One day I came across a post on Facebook by a fellow “pinholer” showing their recently acquired SCURA 35mm panoramic pinhole camera. I own several pinhole cameras but none are 35mm. I was intrigued by the film size and the fact this camera was designed to create 60x25mm panoramic images. The creator, Goodman Lab, also offer a 6×6 SCURA model that works with 120 film, as well as a few other 3D printed photography items. I commented on the Facebook thread and EM of Emulsive fame asked me if I would like one to try.
I was sure he was joking but soon learned he was making a serious offer. All I needed to do was build the 3D printed model, make some images and write an article about my experience with the camera. If I was willing, he would have the camera shipped to me. Now that is a good deal and I was happy to agree. This article is the result.
I am an avid photographer who like many others has fallen back in love with film. I enjoy photographing with medium format, 35mm and pinhole cameras. I am a member of a few pinhole and film Facebook groups and enjoy pinhole podcasts.
The camera was sent by Dora Goodman Lab and with the pandemic in full swing it took several weeks before the camera arrived. It came well protected in a recyclable cardboard box. However, it had been tossed about during its journey and the outer box was beginning to open. Luckily, nothing inside was affected and all the small pieces were safely taped together or placed inside zip-lock bags.
The next afternoon was perfect for a rainy day project so I dove right in. I am no engineer so I was a little nervous about making some irreversible mistakes. Goodman Lab has very helpful YouTube videos to guide you through the building process. For the most part, the construction is straightforward and I managed to strip a single thread in the process.
I had one hilarious moment while assembling the shutter. Three small and strong disc magnets control how the shutter stays open or closed. They are placed into recessed parts of the camera shutter mechanism and a sticker is placed over them to secure them in place. However, as they are magnets you need to remember to place them in the right way. I didn’t and the shutter kept sliding open. The magnet to hold it shut was actually repelling it! I removed the sticker and magnets started popping all over the room. I quickly realized my mistake, replaced the magnets in the correct way, and soon all was well.
Another crucial tip when you build the SCURA. USE THE SANDPAPER provided to smooth the shutter and the film winding knobs. Actually, sand every part of the camera. Being a 3D printed camera there may be some slightly rough surfaces and stray filaments. The shutter and winding knobs worked but the first time I exposed a roll of film the winding on dial was very stiff. Also, the knobs themselves are not easy to grip and you might want to etch the sides to give you purchase.
After I used the camera and found winding to be a challenge I also sanded the spools, knobs and the inside of the camera. This has resulted in a smoother and easier turning experience. Also, be sure to wipe each piece before you put the parts together so no loose fibers end up inside of the camera. I have a line through the edge of my images which must be a loose fiber inside of the camera. All in all, I was quite pleased with my camera building experience and most people will find this camera a breeze to construct.
In addition to the camera, Goodman Labs sent two sets of applique covers; one black and one faux wooden. They also sent a cold shoe with bubble level, a cell phone holder, and a viewfinder. I like the cold shoe and level but am not sure I will use the viewfinder. It is blurry along the edges and since I am accustomed to no viewfinder with my pinhole cameras, I think it might be easier to compose without it. Others might like it as a way to view the top and bottom of the frame.
The phone holder can go into the cold shoe and if you use a phone timer it might be a handy way to expose your photos without having to hold the phone. A little cord to use as a strap was included to complete the package. Finally, they enclose an information paper that has a list of the hardware, patterns for making your own DIY custom covers, and a rudimentary exposure guide for use with 100 and 400-speed film. My feeling is that Goodman Lab aims to please and want you to have an enjoyable experience with their products. Here are a few photos of the building process:
Once I finished building the camera I was excited to give it a try. To be thorough, I decided to use four types of film:
- A test roll of expired Agfa 160.
- A roll of Kodak Portra 400 film which has nice tones and contrast.
- A roll of Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS.
- A roll of Kodak VISION 3 motion picture film (not included there).
I began with the expired Agfa to see if the camera functioned properly before I would go on to use more expensive films.
I started at a local poppy field to shoot the first roll and was able to make about 15 or 16 images. There is no counter window to see film numbers so you need to follow the instructions to wind the correct amount for each exposure:
You make two complete turns for the first ten exposures and one and one half turns for the last five or six exposures. There are markings on the winder to help you.
Goodman Labs also has an instruction video to show you how to do this. I still managed to make two double exposures. Not having the red film counter window is good in that it eliminates a possible location for light leaks. This camera itself is light tight.
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Loading the film into the camera is fairly simple with a design is similar to the Zero Image 6×6. I had a little anxiety wondering if the film was actually secure on the taking spool but so far I have had no issues. One inefficient part of this camera is the fact that you have to use the provided allen key to unscrew the top every time you want to change the film. The screw that secures the top of the camera to the body is also used to hold the cold shoe/bubble level or the viewfinder in place. This means you are also unfastening whichever of them you have on the top of the camera. Knowing myself, I will undoubtedly lose the allen wrench and the accessories if I decide to change film in the field. If you are like me this may be a limitation. I will take the Scúra out with only the roll of film already loaded inside.
Here are a few images from my outing with the Agfa expired film:
In the first photo the sun was behind the clouds so the colours are a bit subdued. The rest of the images have nice contrast.
It was a beautiful evening in this lovely landscape. The fields are planted by the local community for everyone to enjoy.
I learned a few things from this first roll of film. The film advance winder was very stiff and this is when I realized I should have sanded the individual parts of the camera. Also, it is easy to forget how far you have advanced the film. With no counter window this can lead to problems. Or, happy accidents! The third landscape of the poppy fields is an unintentional double exposure. Be sure to take notes and to advance your film as instructed. Finally, I have a hair or filament that shows on the left side of each photo. If I would build another camera I would be sure to not only sand but also to wipe everything as I assembled it to avoid any problem. Cloning out a filament in post processing is not my idea of fun.
The next group of images is from a local allotment. I went twice because I was not happy with my compositions for some of the photos from the first roll. I realized I needed to give the camera more room at the bottom of the frame. Maybe using the viewfinder is not a bad idea!
The next set of images is from an outing to the countryside near Snowshill Lavender. For this trip I used Portra 400 film exposed at 250. I had to be very quick with the shutter and the softness of the images reflects this. I like the look but using a very slow film in these bright conditions might result in sharper images. I do not think this will be the sharpest pinhole camera but it has a very appealing dreamy look. I actually prefer softness for these type of landscapes images.
I finished the Portra at the Harts Silversmith in Chipping Campden, a town in the Cotswolds in England. I converted some of the photos to monochrome to bring out the textures and shapes. When there is flare introduced it creates a very interesting effect. The final two photos shows this with swirls along the top of the frames.
To conclude the article let’s go over the pros and cons:
- Fun – It is fun to build and fun to use this camera. It is simple, sturdy, and easy to work with once you get the hang of rotating the winder the correct amount.
- Very affordable and well made for the price – It sells for $84.00 without the accessories. There is a 10% off your first order at the moment. If you have a 3D printer you can get the open source plans from them and purchase the hardware kit. It has no light leaks and it works well if you build it properly and follow the instructions.
- Artistic – My images had a soft dreamy look. If sharper images are your cup of tea the “finger over shutter technique” or “cap over shutter technique” should give you results.
- Easy to calculate exposures. I used the app Pinhole Assistant for exposures. I had to guess at the closest f/stop because the Scúra is not on their list of cameras. It worked fine and the exposures were good. An external light meter and calculating for the pinhole should be fine.
- Cost effective – You get 15 or 16 photos per roll of 35mm film. Compared to medium format panoramic cameras this is very cost effective.
- Small and light – You can carry it in your pocket and use light tripods and clamps with ease.
- Accessories – Goodman Labs added a nice touch with their accessories. The cold shoe, level, viewfinder, and appliques all add to the fun and functionality of this camera.
- Winding – It is easy to over or under wind because you have no red window. This might mean you overlap photos or end up with one or two less exposures. Once you get used to this and if you write down each exposure it becomes a nonissue.
- Rough edges – If you do not take care to sand and wipe the camera parts as you assemble there could be problems with spots or lines on the images. I also have a diagonal swath of lighter or darker area across the image on most frames. I will need to reassemble the camera to see if this takes care of the problem.
There you are. I hope you enjoyed my reaction to building and using this great little pinhole camera. If you enjoy pinhole photography and making cameras this could be a welcome addition to your flock.
Thanks for reading!
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