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Making And Using Your Camera

( Originally Published 1932 )



Here is a camera made entirely of cardboard, which any girl can cut and assemble within an hour at home. As its materials are easily found around the average home, it should cost nothing to make. It has no breakable or complicated parts, is easy to operate, and takes splendid pictures.

Step-by-step instructions are given for its construction, but before we attempt our first camera, let us glance "behind the scenes" and see what a camera really is—and why it takes pictures.

Many people would feel insulted if we asked them if they knew what a camera was, but those same people would feel quite perplexed if we should ask them to explain the "why" and "how" of this most common of inventions !

The real truth of the matter is that few people understand the principle behind the camera, and yet it is one of the simplest of instruments. A camera in its simplest form is a light-tight box with a lens at one end and a means of supporting a sensitive film at the opposite end. In order to take a photograph we use the lens to form the image of the object we want to photograph upon the film.

The simplest lens which we could use would be a small hole. If we take a sheet of cardboard and make a hole in it with a pin, and then, in a darkened room, hold the cardboard between a sheet of white paper and an electric lamp, we shall see on the paper an image of the lamp filament.

In our camera of today, this principle is used, al-though many refinements are attached. A bellows, shutter, diaphragm, finders and other attachments are modifications of this form—the bellows to permit the folding of the light chamber for convenience in carrying; the shutter and diaphragm to regulate the exposure and amount of light; and the finders to show the amount of view seen by the lens.

But if we should take the lens out of the modern camera and replace it by a thin piece of metal pierced with a hole made by a sewing needle, we could still take excellent photographs by giving sufficient exposure. In order to get more light, we could try making the pinhole larger, but the effect of this is to make the image very indistinct.

However, we could use the same size of pinhole for making all sizes of pictures, because the image formed by a pinhole is always of the same sharpness, whether the pinhole is far from the film or close to it. If we want a large picture we must, of course, use a large camera so that the pinhole will be a long way from the film, while if we want a small picture we will only need a small, camera in which the pinhole is near the film.

The cardboard camera given here is equipped with a pinhole lens, and as can be seen from the above facts, the size of it depends on the size of picture the photographer wishes to take. For beginners it would be best if the dimensions shown for the camera in the plans are carefully followed.

The pictures shown in this chapter were taken by girls with pinhole cameras of this size, and it is recommended for all novice photographers. These instructions should be carefully followed, with frequent references to the plans, as the work progresses, and before you realize it, you will own a camera you made yourself.

Cut two pieces of heavy cardboard 95/8 inches long and 81%6 inches wide. With your rule and pencil, mark these pieces as shown in "A" on the plans. The four shaded corners are cut away. This can best be done with a razor blade. In one of the pieces, cut a hole 1/4 inch wide and ˝ inch long, as shown by "Y." This should be located in the exact center of the center section, which is easily done by drawing two lines from opposite corners, as shown. Do not make such a hole in the other "A" piece. This hole is made to accommodate the pinhole lens, which will be explained presently. As the inside of our box must be "light-tight," one side of all pieces of cardboard should be black. There are several ways of accomplishing this. The cardboard can be lined with black tissue paper glued to it or it can be painted with black ink or regular paint. All sides that are so blackened form the inside when the cardboard is bent to shape.

When both "A" pieces have been lined, their sides and ends should be bent up to form boxes. These are shown in Figure 37, parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, and should be bent along the dotted lines shown around the center section. Note these in Figure 37, A.

When bent, the blackened side of the cardboard should be on the inside. The joints made by the bending should be tightly sealed with gummed paper tape or medical adhesive tape, as can be seen in Figure 38.

If these pieces have been properly cut and bent, we should now have two boxes of equal size, black on the inside, and a hole in one of them. This hole is for the lens, which is now made. Take a piece of black paper about an inch long and half as wide, and glue it firmly in place over the hole. It should be placed on the outside of the box. Locate the exact center of this end, as you did when cutting its hole, and pierce the paper with a No. 10 sewing needle.

A small cardboard as shown in Figure 37, D is now cut from one of the waste corner pieces. Shape it with the razor to the proper dimensions. This forms the "shutter" of our camera, and of course must be attached over the lens. To do this use a brass paper fastener. Thrust the fastener through the shutter just above its center, and then through the end of the box above its pinhole lens, so that the cardboard can be pivoted on the fastener. It must be so placed that when hanging down it covers the pinhole lens. Spread the two stems of the fastener tightly against the inside of the box, so that the cardboard shutter will be 'held tightly against the hole.

Another piece of the same cardboard is now cut and marked off, as shown in Figure 37, B. This should be 15 inches long and 5 1/5 inches wide, divided into four sections, and black on one side. Bend on dotted line into the form of a box with open ends, as shown in Figure 38, B. Another piece is cut as shown in Figure 37, C. One side of this should also be black, as it is used for a backing for the film. This completes all cutting and bending of cardboard.

To assemble the camera, place box "A" over one end of box "B," pushing it on as far as it will go, as shown in Figure 38. The other "A" box is slipped over the other end of "B" box, and also pushed in place. Both the "A" boxes should meet when in place on "B." The "A" box having the lens in it now be-comes the front of the camera, while the other is the back or "loading" end. This is so named because the camera is loaded with its film from that end.

A film "stop" should now be made. This consists of strips of three-ply cardboard, which fit just inside the back end of box "B." They can be made by gluing three or four strips of cardboard together and letting them become thoroughly dry under a weight. When dry, cut them into half-inch-wide strips. They are now glued in place around the inside of box "B," 1/8 inch in from its back end. Glue one strip across the bottom, one on each side, and one across the top of the inside. The cut film is placed against these, and the piece "C" pushed in place against the back of the film then the back box "A" is fitted.

This is the process of loading the camera. It must be done in a dark room, where no light can penetrate. Make sure that your shutter is down before taking your camera into the light. Rubber bands serve to keep the end boxes together.

The film used for this size camera is called "cut film." Ask for "cut film, regular speed, 3 1/4 by 4 1/4 inches. These are not supplied in rolls. They consist of flat plates of film the same size as piece "C." When using our pinhole camera, it must be placed on some steady foundation, as only time exposures can be taken with it. As this time allowance is from eight seconds to four minutes and as the least moving of the camera when the shutter is open will ruin a picture, holding it in the hands is out of the question. For the convenience of the reader, a time exposure guide is given.

The time of exposure depends somewhat on the distance the subject is from the camera and on what the subject, consists of. If it is a distant mountain or a snow scene, it will require less exposure than an object darker in color and close to the camera. The following exposure table is for the hours from two and a half hours after sunrise until two and a half hours before sunset. For earlier or later hours, give a longer exposure.

A watch need not be used when timing the expo-sure, as proper counting will serve the purpose. Instead of counting the usual one, two, three method, count one hundred and one, one hundred and two, one hundred and three, etc. In this manner, the proper time between counts is nearer that of an actual second.

Place the left hand over the camera top, holding it firmly in place on its foundation, determine the proper exposure, and with the right hand push up the shutter exposing the film. At this moment, start the count and the second it is completed, push the shutter down over the lens—completing the exposure.

Remove the film in a dark room, carefully cover, and take it to your nearest drug store for developing. All questions concerning pictures, such as constructive criticism, helpful suggestions, etc., will be gladly taken care of by Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, N. Y. By addressing their Service Department, and sending full data as to how the pictures were made, you can be assured of prompt attention.



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