Lensless photography

A lens-camera is a great, usually very precise creative tool that helps you express yourself visually. Pinhole camera however it’s a completely different story. 

Here you have to rely on your intuition. Except for obvious pre-visualisation in case of emulsion-based materials and analogue photography, you have to 'guess' the scene/frame when composing it.

The outcome depends on your experience, creativity but also on a deeper understanding of lensless camera and how it works. I would venture to say - mutual understanding between the photographer and the tool he uses. Too deep? ;) maybe…

A pinhole camera is in other words camera obscura. It’s a lightproof box with a very small aperture (instead of a lens). Light pas through the pinhole and projects inverted image at the back of the camera. It’s a long exposure so the camera must be on tripod of course. That’s it. The rest is a standard process - depends on medium and material…digital, film, photographic paper, direct positive paper or anything else…

I bought my first pinhole camera in 2008 or 2009(?) Beautiful, hand made Zero2000 (6x6 format) by Zero Image. Pleasure to work with but… I didn't like one aspect of it (or any other similar camera). It probably comes from my passion for architecture and the way how it should be photographed. 

What am I talking about? Well, maybe quick explanation  - The right perspective and straight vertical lines are one of the basic requirements of architectural photography. That is why tilt-shift lenses are an indispensable element of architectural photographers' equipment. Of course, you can improve everything in post-processing, but in doing so, you are losing a part of the picture. Also, or probably most of all, such a procedure gives a different effect/result compared to a photograph taken with an improved perspective while composing the image/making photographs. 

Eventual post-processing in case of pinhole photography should be reduced to basics - brightness, contrast, eventual colour correction (in case of colour photography). In general, It is such a simple and row process that it should remain untouched as such … 

So… pinhole cameras are usually quite wide (speaking of focal length equivalent) with aperture usually straight in the middle. It give images with a horizon in the middle of the frame. From a composition point of view, it is rather not the best option. At the same time, you get strong distortions when you try to compensate it by pointing a camera up or down. It's even worse when photographing buildings. Unless the subject is far enough so the camera can be straight. When mentioned effects are intentional, It’s a different story. In my case, I need straight lines and horizon set along with the rule of thirds.

I sold my Zero2000 (sadly) and forgot about pinhole photography for a while. 

Then one day, not so long after that, I came across beautiful photographs in one of the magazines dedicated to architecture and design. Pinhole, large format architectural photography… Houses in Australia. These images were not only full of straight lines, properly placed horizon but also beautifully composed almost like using viewfinder. 

Well, there was an option then. I just had to find it so I started my research.

And bingo!… truly simple but at the same time very clever idea. Camera with perspective correction…by positioning en extra pinhole above the standard one. Seams to be such an obvious idea… It’s basically simulation of rising front element in large format camera. The only difference is that it's a fixed position.

Now I had to find a place where I can purchase one… I am not a DIY enthusiast so there was no other option. 

Relatively short research and I’ve made an order. Custom made camera - format, focal length… (at the end of this text is a link)

Three weeks later beautiful,  wooden camera with perspective correction arrived. I decided to go with ultra-wide focal length for tall buildings …  35mm on 4x5 format (!). Camera has framing lines scribed into the wood. These are the lines which help to compose an image and frame the scene. Virtual viewfinder. Works like a charm. Quality of images is outstanding.

Suddenly all my pinhole photographs started to look exactly as I wanted.

Some time later I ordered another one… 65mm. It’s basically like another lens in a bag. And I am afraid it may not be the end…

Please have a look at the Flickr gallery of Karl Richards who built my two wonderful cameras. He made already an impressive amount of amazing equipment. 

Please click HERE

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