First results from the Ondu pinhole

Last weekend I took the new Ondu multi-format pinhole to the Bolton Abbey estate in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire, and set off on a walk to take in the Abbey, a side trip up the “Valley of Desolation” (it’s not really desolate at all) to Posforth Gill Force, cross the river by a former aquaduct, and back via The Strid and one of the several tea rooms.

I had last visited the area about 30 years ago and it was less wild and rugged than I remembered, and more, well, busy and commercialised. But it was pleasant and gave good opportunities to try out the pinhole.

Near Bolton Abbey
Near Bolton Abbey

The camera is supplied with an exposure card which allows you to translate an exposure metered for f/22 into the correct exposure for your pinhole camera. The actual aperture of the pinhole is not stated, but looking at the difference between the f/22 reading and the suggested reading, it seems to be about f/190.

For example, if you meter (or guess) an appropriate exposure for f/22 to be 1/4s, the card will advise a pinhole exposure of 10s – except that there is a further row of data on the card, which indicates 25s. The manual or card does not give any further comment on the meaning of the two readings. You could just take it that the appropriate reading will lie somewhere in the range 10s to 25s, or you could read it that 10s is the starting exposure but, depending upon the film you have loaded, you will need to allow for reciprocity failure and 25s should be long enough to take account of reciprocity.

Posforth Gill Force
Posforth Gill Force

I actually didn’t use the card, having invested in the past in a Sekonic L-758 spot meter, which as well as, obviously, having a spot metering capability, has three features of particular interest to me:

  • it can meter in light as low as -9.9 EV (in other words near darkness) which is good for night photography
  • it can use an ISO as low as 3, which is good for infrared photography
  • it can set an aperture value down to f/152, which is good for pinhole photography.

Well, the last feature was good for pinhole photography with the Holga WPC120, which had an aperture of f/133, but the Ondo has an aperture of, I think, around f190.

Tangled Tree in the Valley of Desolation
Tangled Tree in the Valley of Desolation

So the method I used to meter was:

  • Take an incident light reading
  • Set the aperture to f/152
  • Set the ISO to 50. Although the box speed of the film in use, Ilford FP4+, is ISO125, setting the ISO lower than box speed meant that the resulting time reading would be appropriate to the smaller camera aperture of f/190.
  • I then doubled the resulting time, in order to take account of reciprocity failure.

After the trip, I checked the reciprocity characterstics of FP4+ (using the data sheet), which of course I should have checked before the trip. According to the data sheet, for the readings I was getting in the range 15-30s, I should have allowed much more extra time – the correct reading for a metered reading of 30 seconds is just over 150 seconds !

The Strid
The Strid

Despite the apparent under-exposure, the resulting negatives were entirely usable after scanning and I have also printed a few in the darkroom. If the metering issue sounds very complex, just remember that film has a wide latitude and you stand a good chance of getting useable results even if your time is not “technically” correct.

I found the camera easy to use and it is very well finished. I have just one minor niggling doubt, which is that the wooden shutter release presents a theoretical possibility of shaking the camera when opening or closing the shutter. My old Holga pinhole is threaded for a cable release and I prefer this method. On the first outing I took my “medium weight” tripod which provided enough stability but I might prefer to avoid using my most lightweight tripod with the Ondu, to avoid camera shake.

I also managed to ruin two frames by playing with the shutter after the film was loaded, but that comes into the category of idiotic user error !

The film transport worked fine, the spacing between images was fine, and there were no light leaks – all big advantages over the Holga.

On this occasion I used the 6*6 setting which involves inserting two wooden pieces into grooves inside the camera. The 6*9 setting has another pair of grooves further apart, whilst the 6*12 setting does not require the wood inserts.

So far so good. I have a few rolls of Fuji Across which I will probably use next in the Ondu, since Acros does not require any compensation for recprocity failure at exposures up to two minutes.

I will be hanging onto the Holga WPC120 pinhole, because it can do something the Ondu can’t – take a filter for Infra-red. It doesn’t actually have a filter thread but it is possible to put a filter in front of the pinhole, perhaps assisted by Blu-tack; however the wooden shutter design of the Ondu means that using a filter is impossible. I might also want to carry colour film in one pinhole camera and black-and-white in the other.


  1. Hi Kevin I use a noon pinhole camera (f250 focal length 60mm). It came with a chart for using fp4 . This took reciprocity failure into account . It suggested noting the the shutter speed logged against an aperture of F22 (metering at 125 asa) . This shutter speed translated to shutter speed required for pinhole shot. for example 1/000th sec at f22 corresponded to 1/8 sec with pinhole (not realistic of course) but a 1/30 = 11sec, 1/4 =3 minutes 1sec=33min. I used this as guide along with info from
    Andy N

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