14 Most Creative and Weird Cameras Ever Constructed1
By Annie Cooper
14 Most Creative and Weird Cameras Ever Constructed (That Actually Work)
When’s the last time you made the mistake of asking someone over the age of 60 to take your picture? You and your pals stand there, posed in front of the statue of Mickey and Walt at the center of Disneyland, feigning patience, the once-bright smiles on your faces slowly drooping, becoming frozen and terrifyingly clownish as you say things like, “No…not that button. The one on top. No, the picture is on the screen, not in the hole. It’s OK if the picture is moving, it’s supposed to do that. OK, now…oh, you just turned it off. Let me turn it back on again…”
Sadie, the focus of the innovative web series OzGirl wouldn’t have that sort of trouble. She’s an aspiring photographer who just moved to the big city, Melbourne, Australia, and while she might struggle with romance, family matters, and finding herself, snapping a killer shot is definitely not a problem. Even Sadie – heck, even Annie Leibovitz – might have a hard time finding her way around the weird and wonderful cameras below, though. Just think of the trouble it’d give your grandma.
OzGirl, Episode 1: A New Life
1. Yum… Spamera!
To the DIY photography enthusiast, pinhole cameras offer up an opportunity to turn just about anything into a photo-making device. Pinhole cameras work basically like the human eye itself: light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of a light-proof, enclosed space. So, dear photo nerd, find yourself a box-like item, poke a teeny hole, make some adjustments to your liking, et voila! Ham-scented portraits for all your friends and neighbors.
2. Camera Obscura, San Francisco
As one of the devices that led to photography as we know it today, a “camera obscura” is a device that projects its surroundings on a screen using only the exterior natural light sources. They are thought to go back as far as 4th Century B.C. Luck for us in the late 19th Century, they found a new role as popular gimmicks added to tourist attractions. The one currently found at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach has been in continuous operation since 1946, after the original burned down, along with the elaborate Cliff House. Though there are other cameras obscura to be found around the country, this is the only one actually shaped like a giant Art Deco camera. And, incidentally, the only one from which you can view the mountains of sea lion poop accumulation on Seal Rock.
So anyway, this dude is going to put a camera where his eyeball used to be. He lost the original, biological eyeball as a teenager and has been wearing a prosthetic ever since. But two years ago, this wannabe robo-filmmaker announced that he was making efforts to have that boring ol’ prosthetic replaced with a functioning video camera so that he could make movies by simply observing the world as he sees it every day. And it looks like it’s going to happen. You can follow his journey via his blog. I advise you to do so, so that when you run into him in the gym locker room, you can cover your business with a towel before it ends up on YouTube, streamed directly from his head.
4. The Great Picture
The people of Orange County in Southern California have been all worked up for years over the former El Toro Marine Air Base. Some people wanted a city park, some people wanted another airport. How did they solve the crisis? They built the world’s largest camera and took the world’s largest photograph, of course. As everyone knows, nothing brings people together like a community effort to set a Guinness World Record. So they built a camera out of a retired air hanger and took a three-story by eleven-story picture of the retired air base. We’re not exactly sure how this relates to the park, the air base, or, well, anything really. But it sure is…big. Good for you, OC.
5. Lego Camera
We’re including this one because, frankly, it’s adorable. And it really works. For between $60-$80, depending on the retailer, you can have a Lego camera of your very own. And if you’re a more advanced brick-technophile, (that’s a thing, right?), you can buy and build a remote controlled Lego robot, attach a small camera to it, and link your feed to another computer anywhere in the world. Let the make-believe Mars Rover expeditions begin! (Or, you could go outside and try to make friends with real, live people. Your choice. )
6. Voltron Star Shooter
And speaking of toy-themed cameras, how about this little beauty? Alright, so it hasn’t been manufactured since 1985, but we’re seriously wondering how we missed it. If you’d known about it, wouldn’t you be pleading with your folks day and night for one of these babies? Yes, it takes real pictures (if you can still manage to find 110 cartridge film out there). And yes, it fully transforms. More than meets the eye, indeed! (Yes, we know that’s a Transformers reference, which is totally different than Voltron. Cut us some slack, man. It’s a transforming camera-bot!) Quick, there’s probably one on eBay right now! Don’t let some dude named “CommanderKeith86” beat you to it!
7. Canon Nova DSLR
Is it a giant eyelash curler? A controller for a new Wii surgery game? A periscope? None of the above. It’s Canon’s Nova, a concept camera unveiled in late 2009 which attempts to solve the bulk problem of DSLR cameras by putting the controls on two maneuverable arms. It claims to provide equal usage comfort for right and left-handed users, and to offer an improved “streamlined design” compared to traditional cameras. It makes no claims about how dorky you’ll look using it, though, or how likely you’ll be to snip off the tip of your nose when you sneeze at an inopportune moment.
8. Untouchable: The HIV Positive Blood Sample Camera
Artist and photographer Wayne Martin Belger built this camera with an HIV+ blood sample running through it to “study and photograph a geographic comparison of people suffering from HIV.” The blood becomes the red filter through with the photos are taken, and the results are poignant, beautiful, and haunting. Belger’s other works are equally thought provoking, including cameras made from human skulls, antlers, and wood.
9. Pop Cam
Who needs you, Andy Warhol? Nobody, that’s who, now that we’ve got a $20 buddy to duplicate your finest work. In one second, this little fella can take four different-colored photos in succession, and when printed, what you’ve got is a frame-friendly piece of the highest order. All that, and it’s cute, too. Your 15 minutes are up, artboy.
10. Steampunky Elegance
Not familiar with steampunk? It’s like the Industrial-Victorian design equivalent of Renaissance Faire, beloved by geeks the world over mostly for the same reasons: it affords big-boned girls a reason to wear corsets in public. Oh, and don’t forget the top hats and monocles. Anyway, some of your more industrious steampunk lovers are pretty crafty, like the guy who built this awesome working camera.
11. Big Papa- The Seitz Digital 6×17
This is the mother of all point-n-shooters, the Seitz 6×17, which boasts a whopping 160 megapixels. It weighs about 10 pounds and costs about $45,000. According to the company’s website, the Seitz “employs a digital scanning back [that) employs a linear light sensor detector similar to that used in flatbed scanners; it moves across the field of view to take the photo rather than using a two-dimensional sensor that captures the entire scene simultaneously.” Well, we don’t know what all that means, but we do know this: for $45,000, the people in the photos you take with this puppy better wave and smile at you from the page, just like Harry Potter’s parents.
12. Spy Cameras!
Just think of all the fun you could have with some of the innovative products available under the umbrella term “covert surveillance.” There are a myriad of designs available – some with color and sound – disguised as calculators, teddy bears, sunglasses, wristwatches, car keys… even electrical sockets. You could start your own private detective agency, you little Jack Bauer, you. That, or finally find out once and for all who’s been trampling your azaleas in the middle of the night. (Hint: Garden gnomes are not the gentle creatures you’ve been lead to believe.)
13. Bang! The Pistol Camera
Leave it to Japan to come up with this somewhat-unsettling camera design which debuted with use by the country’s police officers in the mid-1950’s. It featured a flash system and clips of film cartridges, rather than bullets, in the handle. Shockingly enough, the Japanese public wasn’t thrilled with the design. (“Wait! Come back! Don’t run! I’m just trying to take your picture!”) Gives a whole new meaning to “point & shoot,” doesn’t it? Perhaps the Japanese are better off sticking with Hello Kitty vibrators and seals dressed up like strawberries.
14. Barbie Video Girl
Please tell us we’re not the only ones who find this to be some totally creepy sh*t. There’s a camera lodged deeply in her sternum. This isn’t fun. It’s the aftermath of a terrible super-collider accident. In case you’re actually considering buying one of these, we’ll tell you that yes, it actually works. Shooting up to 30 minutes of video, evidence can be found here, in which a brave and creative individual compares Barbie’s boob-shooter functionality to that of a Canon 7D. According to Mattel, videos may be uploaded and edited on your computer. Just don’t ask us where the USB port is located, you sicko’s.
OzGirl, Episode 2: Party Girls
OzGirl, Episode 3: Job Hunting
Annie Cooper is a writer, armchair public transportation advocate, and aspiring taco critic. She has written columns and specialized training materials related to children with special needs, parenting issues, and early childhood development. Her writings are geared toward therapists, social workers, and teachers of young children with complex medical and developmental issues. She recently left her job in social services in an effort to become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Annie lives in Los Angeles, but she’s not from there – nobody’s from there.