I have been delighted during December to receive gifts that I bought for myself, through Kickstarter, the Ondu 135 panoramic pinhole camera, and the Lumu smartphone lightmeter. Here are my first thoughts are using both to shoot a roll of film whilst walking through Norwich.
Ondu 135 Panoramic Camera
Made by Ondu in Slovenia, the range of wooden pinhole cameras were the subject of an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. Its great to see in this modern age that a simple analogue camera can still be an object of desire. I suspect a lot of this is to do with the beautiful construction, these are cameras made with care using high quality materials. My first thought when opening the box was that the camera really lived up to the hype.
As mentioned above, the camera is made of wood, and is held together with powerful magnets, which is not something I have seen before but works really well. The shutter also has a magnet to keep it closed, but this is a smaller one (out of necessity I guess) and I expect the shutter might open if I let the camera rattle around in my bag (I have a history of such errors). Within the camera there are small wooden blinds, which allow you to switch between standard 35mm format (24x36mm) to a panoramic format (24x72mm)…more of that later. The f-stop of the 135 panoramic camera is 125, which Ondu confirmed for me as the information is not currently on their website.
Loading the camera is a breeze, a reusable 35mm cassette is provided, and if you’re used to loading those then this is no different (Ondu also provide easy to follow instructions for this). Once the film cassettes are loaded, you simply drop the winding knobs on (again held in place with magnets) and snap on the film back (paying attention to the match the magnets on the body and back up).
Shooting with the Ondu is really simple, once you have metered (more on that below), you simply open the shutter for the required exposure time, and then close again once your exposure is finished. If you are using negative film with a wide exposure latitude you probably don’t need to meter accurately, but prefer to do so.
Unlike some pinhole cameras there is no cable release. Winding on is also really simple, and Ondu provide recommendations on winding either normal or panoramic shots, which you will probably be able to modify with experience.
I’ve been pretty pleased with the results of this first roll, some of which are shown here. The camera is a delight to use, but there are some hints and tips I’d like to give, which will hopefully be useful:
- The blinds: It is all too easy to forget to remove the blinds if you want to shoot panoramic format. I did this, and as a result had a lot of wasted film as I wound for panoramic but was shooting for standard. Perhaps in a future version of the camera there could be a place in the camera (at each end of the film chamber) for the blinds to be stored when shooting panoramic format, otherwise they could also be lost.
- No cable release: This is not a problem for long exposures but for short exposures you could suffer some camera shake when opening/closing the shutter (as can be seen from some of these shots). This could be alleviated through mounting the camera on a decent tripod (which I did not do for this roll), rather than trying to hold the camera steady. Ultimately though, the best way to shoot short exposures would probably be to hold a dark hat, or something similar, in front of the shutter when opening/closing, and using that “Darkslide” as an improvised shutter.
- Winding on: As a convenience, I’d use a piece of tape to mark the winding knob so you can count the number of turns for winding on. You might also want to mark the direction to turn the knob if you are concerned about winding the right way (I did it the wrong way at one point, with no ill results). If you want to be frugal with film you might also want to install an improvised clicker to count the number frames accurately. There should be some information on the internet if you want to do this, and if I do it I’ll post a little “How to”.
Lumu light meter
Another product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Lumu light meter is an incident only meter designed to be used with proprietary apps. After receiving my Lumu, which is beautifully packaged with a leather case and a cord for wearing round your (red) neck (I did not do that!), I downloaded both apps (normal and pinhole) to my iPhone.
For this test, I used the pinhole app, and change the settings (easily accomplished) to f125 and ISO 100 (I was shooting Kodak Ektar). The Lumu then plugs into your headphone socket, and the app will prompt you to to ensure you set the volume to maximum. You then simply tap the screen the meter, using the meter as you would any other incident meter. One advantage of the Lumu is you can rotate the meter to suit what it is you wish to measure, whilst still being able to see the screen.
In general I’ve been happy with the Lumu in use, once I’d resolved one apparent problem, and the metering seems accurate enough for C41 film as was shot here. Some more detailed thoughts are:
- The “Volume” thing: I found on a number of cases when first using the meter that the app seemed not to detect that the meter was plugged in and either would not measure or continually asked me to turn the volume up. Eventually I traced this (I think) to the fact that I tend to have my iPhone on silent mode and I had not switched that over. I’ll need to continue to test this, and will contact Lumu if I experience any more challenges (I’ve found them to be responsive so far during the Kickstarter campaign).
- Reciprocity – or lack of: As a future upgrade to the app it would be great if reciprocity characteristics of common films were built in, or could at least be entered. This is a really important aspect of shooting pinhole as when the exposures are long you need to increase exposure time. For Kodak film this can mean doubling the exposure time, or more (see also my exposure guides for the Zero Image cameras). As it stands, I adjusted the exposure time myself for reciprocity, which worked perfectly but did mean I could not use the timer built into the app (or the facility to record each exposure, which is a great idea).
- Speed of operation: I’ve actually found the Lumu to be fairly quick to use once it is set up and working well. It’s probably a little slower to use than some dedicated meters, although I think it would be equivalent to my Polaris (my go to meter). This is particularly the case if you keep the app running and the meter plugged in as all it takes is to unlock the screen of your phone to meter (at least in my experience). For me, I’m willing to sacrifice some speed for the convenience the Lumu offers.
Some final thoughts on Kickstarter
Its not been a bad experience funding these projects on Kickstarter, although I would stress the need for patience if you decide to fund something similar in the future. As you’ll see, in both cases the targets set by Ondu and Lumu were well exceeded, and whilst that is great news I guess it could present some challenges in scaling up to meet demand, which is turn could impact delivery times. This is something I’ll bear in mind when funding campaigns, but I’ll definitely be doing that again in the future. As with all things, do your research properly and evaluate the risks of any campaign before funding. If you get the right project though, you can end up with some excellent products at a decent price.