Digital Camera Obscuras

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


A camera obscura is a darkened chamber in which an image of the scene outside the chamber is projected by a pinhole or other optic onto a screen within the chamber. Early obscuras used pinhole optics, but by the 16thcentury obscuras with lenses became popular as aids for drawing or painting scenes with the correct perspective. By the late 19thcentury, the screen had largely been replaced with photo-sensitive materials, and film cameras replaced obscuras. Over the last few decades, digital cameras using electronic sensors have replaced those using film. However, large projections can have significantly different properties from small projections, and it is very difficult to build a large digital image sensor. Thus, there is interest in using a small-sensor digital camera to photograph the large screen of a obscura. For example, it is relatively easy to obtain much shallower depth of field using a large screen, but a small sensor photographing the screen essentially copies that depth of field, so obscuras have often been used as "bokeh adapters" for smallsensor digital cameras. The current work is an experimentally-grounded exploration of the issues that arise in construction of digital camera obscuras, their use, and exposure control and post-processing of digital images captured using a small sensor to photograph the image projected on an obscura's screen.

Original languageEnglish
Article number334
JournalIS and T International Symposium on Electronic Imaging Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023
EventIS and T International Symposium on Electronic Imaging: Imaging Sensors and Systems, ISS 2023 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: Jan 15 2023Jan 19 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Society for Imaging Science and Technology. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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