Camera made from one tiny Lego brick actually works

A simple hack turns an itsy-bitsy Lego brick into a working pinhole camera that turns out photos minifigs can enjoy.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Lego pinhole camera and photo
This Lego brick is also a camera. Ryan Howerter/eldeeem

The inspiration began with a pine nut. Ryan Howerter, a graphic design student at Colorado State University, took a photography class and his teacher shared the story of the Pinholo, a minuscule functioning pine-nut pinhole camera. Howerter knew what he had to do. "Being a fan of Lego bricks, I had to carry this idea to its logical conclusion," he tells Crave.

Howerter hollowed out a tiny Lego brick (just two studs square) and turned it into a working pinhole camera. He place photographic paper inside, exposed it and processed it to turn out some seriously small black-and-white images. To truly understand the scale, look closely at Howerter's image of a minifig holding up a pinhole photo showing a tree on the campus at Colorado State.

"The most challenging part is definitely trying to get an actual photo out of it. It's far too easy to over or underexpose the paper or film. I think it was about a 10-second exposure for the one held by the minifig," Howerter says. He's still trying to get a workable negative from the brick camera due to the difficulty of processing such a small piece of film.

While working with such a tiny pinhole can be tricky, anybody can follow in Howerter's footsteps and give it a try. The materials list includes a Lego brick, a piece of brass shim stock (which you poke a tiny hole through), black tape and film or photographic paper. You'll also need access to the gear used for developing photos. "The brick's central support tube needs to be removed, which probably requires a Dremel tool. A black brick works best, to minimize reflected light," Howerter says.

Perhaps the pinhole Lego experiment will spark a new art movement of minifig-scale photography. I'm imagining an art opening with a little Lego gallery inside a regular gallery and minifigs contemplating the artwork on display. Full-size human attendees would need complimentary magnifying glasses to really enjoy the details of the photos. As Howerter demonstrates, there's a real beauty to the tiny art.

(Via Brothers Brick)