Sequence viewing > Index - Cameras - lenses - optics - Resource - © Lloyd Godman

Film - Digital

What is a Camera ? - History of the camera obscura

The concept and use of the camera is much much older than photography as we understand it.

The word camera is derived from camera obscura (Latin for dark chamber) and the principal can be traced back to Aristotle. It was noticed that if a very small hole penetrated the outside wall of a darkened room, an image of the scene outside was projected onto the opposite wall.


Later, through the dark ages, reference to it can be found in the writings of Arabian scholars who preserved aspects of  ancient Greek knowledge. It was found that the brightness of the image related to the size of the hole, ( the larger the opening the brighter the image) and the distance the light traveled from the hole to the wall where the image was formed, (the further the distance the dimmer the image). This effect is termed the inverse square law. It was also discovered that while increasing the hole allowed more light to enter it also made the image less sharp.

The recognition of this phenomenon where an image of the outside world is projected back through a small opening is very old.
Gemma Frisius, observing the solar eclipse apparently the first published illustration of a camera obscura. 1544



Want to learn more? - do a workshop or one on one with Lloyd Godman