I procrastinated on the first Kickstarter from Ondu. I thought to myself; “I won’t ever use a pinhole camera”. I regretted it for awhile. When I saw Ondu II I jumped right in. Also this was my first endeavor with Kickstarter, I can’t think of a better place to start than with Elvis, his family, and crack team of woodworkers. In the kickstarter I selected the Ondu 6x6, which is a 120 format film camera as my reward, and also purchased a 6x12 Multi-Format. This review goes over the 6x6 camera, and shows some sames I took with it.
Ondu makes wooden pinhole cameras. The cameras are made of attractive woods, a beeswax finish, are held together with rare earth metal magnets, and fitted with a brass laser cut pinhole (according to firstname.lastname@example.org the aperture for the 6x6 is F150). Because of the strong magnets everything fits together with a satisfying click, and a tactile resistance. It takes bit of force to fit/remove the parts, and you can feel the force of the parts moving together … CLICK!. SQUEE! … who doesn’t love playing with magnets?
Walnut and maple aren’t materials that come to mind when thinking of cameras of this century. On this camera they come together extremely well to create a nice solid organic feeling machine. Elvis’ also claims his mom made the nice brown canvas carrying bag, which is a nice touch (Thanks Mom!). The top, sides, back, knobs, and shutter cover are made of walnut. The front piece is maple. Starting on the top there are two knobs for takeup, and rewind. The knobs are secured to the camera with two magnets each. Also there are laser engravings for Field of View (FOV), and direction markers to mark which way to turn the knobs to advance the film. The top is also equipped with a handy white bubble level in the center. The camera has no viewfinder, you align your shots with the FOV engraving, and the bubble level for an interesting leap of faith.
The front of the camera has a lever to cover the pinhole, and a black anodized stopping pin to keep the lever from swinging past the pinhole. Under the lever is a rare earth metal magnet to keep it from accidentally opening and exposing your frame from bumps, or movement. The back of the camera has a laser engraving of Ondu’s logo and a red window for frame advancement. The right side has a FOV laser engraving for portrait shots. If you were to mount the camera on a tripod in the portrait position this engraving would then be on top, very handy. The left side has a small notch for your finger to lift the back off, also very handy. On the bottom is a sturdy black anodized tripod bushing. The back of the camera has a laser engraving of Ondu’s logo, and a deeply set red window. The back is held in place by four rare earth metal magnets. Inside the camera has three compartments. On the left is the takeup side, the middle compartment is the film mask which is painted matte black, and covered with felt over the film path, and on the right is the film chamber.
Load the film by removing the back, lift out the film chamber knob from the top, drop in the film, put the knob back in, stretch the film over the mask to the takeup side, film in the slot, and turn the takeup knob … Bam … one of the easiest loading 120 film cameras i’ve ever touched.
To take an exposure, lift the lever wait the appropriate amount of time, and then put the lever back into place over the pinhole … done. Turn the knob to advance to the next frame, and watch for the number of the next frame to appear in the red window … simple 120 film camera operation.
If you forget to advance the film, not to worry, you’ve just created a double exposure! Trip the shutter again, and you have a triple exposure … omg you are out of control ! If you aren’t so inclined to become out of control just remember to advance the film. If you are so inclined … you may have a nice time creating some multiple exposures.
For exposure times, Ondu provides a card with a printed chart. I personally have been using an iPhone app called PinholeMeter By “electrico elefante” to gonkulate my exposure times. It’s simple, easy to use and I chose it because it allows for custom pinhole and ISO values to be entered. The countdown timer is also handy for letting you know when to stop. There is probably some fun math here for gonkulating FOV, exposure times, film reciprocity, and other things for which my math-atrophied brain does not think. Your math brain may rejoice, mine did not. I’ll continue to use my gonkulator instead.
The camera has an extremely wide field of view. I think I got my finger in a few of the frames moving the shutter lever. Shooting pinholes really makes you think about locations, and compositions. I’ve had a lot of fun finding interesting still subjects, and landscapes. Without a viewfinder of any kind you are making many personal gut feeling judgements on composition, framing, and well … for everything which you would use a viewfinder. The FOV engraving(s) and bubble level come in handy for this. I’m not sure how accurate the engravings are but it makes me feel like i’m doing something productive by taking a crack at lining things up.
Ondu answered all of my questions during the Kickstarter campaign, and also answered emails after the campaign was over.
I have the feeling that this camera sets the bar pretty high for expectations of use on other pinhole cameras, it is lovely to look at , and super simple to use. The people around the web seem to have nothing but good things to say about Ondu and the cameras. Also I feel inclined to say that I might be predisposed to like people named Elvis, well played Elvis’ mom.
Beautiful wooden design
+1 multiple exposures
There are none really … this thing is a joy to use.
-1 for easy double exposures, you have to remember to advance the film before the next exposure.