Designing the BW 344 Pinhole Camera

When we started brainstorming ideas for the Blackwing 344 subscriber bonus, we knew we wanted something that would help people reconnect with the art of photography. In the last decade, taking a picture has become almost automatic, yet photos have become more and more ephemeral. Photographs are routinely taken and deleted to free up storage space. Instagram and Facebook profiles are littered with images that will never see a frame, let alone a darkroom. Snapchat pics are gone in 24 hours.

When it comes to film, however, things are a bit more permanent and a touch more tangible. And we like that.

But, we couldn’t give all of our subscribers a camera. Or could we?

At it’s most basic form, a camera is a light-proof box with an aperture and a shutter. Pinhole cameras are the literal manifestation of this form: light-proof boxes with small, pinhole-sized apertures and manual shutters. Their simplicity means they can be built relatively easily. All we needed was the design.


Pinhole Camera Design

Our resident photography nut Nick Sese immediately started sketching out ideas. There are plenty of pinhole camera templates out there, but we wanted to design something that was as straight-forward as possible. The first prototype was close, but needed a few refinements to trim the fat.


Pinhole Camera Design

The second prototype got us closer to our goal. We added a sliding shutter and a simple iron sights-inspired aiming system, but we had trouble finding a winding mechanism that wasn’t overly complicated/cumbersome. So, it was back to the drawing board.



Pinhole Camera Design


Prototype 3 is the design that actually made it into the subscription boxes thanks to a too-perfect-to-pass-up idea for the winding mechanism design. Initial designs made use of a paperclip and tape and were far from user friendly. But, we discovered that a Blackwing eraser fit into the winding slot on a film cassette perfectly. If we designed the camera so that there was an opening sized for a Blackwing eraser, pinhole photographers would be able to insert the eraser into the film cassette and advance the film by turning the eraser itself. So, we did.

Pinehole Camera Design

Finally, it was time to test the camera (spoiler alert, it worked!).


If you want to capture your own pinhole photography, you can download our camera template and see the how-to video here. You can read more about the Blackwing 344 here.