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Pinhole Camera Lights The Way For Traditionalists

posted 11 Jun 2013, 02:44 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jun 2013, 02:45 ]

A Slovenian designer has developed a durable and user-friendly wooden pinhole camera in an attempt to remind amateur photographers of the lost art of picture taking.

VELENJESLOVENIA (JUNE 3, 2013) (REUTERS) - A Slovenian designer and photography enthusiast has gone back to the future with his latest retro invention, the ONDU pinhole camera. Made entirely of wood, it produces slightly grainy images. Clarity-wise, they may not compete with those taken on hi-tech megapixel photographic equipment, but Elvis Halilovicbelieves his distinctly low-tech camera will charm amateur photographers. He says it will remind the public of the true art of photography, which he believes is being lost as high-end equipment makes taking snaps ever easier.

The cameras, handcrafted almost entirely out of wood, instantly became a hit on the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter where site members pledged more than $80,000 to fund the project in just three weeks.

Pinhole cameras are simple devices which consist of a box with a pinhole - instead of a lens on standard cameras - which record images by letting light through to the film inside the casing. This results in distinctive lo-fi images of enhanced colour which appear hazy.

Halilovic, a young designer based in the town of Velenje goes by the pseudonym of ONDU, and first got the idea while studying for an industrial design degree, which involved learning the basics of photography.

"Regular cameras use lenses to focus light onto photographic material whether that is film or photographic paper, whereas in pinhole photography we use small tiny pinhole-sized aperture which we drill with a precision drill, that lets light through to the same material. And, because it has such a high aperture, this tiny hole, it produces unique images that no other kind of photographic camera can achieve," he said. "These are really simple cameras that have been around for many years but I've put them in a package so that people can use them with ease. So everything is provided for, the photographer who gets this camera will just have to load a pack of film and start shooting right away."

Halilovic makes all the cameras by hand in his carpentry workshop, with his brother Benjamin, crafting them from locally sourced chestnut and maple wood. Movable pieces are held together by magnets, with only a single metal screw, used to hold the shutter in place.

Halilovic spent a year developing his range of six different types of wooden pinhole cameras, varying in size, film format and price, from the cheapest model which uses 135 mm film and costs $60, all the way up to the a $200 limited edition sliding box which uses 4x6-inch photography paper. Regardless of their sizes and pricing, all cameras are designed to be user-friendly and durable.

Halilovic said he already had orders for around 950 cameras, due for delivery to mostly American buyers by October this year, and after delivering the first batch, he plans to buy better tools and equipment to enable production on a larger scale.

The charming quality of lo-fi pinhole images online have not gone unnoticed, with various retail stores asking to sell his products. Professional photographer Brane Bozic, who runs a studio in Llubljana, said the ONDU was a useful aid to teach the basics of photography. "This (the camera) looks quite serious. You can make good pictures with it. Well, you do need some knowledge (of photography), it is a step back in photography. Developing photos by yourself. I think it might be useful for anyone who has at least some interest," said Bozic.

"I think this might be a thing that could sell," he added.

In spite of the huge popularity of photography brought about by digital cameras andsmartphones, Halilvic says he noticed that few people understood how the basics of the photographic process actually worked, especially the "whole concept of light". He said that the cameras are aimed at three groups of people - those who like them merely as finely crafted objects, professionals who might be nostalgic about their early days when they first learned to shoot using similar cameras, and photography enthusiasts who like the dreamy feel of pinhole photography.

"The feeling of some imagination, or the spirit of photography, has been completely lost through this really overconsumption of photographic media. When you take a picture with a pinhole camera not only the photographer is involved, but also the subject. Because exposing images with this kind of cameras takes a little bit longer than just taking a snapshot, so the people that get photographed with these cameras get away with an experience," Halilovic added.