Clockwork Pinhole Cameras
By James Grahame
Long-time Retro Thing reader Duncan Waldron found these stunning metal pinhole cameras that are equal parts art and science. The Heartbeat camera was created by Kwanghun Hyun. It incorporates a Unitas 6497 movement that controls the exposure time with ridiculous mechanical precision. The film spool is actually mounted outside the camera case, a quirk that reduces the size of the machined body and adds a bit of analog intrigue -- there's no mistaking this for a digital camera.
Pinhole cameras don't have glass lenses. Instead, they use a tiny pinhole aperture -- basically a lightproof box with film on one side and a tiny opening on the other. Much like a lens, light passes through the pinhole and is cast inverted on the film; the smaller the opening, the sharper (and dimmer) the image. While simple, this technique requires lengthy exposure times. The payoff? Beautiful, dreamlike images.
Hyun has created two versions so far (the Heartbeat 1 is above, the second version below):
He explains the difference: "Heartbeat 1 is a beautiful box of brass with plates, knobs and rings all machined by the artist himself. Of course, the most striking element is the modified Unitas 6497 mounted to the front of the camera. As you can see the crown, complete with crown guards, protrudes from the side of the unit, as the movement must be wound to function. The Heartbeat then would work like most cameras. Set the shutter speed, press the shutter release and the film is exposed. Heartbeat 2 is essentially the same thing, except the movement has been rebuilt. Mr. Hyun made his own movement plate and bridges, took apart an existing movement and reassembled it. The end result is a more streamlined camera shape, with the watch contained within a sealed compartment on the top of the camera. While the camera is fascinating unto itself, that fact that he essentially redesigned a watch movement to have a new architecture, but the same components is really remarkable."