While many people find themselves upgrading to more expensive cameras from time to time, I find it refreshing to go the other way — from DSLR to plastic film cameras, and now to my own handmade one!
Before digital photography, people shoot using film and analog cameras. Nowadays, digital cameras, DSLRs and even phone cameras, which can go up to ridiculous megapixel counts, have taken over as the default mode to take pictures. Photography, with all the technologies like IS, VR and Smart Auto modes made everything so easy, a kid could take a photo before knowing how to utter ABC.
One of the reasons I took up Lomography and analog photography was to challenge myself to go beyond the safe zones that digital offer – that a photo can be checked instantly, that we can take God-knows how many frames per second to capture a moment, that we can edit it in Photoshop afterwards. Using the plastic cameras, photography suddenly became so simple; we never know what will turn out, and there is nothing I can do to check it either, so I find myself spending more time enjoying the moments rather than checking the LCD, which is great.
Subsequently, after the first few rolls of failed shot from plastic cameras, I slowly got to know how they operate, and the best conditions to shoot with it. Percentage of successful shots slowly rose again, which equals to less film wasted and a happier Lomographer. But to improve, I need to go further; up one more level like in video games.
I decided to make my very first camera!
The first one I tried was from this website. I was mainly attracted by its shape, and with my experiences in making paper models of Canon cameras, this one is considered fairly easy. It didn’t take me too long to construct it, and I eagerly brought it on a trip to Bagan Lalang to shoot with it. I fed it with a roll of Kodak ColorPlus 200.
The feeling while driving to the lab to collect my photographs, as I discovered, is actually the same as that kind you got when you are on your way to school to collect your report card — and it is really refreshing to have it back again. This was my first handmade camera after all — what would turn out?
When the boss handed me my photographs, he told me that my photos are overexposed. He had to scan the sprocket holes also to compensate for the exposure; and said I better bring my camera to be repaired. But when I told him that I made this camera myself, he became surprised and even asked me how I did it!
It turned out that I made a few mistakes: firstly, when I made the pinhole I made the needle go all the way through. That would make a bigger hole, like 0.5mm, and it should be smaller like 0.2mm. Another thing is that I was shooting at a beach, which would reflect more light than a normal sunny scene, but I used 2-3 seconds’ exposure. Besides, I also noticed that from the instruction, I was told to turn the film knob one and a half turn to advance to the next shot — but in fact it doesn’t need to be that much because the photos turned out really spaced far apart from each other. I only got 15 shots from a 36 roll negative.
Overall, I was still pleased to see images, but I would like to say I know I could do a lot better than this. I am surprised by a couple of pictures, especially the plant one, as it turned out quite well. I will write about my next attempt in another article!