To make a whole camera by yourself is quite difficult, and to be honest, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you are curious about how to make a camera, we can try it. The making of a camera involves lots of complex internal processes. Many materials are not possible for a layperson to get, but we can attempt to build the first camera ever made!
Yes, we are talking about the pinhole camera! You can very efficiently make a pinhole camera with only a few handy materials. Moreover, there is no harm in trying it out, and even if you fail, you can always get a modern camera for an affordable price.
If you want to go forward with the idea of building a camera, you have to have an understanding of the science behind it.
Pinhole cameras do not have any lenses. You have to expose them to the light and object, and thus, an image gets formed in the film. It works on the rectilinear theory of light. According to this principle, light travels in a straight line, like a wave. In a pinhole, the light travels from the bottom of the object to the hole in a straight line. Finally, it forms an inverted image in the film.
Just because it is a pinhole camera, does not mean that the image quality will be bad. If you are calculative enough, and the camera dimensions along with the pinhole size are correct, the picture quality could be very close to that of a digital SLR one.
Making a small pinhole is beneficial as it produces sharper images. You have to be very careful with all the calculations. If you make the pinhole too small, the image could be distorted or out of focus.
You can either have a short or a long focal length. If you want your pictures to have a vignette effect, go for a short focal length. The light ray enters from the front of the camera, and through the hole, it gets projected in the film in a circle. If there is a shorter focal length, the light ray is forced to travel further to the outer edges of the circle, thereby leaving that area underexposed, and resulting in a vignette effect.
While making the camera, if you take a focal length of 3 inches, it will produce an image with a diameter of 10.5 inches (approx.). The intensity of the light in the camera will decrease if the length of the camera is extended. This is because the light is stronger near the hole. If the film is at a further distance from the hole, the picture might not be clear.
It is highly advisable to create a prototype first, make your calculations based on that, and then build a final one.
After all the calculations, you will need to collect some basic materials to make a pinhole camera. These include:
1) A cylindrical container.
2) Black paint, make sure it’s not glossy
3) Aluminum foil, preferably hard duty ones.
4) Sewing needles, preferably no.10 ones or smaller.
5) Black tape
6) A piece of black paper that covers the bottom of the container.
7) Photographic paper or film.
9) A paintbrush.
Let’s Make It!
After you have collected all the materials, we should get ready to start making the camera.
First, cover the removable lid of the container with black paint. Make sure you paint it inside and outside.
Now you have to cut a matchbox-sized hole at the bottom of the container. Use scissors or a craft knife. This is another important aspect. You have to make sure that the hole is in the center of the container.
Measure the hole you just cut. Take the aluminum foil and make sure you cut it twice the size of the hole’s diameter.
This step is very tricky and you have to be extremely careful. You have to take the needle and make a hole in the foil piece you just cut. However, do not pierce it all the way through as this would make the hole large. Be careful to only pierce it halfway. Also, before you make the hole, make sure that it is exactly in the middle of the foil.
Now tape the foil over the hole you made in the container. Make sure that both the holes are placed above each other as this will be the pinhole. Through this pinhole, the light will enter from the object’s side and enter the camera. The light should enter only through here.
We have to make a shutter for the camera. For this, you need to tape a piece of black paper to the bottom of the container such that it falls over the pinhole. This flap will act like your shutter.
Your pinhole camera is ready to use! Now you only have to load the film inside the container. For this, you have to be in a dark room. If you are not in a dark room, there is a high chance of your film getting exposed, which in turn, will ruin it.
The most important part of all: try to shoot! The flap will work as your shutter. It might take a long time to get the hang of it. However, gradually you will understand how long to expose the film.
The first pinhole camera you make might not always be a successful one. As much as you need to know about how to make a camera, you also need to know how a camera works. You will have to practice a lot to make that one perfect pinhole camera. Hope you enjoy yourself thoroughly in the whole process!