Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Pinhole (G)Fun

Reading online forums could give the impression that all there is to photography is gear, sharp images, no noise and high dynamic range.

Well, I could not disagree more. In my opinion photography or anything else which is creative should be about fun, enjoyment and the drive to experiment. So in the spirit of experimenting I always wanted to try some pinhole photography. Since building my first camera obscre in school, which feels like ages ago now, I always found the simplicity of this fascinating and it was one of the main reasons for me to buy a interchangeable lens camera. Since I am not into film and would never consider using (or lugging around more precisely) a dSLR the GF1 was the ideal camera to try this.

So as it often is with having too much time on your hands, I set poff and created a first version of a pinhole lens, it was a simple as taking some tinfoil and wrapping it around the c-mount adapter I bought. Making the right sized hole in there took a few attempts but I managed to get it working well enough as you can see here.

Because it looks silly to have tinfoil stuck in front of your camera had to find something better and I figured taking some black cardboard and poking a hole in there should do the job. Unfortunatelly this did not work quite as well and my hole was too big so this version failed, see here for the result.

Taking what I learned from the first experiments I decided to combine them into one lens which allows for the outside to look nice and black while the inside uses tinfoil for the 'aperture' or pinhole so it allows for smaller and more customizable pinhole size. This worked great and it allows me to 'change' the aperture and even do some '3D pinhole photography' by just having a 2nd hole next to the first. This I rounded off with using some glue and a magazine cutout with the picture of the Sigma DP1 lens which was a perfect fit for the size.

Overall this was a fantastic experiment and it helped me learn 2 things.

First, you can photoshop as much as you like but you can't use a pinhole efect n Photoshop or in camera in place of a real pinhole lens. It simply is not the same thing.

This leads me to reason number two. Using a pinhole lens means you need to expose every picture much longer so composition becomes way more important as well as the angle you take the picture, also the pictures won't be very sharp and suffer from low dynamic range. All these things make pinhole pictures very different and also help to slow you down and start thinking more about the picture you are about to take.

I can fully recommend this to anyone as it is fun and it does not cost you anything to try it out.


  1. So there is no lens? Just a hole to let light through? That still works in a 21st century camera??! :)

    What's the barrel distortion like?? :)


  2. ... nice Christian ... should I screw out the lens of my GR D??? :-)

  3. mark, it's just some tinfoil with a hole in there and what worked 100 years ago can still work fine in modern cameras :).
    There is no barrel distortion, no fringing or any of the other defects you get with glass lenses (especially cheap ones).

    Hehe, if you can screw the lens ot it could be a nice experiment but it would be a shame considering how good the GRD lens is.

  4. Hey

    I really like your pinhole shots... particularily the one of the fireman in black and white... its magic... what was going on there??? just rdered myself a c mount adaptor and gonna try your exact technique.. will let you know how it goes..



  5. Thanks for your comment Luke!

    Glad you like the shots, the one with the fireman was taken while they were trying to put out a fire someone set to some dry bushes. The light was great with the sun shining and illuminating the smoke.

    Good luck and have fun with your GF1 pinhole camera.