A few months back, I started this lomography business with a really nice and cheap plastic DIY TLR camera. I loved it so much that I just wanted to meet the rest of its family. Now, I’m going to introduce another member of its family to you. The TLR's sister’s name is 3D Stereo Pinhole camera, and it gave me a lot less trouble than the first one.
Brand and Model: Recesky 3D Stereo Pinhole Camera
Photography type: Pinhole
Type of film: 35 mm
Photographic formats (the format can be switched while the film is loaded):
- Regular 4:3 (24 mm x 33.5 mm negative size);
- Panoramic 8:3 (24 mm x 72 mm negative size); f/146 with 0.25 mm pinhole;
- Stereo “3D effect” (it comes with a viewing contraption that supposedly allows you to see this format in 3D. You can also use some auxiliary software to get the blue and red 3D effect). Basically it takes two pictures of the same subject, side by side with some parallax effect (the viewpoint changes slightly).
Focus: Focus Free (0 – infinity)
- 3D and standard single picture mode: focal length of 25 mm; f/117 if with a 0.25 mm pinhole;
- Panoramic mode: focal length of 28 mm; f/146 if with a 0.25 mm pinhole;
Material: ABS Plastic
Size: 290 × 220 × 50 mm
Tripod Mount: Yes
Before going into the camera’s features, I would like to explain a little about pinhole photography. This term applies to the process of exposing a light sensitive surface (be it negative or photographic paper) without the use of a focusing lens. Instead, the picture is the result of the light passing through a tiny little hole on the walls of a dark, light tight room, usually a box of some sort, and then exposing the light sensitive surface inside.
I’ve had some experience with its most rudimentary form. I had a Photography class in the university, where I had to take pictures using a sealed shoe box and some photographic paper (see the results here ). I had to change the paper and develop photos inside the school lab every time I wanted to take a new picture.
This camera works on the same principle, using a box with little pin-sized holes. However, it uses films instead, making my job much easier in the sense that I can ‘shoot’ an entire roll of film before I have to develop it.
After the great results of my first roll of film with the TLR, I started really getting into it, and looking for even more outrageous ways to approach lomography. I looked into different kinds of photography and unusual formats. I still am completely in love with the panoramic format and so I really wanted to explore things like that. The answer came to me in the form of another DIY assembly camera kit.
The information available for the Recesky 3D Stereo Pinhole Camera is very scattered and has to be properly interpreted so it won’t get confusing. Even its name is quite a long, complicated thing. But after some thorough research (I even went as far as writing to the Recesky company for info about it, they weren’t very helpful though), I was able to purchase (through eBay), assemble, and try my first roll on this little black box of a pinhole camera.
The instructions to build this camera are available here, if you want to take a look at them beforehand. Sadly, they’re only available in Chinese, but the pictures are very easy to follow. I also used some auxiliary English online tutorials (there’s one here and another here) while building mine.
The assembly of the camera turned out to be very simple: one hour and I was done with it. The camera box feels quite sturdy but very light to carry around with you. It easily fits together and produces no light leaks inside the shell.
The film advancing is very smooth and you can go forwards and backwards as much as you wish, which is great for multiple exposures.
What’s really special about this camera is the fact that it doesn’t just have the one pinhole (little small orifice that is the only light opening to expose the negative), but has THREE openings instead. This is great because it allows you to do a lot of experimenting. The camera is all fully manual, and it works with the simple principle of covering the pinholes when you don’t want it exposing the negative, and uncovering them when you want to take a picture (the kit comes with little rubber lids to cover the pinholes).
There’s a separation plate inside the camera that you can switch on or off and that allows you to create a barrier between frames and make sure that light doesn’t leak into the next frame. This plate is controlled by a little switch on the front.
This camera can take three different photo formats, and you can mix and combine between them if you want. The formats depend on how many pinholes you have open when taking the picture, and whether the separation plate inside the camera is switched on or off.
You get the regular mode photo, a 4:3 picture (24 × 34mm), when only one of the outside pinholes (either the blue or the pink one) are uncovered.
The panoramic format, an 8:3 picture (approximately 72mm long), is achieved by uncovering only the pinhole in the centre (painted green in the picture above) and having the separation plate switched off.
The stereo format is achieved by having the two outside pinholes uncovered (the blue and the pink) at the same time.
If, like me, you forget to put the separation plate in place then you’ll get something like this instead (which in my opinion I think is way cooler).
If you feel like experimenting a little, uncover the three pinholes, all at the same time (blue, green and pink) without the separation plate on.
It also has an advance indicator that helps you to know how much of the film you should advance depending on the picture format you’re exposing.
You should advance half a turn if you expose on the 3:4 format ( . . ). Note that if you advance you should always exposed the same pinhole. If you expose both pinholes or the panorama ( . ) then you should advance a full turn. What I did was always expose both (memorize wich one, setting a rule for first and second one) and always advanced a full turn of film. Otherwise, it might become confusing.
Don’t forget to expose both pinholes in regular or stereo mode before advancing the film. What I understood from some guess work, and something I read somewhere, is that if you exposed just the one regular frame then you should advance only a half turn of the indicator. If you exposed the panoramic or stereo format (2 frames side by side) then you should advance the film a full indicator turn. This will get your pictures fully separated and avoid over exposures (if that is what you want).
This camera also has a shutter button, but it only works for the outside pinholes (blue and pink). This allows you to uncover both pinholes without trouble and then just use the shutter button to take the picture.
The hardest part about pinhole photography (aside the part where, in most cases, you have to build the box itself) is guessing the times of exposure. In order to get your calculations right you need to know very well how large is the opening you have (we’re talking the hundredth part of a millimetre here) and then calculate it in relation to the focal distance of your camera (the distance between the hole and the sensitive surface). This calculation will give you the ‘f’ value of your opening. It’s actually the same calculation that gives you the ‘f’ value of your camera lens’ aperture.
The calculations are a bit on the boring side really, but I improvised a bit in here. The manual that comes with the assembling kit actually gives you an ‘f’ value reference for this camera but have I mentioned it comes only in Chinese?
Actually, I came to understand (through here – please note that the Recesky camera is an exact copy of the original Gakkenflex) that there are two ways of making the pinholes for this camera. You can use the pre-made rubber ones that come with the camera (that’s what I did) or you can use foil or a metallic plate (like a coke can material) and pierce it yourself to the desired size. In the second case, they recommend a specific hole diameter to which they give some time references (I think, because again: it’s in Chinese!) and that is supposedly the ideal size. I just used what came with the camera to avoid any extra trouble.
It got a bit tricky here but I was able to find this online translation here and through this little nugget of information I was able to do a little bit of extrapolation.
The bottom table is a conversion table that gives you time according to the f number of the aperture. The idea is to measure the light with a camera or light meter and calculate the values proportionally. For instance if your camera, with an f/16 aperture, gives you a shutter speed of 1/30 then you should use the pinholes (the stereo or regular mode is an f/128 and the panoramic an f/180) with the indicated exposure times of 2 seconds (for the stereo or regular format) or 4 seconds (for the panoramic format).
Here I was a little confused because the picture above mentions the times for ISO 100 but in another part of the instructions it led me believe that the film recommended is 200 ISO.
What I did was to load the camera with a 200 ISO film, and then I printed the following conversion table, that I got from here and used it in conjunction with my other camera’s light meter or a ‘sunny 16’ paper exposure mat (here).
The rest was more or less guessing work, and the results can be found in my album at my lomo home.
Hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you chose to buy this camera and let me know how it went!