Turn your room into a camera obscura (the right way up!) with this DIY device

Bedroom with image of outside building projected onto wall
(Image credit: Bonfoton)

The digital age we live in offers many marvels but, paradoxically, it’s often old and largely forgotten techniques that can really evoke a sense of childhood wonder. If you’ve ever experienced a camera obscura, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

A camera obscura is a darkened room with a small hole or lens at one side, through which an inverted image of what’s outside (on a bright day) is projected onto a wall or table opposite. It’s a fascinating, and often breathtaking way of experiencing a landscape or cityscape that can’t quite be put into words; you just have to experience it for yourself.

These days, you’re most likely to see one at a tourist attraction, such as Mitchell Park in New York, the Bristol Observatory in the UK, or the Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera, a Moorish palace in Spain. 

As travel is tricky right now, though, it’s great news that Bonfoton – a husband and wife operation based in Finland – has created a kit you can use to construct a camera obscura right in your home. 

And the twist here is that, while a traditional camera obscura shows the image upside-down, this one actually projects the image the correct way up. 

The BonfotonUP kit features two switchable lenses, with focal lengths of 4m and 3.2m, for use in different room sizes. These can be attached directly to a window using a suction cup, or mounted on a tripod. 

Two views of the BonfotonUP kit

(Image credit: Bonfoton)

The kit includes a thumbscrew for tilt and to adjust the image vertically on the wall, with the upright image being achieved using a massive 400g / 140oz Optical-Grade Glass prism.

Bonfoton recommends that you darken the room by spraying water onto your windows and roll the tin foil over the frames, so that no light comes through from the sides.

The standard price of the BonfotonUP kit is €439.00 (about $515 / £373 / AU$702), although it's currently discounted on the website to €373.15 (about $438 / £317 / AU$596) with free FedEx shipping worldwide.

You can learn more about how to set up your camera obscura by visiting Bonfoton's FAQ page and watching the video above. And to see more examples of how the device performs in practice, check out Bonfoton's Instagram feed.

Read more: 

Best Lensbaby, Lomography and creative lenses
Best film cameras
Best cameras for beginners

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Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, T3, Heat, Company and Bella.