Pinholes with the Intrepid 4*5 camera

I’ve shot a few large format pinhole images with my Intrepid 4*5 camera recently and wanted to share with you some of the images and my thoughts about the advantages of using the Intrepid as a pinhole camera.


Above we can see a pinhole panel attached to a Mk 2 Intrepid 4* camera. The wooden pinhole cover just moves out the way when it’s time to make an image. There is no cable release, which a few pinhole cameras have.

The current design of pinhole offered by Intrepid is slightly different cosmetically but it looks like the mechanism works in the same way. The Intrepid 4*5 cameras take a Linhof/Technica style lensboard and therefore the pinhole could be bought on its’ own and fitted to any large format camera that takes the same type of lensboard. I’m sure there are also other sellers that can supply pinholes mounted in that type of lensboard.

2017-3 Arcot Lake, Intrepid 4x5, TMax100, HC110 Dil B Jobo 5m, 1
Arcot Lake in Northumberland shot on Fomapan 100 and developed in HC110. The bellows were set about where they would be with a 150mm lens attached, so this is a “standard” view.

If you already own an Intrepid, or are planning to buy one, then you can add on a pinhole for just £25. I know that’s not particularly cheap for a piece of wood and, er, a hole, but it is probably cheaper than any other way of doing large format pinholes, except for DIY options.

2017-3 Arcot Lake, Intrepid 4x5, TMax100, HC110 Dil B Jobo 5m, 2
Arcot Lake with the bellows retracted to produce the equivalent angle of view of using a 90mm wide angle lens. The position of the camera was just a little to the left of the previous image. but not closer.

When you consider that the Harman 4*5 pinhole camera costs around £165, and offers no growth path to allow its’ use as a lens-based large format camera, you might find it’s worth spending a little more to get an Intrepid, even if you only use it for pinhole at first and save up for a lens or two in future.

2018-4-1 Riddlehamhope, Intprepid 4x5, pinhole, Foma 100, HC110 Dil B 22C 6m 30s,_
A “wide angle” view with some upwards shift applied. This is Riddlehamhope in Northumberland. Fomapan /HC110

Another advantage is that you can set the projection distance (ie the distance between the pinhole and the film plane) at any value between the minimum focal length useable by your camera, and the maximum useable focal length. In the case of the Intrepid Mk2, that is between 75mm (very wide) and 300mm (short telephoto). Think of it as being like a zoom function for pinholes.


The image above shows the front panel with upwards shift applied, ready to take the shot below. The Mk2 Intrepid 4*5 camera allows upwards shift, downwards shift, and horizontal shift, as well as swing, and tilt. (The Mk3 also adds swing and tilt on the rear standard). When using a pinhole, shift movements have the same effect as they do when using a lens. Swing and tilt movements have no effect with a pinhole, since everything in the scene is out of focus to the same degree  and altering the lens plane makes no difference.

2018-4-1, Intrepid 4x5 Pinhole mm, Foma 100, HC110 Dil B, Jesmond Old Cemetetery 2
Jesmond Old Cemetery using a wide view and upward shift. Fomapan/HC110
2018-4-1, Intrepid 4x5, pinhole, Foma 100, Shildon Engine, HC110 Dil B 22C 6m30s,_
Shildon engine house, near Blanchland on the Northumberland/Durham border. A wide view with downward shift applied.

Naturally, a large format pinhole image provides more detail than a medium format pinhole image – and that might not be a good thing if you want your pinhole images to look unmistakenly like pinholes. That’s an aesthetic judgement for you to make.


    • If you have a lens with the approx length that matches your planned pinhole shot, it is possible to frame with the lens attached, then swap the lens for the pinhole before fitting the film holder. So for example I can use my 150mm lens to frame a normal view or my 90mm lens to frame a wide view. It is also possible to do this for the angles of view in between, but in this case you may lose focus and just have to rely on shapes of the subject rather than a focussed view.

      Alternatively, you could use a smartphone; the dual lens on my iPhone 7plus match a 90mm and 150mm view. Switching the image ratio to 4:3 gives framing not too far off a 5:4 view. There are apps which give a closer match and simulate various focal lengths.

      The third option is to guess !


  1. Great post, Kevin. I’ve shot some with the pinhole on my Intrepid Mk1. I have used B&W negative, and Direct Positive paper. Loooonnnnggg exposure with that stuff and a pinhole!

    To follow up on Jabcam’s question, I can see an image on the ground glass, at least for framing, if I use a normal dark cloth. It’s dim, but I don’t have to guess.


  2. Like TomK I have the MK1 and also purchased the pinhole option but have never used it. When I went to use it I noticed a film across the pinhole (I think it’s a bit of glue), anyway I’m going to use some goo-gone see it it removes it. My question is, is 75mm a measurement between the two standards? I know that the MK1 minimum lens focal length is 90mm. The only lens I have is a 150mm but want to make wider angle photos. Thanks for your time. Robert London Canada


    • Robert, I am not sure what you mean so sorry if the following doesn’t address your question. The miniumum distance between the two standards, gives you the widest focal length you can use, without the benefit of movements. To use movements you need a bit more length. I’ve never used a Mk 1, just a Mk II and a Mk III, or a lens wider than 90mm. But my understanding is that a 75mm lens requires a recessed lens board, to be useful on the Mk II or Mk III. It’s possible it isn’t useable at all on a Mk 1 – best to ask Intrepid. But from a pinhole point of view, since you’re not focussing at all, you have a little more freedom because you can move the two standards as close together as possible, and it doesn’t need to match 75mm – if the closest you can get is, say, 80mm, then you can use that length. However there is a limitation, which doesn’t worry me, that the size of the pinhole is optimised for a certain focal length – I think it’s 140mm in this case. So, when the distance between the standards is set as something other than 140, the image insn’t as “sharp” as it might be … buy hey, it’s pinhole ….


      • Oh Man, you nailed it. I need to get out more and experiment with this pinhole once I get the glue off of it. Thanks for the 140mm “tip” that maybe all I need at this time for my project. I can get the shot with a 4×5 and 150mm lens using some rise but, I want to use my 6×9 roll film back and the pinhole.
        Thanks for your time and expertise Robert in London Canada


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.