Pinholista camera guides

Miru Cameras 35mm – First Impressions

I guess one of the advantages of having a presence on the internet is the kindness of strangers, and this post is the result of just such an instance. Through Instagram, I was contacted by David creator of Miru cameras asking if I’d like to test his 35mm camera. Of course, I jumped at the chance, after all who wouldn’t. The camera arrived with me over Christmas, and I took advantage of the break to throw a roll through the camera.

Before I get on to the results though, a word about the camera itself, I posted a couple of pictures on Instagram of me unboxing the camera and of the camera in action (making the featured image for this post). For ease, I have embedded them below so you can see the camera itself.

Unboxing the @mirucameras pinhole camera #pinhole #believeinfilm #filmisnotdead #mirucameras

A photo posted by Alex Yates (@pinholista) on

Coffee and pinhole @thedandyhorse

A photo posted by Alex Yates (@pinholista) on

As you can see, the camera is really nicely packaged, and I have to say the written materials that are provided put many more commercial cameras to same – well done David. The camera itself is lightweight, I’m not sure of the wood used, and nicely finished with wax. The design makes loading and unloading film relatively simple as well. There is no tripod mount (more of that later).

I was a little concerned about light leaks so used some blue masking tape to minimise the risk, which unfortunately removed some of the wax when I unloaded the film (I hadn’t really thought that through). I didn’t see any signs of light leaks with this first roll, for my next roll I won’t add any tape and we’ll see how things go.

David also marks both the top of the camera and the supplied 35mm take-up cassette to allow you to easily count the number of turns when you wind on. Rather then the recommended 1 turn, I wound on for 1.5 turns after each shot, which resulted in me wasting film. Next time I’ll try one turn and see how that works out, it should be pretty good I think. Winding on can be a little stiff, at least it was for me, but nothing insurmountable.

So, how about the actual shooting? Well, I have to confess that I generally don’t like using 35mm film for pinhole photography. First off, I think the images are not as good as medium format, and in my experience are not as sharp (although why that should be I don’t know). I also find using a whole roll a little challenging, at least in any kind of reasonable time. So much is my aversion that I recently sold my Ondu 35mm panoramic camera due to lack of use. You know what though, this little camera surprised me and I really enjoyed using it…much more than I thought I would.

The reason for my enjoyment? Quite simply the size of the camera made it the perfect companion to throw into my bag and have with me. As someone once said, the best camera is the one with you, and this little camera came everywhere with me for a week or so. So much so that by the end of the roll I was excited to get the film developed ASAP, which led to me scanning myself, which in turn led to the really poor scans with this post. This means that you probably shouldn’t use the images to judge the quality of the camera as they certainly reflect my rush and scanning skill.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed using this camera. There are, however, a couple of things to consider as we close this post. As already mentioned, and not surprising given the size of the camera, there is no tripod mount. This means you have to be careful what and how you shoot. On a solid surface and with a long exposure you’ll have no problems. However, if you wobble like me then hand holding is not going to work well, the image above shows this well.

In conclusion, a lovely little camera and I really think David should be pleased with what he has created. There are lots of 35mm pinhole cameras out there and the Miru definitely deserves some consideration. This is particularly the case if you are looking for a camera you can take anywhere with you. I’ll be making more pictures with mine, and next time I’ll get some proper scans.

Finally, if you want to find out more about Miru cameras then have a look at their Instagram and Facebook page, as well as the website linked above. Happy shooting!

Viddy – Build and First Shots

I got hold of my Viddy by backing the crowdfunding on Kickstarter; but you can get the camera, and its older brother (if a camera has a gender) the Videre from the Pop-Up Pinhole Co. A word of warning here, I’ve seen these cameras offered an “That” auction site for a ridiculous mark-up, if you want one I really suggest you go straight to the maker.

I was a little nervous about purchasing this camera for a few reasons. Firstly, some of the results I’d seen had some really heavy vignetting and, secondly, I’m not the most handy when it comes to making stuff. Given that I am not so handy, I was sceptical about my ability to make the camera in 30 minutes (as promised), the bottle of rose wine I was planning to sink whilst I built Viddy probably didn’t help. Anyway, you can see how long it took and some of the steps I took by taking a look at the movie below (yes, I also live twitted it).

The build itself really wasn’t too bad, given the wine and my lack of skills, and I did make a few tweaks along the way. Firstly, I made sure that the pinhole was centred in the middle of the aperture and that the internals of the camera were flush to the pinhole (using masking tape), both steps to try and minimise vignetting. For the same reason I also widened the hole in the disk that attaches to the front of the camera, as part of the “Lens” assembly. As you’ll see from my images I actually don’t have any vignetting, which is a good result.
Viddy 2
I also don’t have any light leaks, which I think is brilliant given the way you construct the camera (albeit I did tape a few extra bits over and above that suggested in the instructions. Talking of the instructions, I found it a little bit painful to follow them online and would much have preferred printed instructions, which would fit better with the overall analogue feel of the Viddy and its construction. A few steps were perhaps not as clear as they could have been but the camera is so well put together that it doesn’t really matter (although that being said if you’re less handy than me, or have little pinhole experience it might be tricky in spots).
Viddy 3 So, the construction was simple, but what about the shooting experience. Actually, I really enjoyed it, the camera is really light and easy to carry around meaning you can chuck it in a bag and go and have fun. I have (since shooting my first roll) reinforced the shutter with some wooden splints on the bit that sticks out the side of the camera…its much more robust now. You don’t get any indication of the f-stop of the camera, which is a bit of a shame (and I haven’t been bothered to work it out) so I used the exposure guide that comes with the camera (and the accompanying app – available on the iPhone at the very least), adjusting for reciprocity and my gut feeling. I’m pretty comfortable with that approach with negative film, with transparency film (or film with less exposure latitude) it might not be so easy to get a good exposure.
Viddy 4 One thing I do have to get used to is the focal length, which at about 80-90mm is pretty much a “Normal” focal length for medium format film and would be a short telephoto for 35mm. This brings me on to a slight disappointment. During the funding, it was pretty clear the Viddy could utilise either 35mm or medium format film. It certainly can do this, but you need to make the choice during construction. I was really hoping for a camera that could use both formats interchangeably…perhaps that should be Kelly’s next project. Which brings me on to another positive, which is the interaction with Kelly Angood, designer of the Viddy. She’s always been very responsive and promotes the Viddy and her company really well in my opinion…very good to see folk like that involved in pinhole.
Viddy 5 Overall, I’d recommend the Viddy as a fun little camera which actually delivers pretty good results if you are careful during construction. I enjoyed shooting with it a lot, and got a bit creative with some of my images (sorry about that…and sorry about the shocking scan quality). I’ll definitely be popping it in my bag on regular occasions. Its definitely a camera worth considering, particularly given the price, and could be a really good introduction for someone to the wonderful world of pinhole. Happy Shooting all!
Viddy 6

Reality is so subtle

As regular readers (and Twitter followers) will know I have a small addiction to buying cameras basically because I love cameras, cameras are brilliant…so there it is.

My most recent acquisition is actually incredibly exciting as its another foray into large format pinhole (I already own an 8×10 pinhole from the very wonderful Wheehamx). To sum this rambling up I got myself a RealitySoSubtle 5×4 (or 4×5 for those of a trans-atlantic persuasion) camera, and these are my first impressions.

PierThe RealitySoSubtle 5×4 is made by the very wonderful James Guerin, who as well as making incredible cameras is a wonderful photographer. As you can see from his website, the camera is beautifully constructed from oak. There are a number of user friendly features such as the engravings for field of view, the spirit levels and the tripod mounts allowing for portrait and landscape shooting.

My favourite feature though is the multiple pinholes, allowing for interesting perspective effects and, potentially, for multiple exposures without moving the camera. The shutters are easy enough to use, although coming from cameras with cable releases I needed to adapt my technique a little. I found the best way to open the shutter whilst controlling camera shake was to use a darkslide (from the film holder, luckily enough) to open the shutter, then removing and replacing the darkslide over the pinhole for the exposure time…if that makes any sense.

Pier and shelterLoading filmholders was a breeze, and I found you don’t need to completely remove the back to load, which is useful as I didn’t run the risk of losing my nuts, which would’ve been a pain on Cromer pier. Which brings me on to these sample shots. These were all made on or around Cromer pier, North Norfolk, on Tri-X 320 film. The exception is the corn, which was made on the drive home. I don’t currently have darkroom access so processing was done by Ilford Lab and I then scanned, softly cursing all the while (scanning sucks).

I metered all of these shots with my Lumu, and I’m happy to say that I’m now getting really comfortable with this meter and its pretty much all I use, any underexposure in these shots is due to the fact that I miscalculated reciprocity.

Overall, if you’re in the market for a beautifully made 5×4 pinhole camera then you really should get in touch with James.


Further Ondu Experience

After my initial experience with the Ondu 35mm pano pinhole camera led to me mistakenly shooting standard 35mm format I wanted to do what the camera was designed for…panoramas.

Salthouse 2

Shooting panoramic format is effectively the same as shooting standard 35mm frames. When loading the camera you remove the “Blinds” which normally delineate the standard frame. I put these in a small baggie and keep them in my camera bag for fear of them being lost. You then, need to ensure you make the correct number of turns to ensure no overlap of the frames. Regarding the number of turns, I suspect the instructions Ondu provides are a little conservative and you could reduce the number of turns, particularly for later frames, but I don’t have enough experience to make a recommendation as yet.

Salthouse 3

So, as you can see, the panoramic format is really nice, and comes with some vignetting which is typical of many pinhole cameras and which I personally believe add to the resulting image. These shots were taken on the North Norfolk Coast at Salthouse. This part of the coast was protected by a shingle (pebble) bank. I say was as in the storm surge at the end of 2013 the shingle bank was breached and effectively flattened by the sea, leading to the salt marshes and part of the village to be flooded. A local group of photographers has recently auctioned some shots to raise money for the flood appeal, more details here.

Salthouse 4

I’m pretty happy with the results of these shots! notwithstanding my usual challenges “Seeing” in black and white (I suck at that). For those who are interested, these were shot on Fuji Neopan Acros 100 and developed in Rodinal (R09) 1:100 semi-stand.

The eagled eyed among you will notice the negatives are scratched. I’m not massively surprised by this and actually am really kicking myself for not doing what I usually do with all wooden cameras. As you’ll see in the shots below, I have now taped the internals of the camera with black insulating (electricians) tape, and I’d recommend you do the same. When loading you should then wipe each taped area down to remove any possible grit, even the tiniest piece can cause a scratch. You need to tape anywhere the film might drag when it is being wound on. Finally, when loading the camera be very careful to try and remove any grit from the felt of the reusable film can. The reason for this is that, again, any grit can scratch the film. Don’t use your fingers for this as you don’t want things to get greasy.


Tape - close up

So, there ends today’s Ondu update, I’m still really enjoying using this camera and will post more images as I make them.

EDIT: I’ve since been contacted by Ondu (who are great guys) who’ve let me know that all cameras are now taped so this might only be something you need to think about with the first generation of cameras.

Ondu and Lumu – first thoughts


I have been delighted during December to receive gifts that I bought for myself, through Kickstarter, the Ondu 135 panoramic pinhole camera, and the Lumu smartphone lightmeter. Here are my first thoughts are using both to shoot a roll of film whilst walking through Norwich.

Ondu 135 Panoramic Camera

Made by Ondu in Slovenia, the range of wooden pinhole cameras were the subject of an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. Its great to see in this modern age that a simple analogue camera can still be an object of desire. I suspect a lot of this is to do with the beautiful construction, these are cameras made with care using high quality materials. My first thought when opening the box was that the camera really lived up to the hype.

Casa Pato - 1

As mentioned above, the camera is made of wood, and is held together with powerful magnets, which is not something I have seen before but works really well. The shutter also has a magnet to keep it closed, but this is a smaller one (out of necessity I guess) and I expect the shutter might open if I let the camera rattle around in my bag (I have a history of such errors). Within the camera there are small wooden blinds, which allow you to switch between standard 35mm format (24x36mm) to a panoramic format (24x72mm)…more of that later. The f-stop of the 135 panoramic camera is 125, which Ondu confirmed for me as the information is not currently on their website.

Loading the camera is a breeze, a reusable 35mm cassette is provided, and if you’re used to loading those then this is no different (Ondu also provide easy to follow instructions for this). Once the film cassettes are loaded, you simply drop the winding knobs on (again held in place with magnets) and snap on the film back (paying attention to the match the magnets on the body and back up).

Shooting with the Ondu is really simple, once you have metered (more on that below), you simply open the shutter for the required exposure time, and then close again once your exposure is finished. If you are using negative film with a wide exposure latitude you probably don’t need to meter accurately, but prefer to do so.

Castle parkour

Unlike some pinhole cameras there is no cable release. Winding on is also really simple, and Ondu provide recommendations on winding either normal or panoramic shots, which you will probably be able to modify with experience.

I’ve been pretty pleased with the results of this first roll, some of which are shown here. The camera is a delight to use, but there are some hints and tips I’d like to give, which will hopefully be useful:

  • The blinds: It is all too easy to forget to remove the blinds if you want to shoot panoramic format. I did this, and as a result had a lot of wasted film as I wound for panoramic but was shooting for standard. Perhaps in a future version of the camera there could be a place in the camera (at each end of the film chamber) for the blinds to be stored when shooting panoramic format, otherwise they could also be lost.
  • No cable release: This is not a problem for long exposures but for short exposures you could suffer some camera shake when opening/closing the shutter (as can be seen from some of these shots). This could be alleviated through mounting the camera on a decent tripod (which I did not do for this roll), rather than trying to hold the camera steady. Ultimately though, the best way to shoot short exposures would probably be to hold a dark hat, or something similar, in front of the shutter when opening/closing, and using that “Darkslide” as an improvised shutter.
  • Winding on: As a convenience, I’d use a piece of tape to mark the winding knob so you can count the number of turns for winding on. You might also want to mark the direction to turn the knob if you are concerned about winding the right way (I did it the wrong way at one point, with no ill results). If you want to be frugal with film you might also want to install an improvised clicker to count the number frames accurately. There should be some information on the internet if you want to do this, and if I do it I’ll post a little “How to”.

The Bandstand

Lumu light meter

Another product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Lumu light meter is an incident only meter designed to be used with proprietary apps. After receiving my Lumu, which is beautifully packaged with a leather case and a cord for wearing round your (red) neck (I did not do that!), I downloaded both apps (normal and pinhole) to my iPhone.

For this test, I used the pinhole app, and change the settings (easily accomplished) to f125 and ISO 100 (I was shooting Kodak Ektar). The Lumu then plugs into your headphone socket, and the app will prompt you to to ensure you set the volume to maximum. You then simply tap the screen the meter, using the meter as you would any other incident meter. One advantage of the Lumu is you can rotate the meter to suit what it is you wish to measure, whilst still being able to see the screen.

Casa Pato - 2

In general I’ve been happy with the Lumu in use, once I’d resolved one apparent problem, and the metering seems accurate enough for C41 film as was shot here. Some more detailed thoughts are:

  • The “Volume” thing: I found on a number of cases when first using the meter that the app seemed not to detect that the meter was plugged in and either would not measure or continually asked me to turn the volume up. Eventually I traced this (I think) to the fact that I tend to have my iPhone on silent mode and I had not switched that over. I’ll need to continue to test this, and will contact Lumu if I experience any more challenges (I’ve found them to be responsive so far during the Kickstarter campaign).
  • Reciprocity – or lack of: As a future upgrade to the app it would be great if reciprocity characteristics of common films were built in, or could at least be entered. This is a really important aspect of shooting pinhole as when the exposures are long you need to increase exposure time. For Kodak film this can mean doubling the exposure time, or more (see also my exposure guides for the Zero Image cameras). As it stands, I adjusted the exposure time myself for reciprocity, which worked perfectly but did mean I could not use the timer built into the app (or the facility to record each exposure, which is a great idea).
  • Speed of operation: I’ve actually found the Lumu to be fairly quick to use once it is set up and working well. It’s probably a little slower to use than some dedicated meters, although I think it would be equivalent to my Polaris (my go to meter). This is particularly the case if you keep the app running and the meter plugged in as all it takes is to unlock the screen of your phone to meter (at least in my experience). For me, I’m willing to sacrifice some speed for the convenience the Lumu offers.

Grapes Hill

Some final thoughts on Kickstarter

Its not been a bad experience funding these projects on Kickstarter, although I would stress the need for patience if you decide to fund something similar in the future. As you’ll see, in both cases the targets set by Ondu and Lumu were well exceeded, and whilst that is great news I guess it could present some challenges in scaling up to meet demand, which is turn could impact delivery times. This is something I’ll bear in mind when funding campaigns, but I’ll definitely be doing that again in the future. As with all things, do your research properly and evaluate the risks of any campaign before funding. If you get the right project though, you can end up with some excellent products at a decent price.