Coming soon: The camera works so well I've decided to upgrade the shutter so it will be able to shoot in broad daylight. (This note added on May 11th 2011).
Update: The updated shutter is almost finished. Unfortunately hobby time is hard to come by these days so a completion date is still unknown at this point, and of course I have to shoot a roll of film to make sure it works before I share it with the world, but stay tuned.. It shouldn't be too long now. (This note added on May 31st 2011)
Update 2: The entire project is nearly complete. In addition to the upgraded shutter I decided to enclose the film instead of leaving it exposed as it was before. As a result it has taken longer to complete the project than I had originally anticipated. Continued limited time to work on it has added more to the delay than the complexity of the design, but that said, Version 2.0 is far more complex than the first version. (This note added on July 19th 2011)
Update 3: The camera is done, i just put the final touches on it and loaded a roll of film. Needless to say it didn't take four months of work to make the modifications, but due to a lack time to work on it, it took me four months to finish none-the-less. I'm starting to work on the Instructable now but it's hard to say how long it will take because I don't have any more time to work on the Instructable than I did to work on the camera. (This note added on August 21st 2011)
Update 4: I'm about 85% finished with the instructable even though I still haven't developed the first roll of film yet. (This note added on September 6th 2011)
Update 5: I finished the instructable but I'm holding off on publishing it until I get a chance to shoot a second roll of film. I developed the first roll and although the exposures looked great, I had a light leak in a silly, least expected place (not at the new shutter) and it pretty much ruined the pictures. No modifications are even necessary to fix the light leak but I want to publish the instructable when I have some great images from the camera to go with it. (This note added on November 2nd 2011)
When I first started this project, the plan was to make a really nice Pin Hole camera. But after doing a little homework I quickly realized that the problem with pin hole cameras is that it's very difficult to figure out how long you need to let light enter the hole in order to get a proper exposure. I started to think, which in my case is very dangerous, and needless to say at this point, I got more than a little carried away. The project went from making a Pin Hole camera all the way to a home-made Box Camera with a real lens. All because I wanted to be able to figure out the shutter speed based on a known aperture. What on EARTH was I thinking? Many hours of head scratching went into the design and even more hours went into the build. But guess what? It worked! It not only works, but it takes remarkably great (sharp) pictures, supports interchangeable lenses, shoots 35mm film, and is easy to use. About the only draw back worth mentioning is that the shutter design doesn't provide speeds fast enough for photos in the bright sun. Indoors, shaded areas, early morning and evening are all doable. I encourage you to design a faster shutter design and add it to this Instructable. ;)
I would rate this project as moderate to advanced if you plan on using power tools to make it. It doesn't require power tools, nor do you have to use all the same tools I used, but it will certainly make the task easier if you do. This simple, classic design is all original, I didn't borrow any ideas from other home-made cameras I saw on the web or anywhere else. It's a little complex so I took a lot of pictures, hopefully the entire build process will be clear enough in this Instructable that you can build one yourself, but I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Black Masking Tape
Small Piece of Neoprene
Thin Sheet of Plastic
A Broken Film SLR Camera and Lens for Parts (The camera is optional but you'll need a lens and way to mount it.)
Empty Film Roll (Courtesy of any Photo Lab that processes film)
I chose 1/2" birch plywood that was left over from another project to build my box with. I got the sheet of plastic out of the bottom of one of those reusable shopping bags, and the small piece of neoprene was cut out of one of those pads you put in front of your keyboard to rest your wrists on while you type. The only things used in the making of this camera that I didn't fabricate, are the tripod mount, which I took off a broken film SLR camera, the lens mount, which I could have used off the same broken camera, but I happened to have a lens adapter that I was able to take the threaded (M42) sleeve out of, which I only preferred over the one from the broken camera because I have a better selection of lenses for it. You guessed it, zero investment so far, and it's a pleasure to get some use out of my old Pentax lenses again.
Powered Miter Box
Fine Tooth Hand Saw
Drill and Counter Sink Bit
If you don't own or know how to use all of these tools, it's OK, I'm certain you could do this using only hand tools. If you wanted to tackle this with a hand miter saw and a sharp chisel, I'm sure you could, it will just take a lot longer.