Some Assembly Required: Todd Schlemmer

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

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Todd Schlemmer, Seattle, WA

Three years ago Todd Schlemmer began designing pinhole cameras in CAD and 3D printing them for his friends and for his personal use. Made from a recyclable bio-plastic, his 6x9 camera called the "terraPin" is comprised of 12 printed pieces. Much like the act of making a pinhole photograph, everything about Schlemmer’s camera construction is time consuming; from designing the camera, to printing it (which can take up to eight hours), to pinhole drilling and assembly. Each camera he designs is an iteration of the prior one, arriving at the current model.

After the camera parts are printed, Schlemmer carefully assembles them so that all of the pieces fit together smoothly, particularly the moving parts. He attaches stainless steel metric fasteners and uses a calibrated awl to drill the pinholes, verifying their diameters with a digital microscope. The terrraPin shoots 120mm film for a 6cm x 9cm frame. Designed for a 40mm focal length and a pinhole diameter of 0.26mm, the aperture is roughly f/174. This unique design also has an optional cable-actuated shutter.

Since he began designing pinhole cameras, Schlemmer has made his designs available to photographers around the globe. As a generous contribution to the photographic community, all of his designs are freely available for download so that anyone can 3D print their own. 

terraPin 6x9

terraPin 6x9

View more of Schlemmer’s work on his Flickr and view his downloadable camera designs here.

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at