[Disclaimer: – Pinhole Photography Workshops has no affiliation to the company of which we have carried out this product review for; thoughts and conclusions are drawn from personal experience and are unbiased and not influenced in anyway.]
Earlier in the year it was brought to my attention there was a Kickstarter fund to bring to the market a purpose built pinhole lens for just about every (D)SLR and mirrorless camera. With interest I took a look at the marketing material on the Kickstarter page and it was clear that this was going to be a high quality product. Now I’ll admit I’ve not used a digital camera to take pinhole photographs so when I received this I was only too keen to see what I could do with it. I’ve always shot with film as I prefer the approach and look, but I’ve never dismissed digital as an alternative; in fact I have thought about taking a body cap and drilling a hole in it to take a handmade pinhole plate but have never followed the idea through. It’s with that reason I believe this lens has a great place on the market. It’s great for those wishing to try out pinhole photography without the expense of purchasing a ready-made camera and film, but it’s also an alternative for the more experienced pinhole photographer who perhaps isn’t as willing to make a pinhole lens from scratch or simply prefers something that looks a little more aesthetically pleasing. So without further ado let’s get started.
Focal Length: 50mm
Pinhole Sizes: 0.1mm, 0.15mm, 0.2mm, 0.25mm,0.3mm, 0.35mm, 0.5mm, 0.8mm
Lens Mount: Canon EOS/EF, Nikon F, Sony A, Sony E, Fuji X, Micro 4/3 (MFT), Pentax K
Front Diameter: 68.5mm
Total Depth (Including Front and Back Lens Caps): 50mm
Body: Anodized Aluminum Alloy
UV Filter (since achieving over 1200 backers)
Costs $69 CAD ($50 USD) (+ shipping/customs fees). Future RRP is said to be as high as $179 USD
This particular kit (costs $93 CAD +shipping/customs fees) came with add-ons:
Aluminium lens cap
Circular Polarising Filter (currently not available as a add-on)
A picture can say a thousand words, but in this case I don’t think it can. The packaging is something to behold, very professional and surprisingly fun to unbox. This particular kit came with a UV filter, CPL (Circular Polariser) and a handy little pouch to house the lens in when not in use. Having held this lens in my hands I can tell you it is very well built, solid and tactile, but this makes it quite a weighty lens, in fact my Canon 50mm f/2.8 prime lens is lighter. The aluminium alloy casing does ensure it will be as robust as the camera it is attached to so I can forgive the extra weight. One thing I did notice was a lack of weather-seal around the end of the lens that connects into the body of the camera, this would have been a welcome inclusion into the design as I’m sure it’s not just me that likes to use a pinhole camera in wet weather.
Like any lens it sports a lens cap, but rather than having the standard plastic clip on cap this kit has an aluminium screw on cap. Compared to the clip on version it’s not something you can remove quickly, but let’s remember this is pinhole photography and everything should be done slowly; I quite like it – it’s aluminium like the body and it’s not something that will accidentally drop off and it finishes off the luxurious look. The piece de resistance is the multi-aperture ring it has built-in. There are 8 different sized pinholes ranging from 0.10mm up to 0.8mm (these are laser engraved into the aluminium), the ring has a nice knurled grip that rotates smoothly and firmly locks into place when the required pinhole is aligned centrally to the lens. I have used a pinhole with multi-apertures, but they had to be swapped out manually so this is certainly a unique and welcome feature.
As I mentioned above this particular kit came with a UV filter (now standard with all purchases), a CPL and a pouch. Some people even questioned why include these as an add-on, more so the UV filter, but I can see the benefit. You have to remember that there is a tiny hole that exposes the sensor to environmental contaminants (albeit very little will get through the size apertures on this lens) so having a UV filter on all the time makes sense to me, and CPL can help extend exposure times but also add contrast and remove unwanted glare/reflections. The option of an ND filter would have been welcome I’m sure, in fact I would prefer that to a polariser if I am honest.
I did try to make a video for this part, but weather conditions and me being accident prone made it unusable so I have tried my best to write this part.
Below is a little crib sheet I used to help work out exposures (I used MrPinhole to calculate these):
Aperture – F/Stop (sunny day exp at ISO100)
0.10 – f/500 (10s) [+3 stops]
0.15 – f/333 (4.5s) [+2 1/3 stops]
0.20 – f/250 (2.5s) [+1 ½ stops]
0.25 – f/200 (2s) [+1 stop]
0.30 – f/167 (1s) [optimum]
0.35 – f/143 (0.5s) [-1/2 stop]
0.50 – f/100 (0.5s) [-1/2 stop]
0.80 – f/62 (1/8s) [-1 stop]
It’s not accurate, but it gave me a starting point to work from and depending on the light I may have added and reduced the exposure time according to what the histogram told me.
As the ‘Thingyfy’ lens is fully manual and has no electronic contact to the camera, I knew I would need to have an external light meter to help correctly expose my images. With the camera set to manual mode I set about familiarising myself with the lens. The first thing that struck me when flicking through the different pinholes was the fact that I could use live view at the widest pinhole (0.8mm) as long as I set the speed to around 30 seconds and maybe altered the ISO if that still was not enough to make it visible on the LCD screen. This made composing a lot easier and I developed this workflow:
- Using the 0.8mm pinhole compose the image.
- Select the appropriate pinhole size (my first was always the 0.3mm as this was the optimal one for the 50mm focal length).
- Using the crib sheet above determine the approximate f/stop.
- Using ‘Pinhole Assist’ app (iPhone only), dial in the f/stop and ISO speed then take a meter reading of the scene.
- Dial in exposure on the DSLR and take the picture.
- Using the histogram determine whether or not to alter the exposure before taking another.
Some compensation was required for some images, if anything I ended up using longer exposures which could be down to the estimated f/stop.
When I was cycling through the different pinhole sizes, the difference in exposure compensation to the optimal size was not constant, it was very dependent on the lighting situation, so the guide above is ball park. In bright scenes I may have only dialled in about 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop between each pinhole size, compared to say 1/2 to 1 or even 2 stops in flat light. With a little experience I soon got to grips with this and using a DSLR made it easier as the feedback was instant and I could interpret the histogram and make any micro adjustments.
I did use the CPL a few times (UV filter more), although I didn’t use it an awful lot it did boost contrast and help bring out some detail in the sky in my images (as you’ll see below).
Using a similar workflow to how I post processing my negatives, I have kept manipulations to a minimum, removed dust specks, done some mono conversions, and maybe corrected exposure levels slightly, other than that they are straight from the camera.
I’m not going to show every image on every single pinhole size, but rather show the narrowest, optimal, and widest pinhole size which are 0.1mm, 0.3mm and 0.8mm respectively. This will help show the differences more clearly, anything in between is subtle in difference. Also I have shot one composition in colour and a different one in black and white. So here goes.
First up is the 0.1mm sized pinhole, this is the narrowest on the lens and it really lends itself to the stereo typical pinhole look, being ethereal and dreamy with subtle detail and of course the trademark vignette.
Next up is the 0.3mm sized pinhole which is said to be the optimal size for the given focal length. Already you can see there’s a huge difference to the previous images; sharpness and clarity have increased and the vignetting has gone.
Finally the 0.8mm sized pinhole. There is very little to no sharpness about these images, but it brings a painterly quality to them. Although you see no vignetting, I have had a few images where it is evident but it pales out the corners rather than the traditional darkening effect, I’m just wondering if the CPL has affected this or perhaps it is determined by the positioning of the sun.
Each aperture used created a slightly different effect, either by softening the image or at its narrowest have a heavier vignette, but all can be used to great effect depending upon the composition, conditions, and of course the photographers vision. The optimal aperture size for this lens should be approx 0.3mm (reference MrPinhole.com) which gives an f-stop of f/167. You see the narrower the aperture the sharper the image to an extent, the downside is it will suffer from more diffraction as well as light fall-off in the corners. With narrow apertures there’s no avoiding diffraction, this is what gives pinhole photography that dreamy ethereal look, it’s a matter of taste. For me I think I preferred the 0.1mm pinhole, which surprised me as I often prefer the optimal pinhole size when working with film.
PROS vs CONS
- Solid & Tactile
- Stylish/sleek appeal
- Good range of apertures to help vary exposure times and look
- Use Live View to help compose (at 0.8mm), (more difficult in low light situations).
- Great image quality
- Use (58mm) screw-in filters
- Use on film/digital cameras with same mount (this one was a Canon EF)
- No exposure guidelines or literature
- No Weather seal between body & lens
- Noise reduction on long exposures requires a lot of patience (applicable to digital only)
I had some great fun with the Pinhole Pro, and it’s a handy lens to carry about when I’m only working on my DSLR as there have been times where I have found something that would be better suited to pinhole. It’s not going to stop me using my medium format pinholes as I prefer the mystery and guess work involved, and the image quality from a medium format negative is vastly superior as you would expect compared to a 35mm sensor.
As you can see above I really was struggling to find cons with this lens, so being super critical I did my best. Despite the fantastic packaging and stylish look from the pinhole lens, I felt it let itself down by not having any guide book/literature. Take for example someone who may have never experienced pinhole photography, it would be beneficial to them to have a little explanation as to what changing the aperture does and an exposure chart or wheel to accelerate their understanding of the lens and how to get the best from it, yes experimentation is part of pinhole photography, but the initial frustration for some can be all too much.
Price I think was about right at the Kickstarter phase, if Thingyfy do continue to make them after this phase and increase its RRP to $179 USD then I would have to say it is in danger of narrowing its market by deterring beginners to pinhole photography as it becomes an expensive outlay to get started. It would be great if Thingyfy gave people an option here and consider a basic plastic body version so it has a lower end price and if people want to purchase the more luxurious metal body then they can still do so at the higher end.
It’s versatile, built to last and yields excellent IQ, when coupled to a digital camera it makes composing that much simpler with instant data feedback. It took maybe half an hour to fully get to grips with it and understand how to best expose with it. After one or two sessions I was making educated guesses at the exposures and compensating between the pinholes intuitively.
Overall I was very satisfied with the way the Pinhole Pro lens performed and I would certainly recommend it to any of my workshop participants as an alternative to the traditional pinhole cameras used. I would also recommend it to anyone who does ICM due to the long exposure times and even the more experienced pinhole photographer will get a kick out of using this.
If you wish to see more information regarding the lens and buying options please visit Kickstarter
Thank you reading this and please feel free to share this content.