Camera review: Me and my Kodak Star 435 Pinhole – Ian Christie
Hey gang, Ian here. Today I’ll share with you my Kodak Star 435 – with a twist.
The Kodak Star 435 was made from 1990 – 1994 as an inexpensive snapshot camera. Essentially it is a “toy camera” because there are no real controls, automatic or otherwise.
On the front there is a switch for film speed and all that does it change between two of three apertures – you read that right. The third aperture setting (wide open), is selected using the switch for the flash. Also, as this camera had no power wind and the shutter is spring loaded, the only time it needed batteries was for the flash.
The Star’s simple design meant that it was perfect for a project I had been wanting to do since getting back into film photography in 2013. I had been wanting to try my hand at pinhole photography for a while but there was a big limitation for me – my lack of knowledge, ability and equipment to store and process photographic paper – so the traditional shoebox method was out of the question.
I also lacked the time to make a pinhole camera out of anything else. So I spent around 2 years looking for a suitable camera that I could modify instead. Now, I had the Star 435 hanging around but didn’t want to use it at first because it was my mom’s. I finally took the plunge and set about taking it apart in April 2015.
Here’s the result:
I won’t go into great detail on how to convert a camera into a pinhole camera, but needless to say it wasn’t a difficult task.
The most important thing to look for is a manual wind camera that is held together with screws – not glued together, or constructed using snap-fit plastic. If there aren’t any screws it will be hard to avoid damage when dismantling.
It was during construction that I discovered that when you turned on the flash the aperture plate would move out of the way. So with that I decided that it would be my new shutter mechanism and I blocked off the other aperture holes with electrical tape.
With the finished camera, when I’m done taking a picture I just close the flash switch and the shutter closes.
The actual shutter mechanism has been removed but I left the shutter button operational so that the winding wheel would lock when advancing frames. Speaking of which, to advance to the next frame I have to raise the flash and press the shutter button.
On to the lens itself, I took a piece of tin from a pop can and made a small hole using a thumbtack very, very carefully. The viewfinder remains intact and can be used to roughly line up a shot, as the new pinhole lens is roughly 35mm – which happened to be the focal length of the original lens on the camera.
Now for what you really want to see, photos taken with this camera. Almost a year after I made it I finally finished my first roll and got to see what the shots look like. I was very impressed with how well they turned out and also surprised because they aren’t full frame.
The circle you see in the images below is caused by the remaining aperture which I will be removing soon. As a note, there has been a small amount of editing done in the computer – mainly levels to remove a slight haze and white balance a little.
Finally, all pictures were taken on Kodak ULTRA MAX 400 film.
As you can see, the pictures turned out really well. I plan to use it more, I just have to make sure there are no hairs or dust inside like you see on these pictures.
I think everyone should give pinhole shooting a try and highly encourage you to try a similar project. You can usually find cameras like the Star 435 at a thrift store very cheap. A motor wind might be ok if you can eliminate the actual shutter, but manual wind means no need for batteries.
An excellent source for pinhole information including calculating pinhole size and aperture is Mr. Pinhole.
All pictures of the “guts” were taken when I installed a tripod socket scavenged from an old Fujifilm FinePix S3800.
Thanks for reading.
~ Ian Christie
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