I recently built and shot a Goodman Scura 35mm 3D printed pinhole camera. Despite myself, the build went ok, was quite enjoyable, and I actually got a fair bit of pleasure out of shooting the camera too!
When Dora got in touch with me to ask if I would like to review her Goodman Scura Pinhole Camera I must admit I was initially a little reluctant. I’m not a regular pinhole photographer, and I tend to shy away from DIY camera kits for fear of messing them up. I’m a little cack handed when it comes to DIY stuff, and perhaps because of that, don’t often find myself that inspired to try this sort of thing. I just don’t have the patience and can sometimes find myself getting frustrated when things don’t go to plan or I make mistakes. Fortunately, the build process of this camera went quite well – but I shall get back to that in a moment.
Who is Dora Goodman?
I’ve been following Dora on Instagram for a few years now. When I first came across her feed, it primarily featured images of her marquetry re-skinned cameras. I quite like the look of these – I was never sure I’d want one for myself, but nonetheless they are attractive and apparently the product of someone with an eye for detail.
The marquetry seemed to soon expand into camera designs, straps and unusual photography contraptions for mounting lenses to iPhones and the like. All of this stuff presented on her Instagram account with a strongly branded and slightly quirky mystique.
A lot the kit she makes is 3D printed too, and whilst all of it is available through her store, she also gives away the design files through her ‘GOODLAB‘. I have a great deal of time for the sorts of people who buy 3D printers and spend hours just learning how to use the software, never mind going through the process of understanding the materials etc – it just seems like a mountain to climb. So the fact that a big chunk of this community of designers and makers then give away the fruits of their hard work always impresses me. ￼
Building a Scura
Of course, for the large majority of people like me who don’t have the time or mental capacity for all that, some of these maker folk make their cash selling sets of 3D printed parts and/or the hardware needed to bolt them together. And that’s exactly how the Goodman Scura landed with me. In a box, in bits, with some nuts and bolts ready for me to balls it up…
Fortunately, in the end, it went quite well – and that’s despite me being a little less than perfectly capable at making things. Of course, the trick here is that it’s not really me that’s making the thing. The hard work of designing has already been done – all I’m doing is the assembly bit. It’s a bit like Lego, or maybe an Airfix kit – follow the instructions (video here), and as long as you’re not entirely incompetent, it should work out fine.
The completed Goodman Scura is quite a cool looking thing too. It’s curved shape is a product of the fact that it has a curved film plane. But actually it has a bit of Goodman style to it too. It is, of course, a very simple camera.
The film is loaded by undoing the Allen key bolt on the top and pulling the top off the camera. I found loading the film a bit fiddly, but got there in the end. It has two knobs on the top for advancing and rewind the film, and a simple but effectively designed magnetic shutter mechanism that holds the sliding shutter either open or closed.
There’s also a screw thread on the bottom for mounting the Scura to a tripod. And the Allen bolt on the top doubles up as a mounting point for the viewfinder or an accessory to hold a smartphone to use as a viewfinder. And that’s pretty much your lot.
One thing that wasn’t immediately clear when I loaded the Goodman Scura was how much I needed to wind on the film after each shot. I asked Dora and she sent me this video for loading, and this video that describes the winding process. The idea is that you wind the winder 1 full turn for the first 10 shots and then a turn and a half thereafter. Simple enough, but the trick is that you also need to make sure the film is tensioned first. I didn’t do this so ended up with a few double exposures from my first roll. For my second roll I just wound the it 1 1/2 turns for every frame to be on the safe side.
Once I’d got into the process, I also found it a lot easier to wind the film by turning both dials rather than just trying to pull the film through with the left hand dial. I guess this is fairly easy to understand considering the film is being pulled around a curved surface.
I mostly used the Goodman Scura on a little Manfrotto tripod. The result of this is that a lot of my images where I had nothing to rest the thing on are taken from a low angle… though, I don’t think this is particularly unusual for pinhole photography.
I also didn’t use the viewfinder Dora sent with it very much at all – I just couldn’t get my head down low enough with my tiny tripod. What added to this lack of use of the viewfinder was that I eventually managed to break it, and worse still, then lose it.
It turned out that carrying the Goodman Scura attached to a mini tripod that collectively doesn’t fit in your pocket is a bad idea. Whilst climbing over a tree it fell out my pocket and with the weight of the tripod attached to it when it hit the deck it snapped into bits. I collected as many of the bits that I could find, but when I got home I found there was a bit missing so wasn’t able to glue it. I’ve subsequently managed to put the main part with the optic in it “somewhere safe” too…
Of course, since I wasn’t using it anyway, and thanks to the field of view being fairly wide, I’ve not really found it to be a problem. It’s quite nice in fact – just plonk the camera in the right direction and snap.
The Goodman Scura photos
The images that come out of the Goodman Scura are 24x60mm on the neg and so are a wide format. The field of view is wide too – according to the spec, it’s 69 degrees which is about equivalent to a 25mm field of view on the horizontal – though this is a bit of an arbitrary comparison because of the curved film plane and wide format, but it’s certainly wide. The curved film plane also seems to reduce vignetting as well as changing the characteristics of wide angle distortion.
The first roll I shot with the Goodman Scura were taken with Ilford HP5+, the second with Kodak Colorplus 200. For my first roll, s someone who’s not particularly used to pinhole photography, I thought I’d use a film that could swallow my exposure mistakes. Not that it’s hard to get right, especially since there is an exposure guide on the website, but when you’re manually triggering the shutter and counting seconds in your head, it makes sense to me to have a bit of flexibility…
For the second roll I shot Kodak Colorplus 200. The exposure for this first image was just guessed.
The following images were all much longer exposures. For calculating the exposure including reciprocity failure I used an iphone app called Pinhole Assist. It seems to have worked ok.
The photos were digitised using pixl-latr – which has to be one of the least expensive tools for digitising wide format 35mm photos…
As for the quality of the results… well, they look like pinhole photos to me – which is I guess what you’d expect from a pinhole camera. They’re soft and in some cases have unusual flare which I quite like. There’s a little bit of hair or possibly stray filament visible in the photos (top right), but it doesn’t really bother me to be honest. With the lack of experience I have I couldn’t honestly say if they are sharp for 35mm pinhole images, but they do look pretty much as I expected them to, which is a bonus.
Goodman Scura – Final thoughts
I must admit, I’m not a regular pinhole photographer (my only other pinhole photos since I have been writing this blog can be found here) – nor do I aspire to shoot pinhole more than I currently do. That said, I can see the attraction, and certainly enjoy the process when I do. The extended exposure times and possibilities brought about by things like curved film planes and wide formats that come about without the hassle or expense of lens-based photography offer lots of creative possibility.
I also really enjoyed building the Goodman Scura – it took me back to when I was a kid and used to love building Lego sets. If you buy the full kit and build alongside watching the video, that’s what it’s akin to. There really isn’t anything that can go wrong (as Dora reassured me before she sent it) – and quite genuinely, it’s quite a relaxing way to spend an hour!
The result – at least as long as you follow the instructions and tension the film – is a solid feeling pinhole camera that takes what to my eye look like solid pinhole photos. My only reservation I suppose is the strength of the material – despite not really being interested in using it, the viewfinder shattering was a bit disappointing. But I suppose if you don’t drop it top down with the weight of a tripod behind it, that probably wouldn’t happen.
I could also see this being a nice build for anyone who has their own 3D printer – Dora sells the ‘hardware kit‘ which more than halves the cost of the camera, and I suppose that way you could also choose your own material too.
All in all, I must admit, the whole experience has been fun. If you’ve not shot pinhole before, and want to experience some of the creative possibilities it brings, or you’re a more experienced pinholer looking for something a little quirky the Goodman Scura feels like a pretty good option to me!