Enter the PinBox

Robert Hamm’s Hamm Camera Company‘s first Kickstarter was the NuBox 6×9. I backed it, and am happily waiting for it to arrive.

In the mean time, their second Kickstart appeared: the PinBox, a $20 heavyweight paper/thick cardboard medium format 6×6 pinhole camera, and, well, why not?

As you can see from the header, above, mine arrived a little bent up. Thanks, USPS! The bent-up corner didn’t seem to impact anything, and the video instructions were fairly easy to follow, though I did end up with a couple of extra parts… I won’t go through it all, and I forgot to photograph some parts of the process anyway, so have a look at Hamm’s video instead, and and scroll quickly past the gallery below.

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And then it was done.

The whole process took about 40 minutes, plus another 15 or so to glue the two pieces I missed into place and add a bit of tape to the corners. Once I had all that in place, I loaded up a roll of slightly expired Ilford Delta 100, and spent a couple of weeks shooting through the first roll.

As  you can see, I didn’t do a very good job lining up the mask for the camera obscura, and did a worse job on the corners for the top and bottom, but I don’t think any of that had too much impact on the final result. The camera did develop a light leak about halfway through. I think maybe the shutter doesn’t quite cover the pinhole all the way, or maybe I didn’t do a very good job gluing in the pinhole, allowing a bit of light to creep in on one side. Actually, I have no idea where it came from… The leak is on the edge of the last 6 or 7 frames, sort of on the gap between frames, right about where the little window is on the back, I think.

Oh well. It still shoots just fine. Actually, it shoots surprisingly well… for a paper box, anyway.

Let’s look at some pictures.

By the way, I developed this in Ilfotec HC 1:47 for 7.5 minutes, and I love the results. I hated Delta 100 in D76, but it looks good in highly dilute HC.

Now. Look closely… You can easily see that my aspect ratio frame thing isn’t anything like square. And I live a fairly boring life, especially now that I work from home: work, nap, go to the gym, nap, and do it all again. And I really need to clean the windows, again.

But other than that, the PinBox makes a competent camera!

Some tech stuff, now: my PinBox has a 150micron pinhole, which is roughly ideal for its 30mm focal length and translates to something like f/200.  You can get smaller and larger pinholes to play around with, and I’m thinking of ordering up a set of all six: 100microns (f/300), 150microns (f/200), 200microns (f/150), 250microns (f/120), 300microns (f/100), and 600microns (f/50).*

As far as size goes, I’m lazy and haven’t measured my shoddy PinBox, but it’s not much taller than a roll of 120, and just slightly too thick to fit comfortably into a loose pocket. Here’s how it stands up against the Olympus XA…

In use, it’s a tiny bit fiddly, but really, very easy to use. I employed the excellent Pinhole Assist app to set my exposure times, and it went fine. I only ran into two issues:

  1. The lighter the camera, the harder it is to handhold for any length of time, and 2 seconds is way too long to try to handhold, unless you’re after a Jon Wilkening-type result.
  2. It’s virtually impossible to slide the paper shutter back and forth over the pinhole without introducing some amount of camera shake.

But if you have a stable surface and hold the camera down firmly while you slide the shutter open and closed, well, it’s pretty sharp, as you’d expect an acid etched pinhole to be, and given the fun I had putting it together, it was well worth the $20 I paid for one.

As a learning tool, the PinBox is brilliant, and very useful and fun for young and old alike. In about an hour, for $20 or $30, plus a few dollars for some glue, you can go from some pieces of heavyweight paper and some 3d printed knobs to a functional pinhole camera, with all the necessary parts and functionality of every other camera, of virtually any type, from Ibn al-Haytham’s book of Optics a millennia ago, through Niépce, Daguerre, and Fox-Talbot, right on through to your iPhone and whatever new cameras just came out at PhotoKina or whatever. Sure, the PinBox’s robustness and accuracy depends almost entirely on the builder, and it’s so light that even a breath can cause some shake, but still, it’s a great piece of kit.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

Overall, the PinBox warrants a full 4 stars.

You can still get a brand new PinBox direct from Hamm Camera through their BackerKit site for a mere $20 (the price is expected to go up some, at some point), and you absolutely should. It’s just about the best time I’ve had with $20 in a long, long time.


*All f/stops assume a 30mm focal length… If, like me, you plan to use the pinholes for some other purpose, there’s a calculator for that.

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