CS 194-26 Image Manipulation and Computational Photography

Project 2: Building a Pinhole Camera

Jonathan Fung, CS194-26-abs, Brian Levis, CS194-26-abd


For this project, we built a pinhole camera, also known as a camera obscura. Light reflecting off a scene would be focused through a tiny pinprick hole in a light-tight shoebox we constructed. The scene would be projected on an inner side of the shoebox, in which we would take a long-exposure shot with a digital camera. The digital camera had to be a long exposure shot, because the pinhole did not let through much light.

Our Pinhole Camera

We selected an Adidas shoebox for our camera. Since the digital camera we had was a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens, we had no zoom capabilites, so we had to put the pinhole on the side of the shoebox with a longer projection distance. We mounted a hole for our DSLR right next to the pinhole.

Full Setup, with DSLR.
Setup while taking indoor fish picture
Inside of shoebox, light-sealed.

Taking Photos

When taking photos, we experiemented with three different pinhole sizes, 1mm, 3mm, and 5mm. After experimenting, we found that the best aperture for our digital camera was f/1.8. We tuned the shutter speed and the ISO of the digital camera to accept more light into our photograph depending on how sunny the day was and how bright the subject was.

1mm picture of Bear Statue and Brian
3mm picture of Bear Statue and Brian
5mm picture of Bear Statue and Brian
1mm picture of Jonathan on the Terrace
3mm picture of Jonathan on the Terrace
5mm picture of Jonathan on the Terrace

It was clear to us after a few photos that the smaller pinhole camera apertures resulted in the most focused photos. However, the downside was that there was less light focused on the inside of the shoe box. As such, we had to compensate by upping the ISO, making the camera more sensitive to light, or increasing shutter time, to increase amount of light let into the box.

Bells and Whistles

By using a lighter and its flame, we were able to add light painting to the image. We used this to augment a photo of Oski.

Oski. Due to the shift in z-axis, one flame is closer.

We also tried our hand at indoor photography with abstract art and fishes.

The Real Picture.
1mm picture of Fish and Eggs
3mm picture of Fish and Eggs
5mm picture of Fish and Eggs

Some more random pictures.

Terrace Cafe and Brian