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 #pinhole-masters-and-magic #film #kodak #diy #expired #ultramax #matchbox #pinhole-project


  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! :-)

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