Agfa Billy Clack the Pinhole Camera

After the shutter spring broke in the Agfa Clack it stayed in the cupboard. A while ago a friend of mine showed me her homemade pin-hole camera the size of a matchbox. It took 35 mm film and produced some really nice, soft and timeless pictures. Cool idea. And exactly that resurrected the Clack from its cupboard isolation.

The Clack was modified in that I removed the lens completely and instead carefully glued a piece of aluminium foil in its place. I used normal household foil the size of half a stamp for this. Very carefully I then pricked the tiniest hole I could  make in the center of the foil, reassembled the camera and was ready to go!

The aperture is a bit uncertain but is in the f/200 – f/300 class, somewhere… or thereabouts… approximately! The iPhone has an app for metering light (it’s actually called Light Meter!) and that was used to get the exposure times. The skies were overcast and exposure times were generally some 4 – 6 minutes.

The long exposure times are good for stable objects (no, I don’t mean horses) like houses, churches, larger stones, stillebeins etc.

Fuji Acros 100 – 4 minute exposure

Note how the tree’s silhouettes change between the moving twigs and still stems. A dreamy effect.

Self-portraits with a pin-hole camera is really testing ones patience. It reminds me of some military exercise long ago, “Attention!”.

Fuji Acros 100 – 4 minute exposure

The shadows to the left and right of me is a 7 year old kid who really just not could stand still for the exposure. An eerie ghosting effect.

This is very far from ordinary point and shoot. Only sizing what will be in the frame takes time, and then there is the tripod, and  long exposures too. On the roll of 8 shots I inadvertently made 10 exposures, oops. Forgot to advance the film twice!

Fuji Acros 100 – 6 minute exposure

This double exposure was a mistake of course but by chance there is a common theme, so perhaps it works anyway. Let’s call it “artistic” to get away with it.


The old camera got new life as a hole camera but with careful inspection one could see that the hole was not perfectly round. Aluminium foil easily gets minute tears in it. A new hole was made out of a tin of catfood. The tin was sanded until very thin and then pierced with a sharp sewing needle. This time I had a microscope with at mm-scale at hand so two holes were made, one 0.42 mm and one 0.60 mm. Repeated close inspections and care in the process resulted in perfect holes with no fringes!

A drawback with this camera is that one is never really certain what will be in the picture. The piggy-back frame and the optical finder never agree.

This time a roll of Ektar 100 was put to the test – to the test of the camera that is, the Ektar works:) As always the colour film was processed at home, in the kitchen sink with a Tetenal C-41 kit.

Colour really adds to the experience and this time there was only one double exposure:

The rest came out better. Here is that bench again, this time without the double exposure…

Some tulips in the sun…

…and more tulips…

While no masterpiece at least the cherry blossoms can be seen here:

This one is a mystery. The white circle with the tabs is from the inside of the camera. How the heck could the camera internals show here? One would suspect a light leak but I can not find one… Oh, well, the photo sucks anyway and is the only shot with wrong exposure on the entire roll! One again I used the iPhone app to determine the exposure, now with f/228, and some seconds (pure guesswork) added for reciprocity. Here I guessed wrong – I guess.

On the roll is also a self-portrait. Unfortunately the similarity to real life is too good, so I will spare you by not showing it here…

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