Friday, May 20, 2016

The Viddy Pinhole: building and first test

I bought this kit for a pinhole camera last year, and due to an abundance of holiday craft ideas the kit sat leaning against my desk for quite some time.  Then a friend mentioned an upcoming pinhole photography art show, and upon visiting the art show I was inspired to break out this kit and finally put it together.

The camera kit started out as a Kickstarter campaign, and I had originally bought into it only to have that first campaign be cancelled due to copyright issues with the name.  Later the camera was redesigned, renamed, and had a successful Kickstarter, and is now available for purchase straight from the manufacturer in the U.K. (which is where I came across it once again)  Between the delays in creation and the sitting idle in my office, my own camera was many years in the making... though actual assembly took less than an hour.

At some point between the Kickstarter and the general selling, the instructions were no longer printed out and included with the kit.  My kit came with a card instructing me to go to a URL to find the build instructions - hence the little laptop.

I assembled the camera a couple days before a planned outing to a local hiking trail with the plan to test it out for the first time on my outing.  As I gathered my supplies the next day, however, I discovered that I had not written down the exposure guide.  After searching out the box contents and the website instructions, I figured out that it was because the kit did not include an exposure guide.  From the previous product descriptions and the instructions on the website, it seems that the kit used to include an exposure guide, but not anymore.  The company created an app for the iPhone for the exposure guide, which is free to download.  This is wonderful for those who own Apple products, however I have no iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  I wrote to the company via their contact form on the website as well as their Facebook page to inquire as to where non iPhone users could find their exposure guide, however to date I have not yet received a response.  I spent a good amount of time searching the web for any reference to the guide (perhaps an image or another user who had it, even screen shots of the app) however I was only able to find one non-iPhone customer in the UK who referenced finding the exposure guide on the company's website.  This brought me back to the website where I read every page but was unable to find it.  It seems that either they removed it or the UK version of the site is different than what we see in the US.  The build instructions do state that you can download the app or "use the exposure guide below" however there is no exposure guide below, anywhere.  Add to that, there is no link to the build instructions on their main site, so the URL needs to be manually typed in, which added together makes their site feel a little disjointed.  (My reaction to it is probably my old .com QA resurfacing)
I don't mean to discourage anyone from purchasing the kit, as it is a fun kit to put together and shoot with, I'm just offering my experience so that other potential customers are not caught off guard.

Having received no response from the company, my husband suggested I borrow his iPad.  I didn't want to be responsible for such an expensive item in the field (this is why I don't OWN Apple products myself!) so I used it long enough to create my own exposure guide in a simple excel spreadsheet, which I loaded onto my driod phone, and printed out, and attached to the back of my camera.

I find having to borrow an iPad in order to use a pinhole camera to be silly.

My "upgrade" to the back of the camera.  Why could they not just print this on the card along with the URL for the build instructions?

The front view.

Shooting involves lining up the shot, pulling the tab to open the shutter, count your exposure, and close the shutter.  The shutter itself is rather sticky, and I don't trust my ability to hold the camera still, so to minimize camera shake I covered the "lens" with a piece of black cardboard. There is no mechanism for attaching the camera to a tripod, so instead I balanced the camera on top of my tripod for each shot. So my shooting steps were...

Cover lens with black cardboard
pull shutter open
hold cardboard over lens while setting camera on tripod and aiming at subject
remove cardboard
count exposure
replace cardboard over lens
pick up camera
slide shutter closed
advance film
record exposure time in notebook

While the cardboard ring "lens" is otherwise nonfunctional, it worked perfectly for my method of shutter release.

Some people who passed me on the trail were intrigued by my cardboard gear... most people gave me the "what is that crazy lady doing" look that I'm far more familiar with.

I exposed one roll of Ilford HP5 400 speed, which gave me 12 shots to work with, and upon arriving home I eagerly developed the first roll of film.

That looks like a consistent light leak!

I am not unfamiliar with annoying light leaks, but at least this one was consistent.  By holding up the developed film to the interior of the camera, I was able to spot the light leak source almost immediately.

In spite of the light leak, I scanned each negative, made a digital contact sheet, and recorded the exposures by hand, just like the old darkroom days.

I've actually ended up with a few usable images, although it seems that pretty much every frame was at least a little fogged.  As shooting progresses towards the end of the roll, the film becomes progressively difficult to advance... hence my last frame is horribly fogged due to me standing in the sunshine trying to crank the film forward with brute force.

This scan shows the edges of the image frame... the very edges are a bit soft due to the edges of the film box being made of cardboard.  If you enlarge the image you can see that the left side has a distinct line along the edge of the image, and then the image continues a bit beyond the line like a reflection.  The interior of this side of the camera is held together by a slightly shiny black tape that has just a hint of a white edge to it, so I wonder if that is the cause, or if the light leak has something to do with it.

All my shots seem slightly underexposed, so I either need to adjust my guide or get a better idea of what they mean by "direct sun" "partial cloud" and "cloudy".  They are all a bit soft as well, which might be due to camera shake or fogging, or could be that the pinhole is not the optimum size for the focal distance.  These are my two (fully edited) favorite images for the composition, though both are mildly fogged.

On my next outing with this camera, I will be sealing it up with more tape and finding a way to attach it more securely to my tripod in order to avoid camera shake, and we'll see what comes of that.

Stay tuned for my next photography nerd post, where we'll explore the results of shooting the same scenes with multiple different home made cameras.

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