Cheap Digital Large Format Pinhole Camera (Hack Style)

How to make alternative imaging methods from near obsolete materials like old flatbed scanners with variable resolutions and awesome motion effects thanks to the linear method provided.

check out this instructable for making sweet bellows

this is a complex but meditative(frustrating) constructive process you were warned

Step 1: Selecting Hardware

There is ethical and political value to taking obsolete componentry and appropriating it into the context of the digital age. Personal Im just not happy with what is available to the public and the costs the reside. it is far more individual to look around your surroundings more deeply to understand the potentiallities of what you have got over what new cutting edge technolgy you can have.


Flatbed scanner with drivers, power supply and USB connection or similar.

Either a large format camera to modify of make your own like i have from a wooden box, black paint, fabric, Velcro and telescopic aerials like tv rabbit ears have.

no power adapters needed apart from the scanners supported one but you will need up to a metre of plastic coated hookup braided wire and a simple to pin switch.


Finesse Craft and attention to detail are important qualities to have or attain from this exercise.

Step 2: Modifying Hardware (Hacking)

the only option i for-sore was to isolate the light within the flatbed scanner to let the light comming into the camera affect the sensors instead.

the easiest way i found to do this was to add a switch to one of the inputs from the main PCB on the moving carriage to the dc to ac converting transformer(small PCB) for the scanner light. (this gives you the control to turn off the light at will after the register scan but before scanning the projected image.

You can also use the materials listed earlier to make a functional while minimally engineered large format body for a camera.


I am not responsible for any injuries you may undertake please be careful with electricity do not modify live powered devices and be aware of capacitors that hold charge and i am told exposure of you eyes to direct full powered scanner light is harmful there fore be extra careful.

Step 3: Software Options

there are many custom software options out there for receiving information from your scanner without being modified by your manufacturers released drivers have a look it might improve your results dramatically. try them out.

the main problem is getting access to the technical settings of the scanner being able to adapt the ISO or analogue sensitivity of the data sensor. i am confident with some research that this can be accessed and will make this obsolete method just if not more freedomistic.

Step 4: Calibration and Enjoying the Experience of a Process Based Art

i will share the results of collaboration as i go as i think it is probably a constant process just like commercial photography effects and manipulations.

Basically what i am working on at the moment is a swivel for the pinhole so that the pinhole can move across the picture plane making wider and more defined images.

this part of the process is quite technical but all the more rewarding as results Progress and prosper.

UPDATE!!!! I have looked into the potentiality of using a Large format Camera which would usually use 5"x7" Colour or Black and white film, these are also known as view cameras as far as i know. I will be experimenting soon on a loaned one but if i get good results i may commit to buying just a lens which is where all the mecanical buisness happens like the shutter release and apeiture control.

REUPDATE!!! scratch spending tonnes of money on a large format camera instead i have sanded a piece of clear acrylic with fine grain sandpaper and made a successful outside light pinhole view camera, i have also cut out the back from my flat bed scanner in the development of internalizing the scanner just like a film slide cartridge on a large format camera.

RELOAD UPDATE i have tidied up lose switches and LED's by modifying a puncture repair kit container as a cheap electronic project box. the scanner buttons a single led and the light controll swith is contained in this box and is attached to the side making this an easy digital slide cartridge.

EXCITING it is finally producing amazing results without mass input of money or consumption.

I have also started a new anti-business or trade lending my wide array of alternative technical skills in exchange not for money but life necessities of material products for more details contact me on OR check out my website which i will link to this instruct-able soon

Step 5: Actually Resorting to Software Modification

i have chosen to use a dual boot ubuntu system for modifying scanner software because of its free access through SANE = SCANNER ACESS NOW EASY it is a very easy method for gaining full acess to your scanners full potential.

while i dont know enough about installing firmware or driver support for my scanner a Acer(vuego or BenQ) 4300U i have came across a cool trick for now by restarting from my windoes xp system with the scanner in operating status to ubuntu it saves the firmware required to run the scanner in X-sane.

Using open source free software is becoming a greater reality everyday as an artist seeking the full potential and freedom of control over my tools and resources.



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    2 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Please include a few of your best photos taken with this camera.  I'm very interested in how much resolution you are able to achieve.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    unfortunately the scanner i modified broke in transit between my home studio and school one earlier this year so haven't worked on this project for a while will pick it back up later this year when i have the time to tinker with a new scanner .

    the good news if you scourer the net there are successful prototypes. after considerable amount of time spent people have made very decent images and interesting effects from similar processes.

    sorry I couldn't be of much help i would say if you are looking to do this project yourself it requires a disipline on time spent to get desired results and dont underestimate it as a quick cool effect