Happy Little Mac Pinhole Camera




Introduction: Happy Little Mac Pinhole Camera

About: I am a middle school computer teacher with an EE degree. I do programming to pay for my teaching habit. I am also one of the founders of LVL1 - Louisville's Hackerspace.

We have all heard of Macquariums, and I have even built a few, but have you ever heard of a Mac Pinhole Camera? Here is how I built one for International Pinhole Camera day (4/29/07). I just know there is an old Mac sitting in your basement... go ahead, it is time to void the warranty!

Step 1: Gut the Mac

I used an old Mac SE for this project. To crack the case, there are just a few screws to pull. They are torx screws, If you do not have a torx screwdriver, a flathead will work. Once the screws are removed, the front pulls off easily. Just get your fingernails along the crack and pull.
Really, it is not that hard to do.

Here are some other instructions on how to crack open a Mac

Once you have the case open, remove all the electronics and discard. You will have to look for screws. Be careful of the monitor, sometimes high voltages can zap you! Wear a long sleeve shirt in case the monitor breaks. Don't worry too much, just be careful.

Step 2: Insert Back Plate

Create a back "plate" out of foamboard, cardboard or or wood. I used foamboard because it is easy to cut and shape. Basically cut the foamboard so that it covers up the entire back of the inside of the Mac.

Step 3: Tape With Aluminum Duct Tape

Tape all openings that might let light in with aluminum duct tape. I guess you could use other types of tape. Pinhole cameras are not rocket surgery.

Step 4: Epoxy a Piece of Matteboard to the Screen Opening.

Whip up a batch of 5 minute epoxy and carefully glue a piece of matteboard to the opening of the front of the computer (where the screen is). Let it dry overnight. You will want to put a weight on it to hold is while it dries.

Step 5: Spray Paint Flat Black

Spray paint the inside of the computer and the inside of the front panel flat black. You will need to mask the outside with newspaper to keep the front looking good. Make sure it is all flat black, you do not want light bouncing around in the box! Do this outside, spray paint does not smell too good.

Step 6: Create Your Lens.

I created a pinhole lens using a piece of aluminum flashing and an old lens cap. Drill a large hole into the lens cap. Cut a piece of flashing so that it will fit into the lens cap. Look carefully at the picture. The lens cap is epoxied on the front of the matteboard for a clean look.

Also create a lens cap (cover) to use as a shutter. I just used a circular piece of matteboard and some blue masking tape.

To make a pinhole in the flashing... Use a #7 or 8 needle (or any other really small diameter needle and stick the back end of it into the eraser of a pencil. Now you can use the pencil (with the needle) to carefully drill a hole into the flashing. The object here is to make as clean a hole as possible. Drill until the needle just barely pokes through the aluminum. then use some 800 grit sandpaper to sand the rough edges around the hole down. Then flip the aluminum over and drill the other side. Sand the rough edges around the hole. Eventually, the needle will be completely through the flashing and the hole will be perfectly smooth. If you put the flashing down on a scanner, you can blow up the image and see that a perfect circle has been formed.

There are many internet resources on how to create a pinhole for a pinhole camera...

Here are some general pinhole camera resources to get you started.

Step 7: Load the Film

Now that you are finished building your camera, take a deep breath, your creation is fantastic! Take your camera into a darkroom (you do have a dark room, don't you). My darkroom is at the school where I work. Under a red light, load a sheet of photo paper into your camera (shiny side up) by taping it to the back of the inside of the camera using making tape (the blue kind). Put the front of the computer back on and make sure your lens is covered.

Step 8: Take Your Pic

Carry your camera outside and set up your picture. When you are ready, remove your lens cap and time your exposure for 60 seconds. I have found that 60 seconds is about right, but you may need to experiment. Recover your lens and take the whole contraption to your darkroom. Develop your paper as usual.

I cheated... the photo comes out as a negative. I dropped the photo on a scanner and inverted it with Photoshop. Alternatively, you could sandwich the pic on another piece of photo paper and hit it with an enlarger light and then develop. I have not done this, but my friend, the photography teacher, says it works!

This is a picture of me, in front of my camera. In the background is an oatmeal box camera also taking a picture of me. David Miller took this picture with a digital point and shoot camera. You can see him in the background of the oatmeal camera shot.

Step 9: Final Product

This pic was taken on Sunday April 29 for International Pinhole camera day. Here are links to the final pictures...

From the Mac Camera

From the Oatmeal Camera

Thanks for checking out this Instructable!



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    18 Discussions

    That Mac might have been worth a lot of money to the right madman willing to pay a king's ransom for it. It is good that you still used it the way you wanted to instead of saving it for the next guy who will not enjoy it for the thing it is.

    It is all in the pinhole and how much time you put into creating the pinhole.  The pinhole I used is perfectly round.  I put it under a microscope and took a look at it.  Also having it focus on a full sheet of paper makes it good.  Thanks for the kind comment!

    Just regular photo paper - 1 8x10 sheet

    is the photo paper just regular photo paper that you would expose negatives to?

    There is something going on with the comments. I have received some comment/questions by email, but cannot respond until the comments show up here. I will respond when they show up. If anyone out there knows how to fix this, it would be super. Brian

    2 replies

    I assume you got my initial attempts at posting a comment. I kept getting that 500 error.

    I did get it ... Not a digital nor one pixel, but a cool instructable, nonetheless! It's sad you disposed of the electronics. It might have come in handy if your school ever wanted to present '1984' for the annual play. Actually I do have an old Mac classic set up in my computer lab. I am a middle school computer teacher. The kids love to play Shuffle Puck Cafe, Risk and Oregon Trail. The first question out of there mouths is how do you open Firefox...

    Cool use of the Mac, I also like "rocket surgery," which is in my top 5 mixed metaphors. Cheers!

    1 reply

    I thought this was going to be an instructable about building a one pixel (single sensor) camera using rotatable mirrors etc. I wonder what gave me that idea?

    2 replies

    Ok, Ok, I Changed the title. I was trying to make a clever comment on the state of photography these days. The single pixel was the pinhole and the digital part was because the photo was taken in an old computer. I did scan the image and invert it in Photoshop. After completing this project I have a new respect for old school photography. Just taking a couple of photos is a half an hour process.

    The Apple II had color output (16 colors). The green screens were simply popular monochrome monitors at the time. Green was supposed to be easier on the eye and green phosphor tends to be slower (retains the light longer) making the screens less jittery at 50 or 60Hz refresh rate. This is also why oscilloscopes tend to have green screens. I paid extra for an amber screen for my Apple II, considering it more confortable than green. The Apple II came out in 1976 (Apple incorporated officially on April 1, 1976), but at the time only b/w or color "TV Monitors" were available and were very expensive (no green or amber yet). My first monitor was a b/w TV that I had removed the tuner and sound filter according to instructions from Don Lancaster's fabulous book "The TV Typewriter Cookbook." The IBM PC was introduced in 1981 at the heals of the Apple III (1980) and five years after the Apple II.

    would putting that sickly green monochrome lettering that made the old macs so desirable on the outside of the mat board make any difference in the photos taken? it would be nifty to put some randome code up on the "screen" as if it were still working

    1 reply

    It would make no difference at all. You can do anything as long as you don't let any light into the box (except the pinhole)