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Thread: Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

  1. #1

    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    I try all the time to improve my bag of pinhole camera design tools. As I like it easy and fast I was looking for a graphical solution instead of lists with numbers, calculator work or spreadsheets in the computer. I like to design a camera the old way with a piece of white paper, a pencil and not much more.

    As I'm using a lot of different cameras, sometimes at the same time, I was looking how I could implement the f/stop as a design parameter as well. Different cameras with the same f/stop reduce the number of possible failures and makes it easier to take pictures.

    The basic formulas are:

    f/stop = focal length / diameter of the pinhole (correct f/stop for the center)

    diameter of the pinhole = c * sqrt( focal length * wave length) (correct for infinite object distance)

    If I set the wave length of the light as fixed then I can choose two out of the four variables. The other two are fixed by the equations above. In the real world there are more solutions as I have to take in account that all values can have variations. How precise can I measure a pinhole? What is the practical difference between f/128 and f/125? How well defined is the focal length? What is the correct c-value?

    In the following picture I present a graph with all these parameters in. It is the c-value as a function of the focal length. Fixed f/stops and fixed pinhole diameters are shown as curves.

    Focal length: In the graph you can easily see the influence of a slightly changed focal length. In very simple camera designs the focal length can vary by up to 0.5 mm or even more.

    Pinhole diameter: Also variations of the pinhole diameter can be easily seen in the graph. If you can measure the pinhole diameter better than 0.05 mm then you are already good.

    f/stop: I can guess light values in 0.5 EV steps. I can measure with my equipment differences of 1/3 EV. This is enough even for slide film. For more accuracy you have to bracket the exposures. So in the graph are main lines shown for f/128, f/152, f/181 and f/215 and for each curve + 0.25 f/stop and minus 0.25 f/stop.

    c-value: the thicker black horizontal lines show the from my point of view usable range of c-values for standard applications: 1.2 until 1.9. For general purpose choose a c-value between 1.4 and 1.7 and you are save. For more dreamy pictures or portraits with longer focal lengths a value around 1.9. If you are mainly interested on closer object distances in the range of centimeters go with a c-value below 1.4

    I hope this graph is also helpful for some of you.

    The 100k limit doesn't allow me to show the graph in a larger size and/or better quality. But you can make easily your own graph in any spreadsheet program. Attached files

  2. #2

    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    Thanks René, could you post a larger version on your flickr page?

  3. #3

    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    Here the link to a larger version of the diagram on my flickr page:
    c-FL-diagram_large

  4. #4
    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    Oh, I get it Rene. That is a very useful chart, once I get the hang of how to read it. Thank you very much for taking the time to make it available to the rest of us in such a pretty format.

  5. #5
    500+ Posts DaCh's Avatar
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    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    Well, wow, I am impressed.
    A really clever and useful tool, probably far more clever than me but........
    I must start building another camera right away so I can use this (any excuse!).
    And I think it also proves that pinhole photography will solve the world economic problems ;D

  6. #6

    Pinhole Camera Design - a new tool

    Many thanks for your comments. It isn't easy to put such a lot of information in one single diagram. For me up to now the best tools for designing new cameras. Sometimes I have a pinhole with a certain size and want to build a camera with a c-value around 1.7 (f.e.) then the diagram gives me the focal length and the f/stop or I want to design a camera with f/128 and a focal length of 25 mm then the diagram shows me possible pinhole sizes and c-values etc.

    Here the flickr link to the diagram for the LF lovers:

    c-FL-diagram_large_2

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