January 25, 2006
Homemade digital: Scanner photography!
Image and description by Michael Golembewski: "Another image from the RCA roof set. I especially like the motion on the bus. Camera: Magic Lantern Scanner Camera. Size:12MB Greyscale."
Michael Golembewski, an artist and interaction designer, currently living in Olympia Washington, USA, has been building, refining, and making images with what he calls "scanner cameras". Here's his account of the discovery:
"Several years ago, I built my first homemade digital camera. The idea was simple - I would take an ordinary flatbed scanner, and use it in place of photo paper with a large format camera.
"My first scanner camera was made from lots of duct tape, a cardboard box, and the cheapest flatbed scanner that I could find. I expected this to be a quick little art project, one that would take a week or two at the most. But when I got my first homemade digital camera to work, I noticed that some wonderful things were beginning to happen.
"The objects in the scene that were stationary photographed normally, while the objects that were moving were twisted and distorted into wonderful shapes. At first, I thought that this was a mistake, that something was wrong with my new contraption. But I soon realized that the motion of the scanner was meshing with the motion of the recorded scene, creating unexpected, yet predictable, results...
"I was tremendously excited by these developments. Instead of building a camera that mimicked the functionality of a traditional photographic camera, I had stumbled across a new tool for examining the relationships between time, motion, and image. What I though would be a two week art project has turned into one that has lasted for almost three years, and shows little sign of stopping."
I say, "Bravo and kudos, Michael!"
Check out his very cool web site at www.scannerphotography.com. And please enter your comments and thoughts here to share with other Lens Culture readers. Thanks!
The Scanner Photography Project fascinated a lot of people with the potential of constructing a large format digital camera from an inexpensive flatbed scanner. Michael Golembewski’s web site along with his explanations and excellent examples of photographs produced by his cameras inspired some of us to build our own cameras. It was a lot of fun and I have now adapted two of my view cameras to allow me to take photographs with this technique and technology.
However there are some additional pieces to the puzzle of scanner photography, which were recently forwarded to me that I would like to share. One of the problems relative to these cameras is the digital artifacts and noise that appear in the photographs. That is why you can build your own camera for a couple hundred dollars or less vs. buying a large format digital back from Betterlight which works on basically the same principle for considerably more (Their latest and I believe highest resolution unit was recently introduced at $23,000.), or so it appeared.
I have posted links to two papers, the first by Shuzhen Wang and Wolfgang Heidrich, The Design of an Inexpensive Very High Resolution Scan Camera System, and an earlier paper by Shuzhen Wang, An Inexpensive, High Resolution Scan Camera, that are very interesting along with some information on my latest camera conversion at:
I hope you find this interesting and someone can indeed build an inexpensive large format scanner camera for all of us who can’t afford a professional unit.