Friday, 18 November 2011

Preparing the Zero Pinhole Camera for use.

Using this camera is a real step back in time requiring you to put aside all those luxuries that the modern photographer has taken for granted. After all, it is just a box with a pinhole in it, the ultimate manual experience from loading the film and remembering to wind it on, to calculating the shutter speed.

Loading the film:

To start with you need to load a roll of film. That's obvious, most film cameras need film to work. If you are like me it has been a long time since you looked at the backing paper of a roll 120 film. I had forgotten that it is marked for the four different sizes in the 120 family and with the multi format camera it has three red coloured windows in which to view the film numbers. It also has a set of symbols that tell you when the number is about to appear in the window which also marks the middle of the frame. With this set up you cannot blame anyone else for winding it on to far, so it is a good idea to take it slow and gentle in the beginning. Before loading the film you need to set the format your going to use, once the back and top are in place, it is time to advance the film so the light-sensitive material is in front of the pinhole. When winding on you may notice that it becomes quite tight, this is where the celluloid attached to the backing paper is being drawn in front of the light box. Just continue gently on until the first frame number appears behind the little red window. Now the camera is primed for light capture.

Calculating exposure;

The Zero cameras aperture is set at F 235, it is important to remember this as this number is not written on the calculator attached to the back of the camera. The calculators outer ring shows shutter times from 8000 ths of a second too 15 hours, the inner ring shows F numbers from F 1.4 to F 500.

Please note that all the figures that follow are based on a film speed of 100 ISO.

Today, for example, my light meter is showing a light reading of F 5.6 @ 500 ths of a second. Now using the calculator move the dials so F5.6 is opposite 500 ths of a sec., then find F 235 on the outer ring and read off the time opposite which is about 3 second; you will need to make an adjustment for reciprocity effect by a factor of 2 making an exposure time of 6 seconds. I say 'about' because the next F number is 250 with an indicated shutter time of 4 seconds. To start with it is a bit hit and miss, that is why it is a good idea to make notes on shutter times so you can see where to make adjustments once the film has been developed.

You will need to make adjustments for the reciprocity effect as follows:

  • From 1 second and over compensate by multiplying by 2 giving an exposure of 2 seconds.
  • From 5 seconds and over compensate by multiplying by 5 giving an exposure of 25 seconds
  • From 50 seconds and over compensate by multiplying by 12 giving an exposure of 600 seconds/11 mins.

Zero pinhole camera

Pinhole cameras have been with us for a long time in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Aristotle wrote about this naturally occurring in the fourth century. It was not until the 1850 s when the Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster used a pinhole camera to produce the first photograph. It has taken on many forms ever since!

Over recent years the pinhole camera has come to the fore as a desired method of producing a different style of photograph. This popularity has been helped by the zero image company, making some wonderfully crafted boxes for the pinhole photographer. They are not just great looking collectibles but are fully working cameras that take some excellent photographs. They come in the three main formats of 35 millimeters, 120 medium format and 5x4 large format.

This camera has not been an easy acquisition for me, with several false starts I have had to compromise to get a deluxe model but it is in my format of choice if not the camera I really wanted for the project. Having said that I am not disappointed with the multi format camera. On hindsight this could be a good thing, as it allows me to play with the different sizes that make up the 120 family at a later date.

So whats in the box apart from a well crafted wooden camera that some quarters think would make a good jewelry box. Thinking about it, I can see what they mean with the multi format version!

  • A plastic view finder marked out in the different 120 formats.
  • A very nicely presented instruction manual that needs to be read if you are serious about getting the most from your camera.
  • A grey cord? Not sure why this in the box.
  • A certificate telling you who hand crafted your camera.

There are some other bits of kit you need to gather before you stroll down the road with your camera.

  • You will not get far without a spare spool to wind the film on to.
  • A light meter unless you are going to use sun rule 16.
  • A cable release is a good idea if you have the deluxe version as it removes any chance of camera shake.
  • Tripod.
  • A note-book and pencil is a good idea for recording frame numbers and exposure times. That then can be checked against the negatives once they have been developed. Giving you an indication as to whether you are over or under exposing.