A Camera Obscura for Your Smartphone: Introducing the Lumigraphe

Old cinema meets new cinema with the Lumigraphe, a digital camera obscura.

If you're a fan of film history, you'll probably be into this Kickstarter campaign. Valmont Achalme, a former fashion photographer and inventor, has created The Lumigraphe, a device that utilizes the same technology as a camera obscura -- but for your smartphone. It's essentially a collapsable box that attaches to your phone (iPhones and most Androids) and lets you record the projection inside the chamber, producing a distinctive color saturation and soft, dream-like focus.

Here's his Kickstarter video, as well as some tests shot to show you what kinds of images you can expect to pull from the device.

Here's a bit from the Lumigraphe's Kickstarter page:

The Lumigraphe is a camera obscura for your smartphone that authentically captures the beautiful effects of this historic optical device. Photos and videos shot with the Lumigraphe have a distinct look defined by beautiful color saturation and a soft, dream-like focus. The natural grain and delicate vignette create a quality that feels like film - with a depth and texture beyond anything you can make with a digital filter.

Prices range from about $100 to $2800 depending on which reward you choose. The $88 reward gets you a Lumigraphe Cube (earlybird only), which is non-collapsable, but the collapsable version will run you about $200. Custom and specialty designs are available if you feel like shooting in style, as well.

Of course, the Lumigraphe is probably not going to make it into your normal rotation of cameras you use on your projects (unless you're into making avant-garde or experimental films), but if you're a collector and lover of vintage/unique/specialty/rare cameras, then you might want to shell out a few clams to get your hands on this thing.     

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Your Comment


I received something like this when I was 12 years old. ,,,No wait, it was an accordion. Anyway, I like the look but is not my niche.

May 31, 2015 at 6:54PM

Edgar More

Not interested. Don't you mean old camera meets iphone?

May 31, 2015 at 9:31PM


Side note: the lens babyspark is 89.95 which can be mounted on a dslr, and is 1/100 the size. Same effect though, and you want kill your cell phone battery.

May 31, 2015 at 9:42PM


So the principle of this is that a lens projects an image onto the rear of the box. The smartphone, attached just above the lens, takes a picture of the projected image. The mirror near the phone is for the user to be able to stand in the conventional camera position and view the image the right way up.

The creative possibilities might hinge around what you do with, or use for, a screen, different colours, possible textures or interfering with the surface whilst in use.

The difficulty in making your own at home would be with a suitable lens. You could have a try with it as a pinhole camera, and a low f stop lens might make a good go of it. I am trained as a physics teacher so I have taught the lessons where pinhole camera are used. It's best to have your pinhole through a piece of thin metal such as a piece of beer can. The best box is probably a printer paper box.

Just had the thought about what you could do with removing the surface of a CD/DVD and using that as a filter. It would work as a diffraction grating. DVDs are better as the lines are closer together.

June 1, 2015 at 2:43AM, Edited June 1, 2:43AM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord

This is so hipster it almost comes off as satire.

June 1, 2015 at 2:47AM

David West

@1:30 in the Kickstarter video "To create beautiful slow mo"... wait what?

June 1, 2015 at 5:05AM

Danny T

Wow, this even beats smartphone-attachable lens-camera things in terms of it's uselessness. Bravo, hipsters. I stand in awe.

June 1, 2015 at 7:55AM

Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor

I like the concept and the design: Fuji's brought out an Instax camera that looks like a throwback to the classic rangefinders and SLRs, and their X100, etc, so the style of this is pretty cool and could be a talking point with people who have had the chance to use the real deal. And visually it could produce some beautiful effects, especially when you experiment with the paper used on the back (I'm wondering about the effect of a floral or striped paper, or even another photograph...). In the right hands, the outcome could be pretty spectacular.

However, I'd rather it was smaller and not specifically smartphone-required, and I'd hope it used a glass rather than plastic lens. If they had put an APS-C or a Micro 4/3rds sensor in it and made it a little more compact, I would have been much more interested in it for photography at least.

June 2, 2015 at 2:13AM, Edited June 2, 2:13AM

Anne Le Sauvage
Ethusiastic amateur editor

Next thing you know they'll develop a device that produces white noise, film scratches and messed up tracking lines (just like we hated with VHS). I'm sure there's a stock effect that can mimic this look if you ever need it.

June 7, 2015 at 8:01PM, Edited June 7, 8:01PM

Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker

Focus will be close to impossible. Have you ever tried to focus a view camera? It takes a loupe on the ground glass and a black cloth over your head even to see the image on the ground glass.

And it's hard enough to see a phone's screen in bright daylight. Now you are looking at a reflection of your phone's screen, which is looking at an insanely critical focused image on the back of a view camera.

The phone will autofocus onto the "film plane" of the view camera okay, but you will still have to rack the bellows back and forth to bring the primary lens into focus onto the projected surface.

This is a variation of the pre-Canon 5DII 35mm Depth of Field adapter systems we hassled with to get shallow depth of field, where a static or rotating ground glass was placed behind an SLR lens and your small sensor video camera shot a video of the ground glass. Letus, Redrock Micro and many others offered solutions.

Now we're asked to shoot a video of an even larger "ground glass."

When I have nothing but time, I could adapt my antique folding 5x7 wooden field camera that's been in the garage for ages. All I'd have to do is mount a lens on a 4"x4" board and drill a hole above the lens for the iPhone to peek through backwards, then put the mirror to reverse the phone's image again.

Then, after hours and hours and hours of fiddling fun, put the whole thing away.

June 11, 2015 at 11:12AM