As digital photography keeps getting better and better, with so many great smartphone apps and amazing quality cameras, it’s tough to think about using film. It may be even harder to think about taking pinhole photographs. Maybe, that’s why I missed Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day again this year, probably, like most people.
It is an event held on the last Sunday of April that makes me think about getting back to my photography roots. The basics: film, a box, and a tiny pinhole, almost like my very first Kodak Brownie camera. But for most us, the idea of buying, shooting and processing film is just too much work. I guess this includes me — it all sounds great, but it does take time to re-create the old-school film photography days.
For those who want to re-create the past, there are plenty of choices. You can build your own pinhole camera. For one of my posts, I built a pinhole a couple of years ago with the Sharan STD-35e 35mm pinhole camera. It took about two hours to build the cardboard camera, which uses 35mm film. The simplest approach is using a smartphone app, and the most difficult includes processing your own film and printing on photographic paper.
There’s no shortage of available pinhole cameras — you just need to know where to look. Here are a few of my picks:
Pinhole HD – Surprisingly, there were not many options of iPhone pinhole photography apps to choose from. I could find only two: Pinhole HD and Retro Camera Plus. Neither simulated the pinhole effect perfectly, but Pinhole HD, a $0.99 app, came the closest. Snap your pinhole photograph, save to your camera roll, and then send to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter in seconds. The photos sort of look like those from a real pinhole camera, but when you’re done, no messy chemical, no film, no other camera to carry.
Pinhole camera body cap – This is a great option for those DSLR or 4/3 style camera. The photo looks like a fuzzy pinhole camera pic with your expensive digital camera. You can get a pinhole lens for Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony cameras. I have one that fits my Canon 7D. This is a regular body cap with a super small pinhole cut into metal glues in the middle of the camera. These are simple to use and your results are instant and give a pretty true representation of the pinhole camera effect. You can even find a pinhole body cap for a Hasselblad camera. I know that just doesn’t make any sense, but your photo will have a warm and fuzzy look in a square format. I’m still looking for one for a Leica.
Paper camera kit – The Loonar Groupe paper kit camera is certainly the most stylish with its colorful patterns. I haven’t tried using one of these, but a camera made of paper seems like a creative way to go.
Coolest look – The ‘Original’ Pinhole Blender 35 snaps a triple exposure using three pinhole lenses to form a panorama collage photograph using 35mm film. I like the unique concept of this camera as it blends three exposures together.
Most unusual – Merlin 1 Quart Paint Can pinhole camera takes a paint can and turns it into a camera. Any box or closed container can be turned into a camera. All you need is a pinhole and a place to set your film. This camera is designed to use sheet film or paper as your negative. Simply expose a piece of photographic paper and film and use it as a contact negative.
Wooden cameras – The ultimate way to experience the pinhole camera is a wooden pinhole camera like the Zero Image 6 X 6 Wooden Pinhole Camera. The Zero Image brings together a simple process with a beautiful-looking crafted wooden camera that uses 120mm film and makes a square image. You will need to process the film and make prints.
Most unique – No question, the PopTop Pinhole camera, made from the tops of soda cans, wins for most unique. The camera comes preloaded with 35mm film and uses a piece of tape as the shutter.