Medium Format Pinhole Lego Camera

Pinhole_Lego_Camera.jpg

After making the Lego conversion of my old Polaroid 95a, I decided to tackle another Lego challenge: a medium format Pinhole Lego Camera. I had several goals for the lego camera:

  1. First, I wanted to make sure that the film advance knob only turned one direction.

  2. Secondly, I wanted to have a film counter in addition to the red window.

  3. And last but not least, it would be nice to have some sort of viewfinder.

Originally, I was going to build the camera in Lego Digital Designer, so I could share better instructions with the blogosphere. I still might do that, but until I get a computer that can run that software better, you will have to survive with just my photos. Let’s get started…

Here is the main Lego Camera assembly:

Lego_Camera1.jpg

There are a couple things to notice. First, notice that the top of this part is covered by the smooth sided Legos. This is done so that the lid of our camera doesn’t stick to the “lid” we make later. Second, note the spring “shock absorber” at the top center. This piece pushes a block into the gear to keep it from turning backwards. There is only one piece that will have to be fabricated. There isn’t a Lego piece that will fit perfectly in a 120 spool so we will have to fabricate our own. A Dremmel and some sand paper should do the trick. Here is the before and after photo:

legoDremmel.jpg

This is the part that will be turning the spool.

Next, attach the following piece to the bottom of the assembly:

Lego_Camera2.jpg

The two pieces at the bottom pivot to hold the medium format spools. The circle hole in the center is where our pinhole will be located.

Turning this piece over gives you a look at our shutter system. By moving the slider back and forth, we open and close the shutter. The animation below shows what I mean:

Lego_Camera3.gif

Here is what it looks like put together:

Lego_Camera4.jpg

You can see that I lightproofed the inside, and added the pinhole.

Now it is time to build the lid of our lego camera. Nothing to fancy here:

Lego_Camera5.jpg

You can see the red window as well as the top of the lid that has been light-proofed with tape. Here is the top view:

Lego_Camera6.jpg

Now all that is left is to add some Lego Type to decorate it a bit:

Lego_Camera7.jpg

This view gives you a better idea of how the film counter works. Basically, when you advance the film, this knob turns about an eighth of an inch. To make it accurate, I loaded the camera with film, and used the red window to see what frame I was on. As I got to a new frame, I marked the paper. It isn’t completely accurate, but it is pretty close. There is always the red window if I want to double check. I also count the number of clicks from turning the knob. It takes about 23 clicks to advance one frame. You can see my viewfinder also from the last picture. Pretty basic: you just look through the hole and the square masks off an estimate of what you will be shooting towards.

I am hoping to post some photos from my first roll of film later on this week. Please let me know if you decide to build your own camera out of Legos, or if you have any questions about my design.

If you are interested in pinhole photography, Ebay might be a good place to find a starter pinhole camera. Here are the pinhole camera auctions going on right now:

1/3 Sharp CCD 420TVL Color PIR Motion Detector Security Pinhole Camera
US $22.57
End Date: Wednesday Apr-23-2014 19:28:31 PDT
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52 Responses to “Medium Format Pinhole Lego Camera”

  1. temps variable Says:

    beautiful !

  2. rodperez Says:

    Fantastic design!!!

  3. Mr. Meof Says:

    Please post some photos! This looks awesome! I still remember when I was a kid 30 years ago, I made a pinhole camera out of a milk carton. Way cool!

  4. foosel Says:

    What an awesome idea! I’m all for some photos as well :)

  5. brine Says:

    Cool Beans!!!

  6. spoon Says:

    Coolies! Will definately check back for posted pics. :)

  7. danslarue Says:

    great!!!

  8. rg Says:

    very nice indeed.. i’ll be interested in the pics.

    i’ve begun to make a pinhole camera from hardening plasticine (polymer ‘clay’), but lego is cooler.

  9. The world Says:

    SSSSSSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. bmc Says:

    Very, very cool. So what if some people think it’s a waste of time? They probably spend their free time watching network television…

    I built, demonstrated, and wrote up the principals behind a pinhole camera for my 8th grade science fair (about 30 years ago now). To my utter surprise, that simple project won third prize, and my little booth had three times as many visitors as I expected. I suspect that today (as 30 years ago) a lot of people treat cameras as “magic”; pinhole cameras are a terrific way to demystify photography and teach some elementary physics.

    Plus, dammit, they’re fun.

    Bravo.

  11. buzzd Says:

    Excellent hack! Pinhole cameras are still useful. A good pinhole camera can capture wide short focus shots that are not possible with a lens camera and the ghostly effect is an added bonus.

  12. Adrian Says:

    Thanks everybody for the positive feedback! I posted some photos from the first roll of film. Here are some links:

    self potrait my shoe my son’s toy car electrical plug

  13. popeye Says:

    Wow, can I get a Leitz pinhole (20mm/1.0 Blummilux) lens to adapt onto one of these?

    Fantastic job! Love the photos.

  14. Cornelius Crab Says:

    Awesome! I think I need one of these.

  15. Andrew Says:

    Very awesome. What a great use for legos. They’re not just toys anymore!

  16. mary Says:

    very nice. propose this design/idea to lego!

  17. yi Says:

    will you marry me?

  18. David Says:

    This is wonderful. I am blown away by your creativity and inventiveness. Thanks so much for sharing this creation. This is fantastic.

  19. monty Says:

    this is great. can you add length to the “lens”/bellows to play with zoom and focal length by adding legos to make a longer zoom lens?

    this is a great project. drawings please…

  20. karen casey Says:

    hey that’s awesome i’m a photography student and have made different types of pinhole cameras and that has to be the ultimate one !!i’m sure to share what you have done with my classmates. i would defiently like to see some pics.

  21. kokopelli Says:

    cool!

  22. betsy, matt & peter Says:

    hi! my boys and i love your camera and would like to try to build one, too. (my boys are 6 & 9 years old.) could you send a bit more detailed instructions about how you built the main assembly? (the boys are great at building bionicles & other legos and are awed by the idea of building a device like a camera.) thanks!

    b& the boys

  23. Jeff Fassnacht Says:

    very cool. you should post this at http://www.instructables.com

  24. Adrian Says:

    Betsy, I would love to help you out, but it will be a little while before I have more detailed instructions. If I knew this post would be getting the traffic it has, I would have made better instructions before I posted it. Anyway, tell your boys, that instructions are in the works. I bought my Lego collection at a garage sale for my son. He is only 2 now, but he will grow into them! In the meantime, I feel like a nine-old-again…

  25. do'Mirya Says:

    Memories of Rodman Hall

    Though this has made rounds all over the interent, I’d like to stop and acknowledge the significant coolness of the person who made, amongst other things, a pinhole camera out of lego. A good reminder that a) we have all…

  26. ginger Says:

    What an innovative idea! Does it really work? Would love to see some pix!

  27. g Says:

    Hi, great stuff!! I have a photography class and our teacher said that we will later build a pinhole camera, so it will be a great time to put this in practice!

    Oh, could you please put a isometric view of the fabricated piece, to make it easier to understand.

  28. nadanuevo Says:

    Martes 11 de octubre…

    Hoy, la reflexiva tira del bueno de Cuttlas. Gracias a 20 minutos. Una cámara de fotos hecha con las piezas de Lego… yo creo que es más complejo que el servidor Lego de Google, pero bueno. Gracias a Microsiervos (tiene una gran

  29. SlothRadio Says:

    Pinhole Lego Camera

    So I guess now that this is a blog thing I’m obligated to post random senseless links to nifty stuff like Thoughts About Photography: Medium Format Pinhole Lego Camera.

  30. ootlo Says:

    my wife finds the colors intimidating?

  31. danasaki Says:

    Cool! How many MegaPixels is it? j.k.

  32. Bennett Says:

    I have read some of the conversations going on about this camera on other sites and have one point to make. It doesn’t really matter if the Lego people don’t want us to say Legos. The consumer decides the brand, not the company. Ask the experts. It is one of the first rules of branding. A company can do their best to influence the consumers perspective of the company, but in the end it is the public that makes the final decision. FedEx along with the brand guru’s at Landor realized this, and took advantage of it. It would have been silly for FedEx to try and insist that everyone call them Federal Express. Sorry if this is getting us off topic.

    Now more on topic.

    danaskai, Megapixels don’t really come into play here since this is film (medium format) and not digital. However . . . you should check out Adrian’s equally cool digital pinhole camera. As far as I know, it is the world’s first.

  33. William Bragg Says:

    Medium Format Pinhole Lego Camera

    This is too cool. …

  34. MAKE: Blog Says:

    HOW TO make a medium format pinhole LEGO camera

    Found Photography has a great step by step on making a pinhole LEGO camera – “After m…

  35. Adrian Says:

    I posted a couple new photos worth showing from the second roll of film taken with the Lego camera. Here are the links: Hose and Faucet Chair Flare

  36. Gnobb Plukwaz Says:

    Next project for you – build a digital SLR camera out of LEGO. I doulbe dare you…moahahaha

  37. Francesco Says:

    i’m speechless! great work!

  38. Drew Says:

    i think i should use the lego designer and try to make out that can use 35mm (thats all ic an get from my school for free :-D

  39. CRISTAL Says:

    THIS CAMERA IS SOOOO FREAKEN COMPLICATED WAT THE HECK U EXPECT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND WAT EVER YOUR WRITING…..BAD BAD BAD U DON’T KNO HOW TO EXPLAIN PLEASE??????????

  40. diseño paginas web Says:

    A quien le sobra tanto tiempo como para hacer estas cosas?? que me de un poco

  41. Adrian Hanft Says:

    I think that is Spanish for “Who has that much free time?” I get that a lot.

    Cristal, Better instructions are on the way, but that isn’t going to make it much less complex. If you decide to tackle the project, I will try and help you as much as I can!

    Francesco, I have thought about a 35mm version, but haven’t thought of a way to make it work yet. One of the challenges is the smaller size, because Legos are kind of clunky if you try to make something very small. I think it could be done, though.

    Thanks everybody for your support and comments! I love hearing from you!

  42. Mike Says:

    Another fantastic design! You’re creativity is inspirational to us all and your thinking is way out of the “box”. I referred several friends here and they are all captivated by your work and ideas. Keep on inspiring us!

  43. eric Says:

    ha ………… it is a wonderful toy! if u want to make it for sale in China,please contract me by the email. :)

  44. Luica Says:

    This is so cool! I’m going to have a go myself. Thanks for sharing this brilliant idea!

  45. Sean Says:

    Wow! You rock. I need more time in my life to build one of these!

    Sean

    http://www.blueoverblue.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/seantubridy/

  46. Maddy Says:

    Can you make a “stereoscopic LEGO camera”? Stereoscopic photography is very cool. I would love to see your handiwork at tackling one! :-) Thanks!

  47. Bill Thayer Says:

    I would love to try to put together your Lego pinhole camera. I do a bit of pinhole work. What would you say would be the Lego stuff to pick up first to get started? The last time I played with Legos was with my Grand kids. I really would like to try this. Most of my current pinhole images are done with the Zero 1 cameras. I do Art Fairs all over the country, and I think it would be really cool to be able to display the camera, and show a few images. Thanks for any advise and or help you could offer. Bill Thayer

  48. Adrian Says:

    Sorry everyone for being so slow to respond to your comments. Thanks: Mike, Eric, and Sean

    Maddy, Stereoscopic? I will have to think about that one. I like a challenge. Hmmm…

    Bill, I don’t have a parts list, but I did post the instructions here.

    You need to download some free software to view them. I use a mac, but I think there is a link in the comments for a PC version of the software. I hope that helps, and send me some photos if you ever get your Lego camera built. By the way, I visited your site, and you have a bunch of great images. I thought the pinhole shells was especially nice.

  49. max L. Says:

    Hey Adrian, i just wanted to let you know i’ve built my own lego pinhole cam :) I saw yours and thought, “why not add lego mindstorms to it?”, worked the whole night, and so i got my own, full automatic, lego pinhole camera: http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/5632528

    It still neads some tweaks, but the lego technic motors and the aperture are working (almost correctly): http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/5631909

    I have to make it more lightproof, and work out a better way for film transportation, but so far, cheers for the inspiration!

  50. kate Says:

    Hi, I’m really keen to make one of these. I’v tried downloading Lego Digital Designer for windows to import the instruction files (http://www.foundphotography.com/PhotoThoughts/ archives/2005/11/legocamerainstructions.html) but it doesn’t seem to work. It only seems to like .lxf files and these ones are .ldrDoes anybody have any tips or instructions? thanks, kate

  51. jason Says:

    nice camera, but I don’t understand the design enough to assemble one myself. I need more pictures please!

  52. shauna Says:

    Very clever. I would be interested in buying one. I looked on Ebay but couldn’t find it. Did you decide on a price or decide to sell them?

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