I DISCOVERED the llford Obscura 5x4in pin-hole camera by accident a few months ago. I was looking at articles on the web about Focus on Imaging and found a short video about it.’
I contacted llford and was sent an Obscura for review. As soon as it arrived I started to use it. The Obscura takes just one piece of film at a time and you need a changing bag if you wish to shoot any other images while you are out in the field. However, this is not too much of a problem, as the camera is simplicity itself to load and unload. The first shot turned out really well and over the next few days I shot many more.
My first encounter with pin-hole cameras came while I was studying photography in the late 1970s. We made a simple panoramic camera from a short length of cardboard tube, cut from the centre of a roll of background paper. Since then, I have made pin-hole cameras out of cardboard boxes, biscuit tins, coffee tins, shoeboxes, iPhone boxes, MDF and film canisters. The trouble with home-made cameras is the problem of sealing them so they are light-tight and yet still able to open for the next shot. This means using lots of tape, although the tape often damages the box as it is removed and the cameras can be short-lived. This new construction does away with that problem, and it means that the camera can be reloaded out in the field if you have a changing bag.
The llford Obscura 5x4in pin-hole is precision cut and formed from expanded PVC. The construction is sturdy, and is made out of what looks like rather light, though dense, black foamboard. The chemically etched hole is approximately f/250 (actually f/248), and the focal length is 87mm, which gives a wideangle view on 5×4. The angle of view is roughly that of a 24mm lens on a full-frame 35mm or DSLR camera, and the exposures are controlled by a magnetic locking cover over the pin-hole, which is left in the open or closed position by use of small embedded magnets.
There is a tripod thread in the base for horizontal orientation, but there isn’t one on the side for vertical orientation. However, the camera is so light that to place it on its side on a tripod would not cause a problem, llford supplies some nicely designed stickers for the camera and one of these has sight lines that help when composing pictures and give a guide to what is within, and outside of, the image area.
llford has given a lot of thought to how these cameras are going to be used.