Instructables

Pinhole Camera (Camera Obscura)

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The camera obscura has been around for thousands of years. The phenomenon was first observed by Aristotle and Chinese philosophers as early as 470 BCE. However, it was not until 1837 that the first permanent pictures could be obtained using the camera obscura as a pinhole camera. These pictures were called "Daguerreotypes," and the pictures you take with the pinhole camera will have a "vignette" effect.

To learn more

To experience it

Now, it is simple and easy to create a miniature pinhole camera from basic supplies. Join in on the fun!

*I wrote this Instructable to be short and choppy to emphasize the pictures of the process.
**A better shutter will be forthcoming in a future Instructable.
***Thanks to Mrs. Hogan of Gunn high School for help and assistance on the project. 
 
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Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need
Here is a list of materials you will need for this project:
-A box of some sort (I used an Altoids tin, but you can use anything, even a matchbox if you adapt this instructable)
-A soda can (empty!)
-A needle
-Opaque tape
-Black matte paint or a black marker
-2 small magnets

Here is a list of tools you will use in the project:
-Drill
-Drill bit (1/8 in.)
-Scissors
-Craft knife or shears
-Ruler
-Pencil

To take pictures, you will need:
-35 mm black and white film (can be purchased online)
              or
-Black and white film paper (can be purchased online)
-Developer and fixer (can be purchased online)
-A darkroom

Step 2: Wash the Inside of the Altoids Tin (Optional)

While this step is optional (especially for those of you who aren't using Altoids tins) I highly recommend washing out the tin. It will help later on in the painting and it will remove the overly "minty" smell.
jennadacat2 months ago

any instruction on how to make a tracing style camera obscura? is it then same concept as the pinhole but with an longer box and a bit of glass and mirror?

Magnets have no negative effect on film, FYI.
dbentley11 year ago
Forgive me for sounding stupid...but how do i take a picture with this? Do i need to load the film and cover the pinhole? then take the cover of the pnhoe for the image to process? how long need i leave the pinhol uncovered etc?
baba42 years ago
personally i don`t use pin hole cameras i just use digital
gtoal2 years ago
A camera obscura (sometimes spelled oscura) isn't a device, it's a room - literally a 'darkened chamber'. Originally it was observed that a small hole in an otherwise covered window would project an inverted image onto an opposite wall, but the term came to be used for a more complex room with a lens in the ceiling and a circular reflector on the roof above which projected a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding landscape onto a circular table below. Typically the camera oscura would be at the highest point in the town and you could go there to observe the entire town in real time, much like viewing a live satellite surveillance image. There is still an existing camera oscura in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the top of the Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle, and it is a very popular tourist destination. Unless the meaning of the word has drifted over the years, I don't think it is correct to use this term for a simple pinhole camera.
bigjeff5 gtoal2 years ago
Camera obscurae come in all sizes.  Desktop sized camera obscurae have existed for centuries, and were generally used to take tracings of well-lit objects.

A pinhole camera is a type of camera obscura, specifically a small (usually portable) camera obscura without a lens, and with film to capture the image instead of a projected surface for drawing as with other small camera obscura.  They operate on the same principle.

On the flip side, a number of building sized camera obscurae were lens-less, utilizing the pinhole effect to project an image on the rear wall of the building.
robert9802 years ago
could you use polaroid film like the one that fujifilm now makes instead of film because this instructable does http://www.instructables.com/id/Pinhole-Camera/
and I was wondering if it fit could it be done??? thanks
forzaphil2 years ago
This is a great instructable. I have got to get some photo paper, developer, and fixer. They have direct positive paper that you can print onto with pinhole cameras without having to use a negative to capture the image. Cool stuff.
killbox2 years ago
You can make a finer/better pinhole by placing the aluminum on something a little soft. like cardboard. push the pin into the metal (just enough to make a small bump, not poking through the can) then take some medium/fine sandpaper and sand down the bump. then poke it with the pin again make a new teeny bump, and sand it too usually at this pint the metal will be incredibly thin, and you can easily drill with a needle a teeny hole. (you want just the point to pierce the aluminum. you can then blacken it with soot from a candle flame (holdin git with tweezers.

ive also used foil tape for making the pinholes (same technique) but its already thinner.
you can see some of my blueprint photography pinholes here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/killbox/5615030902/
and
http://www.flickr.com/photos/killbox/6184594300/
ericscrum (author)  killbox2 years ago
That's a great idea, and I will try that next time. I feel that the size of the pinhole can also be a creative variable because it can be manipulated to create certain effects with the film.
wheres the camera?
ericscrum (author)  bakedicecream2 years ago
The camera is the Altoids box. The pinhole in the lid is the aperture that lets the light in, and the distance from the aperture to the film acts like the focal length. By peeling the tape off and putting it back on, you can work the shutter. I will be adding another Instructable shortly on how to make a more effective shutter. Does that satisfy your question?
JKPieGuy2 years ago
I like how it looks like old fashion pictures.