THE HISTORY OF THE TORTUGA 5 PINHOLE CAMERA
camera with 4 pinholes
the first camera with 5 pinholes
prototype for serial production
first edition limited on 30 cameras
History of pinhole photography
The pinhole, as an image-forming device, has played an important role in the evolution of the modern camera. The observation of images formed by a small opening in an otherwise darkened room goes back, at least to Aristotle's time, around 350 BC.
Regnier Gemma Frisius observed an eclipse of the sun at Louvain on January 24, 1544, and later he used this illustration of the event in his book De Radio Astronomica et Geometrica, 1545, thought to be the first published illustration of camera obscura principles.
The darkened room, or camera obscura, evolved into a portable room which could be moved around in the landscape and was used by Renaissance artists as an aid to rendering perspective (drawing).
By about 1570 a simple lens that produced a brighter image which was easier to trace had replaced the pinhole. In its most common form in the early 1800s, the camera obscura was a simple box with a lens at one end. The lens projected an image onto a 45° mirror, which in turn was reflected onto a ground glass screen (the same principle used in reflex camera systems today) - the image could then be traced on translucent paper laid over the glass.
Observation and experimentation into the light sensitive properties of the silver halides dates back to the early 1700s but it wasn't until 1826 that Nicéphore Niepce, a French lithographer, produced the worlds first "photograph from nature" using light sensitive Bitumen of Judea on pewter in a camera obscura - the exposure time is reputed to have been around eight hours!
In 1837-39 Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, a French painter, invented the Daguerreotype (a direct positive image on a silver coated, copper plate) and around the same time (1839) a British mathematician, scientist and inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, obtained images on silver chloride paper. His calotype process was patented in 1841. The latter method provided a negative image from which multiple positive prints could be made by contact printing - this principle is still used today.
Sir John Herschel the English astronomer made a significant contribution by discovering a method of "fixing" images to make them permanent. In 1819 he observed that sodium thiosulphate (referred to as hyposulphate of soda) had the power to dissolve certain silver salts. Herschel is credited (1839) with introducing the words photograph and photography:
"the art of obtaining images upon sensitised surfaces by the action of light".
The pinhole camera still fascinates many of today's students of photography because of the apparent simplicity with which it forms an image.
Pinholes are able to form images because light rays travel essentially in straight lines. Thus, for each point on an object a reflected ray of light passing through the pinhole can fall on only one point on the light-sensitive emulsion. Since light rays reflected from the top, bottom and sides of the subject cross over when entering the narrow pinhole aperture the image is upside down and laterally reversed on the emulsion.
Source: (adapted from) Strobel et al, 1985, ‘Photographic Optics', Photographic Materials and Processes, Focal Press, New York, p. 143