Pinhole Photography: Medium Format Cigar Box Pinhole


I have never been really interested in pinhole photography. No reason just never gave it much thought. But having enjoyed yesterdays pinhole workshop at the Lomography store in Antwerp, and it recently being world pinhole photography day, I thought I'd give it a shot and build my own medium format cigar box camera!

A week or so ago I participated in the pinhole workshop held at the Lomography Galery Store Antwerp. There was quite a turnout and as usual, we had lots of fun! Some of the examples that were shown during the introduction were very impressive and got me intrigued. So in honor of today being world pinhole photography day, I decided I would build my very own pinhole camera. I just finished and I'm very proud of my medium format cigar box camera!

Materials Used

Today is Sunday, which means all the shops were closed. That means everything I used for building the camera I found laying around the house, nothing exotic. All I needed was a cigar box, an empty soda can, an old key, a metal washer, a small magnet, strong tape, and the odd bits and pieces of cardboard and packing foam.


In order to make the work a bit easier, I first took the lid of the box. Next, I cut a piece of sturdy cardboard, exactly the inner side of the box, so I could use it as an inlay. As you can see I drew some lines and circles on the cardboard, they helped me indicate where the film would have to go, where the pinhole should be, what circle would be exposed, etc. If you need help calculating the appropriate pinhole diameter for your box, check out this very useful page.

To hold the film and take-up spool in place I used strong cardboard tubes, cut out an opening and closing up the bottom and the top. The tube that will take the film has an opening in the top cap for the winding mechanism to pass through. I duct taped both tubes to the cardboard inlay in such a way they flip open outwards to put the spools in.

For the winding mechanism I used an old house key, parts of a film canister (the cap on the outside of the box, the bottom of the canister on the inside of the box), and some black foam in between to prevent light leaks. Once in place, I used superglue to attach the canister parts to the key to make sure it can't come off, but still turn around!

Next thing was making a shutter of sorts. First I cut a piece of aluminum from an empty soda can super-glued a metal washer onto it, cut it out, punched a tiny hole, and glued it to the front of the cigar box (obviously after drilling a hole through the box!). I specifically used a metal washer so I could use a small magnet for the shutter.

That was it, I was done building and ready to load! Loading the camera was easier than loading a Diana camera. Just put the film under the left tube, spooled the paper on a take-up spool and put them under the right tube, making sure the key caught on and put in some extra black foam just in case of light leaks. I closed the box, flipped it over and turned the key until the magic number 1 appeared in the hole I drilled in the back.

The only thing missing is to get out there and shoot! I'll save that for tomorrow... It's been a long day!

This tipster was written by Lomographer sandravo. Follow sandravo by creating your own LomoHome for more analogue tips and tricks!

written by sandravo on 2013-05-09 #gear #tutorials #pinhole #medium-format #camera #tipster #120-film #world-pinhole-photography-day #cigar-box #select-type-of-tipster #select-what-this-tipster-is-about #requested-post #lgsa #april-28th


  1. segata
    segata ·

    Very well done, Im not normally a fan of pinhole cameras but this one changed my mind :)

  2. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks @Segata! I know there are hundreds of diy instructions out there, but I tried to do something different: handsome and reusable rather than cardboard, duct tape and 1-time-use.

  3. muchachamala
    muchachamala ·

    Fancy looking! Let's see some results...

  4. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks @muchachamala! I will post some photos soon ;-)

  5. tytusek
    tytusek ·

    cool! :)

  6. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks @tytusek !

  7. eremigi
    eremigi ·

    Technically impeccable: you are a genius! I will definitely try this one out

  8. eremigi
    eremigi ·

    * forgot: especially the little magnet. That is just priceless!

  9. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks @eremigi! Please do try it yourself! It's a lot of fun, took me more time than I anticipated, but I do have an actual camera that can be loaded, used, unloaded, and again and again ... Without having to destroy it! BTW I am a bit proud of coming up with that little magnet trick ;-).

  10. lafoto
    lafoto ·

    Thanks, really good! I will definitely try it out if I can get hold of a suitable box - any ideas on where to get one from?? I guess car boot sales or something?? Great idea :)

  11. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks for your comment @lafoto! I got these cigar boxes from my grand father, so maybe you could check the attic in your parents house? Please share your camera when you finish!

  12. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks for your comment @lafoto! I got these cigar boxes from my grand father, so maybe you could check the attic in your parents house? Please share your camera when you finish!

  13. alburnkat
    alburnkat ·

    Beautiful Pinhole, you have designed an amazing camera!! Are you an Engineer? I have to print your article and put in my pinhole file to use some of your techniques in the future. :-D

  14. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Thanks for your comment @albumkat! I am not an engineer in the strict sense, but I am a scientist and have a degree in Bio-Engineering. I've always had a thing for numbers and geometry.

  15. lafoto
    lafoto ·

    @buttonmunch that's a good idea :) I'll have a look around town... :) Thanks!

  16. rik041
    rik041 ·


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