In the continuation of the article “Analogue Lifestyle: DIY Pinhole Camera! (Part 1)”, the author aims to improve on his first DIY pinhole camera.
So right after analyzing my mistakes and possible improvements from reviewing my first pinhole photos, I set out to try another tutorial. This time, I found something considerably easier to do as well, from this website.
The main difference, at first glance, is that this matchbox pinhole camera has parts that are really only needed. In the Hasselblad model, the core compartment that takes the photos and holds the film canisters are housed inside the bigger exterior that mimics the camera. While it gives the camera considerably cooler outlook, it really is unnecessary and probably only helps in giving the camera more surface area to sit on.
What attracted me to try the matchbox pinhole is the author’s example images — they looked really good and sharp! While the construction of pinholes are generally the same and I knew I could’ve produced better images with the Hasselblad if I do it well enough, this new one nevertheless gave me a slight psychological push and encouragement.
The first part, funnily, was to find a matchbox. It is really hard to find one now! I only have lighters at home, and I went out to a few grocery stores but similarly they didn’t stock any matches too. Until I came across one Chinese grocery store that has them — and it is the iconic Flying Man matchsticks! It is considered a classic product in Malaysian household with its famous thin-plywood construction box. I grabbed 2 at RM 0.20 (USD$0.065) each, but my parents lamented that they used to get it at RM 0.05 in their younger days.
I started construction straightaway and it wasn’t that hard to do at all. Certain parts get tricky, like how the film strip is narrowly wider than the box by a couple of millimeters, but some modifications solved the problem. This time, I didn’t make the needle go right through the aluminum can; the hole produced was so small I am really tempted to make it bigger but held back. I also changed the film winding mechanism a bit; as I have already pre-drilled my pick up canister (to produce keychains), I just ran a paperclip right through it instead of using the aluminum can tab. No pictures of that new part though; but the end product was so small I could hardly believe it!
I brought it on a trip with my colleagues to Malacca. I really love the size of the camera. It is really pocketable, unlike the Hasselblad. This time, I tried shooting with a bit of calculations: I tried using the Sunny 16 rule, but took the shutter speed indicated for f/16 and multiply the time by 150. So if a scene required 1 second of exposure in normal camera, in my matchbox it would take 150 seconds, which is 2 and a half minutes.
Another part I love about the matchbox pinhole template is the clicker. It is a devastatingly lovely addition, considering in my previous attempt, the photos are spaced far too apart from each other. I shoot in square frames (24mm x 24mm), hence according to the instruction, I will need 6 clicks after each shot. It is really fun to rewind the film while listening to the clicks, not to mention it amused my colleagues every time I did that, but after a while I just feel the clicks with my finger.
The results while I got back from my lab is really satisfying. There are images, yes — but there are also a few which are really sharp! Light leaks, but that’s fine. The 6 clicks thing really worked; my images are just right next to each other with virtually no space lost. I also used a Kodak ProFoto 100 film, which claimed to produce more than 36 rectangular shots – but in the end I think I got about 50 from this!
I particularly liked the shot above: it was taken at a temple, and I left the camera on the floor under one of the many massive pillars. As the camera was so small, hardly anyone noticed it – I left it there for a 10-minute exposure! The result is really cool – anyone walked past was inevitably blurred, except the old lady sitting at the left of the image.
Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for more. Pinhole photography gave me such a tremendous lesson I really think every budding photography enthusiast should try it. Using this makes me realize the fun in experimental photography, which we all take for granted as we embraced the convenience of digital, which guarantees an “image”.