PINH5AD - a 4x5 inch Pinhole Camera

by schlem, published

PINH5AD - a 4x5 inch Pinhole Camera by schlem Sep 5, 2013


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The P5 is designed around a 4x5 film holder, widely available used or surplus. Film holders have a "dark slide" that protects unexposed film/paper from light, so the rubber band to close the shutter is not necessary (or desirable for long exposures). See exposure times note in instructions section.

Using the proven Pinhead shutter design, and lacking any film transport mechanism, the shutter blade is the only moving part.

NEW! 150mm extension available for "normal lens" exposures (not wide-angle, not telephoto) see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_lens).

Stats ---------------------
90mm focal length
designed for a 0.40mm pinhole
f-stop of f/225
70 degree horiz. field of view.

150mm focal length
designed for a 0.50mm pinhole
f-stop of f/300
46 degree horiz. field of view.

If you print a PINH5AD, message me, and I will send you some Pinhead stickers.

PICTURES: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theschlem/sets/72157635640450384/

As always, more build pix available at:

I have created a 3D Printed Cameras group on Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/groups/[email protected]/
The mission is to share and promote open source cameras and related parts, created with CAD applications and 3D printing. Please join and post content!

-------- UPDATES since CAD illustrations --------

  • viewfinders added for both extension lengths
  • manifold issues in P5 Body fixed - please re-download corrected file if you have strange slicing behavior.
  • opening on shutter plate resized to 4:5 rectangle to minimize very slight vignetting of 90mm field of view
  • body reinforced at tripod mounting points to minimize possible lateral flexion / vibration
  • corners of extension mount enlarged for thicker walls
  • bottom added to small cavities in body for better bonding to film holder bracket
  • inside perimeter of pinhole clamp enlarged for better fit
  • 3D printed ground glass holder http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:267909
  • Film Holder Clip added to hold holder/ground glass firmly against back of camera. Designed for rubber bands (elastics) or small bungies, and to not obscure the projected image on the ground glass.

Available at Shapeways in laser-sintered nylon:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial license. This license applies only to the files and documents available for download from the Thing Files section of this Thing.
All other related content (photographs, videos, and verbiage such as contained in "Description" or "Instructions" ) are excluded from this license. with all rights reserved, unless specifically available for download This notice constitutes a clarification, not a change, to licensing for this design.


I am printing this at 0.25mm layer height, 2 perimeters, 40% infill (tripod mounts at 70% infill) I found that two perimeters gave me consistent infill, ergo better strength, but 3 perimeters generated interior voids in some walls that might bend and crack. Cracks = light leaks = bad.

Print the following in black ABS or an OPAQUE PLA:

  • film holder bracket
  • PINH5AD body
  • 90mm extension
  • P5 small parts
    Every part can be printed without support.

NOTE Complete 90mm and 150mm variants are available as zipped collections of parts. See "Thing Files"

You will also need:

  • 4 - 3mm bolts, 16mm long and nuts (shutter)
  • 4 - 3mm socket head bolts, 16mm long and nuts (tripod mounts) may be a tight fit
  • Adhesive-backed BLACK velvet (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=9852)
  • ABS glue of choice (I'm experimenting with a black plumbing glue)
  • Loctite or similar for shutter bolt
  • 2 X 1/4 inch (1/4 - 20) T-nuts (without prongs) for tripod mounts (glued in place) Alternately - 2 X 1/4-20 flanged nuts for use with modified tripod mount.

The P5 currently comes in two flavors:
a 90mm focal length, designed for a 0.40mm pinhole, with an f-stop of f/225, and a 70 degree angle of view.
And a 150mm focal length, designed for a 0.50mm pinhole, with an f-stop of f/300, with a 46 degree angle of view. Your pinhole diameter is not critical, and modern film has plenty of leeway for good exposure if your pinhole is not quite the "right" size. Additionally, there are now viewfinders for each focal length. They are designed to clip on top of the body of the camera for the landscape orientation. I need to add an additional clip so that they can be rotated if you opt to shoot in portrait. Coloring the inside edge of the larger box white will increase contrast and allow you to better sight your frame.

I originally designed a 66mm extension, which spaces the pinhole 90mm from the film plane in the film holder, recently added the longer option for a "normal lens" perspective. A chosen extension is intended to be glued in position, but I plan to design a clamping mechanism for interchangeable extensions, making for a more versatile camera system. I also plan to make a shorter (wide angle) extension. The base for the extension is 93mm x 116.5mm should you desire to make your own. The Pinhead Nose Assy can be used if you want to utilize the Pinhead pinhole mount and shutter parts. The framing in the body is sufficiently large for a 200mm focal length without vignetting.

At 70 degrees, the 90mm length is already a wide angle camera. A shorter extension (and consequently wider angle of view) has the potential for significant vignetting (corner cropping) at the shutter plate, and will necessitate a redesign of that part.

Exposure Times
For bright light exposures, even with ASA 100 film (approx 1 second), the slight bit of vibration from opening and then subsequently closing the shutter can be enough to render your photo disappointingly blurry. Slower film (ASA 50 for instance, or a dramatically even slower print paper) would minimize this effect. I consider 2 seconds to be the fastest effective exposure time for pinholes without a remote shutter mechanism, and beautiful buttery images will result as you slow things down and shoot in more subdued light or with slower film/paper.

The largest part (camera body) is 143mm x 137.5mm (5.4 x 5.6 inches), which barely fits on a 6" x 6" bed with a peripheral skirt.

Assembly is straightforward (see pictures and diagrams):
The Film Holder Bracket is glued to the bottom of the Body (bottom surface to bottom surface, as printed), ALIGNING THE FRAME OPENINGS. I used black ABS pipe glue, pre-mounting the tripod mounts helped with alignment. Rubber bands and a wedge under the open end of the film holder made for a nice clamp while the glue dried. Careful - It's pretty goopy - the body has been redesigned to simplify assembly (larger gluing surfaces).

The fit of all parts is tight. Expect to sand/file the pinhole plate to fit into the extension. I find that a file is a good way to get a nice smooth edge and remove burrs without scratching the plastic. The nut traps in the nose of the extension are a tight fit and you will swear less if you trim them out with an Xacto knife prior to wedging tiny little 3mm nuts in the cavities. On a related note, fully fit and assemble the extension and shutter/pinhole assembly before you glue the extension into the body - there's a very small and remote chance the nut traps might break if forced. Would be a shame to have to print a new body too.

At present, the Extension is intended to be glued into the recessed opening on the top of the Body, orientation to your preference (removable clamp mechanism pending).

The outside surfaces of the bracket that carries the film holder should be lined with the self-adhesive velvet. It's fiddly, I know, but you will gain a very light-tight connection if you ensure that the velvet extends up the sides, around the inside corners of the film holder.

Each Tripod Mount is mounted to the Body with 3mm socket head bolts (16mm long), holding a 1/4 inch T-nuts captive. Glue on mating surfaces is optional. Tolerances are tight; I used a 1/8 inch drill to dress all 3mm holes and an extra T-nut as a disk sander to smooth the recess for the T-nut. The T-nuts I used have an 8mm shaft diameter - an 8mm drill bit makes these fit perfectly.
I have added an alternate tripod mount that takes a flanged 1/4 - 20 nut, if the T-nuts are hard to source. I will add pix to illustrate soon.

The Pinhole/Shutter assembly is clamped to the Extension with 4 - 3mm nuts and bolts, 16mm long. A dab of superglue can hold a corner of your pinhole in centered position during assembly.

--- LINKS ---
An encyclopedic article with cross references:

A self-described comprehensive pinhole tutorial:

The basics from Kodak - a quick and dirty primer.

Make your own pinhole:

Pinhole Designer - an excellent pinhole design and exposure calulator. The reciprocity failure function is gold. Sadly, Windows only, but worth it.

Mr. Pinhole - More calculators and more links.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day:

A paper pinhole camera, 2D printed in a Czechoslovakian magazine, in the 1970's: http://www.pinhole.cz/en/pinholecameras/dirkon_01.html

Books, books, books; Knowledge is power:

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I haven't printed the whole thing yet but then this question dawned upon me: Do I need to make the actual pinhole itself or is that part of the print? Are most people making their own pinhole aperture plate themselves? Can I just make one from brass with a small punch or drill?

Mar 11, 2016 - Modified Mar 11, 2016
schlem - in reply to aquanet

I can't imagine a consumer grade printer capable of making a precise pinhole. But it's easier than that!

This is the technique I use to make pinholes by hand!

I double-check my pinholes with a digital microscope before using, but they are usually in the ballpark and completely usable. The camera is designed to be easy to change the pinhole if you want to experiment.

can you give a link for the film/paper holder you are using on the pictures ?

Thanks for your slightly odd question. The film holder in the photos was made by Graflex a long time ago and is No Longer Available (NLA). That doesn't mean you can't find them used on eBay, Craigslist, or at your local camera (repair) shop. Here's some more info: https://www.graflex.org/speed-graphic/accessories.html I hope that helps.

Is it possible to simply double this print in order to make an 8x10 camera.

I would start with accurate measurement of an 8X10 film holder. I'd be surprised if merely doubling the dimensions would be a suitable solution. Is that something you are interested in?

Hey, Pinhole Photographers (and the curious)!
These smart folks like to talk about the tools and techniques of pinhole photography.
Give the Pinhole Podcast a listen:

i've been printing a few parts for this out of black makerbot PLA, but i cannot get them to print without warping. i'm using a typeA machines series 1, printing on blue tape on top of plexi build plate. do you have any suggestions? it looks like your prints have very minimal warping.

Two suggestions from a fellow 2014 TAM user...; add a raft to your print, a substructure-layer of sorts that is printed before the primary print starts. I use Simplify3D as a slicer where you can have a raft auto-generated in slicing if you so wish. Also, give the BuildTak printing surface a try. With these two methods, and slow printing speed, I can print very large surface prints without a problem.

Warping, regardless of ABS or PLA, is usually caused by rapid cooling or poor adhesion. So solve that problem, and you should be good. PLA is know to stick to blue tape really well, so I suspect that your build environment is cold or you have the fan running too much. Also, is your bed level and are you appropriately spaced above the print bed on the first layer? These could cause problems with the first layer sticking and then curling up. That's all I have for now, but let me know how it goes!

thanks! my cooling fan may be the problem, it's set to 100% for everything. i'll try reducing it. sticking to the tape works very well, but the tape itself starts to peel up from the platform. i'm also thinking i should add walls and a door to keep the build chamber a bit warmer. Thanks for the input, i'll give it a shot

A couple of other thoughts- It definitely sounds like a cooling issue more than an adhesion issue. These are large parts, and the previously extruded PLA should be relatively cool by the time your extruder comes back around to add another layer. Maybe no cooling at all, unless you are printing a layer below a certain threshold of square area. I have a little experience with PLA, and quality of materials comes into play, but Makerbot filament is grade A. Is your printer in a heated space? My printer runs in a plexiglas enclosure that has a 150 W light bulb in it for cold days. Maybe slowing your print speed would help too, to give the PLA some time to cool below it's plastic threshold. HTH!


Would you print me one and ship to the UK?

I could do that. Would you be interested in the 90mm or the 150mm version? Kit or assembled? I don't have a stock, obviously, but could print in a few days' time. I can add it fairly easily to my Tindie store. Shipping for my P6*6 is roughly $35 to Europe.

This is one of the coolest 3D printed things yet. thanks for the upload.

Hi the STL files are cool, but I'd like the ipt or the sdlprt files. I'm thinking this could be an amazing Engineering Graphics project for some of my students. I could always print and measure the camera but if you could the original files would be helpful.

I sent you a private message. Help me help you. :^)

Hi, do you think its possible to design an even shorter lens (65mm or so)? This would be really great.

65mm is pushing the limits of the format and this camera's construction. I haven't worked out the specifics of that angle of view (AoV), but I would expect the edges of the shutter assembly openings to block the light at the periphery (especially the corners) of the film. Vignetting is a sometimes-cool effect, but I consider it a defect. Here's an example of moderate vignette: http://www.flickr.com/photos/i_travel_east/4995796560/http://www.flickr.com/photos/i...

I have been giving my shutter a lot of synapse time and a different design strategy might be necessary to make a usable PINH5AD extension of this length.

65mm focal length
ideally 0.34mm pinhole
f-stop of f/191
88.7 degree horiz. field of view.

Keep in mind, because of the larger format, 65mm is not comparable to the same angle of view for 35mm camera. Here's a discussion of "normal lens" focal lengths and angles of view: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_lenshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...

The 90mm PINH5AD is already wide-angle at a nominal 70 degree AoV, and 65mm would be about 89 degrees.

Its not a problem of the format generally, I have used a 58XL lens on my 4x5". In terms of the angle, I like the superwide lenses quite a lot, thats why I was thinking about a pinhole for this.

You know its possible to use paper as a negative? Place emulsion side out or not if you are interested in the effect you can contact print or print through the paper for a different effect. Trays are good for film and paper development film lights out you can use paper developer on film but wet first and give appropriate time there was a rule of thumb for exposed film or paper to darken in the developer and use a appropriate multiplier to get the time. Dektol on film is very quick any paper developer is very quick you must use a water bath or you will have uneven development also constant agitation. If you use paper you can use a safe light the color rendition will be "strange" as its orthrochromatic. Cool stuff!

I do, but I know the equivalent ASA / ISO speed is vastly lower. I plan to get my darkroom set up again, and I want to play with paper. I also found an eBook at Amazon called Primitive Photography: http://www.amazon.com/Primitive-Photography-Cameras-Calotypes-ebook/dp/B0027FEW96/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380157828&sr=1-1&keywords=primitive+photographyhttp://www.amazon.com/Primitiv...

It has, like, a paragraph on pinhole photography, but goes into length on how to make your own photosensitive emulsions and materials. Fascinating!

Awesome, I think I found my first build when I get my printer.
If you already have a large 3 roll Patterson tank, you can use this for light tight development... or make a similar one out of ABS, I saw one on shapeways that was a similar idea.

Got any examples of the pictures this takes? If you weren't aware, you were just mentioned on hackaday: http://hackaday.com/2013/09/08/use-your-new-timey-printer-to-make-an-old-timey-camera/http://hackaday.com/2013/09/08...

I'm not set up currently to develop 4x5 film, but as soon I get it back from the lab, you know a link to the prints will be up. re: Hackaday -- Cool! / Holy cow!

Wow! Great to see a 4x5 on Thingiverse!