Instructables

How to make a Concrete Camera

FeaturedContest Winner
Picture of How to make a Concrete Camera
As a photography enthusiast I have cameras of all shapes and sizes, some analogue some digital, some low tech & some high but none so satisfying as the one I made myself! It doesn't take too long to whip your very own concrete camera so let's get started...

Firstly I am rather new to concrete and casting so please forgive any glaringly obvious mistakes I make along the way, I know there are definitely some things I would do differently next time around (more on that later) but if you have ideas on how any of this could be improved please share in the comments. With that said, this is how I made my own concrete pinhole camera...



 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Making the Cast - Part One

Picture of Making the Cast - Part One
219933-6.jpg
219933-7.jpg
219933-8.jpg
219933-9.jpg
The body

The body of the camera is basically a box shape with two walls inside that create separate compartments for the film to travel through. The first photo shows the dimensions of the inside part of the cast which I built out of laminated sheets of 5mm foam. I then created a box to enclose this inside part which when poured in concrete would create the walls of the camera.  Finally I found a pen which had about the right diameter (12mm) to make the hole in the front - where the pinhole would be attached, and also the two holes in the top - used for advancing the film and rewinding the film once it is exposed. I glued these three pieces in place before pouring the concrete.

Step 2: Making the Cast - Part Two

Picture of Making the Cast - Part Two
The Base

The base fits snugly into the bottom of the camera to make it light tight. I made my cast being generous with the measurements then using a file I shaved the edges off the base until it fit snugly into place. 

Step 3: Pouring the Concrete

Picture of Pouring the Concrete
Now the fun part! Mix up the concrete according the the instructions on the pack and add it to the mold, making sure to get concrete into all the little nooks and crannies. I don't have a vibrating table so to remove air bubbles I went with a combo of tapping all around the outside of the mold and also lifting it a little and allowing it to drop back onto the table. Once I was happy that all the bubbles were out I put it somewhere flat and out of the way to dry.

Step 4: De-mold & Clean Up

Picture of De-mold & Clean Up
Once the concrete has set the walls around the mold can be carefully pulled away and you can dig out the foam from the inside. I found pliers worked pretty well to pull out chunks of foam from the inside of the camera. The front of my camera around where the pinhole goes got a little damaged when I was de-molding so I simply made it a design feature by countersinking the hole.

Step 5: Detailing & Paint Insides

Picture of Detailing & Paint Insides
Because the is no viewfinder after de-molding I smoothed over the rough top edge with sandpaper and added some guide lines to give me an idea of the field of view. To do this I marked out the half way point on the back of the camera and the two points where the walls meet the front, I then used a small file to score lines in the concrete. Finally to minimize any light bouncing around inside the camera I also painted all the inside surfaces black.

Step 6: Make the Pinhole

Picture of Make the Pinhole
To create the pinhole I cut a square out of an old soda can and then placed it on to an eraser to cushion it while making the hole. Then using the thinnest needle I could find I gently pressed a hole through the tin, trying not to go all the way through but to just break the surface so the hole was as small as it could possibly be. I then went lightly over the back of the tin with some sandpaper to smooth off any rough edges the hole may have had.

Other methods for making pinholes can be found here: http://silverbased.org/pinhole-101/  that link also describes different ways to measure the diameter of the pinhole you have created so you can work out the correct exposure times later on.

Once you have created your pinhole and attempted to measure it you can go ahead and glue it inside the body of the camera.

Step 7: Making the Shutter Cover & Film Winder

Picture of Making the Shutter Cover & Film Winder
winder-1.jpg
219933-21.jpg
There are still two vital components needed to make the camera functional, first we need something to cover up the pin hole and second something to allow us to advance the film.

To make the shutter I simply found some thin plywood and cut it out using a hacksaw into a tear drop shape. Once I had smoothed out the edges with sandpaper I drilled a hole near the top and glued some black felt onto the back to make it extra light-tight. I then scratched out a hole where I wanted the shutter to be attached to the camera and used a screw covered in glue to fix it to the front of the camera (I then covered up the screw head with a dome to make it a little prettier). This is one of those things that if I had thought ahead maybe I could have set a bolt into the concrete as I was pouring it to make attaching the shutter a little easier later on.

To make the winder I used two pieces of wooden dowel one 9mm which I cut a slit across with a hacksaw so that it would grasp the two small teeth in the top of the film canister and then I used a second larger piece of wooden dowel and attached it to the top to make it easier to grasp and twist.

Now if you put it all together you should have a functional camera, however if you are likely to go traveling around with this camera there is one more thing I would recommend to do, use two bands of rubber (I cut mine from a bicycle inner tube) and slip one over each end of the camera to hold everything together, that way it is not likely to come apart in your bag or as you move around from place to place.

Step 8: Loading Film

Picture of Loading Film
To load the film take an old film canister (ask for one at your local photo developing shop) and pop one of the ends off, then remove the spool from inside. Once that is done you need to tape the end of the film you want to expose onto the empty spool making sure the film canisters are both the same way up. Next you need to re-assemble the old canister, then slide both the film canisters and the film into the camera, making sure everything lines up with the winding holes at the top. Before you shut everything up take note of the ISO of the film you are using - this will help with your exposure calculations.

Step 9: Making Photos

Picture of Making Photos
To expose film correctly we need to figure out what aperture our pinhole is then we can use that info along with the ISO of our film to determine what the shutter speed should be. Again I used the info from the site http://silverbased.org/pinhole-101/ and this one http://mrpinhole.com/calcpinh.php to determine my aperture size, and from those I think my pinhole's f stop is around 90.

So to take photos I simply use my hand held light meter, plug in the ISO of my film and take a reading (if you don't have a light meter you can use your camera to do the same thing) then I can refer to the numbers below by Dr Evan Reece (another NZ photographer and pinhole maker, website here: http://www.ejreece.com/) to figure out an approximate exposure:

Aperture/F stop

1.2   1.4   2   2.8   4   5.6   8   11   16   22   32   45   64   90(the approximate aperture of my camera)

Shutter Speed/Exposure Time

1/1000   1/500   1/250   1/125   1/60   1/30   1/15   1/8   1/4   1/2   1sec   2sec   4sec   8sec   16sec   32sec   1min   2min   ...etc

Example: You meter F.11 @ 1/60 of a second
To get the exposure simply count the steps from the aperture you metered (in this case F.11) up to that of your camera (in my case F.90) so for this example there are 6 steps from F.11 to F.90, then you simply count that same number of steps on the exposure scale so in our example we start at 1/60 of a second and count up 6 steps so we know the exposure time should be about 1 second.

Snap Away!

When you come to the end of your film simply switch the winder from one hole on top of the camera to the other and rewind the film right back to the beginning before taking the camera apart to remove the exposed reel.

Step 10: The Results

I am waiting on my first lot of test photos to be developed so I will be updating the instructable with my results very soon!

**UPDATE
My nervous wait is over - the film has been developed and it has images - yay! Unfortunately the photo store had some difficulty in scanning the images as they turned out slightly bigger than standard 35mm format so I did my best to stitch them together and match up exposures etc... however there are some places which seem to have been missed in the scanning and some frames which are sharper than others but ... oh well.

So overall the look of the photos is very lo-fi - they are in very soft focus and there have been some light leaks, and a few frames which have grit/dust on them, but overall I kinda really like the pictures especially as I wasn't expecting perfection first time around and I was relieved to find any exposures at all! They also have super rough edges and the images extend right out to the film sprockets which you can't see in these photos - I wish I had a scanner of my own so I could do some better reproductions. Anyway I had so much fun making this camera that I think I will move on to concrete camera version 2 and see if I can't fine tune it and figure out how to get it working even better. If anyone else makes their own concrete camera I would love to hear about it/see your results!!
1-40 of 66Next »
rflippo00111 months ago
How far do you know to wind the film to get to the next frame without over lap? and does the distance of the pinhole to the film make a difference on sharpness? or is it the size and shape of the pin hole? Yours looks so cool I tried to help my son make a pin hole camera but most of our shots where a little blurry. we used 400 iso film and hand held. the light exposure was good for his guesses based on some formula he read like your link. What film speed did you use and was your camera mounted for stillness? Thanks your shots are very cool.
amuu (author)  rflippo00111 months ago
I simply watched the top of the second spool turning and did one full turn between each photo, I think both the distance and size/shape of the pinhole will effect the sharpness but this is something I have to look into further because I also want sharper images! I used 100iso film and all of my shots were placed on the ground.
janabimustafa3 months ago
Hi

This is a good article. Making a camera with concrete is a good idea. A very rare and cool one. I love it. It look good and creative. Also I have come acoss another one here- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/830540667/original-pin-made-from-wood-cut-by-lasers-built-to

Bjarke9 months ago
You should enter the analog photography competetion thingy.
sosnarobert10 months ago
Amazing
prefabbeton10 months ago
Love it! What a great idea! Looks good. Does it work? ;) http://www.sierbetononline.nl  
poofrabbit11 months ago
Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Concrete & Casting Contest! This was one of my votes so I'm so happy you are one of the finalists! LOVE this idea, so out of the box!! Good luck!
amuu (author)  poofrabbit11 months ago
Thanks for the support poofrabbit :) I totally appreciate the vote!
Vikingtrader11 months ago
I love this idea. I take star trails and this sure would be a solid and steady camera :-)
One hint: use a fine fretsaw for cutting the shutter as a hacksaw is soooo unwieldy!
amuu (author)  Vikingtrader11 months ago
Thanks - do you have any links for your star trails I would love to see them! A fretsaw look like it would be great to have for this job but for now I'm just using what I got.
Vikingtrader amuu11 months ago
Oh I didn't mean any criticism of your technique. The fine saw just makes the job a lot easier :-). Umm I'll have to put some photos up on line - if you are on Facebook I'll put some there

Best wishes
amuu (author)  Vikingtrader11 months ago
None taken :) I would seriously love to own a whole shed-full of tools but alas its just not possible now... but it is a good hint for anyone else following along - thanks!
hobo marcus11 months ago
Really cool
amuu (author)  hobo marcus11 months ago
Thanks!
gldfshbob11 months ago
Nice reconstruction of the Camera I sold you kudos to you for using a new material than the MDF one you bought - But printing my copyrighted instructions ( even down to the one hippopotamus ) and passing them off as your own tsk tsk please put more thought into your plagiarism next time
amuu (author)  gldfshbob11 months ago
Hi Gldfshbob, I still have and love your wooden panoramic pinhole camera and even after all these years I remembered your explanation of f stops and shutter speeds to be correct & easy to follow so I re-wrote it in my own words here, I am sorry if you feel I have copied your work - do you have a link for your cameras so I can show it as inspiration for my instructable? Or would you like me to change the exposure explanation so it doesn't reference yours?
gldfshbob amuu11 months ago
your whole exposure calculations are a direct copy of my copyrighted work - I don't see how you think you have "re written things in your own words" Even the formating is the same as my work and the Hippo stuff come on -- either remove it or state that the exposure tables are the copyrighted property of Dr Evan Reece
amuu (author)  gldfshbob11 months ago
I have updated the text to credit you for your exposure table and I have also added a link to your website, I removed the 'hippo stuff' from the picture too.
kblanding5611 months ago
Might try curving the film holder, so the negative behind the lens is curved? You have my vote, mainly because I think I'll try this as I'm also a photo bug!
amuu (author)  kblanding5611 months ago
Hmm I will look into that and see what effect that would have - thanks for the vote!
Green Silver11 months ago
I put a pinhole disc where my DSLR lens should be. It worked!
amuu (author)  Green Silver11 months ago
Cool I've seen that before and always wanted to try it!
Monty^11 months ago
Hi Amuu, I linked this project to another site and received an interesting comment you might be interested in seeing from Colin Carron , Aug 26, 2013; 04:53 a.m.
http://photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00bwQG
amuu (author)  Monty^11 months ago
Hey thanks for linking, That is interesting - I didn't know that concrete could be so specific! He's right you should always wear safety equipment when working with cement ie: gloves & mask however my fingertips seem to be just fine :)
gldfshbob11 months ago
Nice reconstruction of the Camera I sold you kudos to you for using a new material than the MDF one you bought - But printing my copyrighted instructions ( even down to the one hippopotamus ) and passing them off as your own tsk tsk please put more thought into your plagiarism next time
fazgard11 months ago
Fantastic!
ladylissa11 months ago
I LOVE this!!! It's brilliant. One of the coolest pinholes I have seen! It also makes it basically impossible for the wind to blow it over if your taking super still shots! Awesome!
amuu (author)  ladylissa11 months ago
Thank you! Yup it's pretty sturdy - would be cool to see if I could leave it somewhere overnight and get a really long exposure out of it!
Negomi amuu11 months ago
a friend of mine did some amazing 6 month long exposures... try it longer than overnight?
ladylissa amuu11 months ago
Try it and post the results!
icsnerdics11 months ago
this is aaaaaaaaaawesome
agis6811 months ago
imagine after all mobility and portability strenght of decades appear in store the first anti-theapt camera.......is so quarranted heave nobody will attempt to still.....lol....iam not get crazy about this instructable (not any obvius use) but for experimental purposes i vote yes
jhernandez7311 months ago
You are so welcome. Good luck and I wish you the best.
Really awesome
amuu (author)  I like chicken nuggets11 months ago
Thanks!
gustmv11 months ago
This is amazing!! I wanted to ask if I could use your pictures to post this tutorial in the site camionetica.com with a Spanish translation. I would give all credit to you and place a link to here. Thanks!
amuu (author)  gustmv11 months ago
Hey as long as you put a link I'm happy for you to translate into Spanish :)
BeefDivision11 months ago
I love this idea, and your finished product looks beautiful. I have only one concern, but it's a major one: your "shutter door" should create a light-tight seal across the front of the camera, or it's going to leak around the edges where wood meets concrete, and any light that comes around is likely going to spoil your photos. You might paint your aluminum pinhole square black as well as the inside of your shutter door and the passage between the front face of the camera and the pinhole.

Anyone who has ever made an oatmeal-can camera knows that a little tab of gaffers tape works great because it blocks light and creates a seal when you press it down, closing the shutter.

I hope this isn't a problem with yours, and I can't wait to see your set of pictures from your cool little brick-cam. Please post!
amuu (author)  BeefDivision11 months ago
Hey - as Kasm279 said I did put felt on the back of the shutter door to make it extra light tight although my final images do show a light leak which I think may be coming through the hole on top of the camera. I think making 2 winders rather than 1 should fix this problem though and would provide some extra light proofing for those holes on the top.
1-40 of 66Next »