All the way back in 2002 when the commercial balance between digital imaging and film imaging was beginning to shift in favour of digital I was loathed to let go of film and still harboured a deep-rooted distrust of it’s digital competitor. This made life difficult since I was a medical photographer working in a department that was fast going digital.
In a last attempt to rediscover those heady glory days of when I first discovered photography in 1987 I decided to get myself a posh pinhole camera and take it on many adventures. So I went ahead and splashed out on a Zero Image 6×9 pinhole camera. I think it cost me about £130 at the time…but I was young(ish) and the credit card could worry about that. Admittedly some years later I was forced to worry about the credit card but I digress.
The Zero Image 6×9 Edition is a very nicely made pinhole camera which can take 120 film. In addition it has moveable plates inside so that you can adjust the format to take 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7 or 6×9 images. It has a built-in spirit level on top, film counter windows at the back and a handy little circular exposure scale to help calculate exposure. The pinhole size is 0.17mm and equates to approximately f 235. It comes with a small set of instructions for how to use the exposure scale and how to compensate for the dreaded spectre of reciprocity failure.
Now I said the thing about taking it on many adventures… erm. Well somehow it initially managed to only go on one adventure… into the loft… for 17 years! I rediscovered it in 2019 just ahead of going to North Wales on holiday and thought it deserved that adventure in the companionship of a roll of Ilford FP4.
I decided to use the 6×6 format so that I didn’t have to think about the portrait/landscape issue and I’d get 12 shots out of it. I initially took a couple of shots from the window of our Llandudno apartment and then decided to use the rest whilst walking up Mount Snowdon along the Watkin path. Exposures ranged from about 10 seconds to 3 minutes as the light changed over the day and it was quite exciting not knowing exactly what I’d framed in the shot.
Everything was obviously shot with the camera on a tripod as a necessity and when I’d originally bought the camera I wisely opted to have a cable release type shutter fitted. My main obstacle was capturing images without someone walking through them while I was exposing. I managed it ok and even had one moment where I had spent some time setting up to get a lovely shot of a waterfall only to have a group of people show up at the last second and settle down at my waterfall for their lunch.
I settled in for the long wait and eventually one of them called over to me. I thought she was going to ask me what I was up to with my weird box on a tripod… but no. She just wondered if I’d mind taking a photo of their group with her camera, which I happily obliged. Shortly after they left and I was finally able to get my shot!
Once the film was developed I was pleasantly surprised at how sharp the images were considering the ‘lens’ was just a tiny hole poked in a bit of brass plate. I had one gap where I hadn’t been able to remember if I’d wound the film or not so had wound again to be sure I wasn’t double-exposing. When I scanned the negs and got them into Photoshop some of them showed up what I can only imagine are artefacts from the long exposures in-camera. Easy enough to electronically remove in post processing though.
I’m off to Wales again this summer so I think I’ll be taking this camera again as I do find the soft appearance of the images appealing and I’m still enthralled by the fact that these images are coming from nothing more than a tiny pinhole!