What is a PinHolga?
I'll let you into a little secret my friend. A PinHolga is a great starter hack for you to do. It involves taking your lens off and replacing it with a tiny hole drilled into a piece of metal. This means your aperture suddenly becomes ultra tiny, producing images with a huge depth of field - virtually everything is in focus. Another interesting feature is that it increases your exposure time, making long exposures in daytime possible.
It is also a particularly handy way of re-using a broken Holga. If your Holga lens or shutter mechanism breaks and you are unable to fix it, then that camera is a suitable candidate to turn into a PinHolga. I used to recommend that you use the shutter mechanism in conjunction with the new pinhole plate so that you can reverse the process at any time, but I'm not convinced that's a particularly good idea any more. It's more worthwhile just converting a whole camera.
What do I need?
For this hack you will need:
- Spare or broken Holga. I used a 120N as it was the cheapest!
- Phillips '0' screwdriver
- Thin sewing needle
- Piece of thin metal - drinks cans work great
- Black tape
- Empty plastic 35mm film holder to put your screws in.
- Scanner (for measuring your pin hole)
Making the pinhole
Carefully cut out a square slice out of a used drinks can. When I say carefully, I mean carefully - thin aluminium is sharp, and it's easy to cut yourself. It's like a paper cut, only worse. You will need to flatten your can now, by either carefully rolling it the other way, or leaving it under a stack of books over night. I'm impatient so I did the former. Now draw a cross neatly with a thin marker pen and ruler. This allows you to centre your pinhole once you come to finally assemble your camera.
Take your sewing needle and position it over the centre cross on your aluminium. Now start drilling through the metal. Keep twisting the needle back and forth. Do not poke it through as it'll bend your metal and make your hole uneven. It does feel like you are drilling forever, but have patience grasshopper.
Once the tip of your needle is just starting to poke through the metal, get some fine (600 grit) sandpaper and lightly sand the hole on each edge. You'll probably need to poke the hole through slightly again to make sure the hole is round and even. The final step before taping the pinhole in place is to measure your pinhole using any flatbed scanner. Now let's put that pinhole to good use!
Attaching the pinhole
Now we are going to remove the old shutter mechanism, and replace it with our handsome new pinhole.
- Start by removing the back from your Holga, then take out the mask.
- Grab your Phillips '0' screwdriver and unscrew the two screws connecting the lens/shutter mechanism to your camera.
- Carefully remove the lens assembly. Cut the yellow wire and poke any remnant through the hole at the top of the camera. Put this lens assembly somewhere safe in case you ever want to convert your PinHolga back.
- Now is a great time to flock the inside of your Holga.
- Attach the pinhole to the front of your camera using black tape, making sure not to cover the hole! Look at the metal plate from the rear of the camera to make sure the cross is dead centre. See the cross came in handy after all!
- Put your mask back in place to avoid light leaks. Trust me light leaks are bad with pinholes.
- Finally place a piece of black tape over the pinhole, to act as a lens cap.
- Punch the air with delight, for you have completed the project young grasshopper.
Calculating exposure times
First you need to work out the f/stop of your new pin-holy beast. If you haven't already, measure the diameter of your pinhole using your scanner (PDF). Next go to Mr. Pinhole and input 33mm (1.83 inches) for the focal length. Now put your measured pinhole diameter in the relevant box. Now click on the F Stop field and it should automatically calculate your f stop for you.
Armed with the knowledge of your f stop, head on over to Mr. Pinhole's Exposure Guide and rejoice. Yeah that's right you'll need a light meter. Or you could use an Exposure Calculator. I use a light-meter 'cos I ain't got time for no messin'. If you want your pictures to be sharper than a paper cut, you'll need to use a tripod. Of course you don't have to use a tripod if you want abstract fluffy blurry ethereal loveliness.
Because of the lengthy exposures needed, you'll need to adjust the time for reciprocity failure. You can find details on this in your films data sheets. See the long exposure article for more advice.
Armed with an exposure time, simply set your PinHolga up on a tripod and uncover the pinhole. Time the exposure using a watch, then replace the tape and wind on as usual.