DIY Pinhole Camera Lens

Pinhole cameras are simple little devices that use a tiny hole to focus and expose an image. They are the simplest of lenses and are based on the camera obscura effect.

Since the “lens” is so tiny, pinhole cameras create dreamy images. The pinhole makes for a very narrow depth of field and aperture, which works together to add mood & mystery to otherwise ordinary scenes.

For those photographers who like to DIY their equipment and experiment with various photographic processes, making a pinhole lens for your SLR or Micro Four Thirds camera is one of the easiest and most fun projects. As a bonus, it’s really inexpensive, especially if you happen to have a spare body cap for your camera. If you don’t, you can pick one up for $6 to $15. Everything else on the equipment list is likely already in your house!

Ready to get started? Follow along below!

001 - Equipment - 60429w

What You’ll Need

  • – Camera body cap
  • – Dremel or drill
  • – A small piece of aluminum foil
  • – Tape
  • – Pin
  • – Ruler
  • – Pencil

002 - Measure Centre - 60438w

Step 1: Using a ruler, measure and mark the centre of the body cap.

004 - Drill Centre - 60457w

Step 2: With a Dremel, drill straight through the centre mark you made. You should probably be smarter than I was and not do this directly on the table, though I was lucky and didn’t plunge through to the table’s surface.

006 - Trim Foil - 60459w

Step 3: Cut a small piece of tin foil. I opted to cut a piece long enough that I could fold it in half to make the “lens,” since the double-layer added some rigidity. Then, tape the tin foil to the back of the body cap.

010 - Punch Hole - 60488w

Step 4: With a very fine pin, make the smallest hole possible. A smaller hole will add extra sharpness to the final photographs, though, you will need to use longer exposure times to get a properly exposed scene. If you’re trying to photograph something that’s moving, you will have a hard time getting it in focus.


Step 5: Attach the body cap to your camera and start shooting! You will likely need a tripod to make the exposures through this lens turn out, since it has such a low aperture, longer exposure times will be needed. Since there are no digital components to this lens, the best way to use it is on the Shutter Priority or the Manual setting. The Shutter Priority setting will let the camera decide how long the shutter needs to be open for the image to properly expose, however, if you know how to read your camera’s light meter, the Manual setting is going to be your best bet, since you can better customize your exposure.

Happy Shooting!

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