The ‘Minimum Viable Camera’ is a Pocket-Sized 35mm Pinhole Cam

While cameras have gotten more complex over the years, there is something to be said for getting back to basics. To that end, the MVC, or Minimum Viable Camera, takes photography down to the studs in this pocket-sized 35mm pinhole affair.

The result of a few months of design, the MVC is a super-simple, pocket-sized analog camera that accepts standard 35mm film, which is unusual for pinhole cameras.

“It’s incredibly basic by design,” says its designer, Chicken Crimpy. “It is a lovely little toy camera, but it is a camera nonetheless and it takes photographs. It’s quite a thing!”

The remarkably simple designs were uploaded to Thingiverse for those who want to make their own. Ideally made from laser-cut MDF or matte acrylic, Chicken Crimpy says that foam board or even stiff cardboard will likely also be functional.

The film is kept lightproof thanks to not only the housing of the MVC but also through the two film canisters. Bulk rolled together, they feed into each other as the exposures are made, preventing them from overexposure.

The box is a small enclosed rectangle that features three chambers. On the left and right are sections for holding each film canister end. In the middle is the exposure area where the pinhole can be revealed through a latch on the front, exposing the film. The two “baffles” that separate the chambers have a piece of felt on the ends where they come in contact with the film, although the designer says they aren’t strictly necessary, further simplifying the build.

Film is progressed through the pinhole area and into the other film canister manually via a dial on the top of the camera body.

The pinhole area itself is just a single piece of MDF, which has been bolted to the body using a pair of wing thumb bolts, that slides over the cut hole. One bolt holds the panel in place and acts as a hinge while the other allows the exposure piece to lift and close. The design is, by Chicken Crimpy’s own admission, fiddly, but it gets the job done.

While Chicken Crimpy says he’s “not a photography person,” the design of his pocket-sized 35mm pinhole camera argues otherwise. Those interested in getting the designs for the build can find them on Thingiverse and a walkthrough of the build can be seen in the video above.

Sample photos of a completed build and images taken with the camera can also be found on Thingiverse.