Working Scale-Model Cardboard Pinhole Camera

I led a workshop at the Maker Faire Bay Area in 2019 on making a camera obscura out of cardboard. This was my first workshop, and things did not go as smoothy as I would have liked. The instructions I gave were incomplete and there was not enough time to do a good job. Still, most participants were able to finish the camera. Those who commented said that they liked the project and thanked me for leading it. If anyone didn't like it, the kept quiet about it out of politeness.

I will make a YouTube video so that anyone can do the project at home. I'll make an announcement here when the video is ready.

  camera obscura project 1 camera obscura project 2 camera obscura image

Pinhole camera early
Newly Made Camera (1980s)
After Vandalism Repair (2000s)

This is a pinhole camera made of cardboard that takes real pictures. The camera holds a single sheet of 4-by-5-inch film, so it can take only one picture at a time. It must be loaded and unloaded in total darkness. The lens cap serves as the shutter.


A pinhole camera is simply a dark box with a tiny hole at one end and film on the other end. There is no lens to focus the light. Instead, the pinhole projects a dim upside-down image on the film. You can find out more about pinhole cameras by entering "pinhole camera" into your favorite search engine.

I built this camera back in the 1980s. It's a scale model of my favorite camera at that time, the Pentax MX 35mm SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. In 2005, burglars broke into my home. Looking for valuables, they ripped open my cardboard camera -- a strange place to look. Fortunately, the damage was not too hard to repair, and the camera is again in working order. The near-loss of my camera prompted me to write this description and post it on the Web.

Design of the Camera
Design of the Camera
Construction of the Camera
Construction of the Camera
Using the Camera
Using the Camera

Questions or comments about the Pentax MX pinhole camera? Go to the Dog Daze Guest Book

More cardboard construction: Detachable cargo/carry box for bike rack    Bike detachable cargo/carry box

More Paper and Cardboard Pinhole Cameras

Paper Pentax MX Cameras
In the photo to the left, the two smaller cameras in the foreground are small paper models of the real Pentax MX camera behind them. You can download and print the paper models as flat sheets and then fold them to make the camera bodies and lenses. For details, go to the Stonefield Colog-Nifty website.

Alas, these fold-up cameras are not meant to be used as pinhole cameras. However, with a little extra work, you might be able to modify them to work that way. A pinhole camera is just a light-tight box with a pinhole in the front and film in the back. See How to Make and Use a Pinhole Camera by Kodak.

What you see to the right is not a real Hasselblad camera. It's a cardboard model and a working pinhole camera built by Kelly Angood, a professional illustrator and designer of sets and props. Ms. Angood sells pinhole camera kits at the Pop-Up Pinhole Camera Company.

Kelly Angood's Hasselblad pinhole camera
Kelly Angood's Hasselblad pinhole camera plans

To see some more paper and cardboard pinhole cameras, go to TheCoolist pinhole photography web page.

pinhole camera 3 pinhole camera 1

For those less inclined to build a pinhole camera entirely "from scratch", several kits are available from

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