Camera review: the Vermeer Anamorphic pinhole camera – no lens, lots of distortion
Sometimes, when visiting websites or just browsing pinhole pictures, I would stumble upon strange images that were created with a Vermeer anamorphic camera from Poland. Wow, what’s that? It sure produces beautiful crazy images. And although I thought I had been cured from “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and lens envy after 15 years of pinhole photography, the bug hit again. I wanted one!
But what was it?
Short explanation: the Vermeer anamorphic pinhole is a (pinhole) camera that holds the film rolled up in the form of a tube, emulsion inside, with the pinhole placed at the axis.
…and it doesn’t photograph where you point at.
…and it distorts the image, a lot.
Just as with regular pinhole cameras, there is no viewfinder, no focusing and very long exposure times, like 5-10 seconds outside in daylight.
Usually, when I tell this to the audience at a pinhole lecture, I get fuzzy looks, and most people don’t comprehend. I didn’t either, until after some more investigations.
It was only after I bought such a thing that it became fully clear that yes, this is one of my pinhole cameras that wasn’t homemade. Way to difficult for me.
So here is a picture of the camera (the model 1), and how to load the beast. Next to that is the current Vermeer Anamorphic model 2 (an improved design).
After loading it with 120 film, you have 4 (yes, four!) exposures available in the camera’s native 6x17cm format. Talk about being selective what to shoot…
Load it with film and take it outside (or inside of course). But beware how to aim this camera! It has a donut-like field of view, so if you point it at something, it will also photograph the things around it.
After some test rolls (and failures showing nearly empty negatives), I now have a sort of control over the camera, and some idea on what will be in the picture. I have created some lines on the box (sorry Cezary!) to help me position the camera.
But nothing is exact with pinhole and anamorph, so be prepared to re-visit a location sometimes to take another try.
The effect is simply magic and wonderful, I think. You can bend tall buildings and create puzzling images of the world around you. Working with an anamorphic camera also proves that the earth is not flat.
Comparing these with regular pinhole shots (below) shows that you have to aim the camera upwards to get a shot straight ahead!
In fact, sometimes, the quote “less is more” applies: images with less prominent distortion also seem to work
Now what to photograph with this anamorph technique? Just as with other pinhole cameras, I would say everything is suitable…
When discussing the images in my photo-club, we came upon the topic that this camera, with its typical way of distorting images, should not be used too often. The danger of becoming a cheap trick is imminent… A good idea might be to take very well known or even iconic subjects and distort them with anamorphic goodness.
Here’s the Dom Tower from my hometown of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Took me three visits! 🙂
All done without photoshop, ready-made in-camera distortions.
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