Camera obscura

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The camera obscura (Lat. dark chamber) was a novelty optical invention, and one of the ancestral threads leading to the invention of photography. Photographic devices today are still known as "cameras".

You can create your own camera obscura by building a box and punching a hole in one of the walls.(See Pinhole cameras for construction details.) With a small enough aperture, light from only one part of a scene can strike any particular part of the back wall; the smaller the hole, the sharper the image on the back side. With this simple do-it-yourself apparatus, the image is always upside-down, although by using mirrors it is also possible to project a right-side-up image. Some camera obscuras have been built as tourist attractions, though few now survive. Examples can be found in Grahamstown in South Africa, Bristol in England, Aberystwyth and Portmeirion in Wales, Kirriemuir, Dumfries and Edinburgh in Scotland, Lisbon in Portugal, and Santa Monica and San Francisco in California.

The principles of the camera obscura have been known since antiquity. Its potential as a drawing aid may have been familiar to artists by as early as the 15th century; Leonardo da Vinci once described the camera obscura.

The Dutch Masters, such as Johannes Vermeer, who were hired as painters in the 17th Century, were known for their magnificent attention to detail. It has been widely speculated that they made use of such a camera, but the extent of their use by artists at this period remains a matter of considerable controversy.

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CameraObscura.JPG
A freestanding room-sized camera obscura used by the art department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of the pinholes can be seen in the panel to the left of the door.
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CameraObscuraSanFranciscoCliffHouse.jpg
A freestanding room-sized camera obscura in the shape of a camera located in San Francisco at the Cliff House in Ocean_Beach_(San_Francisco)


Early models were large; comprising either a whole darkened room or a tent (as employed by Johannes Kepler). By the 18th century, following developments by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, more easily portable models became available. These were extensively used by amateur artists while on their travels, but they were also employed by professionals, including Paul Sandby, Canaletto and Joshua Reynolds, whose camera (disguised as a book) is now in the Science Museum (London). Such cameras were later adapted by Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot for creating the first photographs.

A small, hand-held version using photographic paper to record the image is known as the pinhole camera.

See also

External links

fr:Camera obscura it:Camera oscura hu:Camera oscura nl:Camera obscura pl:Camera obscura pt:Cmera escura ru:Камера-обскура fi:Camera obscura sv:Camera obscura

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