Pinhole photography, though one of the oldest forms out there, is a brand new "technology" to me. I have finally jumped in with both feet by getting my hands on a Zero Image 6x6 - and I blame Jon Wilkening for that. I've been admiring his postings out on Twitter and Instagram for quite some time, and after meeting and walking with him in NYC a couple weeks ago, I was certain I needed to give this a try. After many hours of YouTube on how to build my own pinhole, how to convert a camera to one and so forth, I decided to skip that work and get something nice to play with right away. My eye was immediately drawn to the Zero Image Pinhole line.

Zero Image Lineup - Photo © Zero Image

Choosing the Zero Image Pinhole

This wasn't easy.  As you can see above, they offer a wide-array of pinhole cameras covering just about any stock/size you want to shoot. I was heavily tempted by the 5x7 large format, but then thought that could turn into an expensive test. As 35mm is a format I am moving more and more away from, 120 was the area I concentrated. But there were still many choices.  There's the ultra-compact Zero Image 2000 (6x6) which I ended up with, as well as the Zero Image 69 Multi-Format (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9), Zero Image 612 (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and 6x12), and the massive Zero Image 618 ( 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x12 and 6x18).

I weighed all those options against cost and portability and really feel 6x6 pinhole is what I'd stick to (I use 6x7 on the Makina, so wanted to mix things up). It's the most compact medium format body they have and I think will end up getting more use than any other option at this time - plus, at least 12 exposures per roll - score!

Pinhole Setup

My setup was for a stabilized, long exposure pinhole approach. If you look at Jon's work on his site, he's about the fluid motion (a gorgeous project) and I didn't want to step all over that. Plus, it's kind of nice to get back into a little landscape. I didn't want anything big and decided that a lightweight, minimal tripod would suit my needs for experimenting.

Pinhole Gear

Zero Image Pinhole Stats

  • Material: Teak Wood & Brass
  • Weight: 250 gm
  • Pinhole Size: 0.18mm
  • Focal Length: 1" (25mm)
  • Tripod socket: 1/4" Thread
  • Angle of View: 130 deg. diagonally
  • Dimension: 5 1/4" (L) x 1 3/4" (D) x 3 1/4"(H) including all knobs
  • Film Stop: F/138 for pinhole
  • Film Format: 120 Roll film in 6 x 6 format
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Using the Zero Image Pinhole

Using this pinhole camera is a whole new frame of mind for me. Though the concepts are all the same (capturing light on a film) the approach is completely different. With a 22mm medium format hole for a "lens" and an f-stop a massive 138, there's no thought of capturing high speed action or bokeh. Judging distance with a 22mm hole on MF is crazy wide and not instinctive when my eye sees everything in 80mm MF. And for exposure times, I am used to playing in the 1/250-1/1000 range. The shortest exposure in mid-day sun has been 2 seconds and ~4 seconds if overcast mid-day light with my longest so far being an 8 minute exposure at dusk.

Given the latitude of 120 film, you really don't need to meter for mid-day unless you're trying to get something specific. Some of my quick ballpark rules for rating film at ISO 200 in mid-day light on a pinhole:

  • Sunny 16(ish) - ~1/2 second
  • Sunny 16 for shadows - ~2 seconds
  • Light overcast - ~4 seconds
  • Cloudy - ~5-10 seconds

By no means is that always accurate and you really should meter for changing light depending on what you're trying to expose for. I've only put a few rolls through this, so I am learning as I go. As the light gets tricky (late afternoon overcast) I start using the meter and converting with this scale: Pinhole Exposure Guide f/138. As you can see with the waterfall shot below, I went just a bit long for the light, so it's a little bright.

Having a cable release has made operating the camera easier for me. Without it, you need to lift the lever off the hole, count, then put it back in position to cover.  This can introduce camera shake.

Keep in mind, there's no lense, so objects will not be "tack sharp" with this pinhole camera. Also, you're exposing through f/138, so everything from foreground to the end of the earth will be in focus. And hole flare is an entire new world. (Think: lens flare).

If you want clarity, you'll need to use a tripod. Again, think of these exposure times and how long you can stand perfectly still without a tripod.

What I am really enjoying with this pinhole camera is capturing the motion of people with the long exposures. That ghostly feel you get with moving crowds, moving people and so on. Taking this on the #NEWLK Salem was an amazing eye opener. I only planned to do a few shots with this, but visualizing the motion of people and how they'd translate to film got me excited. I ended up with 90% of my photos from the walk being with this.  I now understand why Jon shoots the way he does. Capturing that motion with really no idea how everything will blend is amazing and addicting. It always leaves you wanting more.

Photos taken with Zero Image 2000 using Portra 400 and Fuji Pro 400 H with all development by Richard Photo Lab on my Color PAC.