Making a Pinhole Camera

What is a pinhole camera?

A basic camera can be made with a small hole. The light enters the pinhole, then projects onto a screen. Light that reflects off an object enters the hole and collects on the screen. If we take a long exposure of all light that hits this screen, it is possible to see the object that light is reflecting off of.

How to make a pinhole camera

Making a pinhole camera is tough. We started with a shoebox, covered the inside with black paper, with the exception of one side. We then made sure that the only way that light can enter the box is through the pinhole. Therefore, we duct taped all sides of the box to eliminate any holes. We then cut two holes in the box–one for the pinhole, and one for the DSLR. Below you can see images of our camera.

Probably the hardest part was cutting the two holes in the shoebox. This took a lot of effort!

The pinhole sizes we chose: a 1mm (thumbnail size), 3mm (the point of a pen), 5mm (a pencil eraser size)

Original Photos

Since light reflecting off of objects to the right will appear to the left in the image, these images will occur flipped.

The first photo we ever took is on the right! Hopefully, you can see that the image is of Zellerbach Hall.

In the table below, you can see the original image, the same image flipped and reversed to reverse the effect of the pinhole, and the reversed image cropped and straightend to create a "real" photograph.

Photo Settings Original Image Flipped and Reversed Image Cropped and Straightned Image

1 MM, 25.0", f/5.0

3 MM, 25.0", f/5.0

5 MM, 10.0", f/9.0

Photo Settings Original Image Flipped and Reversed Image Cropped and Straightned Image

1 MM, 25.0", f/5.0

3 MM, 25.0", f/5.0

5 MM, 8.0", f/7.1

Comment on different pinhole sizes

As expected, the smaller the pinhole, the better the resolution. However, much less light enters the camera, leading to larger exposures. Larger pinholes let more light in, leading to shorter exposures. However, you can notice that the resolution is worse because the light from one point hits the white screen in multiple places.

Extra Images

We found that the 3mm (middle) pinhole sized worked the best–we wanted to see a focused image, and we didn't want to wait long to get it. Furthermore, our smallest pinhole had some issues with a doubling effect–this is apparent in the 1mm photo of Wheeler Hall.

The more that we took photos, the more comfortable we were with taking photos that were in focus, not blurry, and exposed correctly. As a result, we even tried taking a vertical photo! Overall, we're really happy with how most of these photos came out. We never figured out what the cause of the "doubling" we saw was (see the bench photo), but we are really proud of some of the photos we were able to take.