My first impression of the ONDU Pocket Pinhole was that it’s beautiful. Finely crafted wood just has a look that no modern digital camera will ever achieve. It’s also simple. The shutter is a pivoting bar which covers the pinhole and his held closed by a powerful magnet. The wooden film advance and rewind knobs are attached to metal shafts and also held in place with powerful magnets. The back cover is held in place by 3 powerful magnets (I’m sensing a theme. . .) with a small cutout on one end to facilitate removal.
Therein came my first doubt. I was mildly concerned that if I dropped it, the cover could pop off and ruin my film. I soon realized the designers had accounted for this, however.
The film is wound from its cassette, across the film plane, into another reloadable cassette. If the back of the camera is opened mid-roll, only the currently framed shot will be lost. It’s an elegantly simple solution.
The camera came with a nicely printed set of instructions which included a primer on pinhole photography as well as a basic exposure table. This provides a good starting point, although you may want to do more research or use a pinhole app to assist with your exposures. The instructions advised to wind the film approximately 1 1/2 turns per exposure, but there are no markings on the camera. I placed a simple pencil mark on the winding knob. The only way to keep track is by memory.
In use, I found the ONDU a bit stiff to wind. I was using a home spooled roll of FP4, so the fault may have been mine. It was necessary to slacken the film by advancing the rewind knob a bit, then winding forward. It’s not a big deal, and it may change as the camera wears in. In spite of this I found it fun to shoot and finished my roll before I realized it. As I was shooting in bright light, I found it simpler to use my finger to cover the shutter and provide shorter exposure times.
If I were concerned about accidentally popping the back off, a pair of elastic bands would solve the problem. I can also see how the shutter could be knocked open during carrying, especially if you are using a camera bag. Another hefty elastic would easily solve the problem.
After playing with it a bit, I find myself wondering if I should have also bought one of the medium format versions (or maybe the panoramic. . .)
My first roll only had a few good exposures, but I’m chalking that up to the learning curve. I love this one. The 1 1/2 turns per frame seems a bit excessive, with large gaps between exposures. I’ve loaded another roll of color and will continue to shoot it this week.