Pinhole photography expert James Guerin talks about his latest camera

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The RealitySoSubtle 141 Panoramic Pinhole camera

by James Guerin

I’ve been shooting 6x17 pinhole for a few years now and as soon as I would post the results on flickr people would comment how cool the results were and ask about the camera. The camera I was using was a made from balsa wood and bits and pieces I had lying around. It wasn’t pretty but it worked, and produced some nice pictures. I began to think about producing the camera for sale.

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Since moving to France in 2011 I’ve reinvented myself to some extent, partly by necessity and partly by choice. In Ireland I had worked as a mechanical Engineer for the previous 12 years, it was during those years I became passionate about photography. I started out shooting 35mm film, then digital SLR, then was obsessed by having the gear,lenses etc... At some point in 2005 a friend introduced me to pinhole photography and since then most of what I shoot (for myself) is pinhole, and always shot with my own cameras.

I like to experiment and do unique things with my cameras, an example would be the multicell pinhole camera that believeinfilm.com has previously featured. My love of pinhole photography and camera making has led me to the realization of the RealitySoSubtle141 pinhole camera, a camera that I now produce and sell through my site.

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I’ve taken the concept of my original 6x17 camera and improved upon it. I’ve added the features that I’ve found to have been missing as I’ve been out shooting these panoramas. The feature that really sets this camera apart from others is the dual pinhole function. As I was shooting these panoramas I quickly realized that with a curved film plane it’s important to have the camera level (both left/right and front/back) in order to achieve a straight horizon in the image. If not, the horizon would curve due to the perspective caused by the curved film plane. Shooting with the camera level has the effect of putting the horizon dead center of every photo. I didn’t like this so I decided to shift the pinhole off the center and add a second. This gives the option of placing the horizon on either the upper or lower third of a given photo and leads to a much more pleasing composition.

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The camera is made from wood (walnut), brass, stainless steel and aluminium yet it weighs only 0.7kg (1.5lbs) and it’s relatively compact. The wood finish is multiple coats of oil and then wax. I film test every camera to ensure there are no light leaks or vignetting. The camera has a horizontal angle of view of 141 degrees, which is a very wide view so it was a real challenge to design the camera so that parts of the camera itself would not show up in the corners of the resulting images (vignetting).
You can buy the camera through my website here. Feel free to email me if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you. I will have some customer feedback on the site very soon - the first cameras shipped in the last couple of weeks.