At a camera shop in Edinburgh, I spotted it: A vintage, bellowing lens camera with crystal clear glass and a pricetag within my reach. I’d been eBay-stalking these old beauties for months. Now, one was mine, complete with the original leather case and a few free rolls of film. For the next week, swapping 12-frame rolls in mud, mist, and high winds beneath nothing more than the tenuous shelter of my raincoat (and the infinite expanse of my wife’s patience), I experienced more fun taking photographs than I’d had in years. And when I finally got the photos developed, even my mistakes reminded me of the place and time.
The Videre is a pinhole camera by Kelly Angood, decorated with an intricate, cardboard twin lens reflex camera body (so it looks like a TLR, but it’s not). Like my bellowing lens camera, the Videre celebrates expensive, limited-exposure medium format film. But in every other way, it’s even more rudimentary. The pinhole camera is the world’s simplest camera, after all, consisting of little more than a hole in a box that allows light to strike the film. To take a photo, you essentially open up that hole, for anywhere from five seconds to several months. The results, however, can be impeccably detailed and wonderfully ephemeral.
What makes Angood’s creation so weird is how it’s mixed two styles of vintage camera into one exceptionally quirky cardboard construct--a construct that took a lot of love to make into a relatively high-performing camera (that, incidentally, has been designed to capture shots somewhere between 8 and 40 seconds). And at the same time, she solved an engineering problem that plagues most homemade pinhole cameras.
“The key moving part is the internal mechanism where the 120 film feeds into the empty spool. The mechanism has a slightly curved film plane to help ensure the exposures are evenly exposed,” Angood explains. “This is because when you have a flat film plane, light fall-off from centre to edge (caused by the increased distance from pinhole to edge, effectively increasing the focal ratio) causes the exposures at the edges and corners to be less than at the centre. This was the most complicated part of the design, but ultimately the most rewarding to get right.”
There are other premium touches, too, like a light-filtering red acrylic window that lets you check how many photos you have left, or a viewfinder that folds down onto itself--like a real TLR camera--even though that viewfinder actually has no practical purpose to a pinhole camera.
“To me it’s really important to get these little features right,” Angood explains. “You’d never guess it but the leather texture on the camera body also took nearly a week to create through various (and highly analogue!) printing methods. “
Indeed, it’s Angood’s perfectionism for artifice that elevates the Videre beyond mere gimmick to a nostalgic reboot, a celebration of vintage cameras, papercraft, and medium format film photography in one. It’s not designed to make photography simple; it’s designed to make photography fun. And if you’d like to pre-order a Videre kit of your own, you’d better act fast, as the offer expires soon. It’ll run you about $40 on Kickstarter.