A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens but with a tiny aperture, a pinhole – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through the aperture and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, which is known as the camera obscura effect.
Sometimes it is mistakenly claimed that for instance Alhazen (965–1039) or earlier philosophers already used pinhole cameras, while in most instances the "cameras" that were originally described were either natural occurrences of the camera obscura effect or experiments with darkened rooms (or chambers) with an opening much larger than a pinhole. The claims are mainly a result of many descriptions of the history of the camera lacking differentiation between the camera obscura effect, camera obscura rooms, camera obscura boxes (usually with a lens), or actual pinhole cameras. Most usage of the camera obscura before it was fitted with a lens in the 16th century can arguably be regarded as "hole cameras". However, this would mainly concern rooms that were darkened (leaving a small opening in a shutter) to study the behavior of light or the projected image of the sun.
The oldest known description of pinhole photography is found in the 1856 book The Stereoscope by Scottish inventor David Brewster, including the description of the idea as "a camera without lenses, and with only a pin-hole".
All kind of cameras were developed for their specific purpose, and by the time pinhole camera was more and more ignored and main qualities of the pinhole camera were forgotten but there are (as far as I know) 8 irreplaceable qualities of the pinhole camera.
1. Continuous depth sharpness of the projection for all distances (for any motive in front of the pinhole, as well as for the “film” inside the camera).
2. Compression of time (takes of long time processes with a single long lasting shot to one image).
3. Very wide (undisturbed) angle of takes, on plane as well as on cylindrical or spherical “films”.
4. Exact (undisturbed) prospective projection (on projection plane, cylinder or sphere).
5. Total throughput for all intensities and frequencies of electromagnetic radiations (for human eyes visible and not visible areas of light spectrum).
With my surveys of the pinhole camera in passed years I found another 3 not replaceable characteristics of pinhole cameras which should be also mentioned.
6. Unlimited size of takes (negatives) out of standard film range 16 mm, 34 mm (leica) or 60 mm films. That provides huge analogical resolution to pinhole taken images.
7. Tremendously precise (linear) exposition (processed dozes of light), specially for extremely illuminated motives (nuclear blasts on stars).
8. Possibility of using expired films (because of tremendously precise exposition).
Pinhole photography provides an inexpensive means to introduce people of all ages to the principles of photography. It’s a hands-on experience where people learn by doing rather than listening to long theories and less than inspiring explanations. Pinhole photography is about making mistakes and learning from them.
Check out the samples below.