Category Archives: Pinhole Photography

DSLRs and pinholes made from film: a match made in heaven

Earlier in the week I posted an article on making Pinholes and Zoneplates from film. I’m excited to see Photographer Nicolai Grossman run with the process and have some great thoughts about using film pinholes for your DLSR. I encourage you to check out his very informative site.

Creating Perfect Pinholes and Zoneplates Everytime

When I first began shooting Zoneplate images, I instantly became interested in creating my own Zoneplates with a variety of zones and to accommodate a variety of focal lengths. The traditional process of creating Zoneplates, is more work that it needs to be especially if you are concerned w/ the accuracy of your final Zoneplate. Accuracy is also a concern for Pinhole photographers when creating their self-made apertures.

Having a background in Graphic arts and the processes involved to create plates (not to be confused w/ Zoneplates) for offset printing presses. I’ve had plenty of experience in the days before Direct-to-plate technology using a “film” output device called an “Imagesetter”. When creating plates for offset presses accuracy is a must and at the time the imagesetter heeded that call. The imagesetter is still used at many local print shops for both Screen printing and Offset printing.

Creating a Zoneplate and Pinhole Apertures

What You’ll Need

Computer with “Vector” based software, such as Adobe Illustrator

This Link to a great Zoneplate Calculator

This Link to a Pinhole Calculator

A shop to with an imagesetter to output your digital file to film

The Zoneplate

At Whiz Kid’s site you can learn all about the in’s and out’s of Zoneplates. Since the subject is “creating” them we’ll stick to that.

1. Determine the focal length of the camera you would like to use your zone plate on.
2. Use Whiz Kid’s Calculator and enter in the information required.
3. Set the output dpi to 9600 in the calculator (this will create an .eps file for you)
4. Download the file
5. Open Illustrator and create an 8.5×11 page. Now open the file you downloaded and bring it into the blank document you just created.
6. If your Zoneplate looks like Figure A, select all and ungroup the selection
7. Deselect the black background and the text at the top and the bottom of the box
8. With only the center images selected, using your align tool, align the image both horizontally and vertically. The zone plate should now look like Figure B.
9. Save your file as an .eps
10. Done

Figure (A)

Figure (B)

The Pinhole

There are quite a few calculators to determine pinhole diameters. Here are a couple links for you to experiment with.

Here is one of them.

1. Determine the focal length of the camera you would like to use your pinhole on.
2. Use one of the suggested calculators and enter in the information required for the calculator.
3. Open Illustrator and create an 8.5×11 page.
4. When you have the results you can to into Illustrator and draw a black box however large you would like.
5. Now, draw a circle the using the results figured by the Pinhole Calculator
6. Center the Pinhole in the black box.
7. Save your file as an .eps
8. Done

Now from the size of the Pinhole or Zoneplate you just created, you can see how much space is left on your 8.5×11 page. Do a variety of Zoneplates with different zones or pinholes experiment with different sizes, shapes or designs till your page is full.

Once you have your files saved you can drop them onto a CD or DVD and take them to a local printer that has “film output” capabilities. A sheet of film at 8.5×11 should not cost more than $15, if it does, shop around.

Ask them for a high resolution Film Positive, Right Reading Emulsion Side Down, output at 100% and the final document size to be 8.5×11.

When you get your Film back it is just like any other film. There is an “emulsion side” and a “carrier side” There are a couple ways to tell which is the emulsion side. The easiest way is to take a razorblade and see if the black will scratch off with very little pressure. If so, that is the emulsion side. The other way is to look at both sides of the film, the “emulsion” side will be dull and the carrier side will be glossy.

When you mount your pinhole or zoneplate to your camera, position the “emulsion side towards your paper or film that your are projecting light to.

Now that you have done this process you should have created an ultra-sharp pinhole and a perfect Zoneplate.

Latest Camera Build (16×20 Pinhole)

I’ve recently finished the build on my latest camera. Before I started, I knew I wanted a camera that will shoot large images for wall display. Well, this “is” a large camera. The beast measures out to be approx 26x24x8. This set up is to shoot a super-wide 16×20 image at around f/335. I will primarily be shooting w/ paper negatives vs. film (because of cost). It is mostly made out of pine (inner frame) and 5mm floor paneling. Below are the basics that went into building this camera. If you are interested in building a camera of your own and you would like to see larger photos you can find them on my flickr page. A great resource to for camera building is F295, these guys are a great help. Hopefully I’ll have some test shots to post soon.





Art Review Magazine Mention

Here is a mention of my self built cameras in Art Review magazine out of the UK. A great resource to help you build your own cameras is F295, this is the most knowledgeable group of folks I have came across on this subject.

Front Cover
Inside Spread

HOW Magazine Feature

The editors at How were kind enough to contact me a couple months ago after seeing some of my work done with my hand built cameras. Below is the article and photographs they put in print. If you would like to see more of my work feel free to check out my site.

Here’s a shot of the camera they are speaking of. As mentioned in one of my other posts…please check out f295’s site, for a wealth of information on this subject. I’ll be posting my new 16″x20″ camera very soon, should be cool.

front view
rear view