It’s no secret that I’ve been hankering after a panoramic pinhole for some time, but I wasn’t too sure what aspect ratio I preferred. There are many variants out there some say a true panoramic is 6×17, but I don’t think it really matters, yet I had a difficult time choosing whether to go with a 6×12 or 6×17. Being a Zero 2000 owner I looked at the Zero 612 (multi format 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 6×12) in the first instance, but I thought it was a bit too expensive. I forget how it came about, but on Twitter, fellow photographer Alastair Ross advised me curved plane pinholes may be worth a look at. In a nutshell the film plane is curved to distribute the light more evenly across the negative thus reducing vignetting (darkening towards the edges) that is evident on flat plane panoramic pinholes. Of course my first thought was “this sounds like it could be expensive”. I started ‘Googling’ pinholes with a curved film plane, lots of cheap looking ones appeared that didn’t excite me so I left it a while. It wasn’t until I was looking in to laser drilled pinholes (that’s another story) that I came across a website called Au Premier Plan.
The website Au Premier Plan sells pinhole cameras that go under the brand name ‘RealitySoSubtle’ (great name) and its creator/owner is James Guerin. He set up ‘Au Premier Plan’ back in 2013 where he began manufacturing the RealitySoSubtle 6×17 (120 film) panoramic pinhole camera. Since then he’s added the 4×5″ (sheet film), 6×6 (120 film) and now the 6×12 panoramic pinhole camera. All his cameras are manufactured by him personally, so you know you’re getting something special.
When I saw the 6×17 and my jaw dropped. The engineering & manufacturing quality looked amazing and the price was very reasonable, but what struck me was all the pinholes on the website have 2 or 3 pinholes. Confusion ensued wondering what the heck I was looking at and how anyone could use such a thing. With more research I discovered it offers the pinhole a ‘rise/fall’ effect meaning the horizon can be better placed on the negative without tilting the pinhole (which creates a curve on the horizon as the film plane is no longer parallel). Looking around the website I noticed on the blog section that he was working on a 6×12 and James said he would be posting the results soon and taking orders in February. Being patient I waited for the results and when they appeared I have to say I was blown away. Although the 6×17 has a great panoramic aspect, the 6×12 made more sense to me and would be more economical with film, scanning and printing. As a check I looked at my digital panoramics and the majority fell within the 6×12 ratio – my mind was made up and an order was placed. I received an email from James saying things were going to be a little delayed due to an influx of orders for pinhole day, but I wasn’t in a rush. A week later a received an email to say the order had been shipped so with it coming from France I estimated another week before it would be in my hands.
Finally my ‘RealitySoSubtle’ 6×12 pinhole camera arrived quicker than expected. Like a child at Christmas I was keen to get through the wrapping to the goods inside. It was well packaged as you can see.
- Format: 120 film (takes 6 pics per roll)
- Negative size: 56 x 123mm
- Focal Length: 60mm
- Angle of view: 120 degrees
- F number: f/200
- Weighs (approx): 800g
- Pinholes: 2x laser drilled 0.3mm – two pinholes for rise and fall effects
- Price €171 (inc. shipping) the exchange rate meant it cost me £140
This is a beautifully handcrafted pinhole camera that feels very solid and tactile, and there is so much to like about it, so forgive me if I seem to fawn over it for the next few paragraphs.
Attention to detail
With James being a keen pinhole photographer himself you can see the attention to detail he has given this (images courtesy of ©James Guerin), some would have been happy with two toggle latches (if any at all), not James he installs 4 to ensure all the joints seal against the main body. At the rear of the pinhole above the frame number window, there are a series of numbers 1,3,5,7,9,11. They remind you that when you wind on you need to follow this sequence of numbering as ‘one exposure = 2 frames’. With regards to winding on I like that you can reverse wind, for me it’s handy as there have been times when I’ve wound on too far when not paying attention and with the ‘Zero’ you can’t go backwards and of course offers more creative possibilities. I like the inclusion of a spirit level and underneath there is a 1/4″ threaded hole for attaching a quick-release camera plate, also there are 4 rubber feet which will be handy if I want to rest it on a surface and require some grip.
Inside the pinhole, he has clearly indicated the film path which helps with loading, but not only that he has considered the surfaces in which the film has contact and has added protection to reduce the chances of scratching the emulsion. This involves wrapping the spindles with some sort of fabric tape and the curved plane has only what I can describe as a smooth glossy like plastic that seems to reduce friction as the film passes over it.
Kudos to James, what he’s achieved in a relatively short space of time is nothing short of exceptional and I can’t recommend his pinhole cameras highly enough. I look forward to taking this away with me to North Wales for its maiden trip so I’ll post the results from it and offer my thoughts on its practical use in another blog which hopefully won’t be too long.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them via the “leave a reply” box below and I’ll try to respond to them asap.
Thanks for the read.
P.S.: If you’re interested in participating in a workshop please check our latest one here