I had made. How you do this will depend on your camera.

You can follow these instructions at the pinholeday.org website for making a pinhole, so I won’t go into that here. Measure the distance from where the pinhole will be mounted to the film plane to determine the size of the pinhole. For this camera this distance is about 1 inch and the pinhole is around .2 mm in diameter. Once you have made your pinhole, use some masking tape or duct tape or black electrical tape to hold the pinhole in place in the camera.

For the shutter I cut down a cork to fit the hole. But any opaque tape with work, or a piece of cardboard with tape on it to hold it in place works just fine.

camera with cork to keep out the light until you're ready to take a photo.

Load your roll of film in the back as originally intended – no changes there.

back of camera - open for loading film

Taking the photos

Once you know the focal length and pinhole size, you can use Larry Fratkin’s pinhole calculator to determine the f-stop and then print an exposure guide. For example, this camera’s f-stop value is approximately f-128. On a sunny day using ISO 100 film, a typical exposure would be around 16 seconds.

The images this camera made are framed in the round hole of the camera body. This is just a feature of this particular camera.  You may find one that doesn’t have a hole like this. Or, if you do find one like this, the hole can be interesting also.

Sample Photos

Here are some photos I took with this camera.

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