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Build an Anamorphic Pinhole Camera

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As digital photography slowly takes over, there will always be some things that digital cameras just can't do.  One of those things is making anamorphic images!

An anamorphic camera (or lens) is any device which creates a picture where the image is distorted in some manner.  It is commonly used for filming widescreen movies, because without an optical adjustment there would be portions of the top and bottom of the frame that would be wasted by black bars.  The lens stretches the image vertically so that it fills the film.  When being projected, a complementary lens stretches the image horizontally so that the image returns to normal, and with higher quality than if this method had not been used.

That is an example of simple, correctable distortion.  The camera I'm going to show you how to make actually holds the film in a cylindrical position (lets see a digital camera do that!) so that the resulting image is heavily distorted in interesting and awesome ways.
 
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Step 1: What The Heck Is This Camera Doing?

The science of pinholes is covered in my previous Instructable if you are new to pinhole cameras I recommend you read this Instructable before continuing if you want to fully grasp the concepts shown here.

Now that you've seen the results, you're probably pretty confused.  I'll do my best to explain whats going on here but it is very unconventional.  The film is held in a cylinder instead of a flat plane like in a conventional camera. As a result, the pinhole is projecting an image onto a non-flat object.  This inherently causes image distortion, like the way road lines look short when driving and long when on the sidewalk.  Then once the film is unrolled the image appears even more distorted.

The resulting image has lost the center of the scene, and the rest of the scene has been contorted from a round image into a rectangular one as illustrated by the red and blue lines in the image below.

Because these resultant images are so distorted it is very difficult to imagine how the scene will end up when preparing to take a photograph.  It is almost entirely up to luck but a key point is to have the scene full of objects, because bland things like the blue sky will not show the distortion the way buildings or trees do.

When it comes to designing an anamorphic pinhole camera, there are some modifications to the standard rules of pinhole design.  Basically, the focal length of the pinhole should be at the far end of the film, and the near end of the film should be inside the maximum image cone that the pinhole produces.  The pinhole I used is 0.3mm diameter, and in 0.003" material, resulting in a 150 degree image cone.  The resulting design captures things in the image from 41 to 129 degrees from center.

Since the film is closer to the pinhole at one end and farther at the other, the effective aperture of the pinhole changes with this distance, but since the closer film is at a wider angle to the pinhole, the pinhole's effective diameter is reduced, so it does not become over exposed.  Its an imprecise science but it works pretty well.
collercoper4 months ago
I'm having a hard time printing out the exact ratio for the wood box portion. Do you have the measurements for the box frame?
mattthegamer463 (author)  collercoper4 months ago
Can you be more specific? The overall dimensions are in the images on Step 2, you can also make all the measurements you want from the DWG file supplied on the same step, using AutoCAD or a free DWG viewer like http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?id=6703438&siteID=123112.

Hope this helps.
so very nifty! simple (as it were) and elegant!
wow man roll another fattie!
seriously
very cool
Beautiful!
chuckyd1 year ago
It appears that the acrylic added some reflections to the image that may or may not be wanted. Would it be possible to replace the cylinder with a geared disc, in line with the film edges? Also, the full surface contact between the film and the acrylic will lead to scratches.

If the cutting is done with anything but a laser, the precision involved in this project would require a good deal of sanding for alignments.
mattthegamer463 (author)  chuckyd1 year ago
You are right about the reflections, and I'm not positive about what you are saying about a geared disc. I have since made some changes which I will add to the Instructable once I have confirmed them to actually be better. I am no longer using an acrylic tube not because of scratches or reflections, but due to the immense friction it created making it difficult to advance the film.

Also, finger joints aren't exactly necessary, the camera could be built with the wood edges glued simply. My first pinhole was like that and it worked fine.
synthdust1 year ago
Totally awesome project! Although I am fairly certain digital photography has already taken over ;)
mattthegamer463 (author)  synthdust1 year ago
I'm fairly certain I like film better ;)
filmword1 year ago
Beautiful work!
I LOVE all you folks who share about making and using Pinhole cameras.

I personally believe they are an underutilized tool in education, useful across fields of art, science, engineering, reasoning, and naturally fascinating for children - to engage them across all these areas, getting their hands on stuff, even in poorest material environs. I have it on my long-term list to assemble such camera-making info + natural photo-reactive media for eco-friendly picture-making-recording - albumen, citric acid, tin (eco?) photo reactive.

Greg
mattthegamer463 (author)  filmword1 year ago
Thanks, I agree, people need to be taught about pinhole cameras because of the educational value. Its a great way to study optics and light.
What is a anamorphic images!?
mattthegamer463 (author)  elfarandulero1 year ago
An anamorphic image is any image which is optically distorted. In this case, the distortions are caused by the film being wrapped in a cylinder instead of laid flat like normal.
mje1 year ago
Design and execution is absolutely brilliant. But I can't help thinking that if you'd put a bit more into the external finish, you'd have a camera that looked like a fine instrument. A few coats of sanding sealer and some time with sandpaper before you put on the varnish would have really paid off.
RedBinary1 year ago
Very nice work! Love both the camera and the shown result!
Cambenora1 year ago
Instead of having the acrylic cylinder fixed in place, you could have it so that it rotates along with the film when you advance it. Ok, it's a lot of fiddle to do, but it should overcome the friction problem.
mattthegamer463 (author)  Cambenora1 year ago
You're right, but the mechanics of that kind of solution would be difficult, especially since at one end the pinhole cannot be obstructed in any way.
crazyg1 year ago
nice one.love the wonkee pics. plastic tube a supprise. could you tell me a little more about the lazer cutter?
mattthegamer463 (author)  crazyg1 year ago
The laser cutter I used is a Trotec Speedy 300, and is about 45 watts. Cuts this material at 100 power 0.9 speed and 6 passes, -0.05" Z-offset per pass. With another machine experimentation will be required but many passes and Z-offset on each pass helps prevent the wood from heating up too much and charring.
Cool,Cool,Cool,Cool,Cool, project! Excellent instructable!
Glad you liked it!
rimar20001 year ago
Magnific work, Matt.
mattthegamer463 (author)  rimar20001 year ago
As always, thank you!
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