The ONDU Pinhole camera. A learning exercise.

ONDU Pinhole

Some time back, I ran across the ONDU Pinhole camera Kickstarter. I hadn’t tried a pinhole before. I came from a j school background, and pinhole was not how you shot spot news, so I’d never played with one. I backed the company to get one to try. And besides, any enterprise that creates new cameras that shoot film is always a good thing. More cameras mean more demand, and a better future for film. I plunked down $100 for a 6×6 and waited.

It turned out to take longer than I thought it would have. I was not alone is backing this Kickstarter. ONDU set out to raise $10,000, and got over $100,000. Camera orders took a bit longer to fulfill as a result, as they were victims of their own success. In the end, the camera was worth the wait.

The camera is made of two types of wood, chestnut and maple, and is beautiful in design. My grandfather, who was a master carpenter and boat-wright, would approve of the dovetail in the camera. In addition to being very pretty to look at, the wood is a renewable resource, which is an important consideration to ONDU. They are concerned about their environmental impact. It makes for a light weight, robust, camera that is even nice to touch.

ONDU Pinhole cameras are simple devices. There is only a flat piece of metal with a very small hole in it, no lenses. A simple manual rolling method of film advance, without any gears or levers. The shutter is a piece of wood on a hinge that is opened and closed by hand. Three whole moving parts. A very uncomplicated, honest machine.

shoot-253I must admit, using a pinhole has thrown me off. It seems impossibly wide. I’m not sure what the viewing angle actually is, but things I frame up close turn out to be tiny in the resulting image. Likewise, things that are out of the frame, are actually in. When I shoot, if I think I am close enough, I probably need to go about six feet closer to get the result I think I am getting. I may invest some time in making a framing guide out of wire and mounting it on top.

Following the advice of Shelly Sometimes, pinhole photographer extraordinaire, I’ve used Pinhole Assist on my iPhone to get the exposures right. However, I find that a simple camera is harder for me to work. I pull boneheaded moves with this thing all the time. Unintentional double exposures. Finger in the image. Every rookie mistake in the book.

Nothing for it but to keep on going, though. It’s the only way to learn. When I get a good frame, it’s very worth it. There’s just something about the aesthetic of the results, simultaneously in and out of focus. Somehow otherworldly. I’ll keep grinding on, figuring out what I am doing wrong.

If nothing else, the ONDU Pinhole is a fantastic learning exercise for me.


  1. December 16, 2014

    Does this take 35mm or 120? Looks intriguing. I haven’t yet tried pinhole, but I like the often surreal results.

    • Andrew
      December 16, 2014

      It takes 120. I have purchased some 3D printed adapters to put 35 through it, but haven’t tried it yet. I picked up a 100 foot foll of unperforated APX 100 somewhere along the way and I want to see how that looks though it.

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