Taking photos is so easy these days. All you need is a smartphone, an object, and the ability to point and shoot. But it wasn’t always so easy. In fact, things are so simple now that we tend to forget what exactly happens when a photo is taken. The science — the idea that light hits film or photographic paper through a lens with a very tiny aperture (hole) — is lost in point and click, selfie stick. ruling the masses.

Luckily, there are plenty of DIY kits out there; collections of components, complete with instructions that explain how to build the camera. To better understand any process, it is worth taking some time to understand how it works in order to come to terms with the principles. Doing this with cameras will almost certainly improve the way you take a photo.

We found five different ways to build a camera, from pinholes to DIY kits compatible with 35mm film, all the way to digital cameras.

Back to basics with the Obscura / Pinhole Camera

Who would have thought that by sticking a hole in a darkened box, you could create a camera?

But this is precisely the origin of modern photography, thanks to the physics that allowed first the camera obscura (which uses a room, not a box) and then the camera obscura.

To build your own camera obscura, all you need is a sealed, non-luminous box, usually painted black on the inside, with space for a piece of photographic paper (or 35mm film if a winder is available) and a small hole, probably made with a pin or other narrow metal spike. You also need to have something available to close the aperture after the photo is taken.

Using a camera obscura for photos is not at all like shooting with a smartphone or DSLR, but as with these devices, there is a certain exposure to take into account. In the case of a camera obscura, it is useful to have a reference, since different weather conditions and locations require different degrees of exposure. This guide from lilblueboo.com gives a good diagram, but you will need to set everything up to suit your own environment.

We have previously explained how to create a smartphone projector using the principles of a camera obscura. so it’s worth taking a look at this tutorial for more information.

Genuine Fashion Model DIY Lomo Camera

If you have time, this Fotodiox DIY lomo camera will take you 1 to 3 hours and includes 68 items. As with all the DIY kits listed here, you’ll need to make sure you already have 35mm film, as well as a small Philips screwdriver.

This is a TLR camera — dual lens — which means there are two lenses in the finished assembly, one for the viewfinder and the other for the actual photo. To keep costs down, the lenses are made of plastic, but the camera is tripod compatible and has adjustable focus.

Lomography Konstruktor Do-It-Yourself 35mm Film SLR

Arguably the most impressive DIY camera kit on this list, the Lomography Konstructor comes in an Airfix-style crimp frame, which means every component must be carefully sanded before assembly. If you don’t sand down the small pieces of plastic where the component was prior to gluing, this will likely result in your homemade camera letting in light — which is very bad for your 35mm film as well as your photography plans!

Once assembled, the camera has manually adjustable focus and exposure and has the potential to produce the best results of any camera kit currently available. Some examples can be found on Chris Etzel’s Flickr page.

DIY digital camera

Building a camera isn’t just about shutter speed, 35mm film, and exposure time; It is equally important to understand how a digital camera works.

So, why not try Kimera Shot, a 3D digital camera that you build from components like a handgrip and gear box, battery, viewfinder, circuit board, sensor, and other hardware found in the box. The resulting photos are presented in additional 3D thanks to the stereoscopic double lens effect, and the device also has a USB connector for data transfer to computers running Windows and Mac OS X.

Raspberry Pi + Pi Cam Camera Module

On a similar note, you can also build a camera using a Raspberry Pi computer (all models except Pi Zero). All you need is a suitable case (some designed to house a camera) and a 5MP camera module along with the usual operating system. and a power supply (a good option is a battery pack.).

You can install a button on your Raspberry Pi. to capture photos.

UK Only: Haynes Classic Camera Kit

If you’re in the UK, there’s an option available to you that readers in the US won’t be able to easily get. Remember the Haynes car repair manuals? Well, it’s a classic camera kit, licensed from the same publisher, packaged much like a car repair manual, but with components and instructions inside.

The finished camera has a dual lens design, has a 50cm to infinity focal range, 1/125 shutter speed, f/11 aperture, and uses 35mm film ISO 200 or 400 (24 exposures), but this is not included.

Anyone in the UK looking for a fun, inexpensive DIY camera kit should look no further than this. American readers can find the kit on eBay.

Buying 35mm film

Some of these DIY camera kits require 35mm film. But where can you get it these days? Well, just like you can buy cameras — on Amazon! Several types are available, in color and black and white, from manufacturers such as Fuji, Ilford, Kodak and many more.

In addition, various types of photo paper are available, designed for taking your own photos or with a camera obscura. If you can’t evolve (you might not have a darkroom!), then it’s possible to scan a photographic negative and invert the colors with an art package like Photoshop.

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