Lens Adapting, Mods & DIY Photos & Projects

A Paxette Pinhole Conversion and a walk in the Countryside – By Rock

February 12, 2020

In an earlier post I suggested that the only thing left to do with my 1950s rangefinder 35mm was a pinhole conversion project, bearing in mind that most features were dead (invisible patch, wonky viewfinder etc) but at least an apparently working shutter including bulb setting. So here I present my Paxette Pinhole. Being a Series II, this one has interchangeable lenses via a M39-like screw mount, which means the lens can be easily removed and replaced with my custom made pinhole.

Having acquired a thin brass plate pre-drilled with a 0.25mm hole (very cheaply online), I originally thought about simply gluing it over the mount. However, not wanting to permanently ‘damage’ the camera body, I had a re-think. The result was actually quite straightforward: I took apart an old enlarger lens, removing all the glass and unwanted bits and re-assembled with the now trimmed to shape pinhole plate glued into a recess. Because enlarger lenses also use a 39mm screw, it fits perfectly onto the Paxette mount, like having an additional lens!

The mod…

Landscapes offer the ideal environment for pinhole photography (seascapes and cityscapes too). Thus I decided my testing ground would be the one hour walk from my village to the next, taking in beautiful Kentish countryside incorporating valleys, fields, meadows and woodland. Even more beautiful with the transition to autumn colours which I hoped to catch on Vista Plus 200, a film I have enjoyed using at this time of the year before. The first image here is my favourite, the softness of focus really works for me, colour saturation how I imagined.

Reminds me a little of a nineteenth century Impressionist painting

The budget film Vista Plus has done a good job with the autumn colours

Before setting out on my pinhole expedition, I needed to do some research especially the question of exposure times. There are quite a few guidelines and suggestions online but a particular one felt right to me and well tested, so long as you know the f number of the pinhole and able to take a metered reading that gives you a f number at 1/60th second. I measured the focal length of my mod to be around 40-45mm giving me an approximate pinhole of f/175. On the day (crisp slightly chilly with reasonable light) I metered 1/60th f8 for ISO 200. The formula is therefore 175÷8, answer squared then ÷ by 60 to give you an exposure time in seconds. In this case, roughly 8. If the light dimmed slightly, up it to 12 which I counted out in my head while pressing down on a cable release.

Most frames were between 8 and 12 seconds which seems just about right

Had to shoot this one of the meadow quite fast as a herd of cows was heading towards me

Obviously exposures of this length requires a tripod. I used a light weight model as easier to carry around the countryside. I kept it at minimum height, almost like a tabletop mini model as I wanted to shoot from a low point of view. Just meant a lot of time on my knees looking across the camera judging whether it was level of not.

The set-up…

I only managed 12 frames from the whole roll of film. It seems the wind-on mechanism is not right. Quite a few missed frames occurred and even an accidental double exposure. Scratch lines are also evident in some.

I like this image despite visible scratch marks as the old Paxette drags the film when winding on

Accidental double exposure…

More Kentish countryside with scratch lines in the sky

I enjoyed my first pinhole experience and learnt several things for the future, including that I don’t like curious cows. Oh, and the walk back wasn’t so fun as the sole came off one of my boots, so I  ended up with one soggy foot!

Wet terrain (and wet foot) but feel encouraged to explore pinhole photography further

The last frame…

Thanks for reading. Some of my stuff at www.rocksreflex.com

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Martin Siegel
    February 12, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Fine read, Rock.
    You could have used a body cap to mount the pinhole plate. Plus some macro extension tubes when needed.

    Best regards
    Martin

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 12, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      I do have some extension tubes (not sure what mount). Being new to pinhole, I guess try various ideas and methods and see what works.

  • Reply
    Mike Hannon
    February 12, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Lovely! Very pictorialist. Would you attempt some Victorian style portraiture?

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm

      I don’t really do portraiture, I prefer scenery these days. Maybe scenery with people in….?!

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    February 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Beautiful moody images, Rock. Try your outfit with b&w and I predict that you could clam that your photos were shot in the 1890s. If you have a LTM39 rangefinder body – an inexpensive Russian model will do if you’ve got no old Canon RF at hand – you can source well-made LTM39 pinhole caps on eBay, and get more reliable and consistent results. Worth a try IMHO.

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 12, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks Roger. Was thinking of giving b/w a go next time out. I also have a medium format Agfa Isolette that has been converted to pinhole, so maybe a roll of 120 Ilford Delta or something.

  • Reply
    Richard Byrne
    February 12, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Back in about 1959/60 – I would have been 11 or 12 years old – one of the teachers at my school had a Super Paxette. It seemed wildly exotic. I believe it was the very first camera I had ever seen with interchangeable lenses, and he carried a set of three. When I ran into him again, around the year 2000, I told him how clearly I remembered it. (In fact, it was about the only thing I had remembered about him.) Then of course we started a camera fool conversation, about all the gear we had each used over the subsequent forty years. There is no cure for GAS – it is lifelong.

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 12, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      The Paxette certainly seems “exotic” and would have been a wonderful camera in the 1950s. I believe there were four focal lengths available – wide, standard, 75/80 and 135mm I think. The viewfinder has frames lines for each. I have always liked German cameras, and still have a yearning for my old Praktica (the subject of my forthcoming blog actually!).

  • Reply
    Peter
    February 12, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Great read and thanks for the laughs (“including that I don’t like curious cows”)! Beautiful photos! There is an ethereal quality to those images that is very pleasing. You’ve I’m inspired to try some pinhole photography.

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 12, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Peter. I like the fact that we can all share and enjoy each other’s work on 35mmc. A bonus if we can smile/grin/laugh also! For true inspirational pinhole stuff look up Matt Lethbridge (nolenslandscapes.co.uk) who demonstrates what can be achieved without optics.

  • Reply
    Joe Phelan
    February 13, 2020 at 5:41 am

    A very fine smartphone app called Pinhole Assist has all sorts of helpful settings for figuring out your exposure time—including various films and their reciprocity failure rates. Of interest for anyone looking into pinhole photography.

  • Reply
    Rock
    February 14, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Thanks Joe, will check it out.

  • Reply
    Garrison
    February 15, 2020 at 3:31 am

    Gorgeous pictures! I’m tempted to get back into pinhole. I started with a fed3, the longer shutter speeds worked well for 400 iso film

    • Reply
      Rock
      February 15, 2020 at 10:06 am

      Give it a go Garrison. I’m definitely gonna do some more, both 135 and 120 formats.

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