Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Inventorying My Cameras

“Inventorying My Cameras”

So, what's a person to do, the day after deciding to downsize their handmade camera collection? Simple: build another camera, that's what!

This sounds like madness, right? Perhaps. But really, in spite of all the various camera designs I've explored, I still have a few ideas rattling around in my noggin. One of these ideas is to take a spare steel 35mm developing tank and turn it into a "self-developing" pinhole camera. I've been using these tanks for years, minus the film reels, with small sheets of photo paper, wrapped front-side-inward around the inside of the tank and secured with a loop of masking tape on the back side, as a makeshift rotary processor. They have that all-important lid with a light-proof pour spout, permitting liquids to be poured in and out without fogging the paper inside.

Drilling a small hole in the side of the steel tank was not easy. I couldn't ding a starting dent with a metal punch, so the drill bit wanted to dance around and not penetrate the metal. I ended up using a drill bit on a high-speed rotary tool to work a small starting dimple into the surface, after which my drill press and larger bit would catch enough to start cutting. I kept the bit lubricated with light oil, which helped.

The focal length is 85mm from one side to the other, so I made a 0.3mm pinhole in a thin sheet of brass, which I epoxy glued to the inside, ensuring all four sides of the brass square were sealed with glue.

I'll be using a makeshift gaffers tape shutter for now, but may resort to a rotating plastic sleeve shutter, the kind I've used on 35mm film canister cameras.


Naturally, a person would wonder if the processing chemicals, especially stop bath (acetic acid) will corrode the brass and pinhole. The answer is most likely yes, which is why, when I rotary process the paper, I won't be doing entire revolutions of the tank, instead will be rocking it back and forth, with the pinhole face up on the top, as the tank sits on its side on my rotary base.


This little tank camera, along with a kit consisting of small containers (<100mL) of processing chemicals and a changing bag, would essentially provide the features of an Afghan Box Camera, if using Harman Direct Positive Paper. Alternately, the citric acid/peroxide reversal process could be employed, but it's very slow and the already long exposure times required by the pinhole aperture would be impractical. I hope to at least be able to do still-life and scenic images and process them in the field with the Harman paper.

Certainly a glass-lens self-developing camera would be more practical for portraits, as the faster optics would require much shorter exposure times. Perhaps that'll be the next project.

Here's Part One of my pinhole camera overview series, with Ethan Moses:

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Blogger Bill M said...

Neat idea for a pin hole camera.
I thought about making cameras ever since my first semester photography class when I heard of Peter Gowen and his Gowenflex. Never made anything but oatmeal box pinholes.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Bill M said...

I think I spelled his name wrong: Peter Gowland.

7:56 AM  
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