Custom Made Pinhole for a 3d Printed Pinhole Camera

June 14, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Let's see how today's blog post turns out. It's intended to be a mixed feature on 3d printing a pinhole camera as well as the results from it. It's not a camera design by me but instead one that Todd Schlemmer freely shared on Thingiverse a while back.

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terraPIN ACME, 3D printed camera designed by Todd SchlemmerterraPIN ACME3D Printed Camera I was aware of Todd's pinhole terraPIN camera designs for a while and time finally came to print one for myself. Todd did not share just one but a few. I can't really tell you why I settled on the terraPIN ACME but I did. I liked that it did not require too many non-printed components and that the top plate snapped closed with no need for screws.

What you see in the first photo is my first print of the camera, printed on the Prusa I3 MK3S+ 3d printer. It's printed in two colors using a PLA filament. You can find more details about this build on Thingiverse.

One of the parts that could not be 3d printed was the pinhole itself. The design called for a pinhole of 0.22mm diameter. But how does one come even close to a precise diameter like this?

One option is buying a laser drilled pinhole. There are several places online that offer those but the prices are rather steep for my taste and the fact that the rest of this camera was rather cheap. Once source I can recommend is James Guerin of Reality So Subtle (RSS). Not only does he make exceptional pinhole cameras but he also makes his laser drilled pinholes available to all worldwide. And even with the shipping from France the price ends up being less than many US based companies and domestic shipping. You can shop his laser drilled pinholes on his website. I recommend the 5 for €20 option. Get the various sizes you may need all at once and you will save a bundle and will only wait for shipping once. I used these pinholes for my 8x10 paint can pinhole camera and their quality was exceptional. Not sure what size pinhole is ideal for your camera design? You can use the calculator by Mr. Pinhole.

Measuring Pinhole Size in Soda Can AluminumPinhole in Soda Can AluminumMeasuring For this camera I wanted to go in a different direction though. I decided to make my own pinhole and see what I would get. The material of choice was aluminum from Ginger Ale soda cans. I cut the can vertically and then cut the top and the bottom of the can off. From the resulting sheet of aluminum I cut a piece about 1.5 x 3 inches that I would make four pinholes into, review them, measure them, and pick the one closest to my needs and the target size.

The pinhole making process was very low tech and in the end much more precise than I initially thought. I started with some really thin needles but rather than puncturing the hole all the way through I only pressed just enough to make a tiny bump on the opposite side. Then I flipped the sheet over and used regular sanding paper to sand the bump off, thus making a hole. The first hole was the largest one of them all and not exactly regular but as I went I made the holes smaller and smaller and was surprised how each became about 0.01mm smaller than the previous.

How did I measure the pinhole size? I used Gaffer tape to tape around the edges to prevent scratching of my scanner glass, placed the aluminum rectangle with four pinholes on the glass, and scanned it as a negative transparency at 6400 dpi. With these settings I got black aluminum and white holes where the backlight was shining through.

The image went into GIMP then and I activated and displayed a very fine square 0.01mm grid: 1) Image > Configure Grid > 0.01mm horizontal and vertical, 2) View > Show Grid, 3) Magnify to 1100%.

After selecting the "best" pinhole of the four, I cut it from the rectangle, cut around the hole to form a hexagon with the pinhole in the center (the camera has a hexagonal bevel to drop the pinhole into hiding under the sliding shutter) and used a tiny drop of Super Glue to affix the aluminum to the camera body. The design of the camera is such that no glue is required but I figured it could not hurt, and even the designer recommended doing so.

With pinholes, the material thickness matters too. The thinner, the better. If you'd like the best possible pinhole, consider the 0.001" brass shim. While I used the soda can aluminum this time I will probably experiment and compare to the brass shim in the near future.

And what can all of this get you? Let's take a look at some sample photos. The terraPIN ACME takes 120 film and I would recommend something with good reciprocity failure characteristics. My first roll was the Rollei Retro 80s and I would definitely not recommend that. I could not find reciprocity data for the film and used some generic guidance that worked for me in the past, however, it turned out to be an almost utter failure with this film. When I hung it to dry, there were barely any images on the negative and the negative proved unprintable in the darkroom. Only thanks to scanning and digital technology was I able to rescue the images, a bit ironic.

Dandelion Heart, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Rollei Retro 80sDandelion HeartPinhole Photography

Dandelion Heart
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Rollei Retro 80s film and developed in D-23

Pinhole Wagon Wheel, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Rollei Retro 80sWagon WheelPinhole Photography

Wagon Wheel
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Rollei Retro 80s film and developed in D-23

The famed Fuji Acros is much better for pinhole photography and long exposures as it pretty much does not have any reciprocity failure up to 2 minutes. However, it does not dry flat and cups quite a bit, making scanning a bit of pain.

USS Croaker 246, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Fuji Acros 100USS Croaker 246Pinhole Photography

USS Croaker 246
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Fuji Acros 100 film and developed in D-23

Lemonade Wagon, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Fuji Acros 100Lemonade WagonPinhole Photography

Lemonade Wagon
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Fuji Acros 100 film and developed in D-23

Refueling Truck, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Fuji Acros 100Refueling TruckPinhole Photography

Refueling Truck
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Fuji Acros 100 film and developed in D-23

terraPIN ACME 2, a 3D printed camera designed by Todd SchlemmerterraPIN ACME 2terraPIN ACME, a 3D printed camera I really liked the results I got from the two test rolls and I really wanted a photography related gift for a friend and decided to print one more and even spruce it up a bit. I printed the main body in two colors.

Most of the body remained in black as I needed the inside black but I printed the bottom and top 1mm in solver, loosely resembling the chrome on the cameras from the 60s and 70s. And for another color variety, I printed the knobs in copper rather than orange,

And of course, I had to test drive this version too before sending it out on its merry way to Canada. I tuned my film choice again and was actually the most happy with this one.

Due to the Fuji Acros cupping, I would recommend Kodak T-Max 100 the most. While you need to add 1/3 stop between 1 and 10 seconds and 1/2 stop between 10 and 100 seconds, that is no bother and the film dries perfectly flat. The extra exposure time may come handy too on a sunny day.

 

Pinhole Little Free Library, Pinhole Photogaphy, terraPIN ACME, Kodak T-Max 100Little Free LibraryPinhole Photogaphy

Little Free Library
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on Kodak T-Max 100 film and developed in D-23

Basketball Hoop, Pinhole Photography, terraPIN ACME, Kodak T-Max 100Basketball HoopPinhole Photography

Basketball Hoop
Photographed with a terraPIN ACME pinhole camera on
Kodak T-Max 100 film and developed in D-23

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