Introduction: Annatto 270

The Annatto 270 is an aesthetic but easy to assemble pinhole camera. The name was inspired by the origins of the prototype for the camera itself: a mac and cheese box that listed "annatto" as one of its mysterious ingredients. It was designed from a group effort as prompted by an assignment in Arts 490, a collaborative course between the Art and Communication Studies departments at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. We were able to successfully capture images with this design, and by following the template and instructions, it should be able to be replicated.

Step 1: Draw Out Designs

The design for the camera, illustrated here, consists of 4 essential parts that are then broken down into parts further.

The body:

The body of the camera consists of 4 pieces that will be assembled into a box with open sides. The front face of the box will have a square hole.

The two lids:

The two sides of the camera are removable caps or lids. They are each composed of 5 pieces; the front piece featuring a design.

The shutter:

Two pieces assemble the shutter. One consists of three sides of a rectangle, and it holds the other piece: an artistic tab that can be pulled up and pushed down to open and close the pin hole's exposure to the world.

Step 2: Create Illustrator Files

The sketched designs have to then be translated into Illustrator files that are compatible with the software for the laser cutter. The Files used are shown here, with a few notable details:

  • All lines that are to be cut (the outside edges of each piece) should be put into a red font (RGB: 255,0,0) at 0.01mm
  • All designs on the pieces are to be etched, and should therefore be in a black (RGB: 0,0,0) font at 0.40mm

Step 3: Create Pinhole

The pinhole piece can be assembled by cutting out a small square of aluminum from a soda can. Using a fine needle, poke a hole in the center of the square.

Step 4: Laser Cut!

Move the Illustrator files to a flash drive, and plug the flash drive into the computer attached to the laser cutter. Open the files with the software provided, and insert desired material into the bed of the laser cutter. For our model of the Annatto 270, we used plywood that was 1/4 of an inch thick.

Step 5: Assemble

Assemble the pieces of the camera by hot gluing the aluminum square into the front face's box, for the pinhole, and then follow the interlocking grid design of the pieces and hot glue them in place. Hot glue each tab, following the illustrations, by gluing the tabs on the bottom piece of the body in three rows of three.

Step 6: Take Pictures

Insert photo paper into the camera by taking off a side lid and inserting the photo paper. The tabs determine the focal length of the photo. To take a shot, lift up the shutter and hold for however many seconds match the preferred exposure. Than, close the shutter and develop the photo in a darkroom.