This Book is a Camera (Literally)

Kelli Anderson  is an artist who works in paper. She’s previously developed a pop-up book which turns your smartphone into a planetarium or a speaker. Her other projects include a paper record player, and the illustrations for the NPR story Talking while Female, and now Anderson  is back with a new project – a pop up book that lets you build one of the oldest types of cameras:

This book lets you assemble a pinhole camera. It ships with a set of light-sensitive photo paper and instructions on how you can take a photo and then use chemicals to process each print into a photo (darkroom not included).

As Anderson explains on her blog, a pinhole camera is a type of lenseless camera that relies on physics (rather than complicated tech) to focus light on photo paper:

The convex surface of the lens of a normal camera merges light beams from a varying angles to produce focus at the focal point. A lensless camera accepts light through a single hole in a flat plane (from a single angle.) Because of this, there are no mechanics to “focus” a pinhole camera—it is a projection from a single beam, much like a camera obscura. The result is that objects near the camera and objects far away from the camera have the same exact amount of focus. Take this image of a fence, the Williamsburg bridge, and the Empire State Building—which is fuzzy, but each structure has an equal degree of focus:


While this is old tech, it is also a very crude example of it; each photo needs to be loaded into the camera in a darkroom so that it’s not exposed to light before you’re ready to take a photo.

Nevertheless, this is still a nifty idea; just about the only way I think it could be improved is if it accepted aftermarket Polaroid cartridges. Of course, that would require a more mechanical design with a hand crank, which means it likely couldn’t be collapsed into a folded up book.

So perhaps this isn’t such an imperfect design after all.

You can find the kit on Anderson’s website, where it is back-ordered until February.


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

1 Comment

  1. […] books can do everything from doubling as a camera or planetarium to giving you nightmares, and now there's one that can take you on a tour of the […]


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