DIY : The cheapest DSLR lens – Jon Waterschoot – Medium

So here’s the simple guide to build a pinhole lens.

After seeing several pinhole photo’s and searching some diy guides I’ve made the cheapest lens out there: … a hole in the body cap of our DSLR.

The camera obscura: no glass lens, just a hole (image from Wikimedia)

In Wiki’s words:

A pinhole camera is a very simple camera with no lens and a single very small aperture. Simply explained, it is a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Cameras using small apertures and the human eye in bright light both act like a pinhole camera.

An example made with the resulting bodycap, crisp and clear …

And here’s how I did it:

The basic idea is to create a tiny hole in the middle of the body cap that is perfectly round. The material you pierce through has to be as thin as possible.

The body cap is the thing you use to seal the body when no lens is attached. I’m assuming every DSLR camera comes with one delivered in the box.

By using the body cap we’re sure that the ‘lens’ fits perfectly without leaking other light onto the sensor; and it has the advantage that it’s quickly installed.

Get ready to mutilate your body cap.

  1. Finding the middle:
Frottage meets geometry

There are probably better ways to determine the middle of a circle. But here’s my not so conventional way: make a frottage of the bodycap. Then use two perpendicular lines to find the intersection (let me Google that for you). Use more lines to be more certain.

Make a bigger hole first, I used a small nail. A fine drill would do as well of course. The hole is big enough not to interfere with the actual foil which we’ll pierce. But small enough to easily stay in the middle.

Pierce or drill a hole in the center.

Sand off (to clean the edges of the hole). Paper used was 100p, the embossed brand came of pretty easy as well in my case.

Sanding off the embossed logo, so the foil will lay flat on the surface.

After you’re done sanding the cap clean it with water, you don’t want all that dust in your camera. Remember to sand in and outside.

After sanding, wash to get rid of the dust.

Get some tea lights, the aluminum has a good thickness; easy to pierce with a needle — and strong enough to sand the burr (edge) of the pierced hole.

Pierce a smaller hole with a needle. Sand of the burrs.

Pierce some holes with a needle. Use a looking glass or your super vision to pick the most circular one. Sand of both sides.

None of these is exactly round, pick the best one.

I used two small pieces of tape to position the pierced foil. Afterwards I used more tape to secure it fully.

Secure the foil. Install the brand new lens.

Making the photos

There are many tutorials out there describing the technical side of making the exposures. Basically it comes down to trial and error. You’ll have blurry images, and the fact that you’ll need pretty long exposure times doesn’t help. So using a tripod might be a good idea. Cranking up your ISO values will help reduce the needed exposure time, but of course introduces a trade off noise wise.

Don’t forget to shoot in RAW mode, this will give you much more options in post editing.

Note the specs of dust, opening your body is such a bad idea 😉

If you do get round to doing this, have fun. 📷

If you’re too lazy or scared 👻 to do this yourself you could try to find a premade pinhole lens such as this one that was made through a Kickstarter campaign. 💸


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