View Full Version : Pinholes

6-Dec-2007, 20:08
Any tips on making or buying pinholes suitable for reasonably detailed 4x5 (or even 8x10) images? I'm going to just pinprick a hole in some tinfoil and see what I get (whenever I can find the time to get out for some shooting, probably on christmas vacation) but in the event it's not sharp enough (I've seen nice detailed pinhole images from large format before) I'd like to know where to go.

I've given up on finding that cheap 65mm bargain any time soon (I maxed out at $500 on the last one to end on ebay today) so I figure a pinhole is the next best way to get ultrawide. Hell, I like the semi-soft look of a well made pinhole anyway.

Colin Corneau
6-Dec-2007, 20:14
Google "Binary Box" - I got one a few years back in Vancouver from a photog who hand-makes his out of yellow cedar and brass. It takes regular 4x5 film holders! I've been happy with the pinhole images I've gotten out of it...you can get them wide angle (the one I purchased) or equivalent to about 85mm on the 35mm format.

There are others who make 4x5 pinhole cameras, some pricey some not. Again, ask St. Google.

6-Dec-2007, 20:28
I should clarify; I just want to make a plate to install on my existing 4x5. Not that I need movements, but you know - just a couple of other options to throw in the camera bag (the pinhole plates).

6-Dec-2007, 21:32
One option would be to use an apature iris from an old lens. This is the rout I am taking for my camera obscura project. I will be dealing with different sized rooms and need to adjust focal length acording to size of the room. I also like the ability to easily experiment with things to get my desired result. You could even mount it in an old cheep shutter so you can have acurate shutter speeds. I am just photographing the room with my 8x10, so I won't need a shutter. Good luck with your project.

6-Dec-2007, 21:39
see f295 website for lots of ideas concerning pinholes. Plenty of designs and some great photos too.
I made my pinhole using brass shim stock, but others have used aluminum foil. Use a sharp pin and spin it between your fingers to "drill" a hole in the stock. It seems to work best if you just make an indentation, sand the stock with some 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper and repeat until there is a hole. Try to put the indentations as close to "on top" of each other as possible (this will give you a round hole). I then scan the hole to see how round it is and to size it. Google "pinhole designer" for an exposure calculator that is fairly accurate. Blacken the rear of the shim stock with a sharpie to cut down on reflections.
I mounted my pinhole is an old shutter (you only really need the "B" setting to work), mount that on a board and you're ready to go. One bit of advice, the high values really seem to print up 1 to 1 1/2 zones, so meter your high values no more than zone 7 or they will block up badly. I don't know why this is, it just is. Good luck.
Pihole photography is a lot of fun.

Greg Lockrey
6-Dec-2007, 21:48
The pinhole that I have was a lazer cut affair, and not all that inexpensive either if I recall. I had mine since the early 80's. F/295 site has a wealth of information. Camera movements??? There is no focusing, just "Hail Mary" pointing with a pinhole. Optimum pinhole size is determined by bellows extension if memory serves.

6-Dec-2007, 21:49
A couple of things I forgot,
1. aim for a pinhole diameter of about 0.2-0.3mm, with a focal length of about 50mm your exposures will not get too short.
2. laser cut pinholes are available for purchase (about $15-20 each) which are very accurate and very round. I've never had one so I can't comment on how easy they are to mpount in a shutter.
Sharpness seems to fall off a great deal if the hole comes out oblong.

Dick P.

Bob Jones
6-Dec-2007, 22:25
Laser drilled pinholes are available from:


katie cooke
7-Dec-2007, 01:11
Tinfoil is a lousy thing to work with for making pinholes... the poke, and sand, and poke again method that dpeterson mentions is the best for getting a clean homemade pinhole, but using a piece of metal from a drink can is probably the best way to go. (Guinness cans seem to work a treat, but any old fizzy drink will do.) They might not be as pretty as the laser-drilled ones, but I've had good results from these.

If you don't want to go with homemade, then I would heartily recommend the santa barbara pinhole cameras which you can get from b&h photo from about 60-something dollars. I use the 75mm one for almost all my pinhole work, but they go wider too.

Michael Heald
7-Dec-2007, 03:52
Hello! I use the laser pinhole for 8x10 at 12 inches from the pinhole. It works great. The trouble is, at that distance, there is very little light fall-off. Sometimes, it looks like a blurred lens picture, and it looses the esthetics of pinhole photography. Best regards.

Michael A. Heald

7-Dec-2007, 05:45
you can get small drills for model trains at your local model store. these help as the hole is (generally) round and you know the exact size. i can not remember the exact sizes off the top of my head. i have many pinhole cameras. it is great fun and addicting. be careful!

if you are using 4x5 try shooting a 25-35mm "FL" and then about 75mm. they are two great "fl" the 25 is ultra wide and lots of fun. lots of vignetting on the 25. you may want the 35 for that reason.


Greg Lockrey
7-Dec-2007, 05:58
Here is an example of a "macro" pinhole. It is a image of one of those Japanese shadow box carved from cork of Pagota and swans. The bellows extension was about 300mm and 1 hour exposure. The image is about 1:1 on 4x5.

Michael Graves
7-Dec-2007, 05:59
Does the thickness of the material affect the image? Could one drill a small hole in a lensboard and use that? If so, would the thicker wooden boards for a Korona or 2D work better than the thin metal ones for my Toyos?

Greg Lockrey
7-Dec-2007, 06:25
The lazer cut hole that I have is on pretty thin gauge stainless. I would think that thinner the better so that the perspective at the film edge won't "see" an oblong hole.

al olson
7-Dec-2007, 07:54
I submitted a post in an earlier thread about how I made a cardboard lensboard with an aluminum foil pinhole for my Super Graphic. The foil was punched through with a needle and the rough back of the foil was smoothed by using emery paper. Afterward, the needle was reinserted and the hole appears to be as round as the needle.

By measuring the diameter of the needle with calipers, the f-value can be computed for any of the distances of the pinhole from the film plane. This is an aid in determining exposures.

I don't see that the pinhole must be perfectly round with laser cuts, etc. I would bet that a triangular hole would work just as well. I think that the sizing of the hole is more important than the shape, except perhaps for point-sized specular highlights (now if we could punch out a star-shaped hole?:rolleyes: ).

My photos of the lensboard and foil pinhole are contained in the prior post:


Jim Jones
7-Dec-2007, 09:04
For determining pinhole diameters, or focal lengths for existing pinholes, try http://www.pinhole.cz/en/pinholedesigner/. A user constant of about 1.5 with this program gives the best on-axis sharpness, although many photographers prefer a slightly larger pinhole. Contrary to popular opinion the diameter of the pinhole is fairly critical. There is a small, but noticable, increase in sharpness at the optimum diameter. Wide angle pinhole cameras are a bit sharper than longer focal lengths for a given film size. Large format yields more detail in the image than small format. The material used for a pinhole should be very thin. .001 brass shim stock is good, although a bit difficult to work with. I prefer .002 brass shimstock. The dimple, sand, and and punch technique thins the material at the pinhole anyhow.

An excellent guide to pinhole photography is at http://pinhole.stanford.edu/. Another interesting article is http://www.pinhole.com/archive/371. http://home.online.no/~gjon/pinhole.htm has a range of information on pinhole photograp[hy, and some good links. The definitive book on the subject is Pinhole Photography: rediscovering a Historic Technique by Eric Renner.

7-Dec-2007, 10:53
Great stuff, thanks a lot. I'll try to get an ultrawide pinhole together soon here.

I also found a site purporting to sell sets of 12 apertures (laser drilled on 0.001" stainless steel) for $33 (pinholeedun.com).

BTW, has anyone ever tried one of those whacky "pin specks" mentioned on a couple of sites? I don't have the link handy but briefly it's the inverse of a pinhole - a suspended dark spot (e.g. on a transparency sheet or embedded in glass), which gives you a negative image (shadows of light emitters cast by the speck). The only person who seems to have done it is the guy who wrote a short paper on it for some obscure journal. Sounds like the signal:noise would be very low and light intensity almost too high for practical use in a pinhole type camera, but it's still kind of interesting.

7-Dec-2007, 11:45
i use the dimple-n-sand method that dpetersen mentioned. works great! i also use my scanner to determine the actual hole size. just scan at high res and count pixels in photoshop.

here's a pinhole shot taken on my homemade 8x10 with a paper negative. it was a test shot, and i haven't used that particular pinhole since. but i've done various pinhole shots from time to time. oh and the one below it is 4x5 film in an oatmeal container.

8x10 pinhole test:


and a 4x5 oatmeal container:


Glenn Thoreson
7-Dec-2007, 12:27
I make my own holes. It's part of the fun of using them. If you use someone's formula for optimal hole size, stick with that source. There are many sources out there and they are all a bit different. Material thickness does indeed affect sharpness. Too thick, you get diffraction that will spoil your image. .001" is too thin to work with easily and .005" is about the max. Try it, and remember that pinhole images can not be made as sharp as with even a mediocre lens. With that in mind, you'll have fun.

katie cooke
7-Dec-2007, 13:26
Michael: yes, the thickness of the material matters. Thinner the better. If you want to use a lensboard, it's best to use one with a bigger hole in there to start with, and then attach a pinhole over the hole in a thin piece of metal.

If it's not perfectly round, you can get some interesting variations in fall off, as I found out when haphazardly stabbing card or metal with a pin and using that.

here's my stuff, btw: http://slowlight.net
pretty sharp, unless there's movement.

7-Dec-2007, 15:21
Looks great. I ended up ordering a set of pre-drilled plates from pinholeedun.com - 12 different sizes for $33. Can't beat that (close to the price of making them yourself from the right kind of metal stock).

I see the appeal and point of making them yourself as opposed to buying, but my main purpose isn't to hack together something but to get the best quality I can to do some ultra wide to absurd wide angle stuff. Softness is fine, but I didn't want to mess with stupid light fall off issues and weirdness like you can get from an imperfect hole.

Nice stuff, BTW, Katie.

Jim Jones
7-Dec-2007, 19:01
. . . BTW, has anyone ever tried one of those whacky "pin specks" mentioned on a couple of sites? I don't have the link handy but briefly it's the inverse of a pinhole - a suspended dark spot (e.g. on a transparency sheet or embedded in glass), which gives you a negative image (shadows of light emitters cast by the speck). The only person who seems to have done it is the guy who wrote a short paper on it for some obscure journal. Sounds like the signal:noise would be very low and light intensity almost too high for practical use in a pinhole type camera, but it's still kind of interesting.

The pinspeck is mentioned briefly in Matt Young's intriguing paper, http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung/PHCamera.pdf.

Glenn Thoreson
7-Dec-2007, 19:51
Katie, your images are terrific. It's easy to see you put much more into the making of them than just aiming the camera.