SPAMera Medium Format 120 Film Pinhole Camera

CAMERA: SPAMera
TYPE: Homemade Pinhole Camera
FILM TYPE: 120 & 220
SIZE: 6x6 ish
CREATED: 02.03.06

Materials and tools needed to make a SPAMera:
1. Can of SPAM
2. (2) Metal 120 film spools
3. EXACTO Blade
4. 1 Thread rod (Size 10/64") & bolts
5. 1 package J.B. Weld
6. Small Steel bracket
7. Power Drill
8. Hacksaw
9. Small Sewing Needle
10. Wine Cork (optional)
11. Black Photo tape (I use this brand)

I suggest using slower films like 100 or 200 ASA films with this camera. I use Films like Fuji Provia,  Fuji Superia, Extachrome E100, Fuji Acros 100. Exposure times will vary depending on your lighting situation, but in daylight your exposure shouldn't be more than a few seconds.
>>> For more information on the best film and paper for pinhole camera you can find my recommentaions on this webpage 

Step-by-step directions on how you can make your own pinhole camera out of a can of SPAM. There have been many blogs and web sites that have posted this image on their website, so I can't begin to tell you how many emails people have sent me for how to make instructions. So I decided to stop procrastinating and get those instructions documented. If you're a first time pinholer and aren't comfortable with creating pinholes and making cameras, this may not be the camera for you to start with. Although, if you're up to the challenge, I've listed below the steps I took to create my first SPAMera. Since it's conception, I've noticed other people making their own versions and I think that's great. So if someone out there has an idea how to make the SPAMera better, please do email me how you did it and I'll be more than happy to post those adjustments here and give you credit for the improvement. Until then, here's how I made the SPAMera pictured above. 

1. Purchase the preferred SPAM tin and flavor to suit your taste.

2. With an XACTO knife, carefully cut the BOTTOM of the can out and set aside. Empty the contents and clean the inside of the can with soap and water. Dry with a towel and set aside.

Keep in mind that the can pictured to the left has been painted already.  Normally the inside of the can will be a goldish color.

3. With masking tape, mask all the outside areas of the SPAM you don't want spray paint on. In a well ventilated area, lay some newspaper down and spray the interior of the can with flat enamel paint. I normally use a flat primer then spray again with the flat black paint pictured on the left. I used Rustoleum spray paint for this camera and others and find it to work well. Let the paint dry at least 30 minutes before re-coating.

4. I used an old metal 120 film spool in my SPAMera, so you'll need one of those for the next step. Try finding them on ebay, or try buying a couple old vintage camera(s) that use metal 120 spools (that's how I got mine for this camera). If you can't find metal spools, I'm sure you can figure out something else that will work for the film take up mechanism.

5. This is where it kind of gets tricky. Go to your local hardware store and buy a threaded rod (10/64"). Take the metal spool to the store and make sure that the rod can fit through the inside of the metal spool before you buy it. While you're there, buy the nuts that thread onto that rod, some washers the same size as the spool, small lock washers, the JB weld, steel wool, sandpaper, spay paint, etc. The rod will be much longer than what you'll need for the camera, so you'll need a hack saw or some way of cutting the rod to the exact size that will fit inside the SPAM tin.  Cut the rod to about 4". Make sure you cut it evenly, or it will be impossible to thread the bolts onto the rod after you do so. You may ned to sand the edges down a little after you cut the rod to make it "clean" on the end of the rod. Get your JB weld out and mix per the instructions. Thread the threaded rod through the metal 120 spool (you should mask the ends of the rod with tape to avoid getting the weld on the threaded ends).  Use some JB weld to attach two large washers to each end of the spool and then screw the nuts onto both sides of the spool. Once you do all this, set aside and let dry per instructions on the JB weld packaging. I think it's about 1/2 hour.

6. Next you will need to reinforce the bottom of the tin with something sturdy. I use a metal plate I found in my garage. Since the SPAM tin is so flimsy, I found that it was necessary to reinforce the door to keep everything tight. You'll need a power drill and some appropriate size drill bits to drill through the metal. Before you drill anything, you'll want to make sure you measure the top and bottom of the can, so that the hole line up as much as possible. The camera format is about 6x6 (which is 2 1/4" squared), so use that as your base measurement. Once measured and drilled, I taped the bottom of the can and the metal plat together with some black photo tape to create an "overlap" flap. This helps keep the light out and covers up the sharp edges of the can. The third hole in the photo on the left is a hole for a tripod mount (that's optional).

I recommend using this kind of photo tape. It's a bit pricey, but worth every penny when you're making cameras and shutters with it.

7. Next you'll need to cut a small section of the threaded rod and put two nuts on each end. (The rod pictured on the left measured about 1 1/2".

8. OK, here we go... We're almost there! The photo pictured to the left is a shot of inside of the can.  No.1 is a hole cut for the pinhole. Since the SPAM can metal is thin and uneven, I cut a larger hole and attached a piece of soda tin to the outside of the can. This way, if you make a bad pinhole, you can replace it in the future with another one. No.2 is the threaded bolt and nut put in place.  No.3 shows the film counter window (see a picture how that looks on the outside below)  No.4 Is the hole where the film take-up spool threaded rod inserts into. 

To the left is a picture of film counter window. You can see placement of this window is critical. My first attempt (the black tape above the window) was too high. So I covered that portion with tape and tried again in the right spot. If you have an old spool of exposed 120 film with the paper backing, it helps to practice with that before trying on a new roll.

9. Now it's time to make the pinhole. I've found that the tin from the SPAM can isn't the best metal for making pinhole out of. So, I cut up a soda can and attached that piece of tin to the camera. I like to use an old wine cork as a handle for the needle. It make for a good surface to grip with your fingers and it's great for the twisting motion you need to use to make a small hole. I've found it helpful to put the tip of your finger on the other side of the soda tin, this way you can feel when the need is about to poke through to the other side. This will help prevent making a larger hole than you need. I use the smallest needle in the sewing needle set pictured to the left.

10. After you've made your pinhole. I like to hone down the hole a little with steel wool. I also take a black Sharpie pen and draw a small black circle around the hole. This will cut down on the shiny reflective surface of the soda tin.

11. Once you're done with making the pinhole and honing down the ends, cut the pinhole out and attached to the can with tape, JB weld or glue. I used black Duct tape on this SPAMera.

This is what the pinhole and shutter looks like on my SPAMera. I found that when you peel back the black tape for the shutter, it pulls the SPAM label off the can a little. This is why I prefer to drill a larger hole through the can, then attach the soda tin to the outside of the can.

12. OK, I think we're ready to put this thing together. Open your unexposed 120 film. I light to use 100 ASA film. (Fuji Provia, Fuji Superia, Kodak TMAX 100. Fuji ACROS 100, are all good films to use.  Depending on what film spool you create, I suggest putting a small piece of tape on the end of the paper leader to keep it attached to the spool. This way it will prevent the film from "wiggling" loose from the take-up spool. Make sure you line up and connect the top of the unexposed film spool with the threaded bolt (No. 2 picture above). Otherwise the film won't advance properly.

This is what it looks like when you thread everything together. If I think there's a chance of light leaking through any of the holes created for the film advance, I tape them up. I used a wing nut coupled with another nut on the other side to keep the spool tight and in place.

After you have loaded the film, you'll want to create a way that will keep the film spools from moving inside. I devised this system of locking and unlocking nuts. 1. The wing nut is what you grab onto and twist to advance the film. I no longer use the wing nut and just use to bolts. It seems to work fine for me. 2. This nut, the lock washer below it (3) and the nut below that (4), do a few things. The nut on the bottom (4) is used to keep the film spool tight inside the camera. The washers below that keep the light out and give a flat smooth surface for the nut about it to turn on.

13. Once you've connected everything together, you're ready to close up the camera. Make sure you put a couple nuts on the top of the can to keep the bolts from slipping back into the camera. Then feed the bottom film door/plate into place. This can be tricky, so try holding the can upside-down and let gravity help you out. After you've put everything in place, screw another washer & bolt to the end of the take-up spool (on the right). After everything is "snug" and nothing is moving around inside the camera, it's safe to advance the film exposed from the loading procedure..

14. After you've exposed your film (you get about 9-10 shots), you'll need to take the film off of the take up spool and re-spool onto the original plastic film spool the film came on. This is one reason why I didn't post pictures of how to make this camera before. I didn't like that aspect of this design. I'm sure there's a better way to make this camera, which would avoid all this re-spooling. What can I say, this is the way I made this one and it worked, so I never took the time to perfect it. I guess that's where you folks come into the picture. If you have any questions or just wish to share your results with me, please feel free to contact me viaemailI'll do my best to answer your questions. Good luck with your camera and have fun!

Below are a few examples of photos I've created with my SPAMera:

 

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Anonymous - 

Aloha Chris,

We are a photography and wedding company in Maui, Hawaii and I know without a doubt people would go crazy for those here. Hawaii consumes around 80% of the United States Spam. Really cool Spamera, thanks for sharing.

Aloha,
Steve

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anonymous - 

Chris,
This looks like a very cool pinhole camera--I'm excited to try it out one day this summer (gonna have to channel my Hawaiian vacation and have some Spam soup!). For some reason, however, the images are not showing up in Firefox or Safari. I looked in the HTML and when I tried to go to the specific image URL I got a page not found error.
Best,
Bill

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

admin - 

Bill
You are right. I've been doing a lot of work on the new site and somehow things got moved by accident. As for the SPAMera, Hawaii sounds like a good place to give this camera go. I know some Hawaiian's like SPAM, so I'm sure you'll get all sorts of curious onlookers while you set up your shot. !Viva! SPAMography and thanks for your comment.
Have fun in Hawaii too!
Chris 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Anonymous - 

Hey Chris,

Thanks for putting the photos up so quickly. Oh, to be going to Hawaii right now! No, the vacation I'll have to channel is from 2003. Lots of SPAMmy memories (particularly in this one dive of a place on Kuaui--best SPAM soup ever).

Bill

Thursday, May 26, 2011