In a recent question it was stated that

You cannot change the focal length of the zone, it is fixed and a characteristic of the physical dimensions of the camera

As far as I know, focal length of a pinhole or zone plate is its distance from the sensor/film; so I'd assume that while going wide is a challenge, attaining focal lengths longer than flange distance should be rather simple, by using extension tubes (or a bellows). I understand that the "lens" would become slower by using same aperture at a larger distance, but the aperture is rather slow from start anyway.

Are there any good reasons to avoid extending pinholes / zone plates further off from image plane?

  • \$\begingroup\$ See also How can I shoot wide angle zone plate photography? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why not just buy, create or make a pinhole camera (or many) with the focal lengths you desire. My pinhole camera (Zero Image) has sections one can add or remove in order to change the focal length, i then use the corresponding pinhole or zone plate that is calibrated for that focal length. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


Absolutely, I've done this. The image does get dimmer though so you'll need to adjust your exposure accordingly. I've only toyed with it since much of my interest is in wide, not tele photography.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious if you've done this with your zone plate photography or just pinhole. I'd be interested to hear if focus is an issue in this case, and how much leeway you feel like you have. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I almost never use the pinhole so my test was almost certainly with one of the zones. The subject was far away also and my memory said it was in focus, but that's so subjective with zone! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd be curious to see. I have the lensbaby zone plate but no extension tubes. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just bought some cheapo extension tubes from ebay, no electronics, but I didn't need any for the zone work! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 21:01

This will work for a pinhole camera, within limitations, but zone plates actually have a certain focal length, so it won't there. (Of course, zone plates tend to have a very large depth of field, and aren't particularly sharp anyway, so in the real world you may have some latitude.)

For a pinhole camera, there is an ideal pinhole size (for every wavelength of light) for every distance from the sensor plane. This ideal size will give the optimum focus without loss of sharpness from diffraction. Fortunately, there's a significant range which is perfectly good enough, so the zoom idea works.

For wide angle... we already have a question on that, actually. How can I shoot wide angle zone plate photography?


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