DIY Camera Obscura!


It was partly because of this invention that we get to enjoy Lomography and photography today!

The camera obscura is a very simple device that uses a lens to project an image on a screen. In Latin, the term “camera obscura” means “darkened chamber”, and it is indeed a small dark box with just a lens on one end and a translucent surface on the other. It was one of the inventions that led to photography.

I decided to make one as part of my experimentation in my university project. First of all, I needed to find a convex lens – the type that curved outwards rather than inwards (which is concave). I loaned mine at the workshop, but as an alternative, any magnifying glass will do.

Next I have to determine the focal length of the lens. This could be easily done using a light source, lets say a ceiling spot light. Hold the lens on a table surface and move up and down until the light focused the sharpest on the table. The distance between the sharp focus (table surface) and the lens’ current position would be the focal length (just 2cm in my case); so, ideally the distance between the lens and the surface should be around this distance. To make it easier, it is better to have 2 parts for the camera so one end can slide in and out to focus.

For the front part of the camera with the lens, I just cut a hole slightly smaller than the lens. If the lens was mine I would have mounted it using glue, but since I will have to return it, I made a simple lens holder to slot it onthe lens. Leave the other end of the box open for the back part.

The back part has to be a little smaller so it can be slotted into the front part. At one end of the back part, I used a translucent card but actually anything similar that would let diffused light through will work. A simple alternative is tracing paper or maybe a piece of paper. Leave the other end open as well. (Ignore the gap, I didn’t have enough black card left)

Finally it’s time to put it all together! Slot in the lens into the holder and the back part into the front part.

Now just point the camera at anything and slide the two parts in and out to see the image forming on the surface! The image will appear inverted (upside down) because of physics, that’s a whole different story to tell!

But in the meantime, it is really cool to use this “grandfather of all cameras”; I did another version too with a mirror so the image appeared right side up!

You can read more about it here

written by shuttersentinel17 on 2011-11-14 in #gear #tipster #camera #obscura #analogue #convex #lifestyle #lens #diy #inverted


  1. satomi
    satomi ·

    Craaazie tip!

  2. kerpella
    kerpella ·


  3. stratski
    stratski ·

    So cool! You're only one step away from your own real camera. I have instant visions of two of those things on top of each other, for synchronised focussing, one to peek trough, and one loaded with film and with a shutter. You'd have a twin lens camera. I'd love to see the mirror version as well.

  4. bobby_sekeris
    bobby_sekeris ·

    So cool!!!

  5. homer
    homer ·

    now i know what i'm doing on my next day off :-)

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Super !

  7. skrutt
    skrutt ·

    Nice! Will try this someday soon!

  8. marcustegtmeier
    marcustegtmeier ·

    This is really cool!

More Interesting Articles

  • Technology Will Save Us x Lomography DIY Rumble

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-02-12 in #world #news #competitions
    Technology Will Save Us x Lomography DIY Rumble

    When it’s cold outside and the rain is pouring, it can be the perfect time to sit down and build something. Lomography UK has teamed up with Technology Will Save Us, a company that makes build-it-yourself electronic kits, to bring you the perfect DIY Rumble. Get the chance to win a Konstruktor camera and a DIY Instrument Kit. Read on for details on how to enter this fab competition.

  • A Collection Of Awesome Konstruktor Snapshots

    written by shhquiet on 2015-04-10 in #gear #lifestyle
    A Collection Of Awesome Konstruktor Snapshots

    There's nothing more satisfying than taking fantastic photos with a camera that you built yourself. If you've always wanted to impress your friends with your mad DIY skills, pick up a Konstruktor Camera Kit and show them what you've got! It's also a cool way to get them into Lomography, because as you build the camera you'll discover how analogue photography works. Oh, and the Konstruktor takes gorgeous photos, too - check out the gallery and see what we mean!

  • Petzval History Series: The Early Life of Joseph Petzval

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-06-09 in #people #lifestyle
    Petzval History Series: The Early Life of Joseph Petzval

    The Petzval Lens was the first truly practicable portrait lens ever created and thus was the ultimate gift to early photography. We at Lomography feel that this lens and its inventor deserve some attention so here is the first of a series of articles on Joseph Petzval and the first Petzval Lens.

  • Shop News

    Check Revolog 36exp Plexus Effects!

    Check Revolog 36exp Plexus Effects!

    Feeling experimental? We have the perfect film for you. Load up a roll of Revolog Plexus 200 on your favorite 35mm camera and shoot as you normally would.

  • Vintage Gallery: Hand-Painted Postcards

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-07-25 in #world #lifestyle
    Vintage Gallery: Hand-Painted Postcards

    Humans always seek ways to improve an innovation. In the early days of photography, the project was to introduce color to Mr. Daguerre’s fascinating prints. Transferring reality onto wood or paper was one thing; it was another to produce a vibrant equivalent. Hand painting was an answer to this public demand for color before color photography was even invented.

  • Tipster: DIY X-Pro Redscale

    written by rancliffhasenza on 2015-09-27 in #gear #tipster
    Tipster: DIY X-Pro Redscale

    Browsing through the Lomography website, you can find a lot of redscale shots, which are all done on color negative films. I asked myself if it’s possible to redscale a slide or chrome film and then cross process it. (And yes, it is.) In this tipster I’m going to teach you how to create the bloodiest homemade redscale film I've ever come across.

  • Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    written by jennifer_pos on 2015-03-17 in #gear #news #lifestyle #tipster
    Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    Ever since light painting was invented, it inspired artists from all around the globe to magical creations that capture hidden movements and reinvent the world we live in. "Life is a fairy tale, stay wild little child!" is what they want to tell us. Bringing light to life became the next challenge for anyone rigged with a film camera and a creative mind. Now, how can you take your analogue light paintings from the ordinary to the outstanding? After the carriage came the car, so we definitely need some spacy inventions to follow the old school light pen. So here it is, our new best friend: The Pixelstick!

  • Shop News

    the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

     the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

    Let your loved one pick the gift of their dreams. Lomography Online Shop Gift Certificates are the perfect present for every analogue devotee on your gift list

  • A Conversation with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović

    written by jacobs on 2015-01-19 in #lifestyle
    A Conversation with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović

    It was our great pleasure to chat with the CEO of Ondu Pinhole Cameras, Elvis Halilović, about his interest in pinhole photography as well as the formation of his company that produces handcrafted pinhole cameras. We found his answers fascinating and we think you will too. Thanks Elvis for being so generous in sharing your story and cameras with us!

  • Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news #competitions
    Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    With an expanded field of view and its ability to produce high quality images and capture minute detail, medium format photography has become the top choice of many photographers. Lomography is working hard to make sure that it keeps going with the continued production of medium format film and cameras. The current issue of German magazine FOTO HITS focuses on medium format photography. And with this rumble, we want to prove why medium format photography is king. Take your Diana F+, Holga 120, Lubitel 166+ or the new Lomo LC-A 120 and show us your best square shots!

  • LomoAmigo: Courtney Barnett

    written by Lomography on 2015-10-14 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo: Courtney Barnett

    Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett sings about the frustrations, disappointments and the mundane aspects of life in her own animated and sometimes Dylan-esque style. Her debut album "Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit" was released this year and has been getting positive reviews. We tweeted about her new album and she responded to say that she loved Lomography. It was the perfect opportunity for a shoot and an interview.

  • Shop News

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Shoot wider and bigger with this new instax camera that has film format twice the size of the instax mini films!

  • Lomography NYC Workshop and Events for April 2015

    written by mindofmyra on 2015-04-01 in #people #news #events
    Lomography NYC Workshop and Events for April 2015

    As the weather warms up and the sun begins to shine, it's time to take your cameras off the shelf and into action. April is a special month because of Film Photography Day, marking a special date for us film photographers. We need you to help celebrate the wonders of film photography and keep the magic alive. #filmphotographyday2015

  • Five Days, Four Kinds of Film and Three Cameras on the French Riviera

    written by nickpage on 2015-09-19 in #world #lifestyle
    Five Days, Four Kinds of Film and Three Cameras on the French Riviera

    It had been five years since my last visit to the Côte d'Azur in France. During this period, I took to film photography again. And so for my return, I was looking forward to capturing, with my handy film cameras, some of that special light and blue sea that had drawn so many artists to the Riviera.

  • Monday Moodboard: Rundowns and Resolutions

    written by chooolss on 2015-01-05 in #news
    Monday Moodboard: Rundowns and Resolutions

    It's that time of the year when we all take a moment to look back at the year that was, and list down our New Year's Resolutions. Here are mine - all related to analogue photography, of course!