View Full Version : Big Homemade Camera Plans

Jeff Buckels
23-Nov-2003, 09:30
I'm thinking about making one or more ultra large format homemade cameras. I'm talking about a foamboard (or something) box that I can tape or glue (or something) together and that I preload with one sheet of something such as a 16x16 sheet of film or thereabouts. Thinking of zoneplate or pinhole apertures principally but maybe some lenses too -- make the box dimensions set up exposure at hyperfocal distance etc. Set the camera at a desirable location and expose. Very big very cheap one-shot point-and-shoot. Anybody aware of a website or book or something that has some sample plans, suggested materials for such a thing? I know this isn't rocket science but I'd be interested in what others have done. -jb

David Vickery
23-Nov-2003, 10:10
Here is one good place to start; http://www.pinholeresource.com/ But keep in mind that you can make it as easy or hard as you want. All you have to do is make the box light tight, tape the film or paper in the back and tape a small sheet of aluminum foil, or something that is thin and easy to put a small round hole in, to the front and you have a camera. If you want the image to be sharp then you have to get the pinhole optimized for the distance to the film, or vice versa. You can also even out the exposure some by making the back curved. And your image really can be very sharp or very fuzzy---your choice. Have fun. David

John Kasaian
23-Nov-2003, 10:16

I attemted a 16x20 pinhole some time ago(gosh was it 1 or 2 years ago?) I recieved a lot of very useful information courtesy of this forum. If you look into the archives---I believe it would be filed under DIY or ULF, you'll find a couple of threads on the subject. I"m expecting to pick up an old wine barrel from Woodbridge Winery in Lodi on my way back from Carson City for a pinhole project---too bad I can't afford a full keg of wine, it would make building the pinhole more......intersting.--------------Cheers!

John Cook
23-Nov-2003, 13:17
The classical name for a pinhole is of course a camera obscura. A web search under that term yields many fascinating pages. Here is one:


Mark Fisher
23-Nov-2003, 14:22
I made an 8x10 camera from foam core as you described as a project with my 11 year old daughter. Black foamcore, hot melt glue, a metal 1/4 inch insert for the tripod, a wood tripod plate and a pop can (for the pin hole plate) is all you need. The only piece of advice I could give is to plan the construction so that any less-than-perfect cuts do not result in direct light leaks. I always had some sort of backing at every corner for strength and as a light trap. For the back I just took an oversized piece of foam core and built up a few layers of a foam core frame. The film or paper went inside the frame. The outside of the frame has a snug fit with the inside if the camera body. I made the fit around the film/paper and the inside of the camera body such that I did not need clips to hold it. Who needs film flatness in a pinhole!

23-Nov-2003, 15:04
hi jeff:

you might want to check out the cameramakers forum: http://rmp.opusis.com/mailman/listinfo/cameramakers there is a mailing list and a very active forum of people that have made or make just about everything. a while back i made a 8x20 pinhole camera, and came up with a focal length "rule" for figuring out what will cover and what will not cover something large. some folks say the image circle equals 3.5 times the focal length. it worked pretty well for me :) pinhole resource in new mexico will sell you laser holes so you can take a light meter reading and figure out the aperature as a factor of f64.

good luck!


Řyvind Dahle
23-Nov-2003, 17:33
I have similar plans, with a 360mm Apo-gerogon. It is now on a lensboard that fit my Bender 4x5", but the image circle will fill 8x20". I have a IKEA cardboard box that big, and 360mm length. To keep the paper, I will use spray glue of the post-it-type. Gepe fix-o-flex. I also have a lens board with a pinhole on it, and I can make more to vary the time and the "c.o.c."

I recomend a cardboard box just to make you start, and add tripod fixture and waterproofing later.


27-Nov-2003, 08:21
I like the idea...sometime soon I think I might give it a try...something large, at least 11x14.

Andrea Lee
12-Jan-2004, 10:26
Interesting non-technical sidenote: the history of photography is usually traced to the camera obscura, a darkened room with a pinhole, which gave its name to the equipment. Projects such as the ones mentioned above are often dismissed as crackpot gestures by bored amateurs with too much time on their hands, which they often are; but alternatively or simultaneously are poetic in their return to the very origins of photography. Unlike those who believe that art is about the perfect archival print, I think that endeavors and gestures can be artistic as well... I would be very interested to hear about the results of your project. Best of luck.

12-Jan-2004, 13:24
I made a 20x24 macro camera a month or so ago. Obviously it won't leave the darkroom, but is setup for extreme macro (~ 1:6) on paper negs as large as 20x24. 8' of garbage bag bellows, 537mm process lens. Mounted on a small rolling cart. I've only done two shots with it so far, test on 8x10. Exposure is pretty long and paper doesn't like flash, even a LOT of it. I'm out of paper over 11x14 and have some other things to spend money on first (my Elwood 8x10 enlarger BROKE), but I'll post the results when I have them.

To any of you who think this might be fun to play around with, the heavy black contractor garbage bags take 2-3 layers (of single material, not doubled up) to be light-tight. I did it on zero budget, but it might have been better to use the heavy black 'lightproofing' fabric from Delta. Even better would be foamboard or something, spray painted flat black so the reflections won't reduce contrast.