Ilford Obscura 5x4-Pinhole Camera Review

6/1/2013 11:29:43 AM

Camera is usually considered as tight box, and browsing Obscura will show you that it has too much from a field of box design. The question is why that only makes camera be old-fashioned, or camera itself is really interesting following old fashion? Hope that I can help you understand that.

Note that if you are not used to 5x4-film, you can find some information from our previous comments about Harman Titan camera.

Ilford Obscura 5x4 Pinhole

Ilford Obscura 5x4 Pinhole

Outstanding features

We have shared you that it is cube and close, so what else to share? The box is divided into 2 parts including front part slides into back part closely, that protects camera from being pervaded by light, in addition to these two parts are kept certainly by magnets on the side which you almost cannot recognize. In front side, there is a 0.3 mm hole carved metal equal to number f 248 on focal length of 87 mm, about 26 mm on 35-mm camera. Small hole is covered with a surprising shape, held by two magnets, and that is simple to open pedestal and then switch on final point of exposure. It has three-pin socket on the pedestal but no plan ruler, although its pedestal is wide enough to put such a ruler on plan of camera. We are not totally sure about its material, but it is strong sufficiency.

Obscura darkroom

Obscura darkroom


Pinhole photography means that time of exposure exceeds period of holding camera by hand and supporting chain is necessary. While one leg is more favorite choice, the great thing about box is that it is quite stable when you put it on something. However, it is pretty light, so if you do not put it on the rack, you will need keep it stably while you turn the lid and then close it, or Obscura will move.

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck castle

Up to now, really simple, the most important part of Obscura exchange is that it is one-time capturing device; we have to uninstall and reload between times of taking photos. That is not easy to take it with you when going for a walk. Meanwhile it is able to use a bag of changing films which can be folded in many features; the size of Obscura when it is divided does not have much space in changing bag for a 3-part film box to put expose panel into. The bag, at that time, needs to open, and film box is changed with new one; therefore, it’s a little bother, and we need a jumping bag as showing in the picture instead of changing bag. Strong point of that is film or paper is only put directly in outside/ behind part of Obscura, and then be kept in right position by inside/ front part when sliding it into place; as a result, loading more easily than usual film-holders.  



Another thing need to be warned is scientific effective which is known as failure of reciprocity law meaning that you have to put much more exposure in a film when the speed is over ½ second. IIford supplies a diagram for this problem in their capability of film data, so it is able to be printed out and carried along. For example, say that you have measured light at 1/15th @f22, and then transfer them to Exposure Calculator, recording into kit; on that case, time of exposure in f248 is about 8 seconds. If you check up film data then, you will see failure of reciprocity law, meaning that 8 seconds of exposure are actually need 25 seconds for each exact degree of exposure; therefore, carelessness can be settled down at 2 stopping points below exposure if only using Calculator.    

Inverness Marina

Inverness Marina


Our experiment is limited in Ilford 100 Delta film, so our comments are, too. The first thing to discuss is the lack of turning down lights in the corners of film, although that can still be an impact in paper correctly and directly if used. Film is scanned as soft as expected, but it is more sharpening to give final detailed results, though there are not mistakes for photos taken by normal camera. You can see the picture right here and yourselves decide if its appearance can attract your attention or not. Filter can be hold through pinhole during period of exposure, and neutral density is also useful on a sunny day when time of exposure can shorten uncomfortably.

As the previous explanation, time of exposure have a little of problem, they can be easy in 25 seconds or more, you must consider light and wait until it is stable at that time. The sun appears and is shaded by clouds during exposure will cancel everything. This is a serious binding for a solo camera.

Obscura by riverside

Obscura by riverside


Obscura kit is retailed in price of $107 including film and paper; therefore, it means that the camera itself may cost $77 or around, and I recommend that it be worth to try such a type of photography. However, it is a tactful device, and the only change you can create is with the sticker coming with that kit in order that you can decorate it to look funnier.


It’s obvious that Obscura has an especial design brief, and I are judging it on that basic, not what it could be to become. Thanks to that foundation, we think it is suitable for its design definitions really well, and it is made well. However, whenever starting using it, choice is a single shot carrying with changing tent and film box, so we find out that it is really limited and reduce funny for me.

For Harman Titan, I have assessed previous standard 5x4 film-holders, so you can choose as many things as you want when going out. It also has a 120 mm pinhole camera which can set up 6x6, 6x9, or 6x12 for 12, 8, and 6 photos respectively. In addition to, film may be changed outside without problems or changing tent, so there is a choice permitting you to take more photos in whole day. These options also mean that you do not waste one day when light changes in an exposure because you just transfer to new film.

Strong points

·         That is an exact device matching together well and still close by magnets

·         It’s light and portable so you can carry it all day

·         No decrease of light on film

·         Its design is unique and has clear purpose

Weak points

·         Each shot is really limit the ability of using of camera

·         Its nature is no change, and you cannot change anything for the future

·         Carrying with changing tent and film box is a big weakness

·         It is not as fun as you can expect


·         Function 2/5

·         Control 2/5

·         Performance 4,5/5

·         Value 3/5  

·         General assessment 3.5/5

Technical specs

·         87mm focal length

·         Magnetic lock design

·         Front rotates for left or right hand use

·         Holds paper in position for white border

·         0.3mm chemical etched pinhole

·         Tripod converter bush

·         Can be used with 4x5 film or paper



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