Photography info: Pinhole camera history

Photography information: What is a pinhole camera?Pinhole camera history How to make a pinhole camera? → Digital pinhole camera → Info. on Pinhole photography

A pinhole camera is a light-proof box or room with a small hole in the centre of one side producing an image (photography) on the opposite side.

Natural images have been observed by man from the time way back into unknown history. However, the recorded references to the effect of light passing through sieves and tree leaves are available from the past 2500 years of history.

Pinhole camera history: in the previous Era (BC) of history

History of inverted images: Far back in the 5th century BC history, in the ancient Oriental World, Chinese philosopher Mo Jing has mentioned about the formation of inverted images through pinholes. In 4th century, observations were made by Greek philosophers Euclid and Aristotle about the light travelling through tree canopy and wicker baskets. The observed effect of light passing through a rectangular opening creating only a round image was very much intriguing but without answers. Aristotle observed crescent-shaped images of sun in solar eclipse when looked through a sieve or when the images falls on the ground through broadleaved tree or crossed fingers of hands. Aristotle searched in vain for answers to his observations of crescent-shaped images during eclipse of sun.

Pinhole camera history: in the current Era (AD) of history

In the 9th century AD in history, Tuan Chheng Shih observed about the formation of an image inside a pagoda. In Chinese history in the 10th century AD, Yu Chao-Lung created pinhole images on a screen using pagodas but had no explanation for it. In Chinese history in 10th century AD, Shen Kuo, a Chinese scientist experimented with camera obscura and arrived at the quantitative and geometrical attributes of the device.
Linearity of light: In 1021 AD, history was made when Ibn al-Haytham, an Arabian physicist, in his publication "Book of Optics" gave the clear description about the pinhole effects and about constructing a camera obscura (dark chamber). He had kept three candles in a row and made their images fall on a wall through a pinhole. In this experiment he observed that images are formed due to passing of light through pinhole. Further he observed that the image of the candle on the right side of the row formed on the left side of the screen. This lead him to create history by finding the rectilinear attribute of light during its propagation. Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste made observations about pinhole device in the 13th century. During these centuries of history, these pinhole devices were used primarily for casting images of sun during the eclipse. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519), known more for his paintings was a painter, writer, sculptor, botanist, architect, engineer, cartographer, geologist, musician, anatomist, scientist, inventor and mathematician. Leonardo, in Codex Atlanticus (Atlantic Codex), a huge set of his drawings and writings, has described inverted image formation and had many diagrams of camera obscura. In the 16th century, Giovanni Battista Della Porta (1535 - 1615), an Italian scientist made history added a lens to pinhole camera. Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630), a German mathematician and astronomer coined the term Camera obscura (dark room). Later the term pinhole had come into use. Sir David Brewster (11 December 1781 – 10 February 1868), a Scottish physicist made history with the first photography from a pinhole camera. In the later centuries many cameras were made in various dimensions and with many additions like biconvex lens and meniscus lens. Primarily all these cameras were for photography for educational purposes and for photography for observing solar eclipses. Many of the cameras of past history are preserved and are in display in many European countries. In 20th century many more room size camera obscura were built and were opened for public display. Pinhole photography became very popular in the late 19th century and these cameras were sold in Europe, United States. Late with mass production of cameras and color photography and with improvements in controlling aperture opening, shutter speed and lens, this traditional pinhole camera photography took to back seat.

Revival in the pinhole photography

From 1960s onwards the artistic interest was revived in this photography. Many scientists in many countries started experimenting with this photography. Lot of information was published about this photography as articles in journals and as books. This kindled interest in amateur photography and provided lot of scope for experimental photography with multiple holes and longer exposure timing for moving objects. Again these photography devices were being marketed in United States, Europe, Asia and Australia in 1980s. History of Pinhole Journal: In December 1985, this type of photography got a flip with start of Pinhole Journal and after 20 unfortunately this pinhole photography publication was stopped with the issue of December 2006. History of photography web sites: Pinhole photography went online from mid 1990s. Pinhole visions web site was launched in April 1997 and was one of the very important sites for information and discussion forum on this photography. However it was it was closed in August 2009. From April 29, 2001, history was made by holding Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. History was made in the year 2009,with 3205 images being uploaded from participants from 69 countries on that Photography Day.

Pinhole camera photography in the history of science

Pinhole cameras with modifications are being widely used by scientific community in photography of high energy gamma and X-rays, in space vehicles and in photography of laser plasma. Wide uses are found in spy photography, surveillance photography and photography of models.