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Soup Can Cyclops Pinhole Camera

Now that the cold weather is quickly approaching in Western Pennsylvania, soup is always a warm and welcomed friend. It is possible to transform the ubiquitious soup can into a fine art tool. This lesson transforms a soup can into a creative pinhole tool. Soup Can
paper negative

I chose the name Cyclops because the pinhole is situated in the end of the tin can. When you design and build a camera that features a non-traditional positioning of pinhole or paper, extreme creativity will always follow in your image-making. The camera accepts a black and white photo paper negative as the light-sensitive material which is processed in standard chemistry.


Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
The Cyclops is a pinhole camera created from a normal soup can.
Material List
So if you are ready, let's walk through the process of creating the camera. Prepare a clean, flat work surface such as a dining room table and gather the following materials so that we can get started:
  1. Empty and clean soup can
  2. Black electrical tape
  3. Black acrylic paint
  4. Cardboard
  5. Aluminum square cut from soda can
  6. Small sewing needle
  7. Black and white photographic paper
  8. Hammer and nail
  9. Masking tape
  10. Marker or pen
Companion Book Chapters
Consult these chapters of The Pinhole Camera for additional tricks, tips, and help: Chapter 2 (Beginner Track), Chapter 2 (Advanced Track), and Chapter 10.
Step 1
There is no reason why one type of specific can is better than another for this project. I selected a soup can because I can easily get my hand inside the can, although a coffee can or any other larger can will work just the same. The most important step in this process is ensuring that you do not have any sharp edges around your lid, so remove any harmful burrs or shards and then thoroughly wash and dry your can.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
With a few simple preparation steps, we will transform this common item into a cool camera. This is a great way to recycle as well!
Step 2
The really intriguing detail about this design is that the pinhole is not in direct alignment with the paper negative; technically speaking, the Cyclops is an anamorphic camera. With your hammer and nail, create a hole in the bottom of your can.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
This is a starter hole. We will mount a more precise pinhole plate over this larger opening in the subsequent steps.
Step 3
Mask any edges that you wish to protect with masking tape. Coat the interior with black paint. Flat black paint is more preferrable.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Always paint in a well-ventilated space and protect work surfaces with newspaper.
Step 4
Construct a simple pinhole and mount it to the outside of the can. For a more finished design, you can always mount your pinhole to the interior surface. Consult the Beginner Track of Chapter 2 for a step-by-step walk-through of creating a basic pinhole.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Close-up view of a standard pinhole created from an aluminum pie plate.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
The pinhole is centered within the larger rough opening (created by the nail) and mounted into place with black tape.
Step 5
The only thing missing from our camera is a lid. We will construct a top for your can from only cardboard and tape. You can use this method to create a lid for any container in future camera projects.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Place your can on the cardboard and trace around the base with a marker or pen. I used a flattened snack box for my cardboard.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Cut out your traced circle. Cut a 1" strip of cardboard from the length of your box. This will serve as the side of your lid.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Attach the thin strip to your circle with some masking tape. It doe not have to be precise at this stage.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
Continue around the strip, fastening the circle and side. Cover this entire assembly in black tape. This will seal all seams while keeping light from entering your camera. Add extra black tape to the soup can, around the edge, to form a tighter fit between the can and lid.
Step 5
The camera accepts a black and white photo paper negative as the light sensitive material which is processed in standard chemistry. Load your can with black and white photo paper. If you are new to working with photographic paper or in a darkroom setting, consult Chapter 4 (Beginner Track) and Chapter 10 in the book for practical advice. Create a black tape shutter and place it over the pinhole. Place your lid on top and take your camera outdoors for your first exposure.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel
House of Fireworks. 2009
Expect your images to be wildly skewed and heavily distorted. The curved paper inside your camera will render any vertical or horizontal objects, captured within your scene, as fantastic arched lines.
Look around your home for objects that can be transformed into a camera. You can apply the same design prinicples to other objects such as a beer can or paper towel tube. For creative options, explore a pinhole in each end of the can for a double anamorphic camera. Additionally, try sheet film instead of paper as your light-sensitive surface. Even the mundane can become magical, so start your own creative camera project this week.
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