Penny the Matchbox Pinhole Camera


One day, I was bored and itching for a DIY project. After rummaging through the study for materials and scouring the internet for how-tos, I decided to make a pinhole camera out of a matchbox. Yes, I've built a camera! See the resulting shots below.

Photos by denisesanjose

Firstly, meet Penny, my matchbox pinhole camera. Disregard the “Snap!” tab as taking photos with it is not snappy at all. The shutter is a cardboard tab which you lift, revealing the pinhole lens, and exposing the emulsion.

I fashioned her out of the materials you see below (except I used expired Kodak UltraMax 400), using the steps on matchboxpinhole as a guide.

Photo via matchboxpinhole

Admittedly, I’m not OC and have low EQ. I tried to follow the instructions to the book but was more interested in shooting with it as soon as possible, rather than building the camera carefully and correctly.

In hindsight, I should have been more detail-oriented as there were major light leaks in my photos (not enough black electrical tape), cardboard threads around the frame (shoulda cut the edges cleaner), etc. but I think these little nuances add a certain charm to the photos.

Credits: denisesanjose

The first frame—and a half. Because of the very primitive rewinding knob (a soda can tab), the first two shots I took somehow ended up on the same frame.

Credits: denisesanjose

Mall, funeral, study. These indoor shots were exposed for about 5 minutes each. The hole I haphazardly cut out of the camera was square but not all the shots properly fit in the frame.

Credits: denisesanjose

Outdoors. These were exposed for about a minute each. The morning shots are overexposed while the afternoon shots are just plain blurry. I didn’t bother with a tripod. Or with measuring the microsized pinhole for its aperture.

Credits: denisesanjose

Rectangles and restaurants. Maybe it was my wayward winding, maybe it was the lab’s lazy scanning, but I ended up with non-square shots, such as these of milk tea and chili sauce.

Credits: denisesanjose

Cirque du Soileil. They came to Manila, circus tent and all, for Varekai. Cameras weren’t allowed inside but I managed to fit the camera into my clutch and security had no idea what it was so I was able to sneak some shots. Exposed for approximately 5 minutes each but, of course, all you’ll see are colorful blurs as the acrobats tossed about and flung themselves in the air. Amazing, really!

Credits: denisesanjose

Paola and light leaks. Probably the only decent shot out of the entire pinhole roll. My cousin napping on a couch with some serious light leaks on the side.

Photo by denisesanjose

Self-portrait #3. I was taking photos of the pinhole camera and decided to lift the shutter up for kicks. Exposed for just a minute since I was right by a window.

Credits: denisesanjose

Overall, even if it wasn’t a complete success, I still like the way the photos turned out, especially the blue, purple, and orange light leaks. Any serious analogue photographer should build at least one camera in his life just to say that you have and can. I recommend this relatively easy matchbox method which uses basic things you’ll find around your house.

If you want an even simpler pinhole camera, get the DIY Hole-On-Ex Paper Pinhole Camera from our shop and start your own little pinhole experiment roll in a snap!

The Hole-On-Ex is a palm-sized 35mm camera that you construct on your own. Shoot intense pinhole images and appreciate the mechanics of photography at the same time with the Hole-On-Ex Paper Pinhole Camera. Available in our Shop.

written by denisesanjose on 2012-04-10 in #lifestyle #varekai #cirque-du-soleil #pinhole #kodak #ultramax #pinhole-masters-and-magic #film #diy #matchbox #pinhole-project #expired


  1. pinkpix
    pinkpix ·

    Love for anthropomorphism and the name you gave her. And love for Penny and this article and the pics. Awesome!

  2. dogtanian
    dogtanian ·

    Nice article! Ive made a couple of these, you can see the results here :).…

  3. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Great project. I find myself using my pinhole camera more and more lately.

  4. denisesanjose
    denisesanjose ·

    Thanks, guys! :-)

More Interesting Articles

  • Inspiring Pinhole Photography Reads for World Pinhole Photography Day!

    written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-04-27 in #lifestyle
    Inspiring Pinhole Photography Reads for World Pinhole Photography Day!

    In celebration of World Pinhole Photography Day today, we've decided to make a compilation of all the amazing pinhole-related stuff we've seen, written, and read here in the Lomography website through the years. We're sure many of you will be out to take pinhole snaps throughout the day in celebration of the occasion, but in case you're itching for some more inspiring reads on pinhole photography, you might as well read on and check out our compilation!

  • How to Make Pinhole Camera from a Soda Can

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2014-04-27 in #people #lifestyle
    How to Make Pinhole Camera from a Soda Can

    Justin Quinnell’s expertise when it comes to pinhole wizardry is unquestionable. This photographer and lecturer from Bristol, United Kingdom, has crafted the most unusual of pinhole projects, from installing cameras onto ships cruising around the Caribbean to taking photos of his kids being born from inside his mouth. One other project that he is known for is being able to make a pinhole camera from a soda can. Watch the video below and learn how!

  • My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    written by tomas_bates on 2014-11-12 in #gear #tipster
    My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    I backed the Kickstarter project for the Lomo’Instant earlier this year and was thrilled to receive it last week. I love how the camera naturally encourages you to experiment with its different features, whether it’s through flashing your multiple exposures with different colors or trying different creative techniques after your shots has been ejected. Here are a few tips from what I’ve discovered from playing with the camera so far (and a couple of tips I want to try out in future)!

  • Shop News

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • Pinhole master Justin Quinnell invites you to celebrate World Pinhole Day

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-04-26 in #lifestyle
    Pinhole master Justin Quinnell invites you to celebrate World  Pinhole Day

    Although already equipped with a degree in Photography, Justin Quinnell got into pinhole photography a little over a decade ago, when he became the Head of Photography while teaching in a college in Bristol, United Kingdom, a time when "one person would have a fully manual Zenith B beside another with a fully automatic camera. " We've had interviews with Justin in the Magazine through the years, and one thing hasn't changed: his enthusiasm for pinhole photography.

  • Fresh from the Lab: One Roll of Film and the Lubitel 166U

    written by fadjaradiputra on 2014-11-07 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the Lab: One Roll of Film and the Lubitel 166U

    Adi, Ekeu, and I did a lomowalk around downtown Bandung last Saturday, the beginning of November. We planned to use our Lubitel cameras with only one roll of film each. We were inspired by the One Roll of Film Project by four Tokyo-based photographers with their Hasselblad cameras. This is about the one roll of film I shot with the Lubitel 166U, which made me love shooting in medium format even more.

  • Lomo’Instant on a Sunny Day

    written by jacobs on 2014-11-06 in #gear #tipster
    Lomo’Instant on a Sunny Day

    I recently had the opportunity to take the world’s most creative instant camera — the Lomo'Instant — for a stroll on an unusually warm and sunny November day. My goal was to acquaint myself with the endlessly cool features and infinite possibilities the camera possesses while creating some beautiful photographs in the meantime. Read on to see the results!

  • Shop News

    Last Day: Free Camera Deal

    Last Day: Free Camera Deal

    Last day of the free camera deal today! Grab films now worth 99 EUR/USD/GBP and get your free Diana Mini or Diana F+ Love Letters for free!

  • Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition Winners!

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-03-31 in #gear #news #competitions
    Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition Winners!

    In celebration of the mindblowing solar eclipse we had the other day, we ran a competition and asked you to tag your analogue photos centered around our great big yellow friend! Check out the winners now!

  • Analog Sounds with Simeon Smith

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-03-31 in #people #lifestyle
    Analog Sounds with Simeon Smith

    Simeon Smith is a musician who recorded the sounds of our film cameras in action and made these samples available as a free download. We couldn't resist interviewing him about this project and taking a look at some of his photos. Meet the man behind the cams here.

  • Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Siberian Delight

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-31 in #world #locations
    Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Siberian Delight

    In his latest travel series, Herr Willie shares a selection of fine photographs from his Russian adventures and tells the stories behind them.

  • Shop News

    Petzval Buddies

    Petzval Buddies

    Petzval lens are designed for a Canon or Nikon SLR mounts and a selection of brass or black for each camera brand is available in our stores. And start shooting with images full of sharpness, crispness and bokeh effects!

  • What Art Can Learn from the Banal

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-03-30 in #world #lifestyle
    What Art Can Learn from the Banal

    Stephen Shore introduced to the 70s art world an unadorned image of American life. He captured littered restaurant tables as other photographers would immaculate vistas. For the opening of “American Surfaces”, he even taped unframed snapshots on gallery walls. In these videos, Shore talks about objects that have “no pretention to art” and the things he learned from Andy Warhol.

  • Perfect Panoramas Captured with the Sprocket Rocket Winners

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-03-30 in #world #news #competitions
    Perfect Panoramas Captured with the Sprocket Rocket Winners

    Marvel at these retro panoramas taken with the Sprocket Rocket!

  • The Geography of an Art Gallery

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-03-30 in #world #lifestyle
    The Geography of an Art Gallery

    What photo goes on which wall? What adjacent prints relay a theme? In this video, Alec Soth gives a lesson on how to arrange a large body of work on exhibit.