Camera lens made from 32,000 drinking straws

Originally published at:


Hmmm- I kinda want to try this on a smaller scale with 120 film. Maybe cocktail straws instead of drinking straws?


My guess is you’d have to experiment with length quite a bit. I suspect you’d see serious attenuation.


22mm seems excessively wide for a drinking straw.


Glass rod is inexpensive, easy to break to length, and with good internal reflection and transmission. I’ve done something like this with 1 mm diameter glass. The difficult part is flattening and polishing the ends, similar to telescope lens grinding and polishing.


Maybe they are those boba straws.


Analog photography, except you had to digitize it to put it on the internet.


The creator’s website says the straws were 2mm in diameter.


Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this more accurately uses collimation, where each straw allows mostly light in only one direction to pass. Gamma ray sources used for treating tumors use similar systems, because of the difficulty in focusing gamma rays.

A pinhole camera acts more like a lens, if I’m not mistaken.


You are right.
I was thinking of pointing that out, but I didn’t know the correct term to use. Collimation.


Is there any optical or mathematically detectable difference between a photograph taken with this camera, and a standard format image processed to look like this? I imagine the rules of perspective might play out differently, but I can’t wrap my head around the difference.

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Anger Camera!!!

Some delicious lead honeycomb:


Perspective is the same, but there is no “plane of best focus”, similar to a pinhole camera. The circle of confusion is a fixed angular diameter, determined by the diameter/length ratio of the straws.

[Edit: There is some perspective change across the image, depending on the width of the device. Each tube images a narrow cone in the longitudinal direction.]


Wonder if my Lytro can do this. I’d have to begin by taking a really good shot of an illuminated subject, then physically move the whole FOV exactly one camera centered point of focus next to it and develop the FOV from that array. then continue down the line adding a level when I get to end of the x-array to start creating the Y-array. Only a few years later, I might have enough multi focal FOV’s so that I could -then- start to process it all as a dimensional array.
I think I’m going to need about a Petabyte or two just to store array data. Plus maybe a new camera after I wear the onboard flash ram out…
I believe I’m gonna automate and start with a 8x8 array first as a test. If the resolution holds, I may have taken this analog device idea to a whole nother level…
typical Lytro XRAW picture is about 110MB, so 110Mb X 64 (array size) = 880 Mb. Oh hell, nearly a terabyte? For one picture??


Heeeyyyy, I know that place…I might actually live there.


Since this is a pinhole camera array, it might be possible to reprocess the images (if hi-res scans are available) to retrieve some of the depth information that was available at the end of each straw, albeit very little, to enhance the focus, and do some (albeit not much) of the same things the Lytro camera systems do.

I used to do something similar with a television and a bunch of the cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls.

The internet didn’t exist back then, we had to make our own psychedelia…


Well, reading that was a waste of 90 seconds of my life. There was nothing useful said about the camera.

I created a camera using this technique in 1975 or 1976, using glass tubes, coated with black paint on the inside.

I may have won an honorable mention, or some such thing in the Los Angeles County high school science fair.

The interesting characteristic of such a camera is that image size does not change with distance from the camera (although sharpness does decline with distance.)

I called it the “Constant Image Optic.”

There was a lot of trouble coating the glass “capillary” tubes with black paint, so the idea of using larger straws seems to me to be great improvement.

In this photo you can see two bundles of black painted capillary tubes on the table, the larger square one being the finished “lens.”

The date was 5/15/1976.