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camera obscure

By Kai Rowley

What is a camera obscure?


Go into a very dark room on a bright day. Make a small hole in a window cover and look at the opposite wall. What do you see Magic! There in full colour and movement will be the world outside the window upside down This magic is explained by a simple law of the physical world. Light travels in a straight line and when some of the rays reflected from a bright subject pass through a small hole in thin material they do not scatter but cross and reform as an upside down image on a flat surface held parallel to the hole. This law of optics was known in ancient times.

How does it work?


The Camera Obscure is an ancient optical device. In its most basic form it is quite simply a dark room with a small hole in one wall. On the wall opposite the hole an image is formed of whatever is outside. This image is upside down inverted and back to front laterally transposed. The size of the hole has a great effect on the picture that is being projected. A small hole produces a sharp image which is dim while a larger hole produces a brighter picture which is less well focused. This happens because light travels in straight lines a property known as the rectilinear propagation of light.

Who invented the camera obscure?


The camera obscura was developed by Abu Ali AlHasan Ibn al-Haitham in the 19th century. An Arab scientist Ibn al-Haithem specialized in optics. Spending much of his life in Cairo Ibn alHaithem was attempting to discover the rate of light and how it passes through objects. During his creation of the camera obscura Ibn alHaithem was attempting to establish the rate at which light passes.

Development of Camera Obscure?


Following Ibn al-Haithem's life, many scientists further developed the idea of camera obscura. Chinese scientist Shen Kuo added geometric principles to the idea in one of his later books. Roger Bacon highlighted the usage of camera obscura to safely view solar eclipses. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to use the device in relation to art. The term 'camera obscura' itself was developed by German Johannes Kepler in the 1600s.

Discovery of Camera Obscure?


Ibn al-Haithem developed camera obscure to illustrate how the eye processes an image. He noticed that if there was a small hole of light in a box the image would project upside down on the opposite wall. A small mirror could then be used to flip the image upright. While performing an experiment to show that light travels he discovered that if one covered a small hole that was letting in light the light coming through and projecting through the hole would also stop.

Some pictures of a camera obscure