I have been wanting to get my hands on a pinhole camera. And I found a really cool and good looking one from ONDU. Although it is more expensive than a typical pinhole camera, I am willing to pay more for the design and handicraft.
Pinhole camera, as the name suggests, has a light receiving hole as small as a circumference like a pin. It has no lens on it and the hole acts like an aperture, allowing a small intensity of light to hit the film emulsion. As such, the shutter speed (the time you let the light hits the film) is always more than 1 second depending on the light condition.
There are a variety of ONDU, ranging from 35mm, 120mm to large format. Within the 120mm format, there’s 6×6 or 6×7 or 6×9. Mine is a 6×6 just because I like to shoot things in square format.
Disclaimer: the image quality may not be the best if you’re viewing with desktop, this is due to my WordPress theme problem which I don’t know how to fix yet. It might be better to view on your phone :/
User experience of Ondu
The craftsmanship of ONDU is superb, it feels very sturdy on the hands. Loading film is quite similar to how you would load a medium format film. However, the pinhole is ‘dumb’ in the sense that the camera won’t know when is the first frame by itself.
That’s why at the camera back, there’s a small window to allow you to look at the frame number that is printed on the paper backing of the 120mm film.
The number on the paper backing aligns perfectly with the red window.
After you have loaded the film onto the take-up-spool, close the camera back and wind the knobs until ‘1’ appears.
Next, is the operation of ONDU pinhole camera. Unlike the usual camera where you just depress the shutter and let the mechanism do the work, pinhole camera requires you to open the pinhole yourself.
You remove the cap of the pinhole to expose your film to light through the very tiny hole.
For this, you need to practise lots of care. Because if you are too rough in handling the camera, you introduce camera shake. The image coming from pinhole is not sharp to begin with. With camera shake, the situation just got worse.
It is really important to use tripod so you can place the camera anywhere you want, as to capture whatever angle you want. You definitely cannot handheld the camera while exposing. I have tried but the image is ultra blurry.
As pinhole has ultra wide angle focal length (mine is 25mm), it’s best to place the camera close to your subject if you want to retain details.
Framing & Exposing Pinhole
With a boxed camera without viewfinder and light meter, how on earth do you know how to shoot with it? I hear you asking.
Well, of course, there are guidelines to help you.
First, let’s talk about framing. On top and at the side of the camera, there are geometric angle to tell you the field of view, which is what would be including in the frame. You just have to adjust the camera position. And the bubble level will assist you to straighten your camera to prevent slanted image.
After framing comes the exposing, how are you going to do it. Don’t worry, ONDU gives you a guideline card. The guideline card used to come with wooden card format but they have changed it to paper format. Not sure if they are cutting cost or saving the environment.
On the card, it says you can use a light meter, adjust the ISO and set the aperture to f22. Then decide the exposing time according to shutter speed suggested by the light meter.
For example, if the shutter speed on light meter is 1/30, your exposing time on a pinhole is 1 second. This means you have to open the ‘len cover’, count ‘one-second’ and close it immediately.
Being a kiasu person (definition: very anxious not to miss an opportunity), I always expose it for 3-5 seconds.
Lastly, such camera has very wide depth of field. Thus, everything will have equal level of ‘sharpness’. You won’t be able to achieve bokeh with a pinhole camera.
The image from pinhole camera is never going to win a camera with a proper lens. This is all physics stuff which I don’t know how to explain. I think if you are really really interested, you can check out books by Ansel Adams where he explained all the theories about photography. Or else, just google.
Anyway, the sharpness of pinhole camera depends very much on the diameter of the pin-hole. The smaller the diameter, the sharper the image. Ondu’s is 0.2mm
So, I guess it’s not the smallest. The image produced tend to be slightly blurry and dreamy.
But it’s okay. Embrace the characteristic.
Oh, and the image from pinhole typically has vignette effect (rounded darkening around the edges of a picture).
Pinhole camera is not the perfect camera, but it produces a different perspective and style of image. I am still new in playing with ONDU, so my images and exposure might not be the best.
But one day, I am going to nail it. And influence others that a simple tool can create a breathtaking image.