Introduction: Camera Obscura for 21st Century

Picture of Camera Obscura for 21st Century

The first camera obscuras were built in the 18th century, consisted of a large building with a series of movable lenses in the roof and a round white table at ground level on which an image was projected of the surrounding landscape.

My remit was to build a modern version of a camera obscura for use in bird and badger hides to project views for a small audience.
It needed to be easily portable and easy to set up and use.

Version one has already been published on instructables but was found to be less portable than I desired, the viewing screen was too small and connecting to a laptop just added to the kit that had to be carried to the hides.....  so this build was put in motion.

This is an exercise for me to make the most portable minitureised large screen camera obscura possible, I am not expecting anyone reading this to rush out and build one for themselves but the info is here should you decide you cannot live without one :). 

Step 1: The Parts Are Sourced

Picture of The Parts Are Sourced
Parts required:-
  1. The camera is a neat 220 x zoom box camera sourced second hand from ebay.
  2. The projetor is a hand held pico projector from ebay.
  3. Wooden box 270mm X 230mm X 80mm...usual source, see above.
  4. Battery and charger base for an 18v drill
  5. Tripod head to mount camera.

There are a few more odds and ends to bring it all together

  1. Push buttons for zoom and focus of camera
  2. 12v power supply built into the battery charger base.
  3. Clamp to hold camera mount steady.
  4. Cables to connect it all up.


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Step 2: The Build Part 1 Camera

Picture of The Build Part 1 Camera

To hold the lid open I installed a tube that is hinged at the bottom and held in place by a small clamp.
Attached to the clamp is a socket that the tripod head mounts into.
Camera mounts via a quick release.

Step 3: The Build Part 2

Picture of The Build Part 2

The charger/12v supply sits in the corner with enough space alongside to store the camera.
The wooden surround to the charger contains the sockets for connecting up and under the end are 4 push buttons to control the camera.
The other cover hides and protects the projector, it is hinged to angle the image up when projecting.
Third picture shows batteries being charged up.

Step 4: The Final Product

Picture of The Final Product

This is what it looks like when built up, the camera has gained an aiming tube along the top to make it easier to point.

Step 5: Packed Away

Picture of Packed Away

The only part that does not fit within the box is the drill battery.

Step 6: The Movies :)

Picture of The Movies :)

I will not get a chance to try this in the field until spring but here are a couple of movies, the first shows how easy it is to set up,
http://vimeo.com/34106522
the second shows the first try out in my workshop.
http://vimeo.com/34106550
Both movies are raw and basic but give a good idea of how it all works.

Cost was not an issue for this build but I managed to do the whole thing for less than $250.

Were I to win the shop bot I would continue with developing a handheld laser projector that has been on the back burner due to an inability to make the intricate parts it requires.

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Bio: Woodsman and field tutor on a week day. Life long inventor, designer, engineer for the rest of the time. From items that make life easier ... More »
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