Presenting - NOPO135

The Camera

NOPO is a company that produces handcrafted wooden pinhole cameras. The NOPO135 is their 35mm film offering. I got mine as a birthday gift a couple of years ago, and after I went through the first roll of Fomapan 100, I tossed it into the closet and it sat there for a long time (with a second roll of Fomapan 100 loaded and a few frames in). The reason for that is its operation: While it is a basic pinhole camera that is simple to operate, there is one painful step.


The NOPO135 is divided into two segments that are held together by a magnet. The top has the holder for the 35mm film cartridge mounted, and loading the film amounts to “stick cartridge into one side and pull film out of cartridge until it can be slotted into to winding wheel”. Then put both pieces back together. Done.

Taking a picture is similarly simple: Wind the film on a couple of “clicks” (you start with 15 and reduce by one every 4-5 frames to use the film as efficiently as possible), rotate the shutter until it “clicks” open, wait until the exposure is done and rotate the shutter back until it “clicks” shut again. 

Exposure time is usually calculated by measuring for f/22 with a light meter and multiplying by 40. Easy. If only the winding knob would not be so stiff. Oh well… this is not much of a problem winding forward. But when you are done with the roll, you have to wind it back. This entails turning both knobs in the backwards direction. A lot. When you are done, you might notice that your fingers hurt. Those knobs aren’t very comfortable.


When you leave your house with the NOPO135, you will inevitably want to take a tripod, too: Exposure times, even in daylight, are around 4 seconds with an ISO 100 film. I went to the Schliersee and decided it is time to take my little pinhole camera out into the wild again. So out I went with a tripod and the tiny wooden camera loaded with Fomapan 100 mounted to it. I walked around the lake, and some passersby sure gave me some amused looks.

Taking pictures is a slow, deliberate process. And guesswork. Markings on top of the camera indicate the view angle, but that’s it. You have no idea what exactly is in the frame until you get a look at the developed negatives. You can’t be sure about the exposure times, either. But that is not that much of a problem: For the duration, you just count to the calculated exposure time and hope the latitude of the film does the rest. Turns out that works just fine.


As you can see from the images in this post, this pinhole camera for 35mm film is anything but sharp. Given that it is technology from the beginning of photography, this is to be expected. If a pinhole would result in a tack sharp image, nobody would pay thousands of dollars for lenses, would they? Well… then why buy this camera?

I wanted it because I love the design and the idea behind it. I like the craftsmanship and the wood. And I like the idea of having a working piece of the history of my hobby.

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