When Was The Pinhole Camera Invented – Pinhole Photography

When Was The Pinhole Camera Invented? If you desire to work with your inspirations and you’re interested in a more enigmatic image, pinhole photography might be what you want. Pinhole photography can also be a very inexpensive and easy way to obtain a significant negative, useful for non-silver printing.

You don’t need to know f-stops, worry about whether your battery is working, or carry around a lot of different lenses. What you’ll need is a sense of humor and an appreciation for discovery!

To do pinhole photography, all you need is a light-tight box and to know a bit history. For example, about When Was The Pinhole Camera Invented. Nevertheless, almost anything can turn into a camera. All kinds of light-sensitive materials (both black and white and color film and photo paper) will work. And it’s easy to make a pinhole, or pinholes for multiple imaging.

©Nancy Spencer and Eric Renner, End of the World, pinhole photograph, from series on deaf ears, 2005, made with a 1-1/2″ Leonardo pinhole camera, 10-minute exposure. www.nancyspencerphoto.com and www.ericrennerphoto.com

In this digital age, many people opt for a digital pinhole ‘no dust’ body cap or a digital zone plate cap placed on their digital single lens reflex camera (known as a DSLR).

These caps are available from Pinhole Resource for almost all DSLR cameras. You remove the lens and place the cap on the digital body. Extensive information on digital pinhole and zone plate body caps is available by linking to DIGITAL PINHOLE / ZONE PLATE BODY CAPS.

For your first pinhole camera, you want to choose a container that seems natural to turn into a camera and can be painted with flat black paint inside, and one to which a pinhole can be easily attached.

The most readily available material for the pinhole is the thin aluminum disposable cookie sheets or pie pans available in any supermarket. You will want to get a small sewing needle and “drill” (hold the needle and spin the metal) a hole in the metal so that about 1/8″ of the needle pierces the metal.

The burr on the back side should be sanded off with fine sandpaper, #600 grit emery paper works well. You should tape the pinhole over a hole cut in the container.

Make sure that hole in the tank is large enough so that the cut-out doesn’t partially block light entering the pinhole in the container. Black plastic vinyl electrical tape works well as tape for the pot’s lid and for attaching the pinhole. If you want to spend more money on a higher quality tape, use black photographic tape (Scotch #235) available in good photo stores.

An image comes through the pinhole at about a 150-degree angle, which in picture terms is an inclusive perspective. If the distance from the pinhole to the film is 3″ then the wide angled pinhole image circle hitting the film will be 10″ in diameter or so.

If you use a 6″ deep suitcase as a camera, you can get a 20″ wide image. (The width of the picture is approximately 3-1/2 times the distance between the film and the pinhole.)

Using various focal length (distance from the pinhole to film) cameras with the same size 4″ x 5″ film gives you super wide, wide, or normal angles of view. Examples of three different image views are below.

To make these pinhole images the tripod remained in the same position, and these pictures relate to the three different focal lengths of the three 4″ x 5″ Leonardo Cameras sold by Pinhole Resource. Nancy Spencer created the three images.

©Nancy Spencer, 6″ Leonardo Normal

©Nancy Spencer, 3″ Leonardo Wide

©Nancy Spencer, 1-1/2″ Leonardo Superwide

If you don’t want to make a camera, there are quite a few large format (120, 4″x5″ and larger) pinhole cameras available commercially. Many of these pinhole cameras are for use with film-holders, and Polaroid backs.

Or you can add a specialized shutter that Pinhole Resource sells to place on your existing large format camera after you remove the lens. There are two beautifully crafted shutters available, the Apo II Shutter and the Pinhole, Zone Plate, Slit Turret Kit by Abelson Scope Works.

You can also turn your existing lens cameras into a pinhole camera. For instance, if you have a 35mm camera, just remove the lens and use a pinhole body cap with a large hole in it over which you have taped the pinhole.

Beautifully crafted Micro drilled pinholes are available from Pinhole Resource as is the Black Cat Exposure Guide. Many cameras and accessories are available from the Pinhole Resource. You can obtain a wide variety of information on pinhole photography in monographs and books.

If you decide you want a relatively sharp pinhole image, you will need to know: the higher the distance between the pinhole and the film, the larger the hole should be. A few examples are a 1/4mm pinhole for 1-1/2″ focal length camera; a 1/3mm pinhole for 3″ focal length camera; a 1/2mm pinhole for a 6″ focal length camera.

For more detailed information, Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application by Eric Renner (Focal Press, 2008) is handy and the only comprehensive book on pinhole photography.

To make the image less sharp, the hole should be larger than the recommended optimal size. Even a hole the size of a thumbtack shaft will produce a recognizable icon in a 6″ camera.

Fourth Edition, ©Eric Renner, Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application (Focal Press, 2008)

The farther the light travels inside the pinhole camera, the weaker the light becomes. In other words, the 6″ suitcase pinhole camera described above will take longer to expose than a 3″ camera.

There are many ways to judge exposure times. We suggest trial and error, although to give you an idea Tri-X film in a 3″ camera with a 1/3mm pinhole exposes in 6-9 seconds in full sun.

You might want to try photo paper for your first images. If you do, you’ll find RC multigrade mat paper is ideal for gray days. RC also dries perfectly flat for contact printing to make positive prints. (If you use RC glossy paper in a curved back camera, you sometimes will get an undesirable reflection down the middle of the article.)

For your first images, you might want to keep your camera still by placing it on a wall or the ground, or on a tripod if your camera has a tripod mount.

Also, do not allow the sun to hit the pinhole because it overexposes the film, although later on, you may want to experiment with its spectral effects, unusual in both black and white and color.

In the past two decades, a significant amount of exciting pinhole imagery has been made by many photographers throughout the world. You can see a selection of pinhole photographs and cameras in our Select Images from the Pinhole Resource Permanent Collection.

Thomas Bachler of Germany made pinhole images by placing the film in his mouth and forming his lips into a pinhole. When the Berlin Wall came down, Marcus Kaiser used holes on the wall as the vessel for his camera, placing a film holder taped to one side of the hole, and a pinhole taped to the other end of the hole.

He then reversed the procedure, so that he could make pinhole images of both East and West Berlin. Dominique Stroobant of Italy made six-month long pinhole exposures of the sun crossing the sky. Anyone interested in seeing a vast variety of pinhole images can find them in Pinhole Journal, our magazine dedicated to pinhole photography.

The use of pinholes has a remarkable history of both science and art. people used pinholes in the ceiling of many ancient cathedrals in Europe for telling time in the middle ages.

The Gregorian calendar (1582) achieved through the use of pinhole imaging of the sun at the Tower of Winds in the Vatican in Rome. Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Descartes, Albrecht Durer, and Isaac Newton all used pinhole for research.

The first photographic pinhole images probably came from the 1850’s. In the 1890’s pinhole photography was widely used to achieve “atmospheric” soft focus imaging. The first disposable camera “The Ready Fotografer” was a pinhole, manufactured in 1892. The Nobel prize winner, Lord Rayleigh, researched pinhole in the 1880s to achieve the optimal pinhole formulas still used by scientists today.

James Heidel

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