Tipster of the Week: Something Not Snappy but Crafty


Yes, we all love film, don’t we? Like our friend Matt here who recently hoarded a couple of rolls for his analogue consumption. Now he’s here this week with a DIY Tipster inspired by film boxes!

The Free(ish) Camera by mattcharnock

Every after trip of mine from the Filmshop, I always end up with a bunch of film boxes and one day, upon seeing them just lying around, I was hit by an idea. Could it be possible to make a pinhole camera out of the empty boxes? I spent the best part of two minutes thinking how it could be done. I got out my scissors and glue and went to work!

For this camera I used:

  • 2 Tx400 film boxes
  • 1 Box containing 3 Lomo x pro slide films
  • 2 Fuji Sensia boxes
  • 1 Safety pin (you may need some pliers to bend this)
  • 1 Normal pin
  • 1 roll of black electricians tape (which when you pulled a length off sounded like a ship from Star Wars – cool)
  • 1 Pair of scissors
  • Crap glue (not advised)
  • Super Glue (advised)
  • Some swear words (used mainly in conjunction with the crap glue)
  1. Take the two small boxes and a big box and use Electricians tape or Gaffa tape to make them light tight. Overlap the tape to make sure. Take a piece from the main body of another box and stick it over the elliptical gap in the box – this will help keep the film in place.
  2. Cut out a film window on the back of the big box. Don’t throw this piece away
  3. Cut the card from the window in to 4 pieces
  4. Open up a third box so it is flat. Glue the 4 pieces over the gaps.
  5. Glue this big flap to the flap on one of the side boxes. This is the back of the camera.
  6. Stick a safety pin through the centre of the cap from the film case so that the head is out to the side, make an incision in the lid to hold the pin in place.
  7. Find the centre point on the top and bottom of the second side box stick a pin through the bottom and the safety pin with the film case cap through the top.
  8. Take a fourth box and cut off the flaps folds the remaining card in a concertina fashion and make a slim pole.
  9. Put the slim pole in this box using the pins to hold it in place. You have to bend the top pin on the winding mechanism to hold the spindle in place to make it turn
  10. Take the film canister and cut a chunk of it out, this is to hold the film so it doesn’t flap around.

11. Use a little bit of the plastic and glue it to the box where the film will be wound to allowing flexibility so that when you wind the film on the plastic moves out of the way but is rigid enough to hold the pin and stop the film flying back.
12. Cut the centre piece from another box keeping the flaps on both sides.
13. Load the film, wind it on a bit to make sure everything works hold the piece from step 12 over the pinhole to cover it. then close the back.
14. Tightly tape down the back to the top and bottom but allow movement for the piece from step 12 to slide.
15. Tape up anything that look like it might let in light.
16. Go and shoot!

Some Tips:

  • Look at the qualities of the boxes you have, maybe a part of them could be used to make a different feature – like I used the top part of the centre box to make a view finder.
  • This is only a rough outline, depending which boxes you use you may have to trim differently or make adjustments to suit your needs.
  • Use really strong glue. This took about two days as the glue I had took ages to dry, and then I found some super glue!
  • Don’t spray paint the inside of the box to make it light tight as the card goes soggy and the integrity of the box is spoilt (found that out the hard way hence the tape!)

After shooting – here are some things I found:

  • The winding mechanism works well, but after a while the force pulling on the film caused my safety pin to bend out of position so it couldn’t wind on any more so I only shot about 8 pictures.
  • The shutter works really well, but after a bit of use begins to feel slack, keep an eye on it!

This is meant to be made out of what you have lying around the house – do not spend any extra money, otherwise it becomes a bought camera! Whatever you make let me know what changes or better ideas you have between us we could make an awesome Free(ish) Camera!

written by mattcharnock on 2009-07-19 #gear #tutorials #fun #boxes #tips #creative #tipster #mattcharnock #pinholes #free-ish-camera #make #home-made


  1. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    That´s really MacGyver style!!! He would be proud of you....

  2. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    lofiest lofi :)

  3. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    now that's a perfect DIY! :)

  4. devrimarie
    devrimarie ·

    That's so crazy! Good job, you can now survive on a desert island, or be a spy or something....

  5. stouf
    stouf ·

    Maaaatt !!!! You rule !!!! This is such a great piece of engineering ! Congrats dude ! It's pure lomography !!!

  6. migueld
    migueld ·

    matt is awesome.

  7. jblaze823
    jblaze823 ·

    very creative idea, looks cool

  8. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    woww wowwwwooowwwww

  9. eastmoe
    eastmoe ·

    diy rules..

  10. mattcharnock
    mattcharnock ·

    cheers dudes!

  11. hanspan
    hanspan ·

    i miss you geekster!! xx

  12. somapic
    somapic ·

    thats cracy - i love it :D

  13. ndroo
    ndroo ·

    Madness! Cool!!!!

  14. myriam-l
    myriam-l ·

    very funny idea ! mattcharnock, you rock !

  15. cyan-shine
    cyan-shine ·

    fw00t !

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