Exploring Pinhole Photography With the Ilford Obscura 4x5

If you're considering trying out pinhole photography, the Ilford Obscura 4x5 might pique your interest. This camera offers a unique shooting experience and can produce images with distinctive character.

Coming to you from Kyle McDougall, this insightful video dives into using the Ilford Obscura 4x5 pinhole camera for the first time. McDougall takes it out to Tintern, a village in South Wales, to get a feel for the camera before heading to North Wales for a project. The goal is to see what this pinhole camera can do and understand its strengths and limitations. 

The Ilford Obscura is straightforward: it’s a box with magnets holding it together. You load a sheet of film, open the flap to expose the pinhole, and close it to stop the exposure. However, it doesn’t use a sheet film holder, meaning you need a dark bag to load and unload film between shots. McDougall acknowledges this inconvenience but appreciates the simplicity of the design. If you’re hiking or on the move, this setup can be cumbersome, which is a key consideration.

He starts by metering the scene using his phone. The exposure calculation is straightforward but involves using a conversion chart and a reciprocity timer app to adjust for the long exposure times typical of pinhole photography. Despite the complexity, McDougall embraces the process and the unpredictability of the results. After a few shots, McDougall discusses the challenges and joys of using the camera. He mentions the long exposure times, which can lead to interesting effects, such as movement in the scene. The framing is a bit of a guessing game, but that’s part of the charm. He points out that this method forces you to slow down and be deliberate, which can be a refreshing change from the fast-paced nature of digital photography.

Back in the office, McDougall develops the film and shares his initial impressions. The images have a soft, almost dreamy quality with a lot of character. He appreciates the imperfections and the aged look they convey. This is precisely the effect he was aiming for in his project, making the camera a successful choice for his creative vision. However, he’s already considering finding a pinhole camera that uses a film holder for added convenience. Check out the video above for the full rundown from McDougall.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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