Skip to main content

Camera with ‘lens’ made of 32,000 plastic straws creates pointillism-like images

straw camera close
A project by artists Michael Farrell and Cliff Haynes shows that you don’t need complex optics and electronics to build a working camera. With 32,000 plastic straws arranged in honeycomb fashion inside a wooden box, the Straw Camera, as its called, takes photos that resemble pointillist artworks. The camera has been in development since 2007, with the goal being to take images in “the most direct manner possible,” as Haynes writes on the project’s website.

Farrell and Haynes took inspiration from pinhole cameras, but whereas a pinhole creates an entire image from a single point, the Straw Camera “produces a multipoint perspective from an array,” Haynes writes. “The light viewed/collected by each individual tube is recorded onto the photo -ensitive material placed at the opposite end. By going straight on to paper, it is a direct analog process.”

As Haynes explains, the camera has a “raw” f-stop, derived from the length and diameter measurements of each straw. This results in an aperture of roughly f/127. “There isn’t depth of field,” Haynes writes, “the clarity of image produced by the straws recedes into the picture plane.” Each straw also has its own hue and density, with each contributing to the overall look of the final image.

Haynes said they first tried the camera out on still-life subjects, eventually moving into portraiture once they built up their confidence in using the camera. Portrait subjects would have to hold their pose in the dark while Haynes and Farrell set up the camera, then triggered a flash to make the exposure. The resulting portraits appear to have a similar resolution to early television images, and present a stark contrast to the hyperrealistic images we are accustomed to today.

Haynes and Farrell have put together a book, Straw Camera Photographs, to showcase what the camera is capable of. You can see many example photos on their website.

Editors' Recommendations

Daven Mathies
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Daven is a contributing writer to the photography section. He has been with Digital Trends since 2016 and has been writing…
Film Objektiv wants you to rent a film camera for your next photo project
film objektiv featured

Rental houses are an indispensable resource for photographers, both for professionals who need specific gear for a job, as well as amateurs looking to try out the latest and greatest lens for a weekend before deciding to buy it. But Film Objektiv, a new, online rental house, sees things a bit differently: Every camera it rents shoots film, and the shortest rental period is one month.

Film Objektiv’s primary goal is to get film cameras in the hands of more people, perhaps those who otherwise wouldn’t think to try them. The company’s rental inventory includes a selection of classic cameras from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Mamiya, Hasselblad, and even Polaroid and Lomography. Film Objektiv also wants to make sure it is supporting photographers working on more involved projects. As such, cameras can be rented for either one or two months — no longer, and no shorter.

Read more
Use your smartphone like a ‘real’ camera with Joby GripTight POV kit
joby griptight introduced pov videomode trolly

Joby is helping smartphone photographers get a grip -- the GripTight POV kit, announced earlier today, offers four different shooting positions for enhanced stability and flexibility, along with a built-in remote control and a cold shoe slot for mounting accessories such as a light or microphone.

The GripTight is a modular smartphone grip that gives users more stability when shooting. The grip can fit behind the camera or underneath, as well as doubling as a kickstand. The bottom of the grip is GoPro mount-compatible, which means the GripTight can be used to adapt a smartphone to fit with any GoPro mount. That opens up quite a few possibilities for using a smartphone as a POV camera, from bicycle mounts to helmets.

Read more
These camera bags have raised over $750,000 in just two days on Kickstarter
peak design everyday bags kickstarter peakdesign feat

The firm behind Kickstarter's best-funded camera bag is back -- and this time it has funded four different bags in less than two days. After Peak Design's Everyday Messenger secured major funding and a number of different awards, the team is expanding the line with a backpack in two different sizes, a tote and a sling bag.

With 58 days left in the campaign, the bags are already fully funded and climbing, with over $800,000 pledged beyond the initial $500,000 goal. Peak Design estimates that backers will receive their products before Christmas.

Read more