CS 194-26

Project 2: Building a Pinhole Camera

Rosa Choe & Karthik Matha


The first "cameras" were constructed thousands of years ago, but they weren't like the digital devices of today. In fact, the first cameras weren't really devices at all – the camera obscura, which literally means "dark room", was a room with a tiny opening on one wall that let light in. This focused the light rays from the outside world, which would be reflected against the dark wall in the back of the room. In this project, we constructed a camera obscura inside of a shoebox.


Building the Shoebox

First, we blacked out the inside of the shoebox by taping black paper onto all the inside walls of the shoebox besides the back wall across from where we wanted the pinhole to be, which we taped white paper to and would serve as our screen. We made different sized pinholes by cutting out holes into index cards, which were also blacked out on one side. Then we cut out a hole for the DSLR we would later use to capture the image on the screen, as well as a hole for the index cards. We stacked the index cards from largest to smallest aperture, and taped them onto the box, so that we could easily flip between different apertures. In order to make it light-tight, we duct-taped openings and the lid to the body of the shoebox.

Image Capture

We took photos at 3 different apertures, with diameters of 1mm, 3mm, and 5mm. For all of our images, we used a shutter speed of 30 seconds.


1mm 3mm 5mm

The results for our 1mm aperture were quite disappointing; it seemed as if no image was captured at all, and most of our images ended up being slightly orange-tinged, which was probably a result of some light leaking in, as the shoebox was orange. We noticed that the images were the sharpest at the 3mm aperture, but the 5mm aperture resulted in brighter images. This makes sense, since the larger aperture lets in more light, leading to a brighter image, but since the opening is larger, more light rays from different directions can converge on the same location on the screen, leading to a blurrier image.