How to Create a Mosaic “Camera” Using 1000 Drinking Straws


In this six and a half minute video from Fotodiox, photographer Sean Anderson shows how he used more than a thousand mini straws to create a “straw camera” capable of capturing mosaic-like images.

Anderson says the idea was originally inspired by a PetaPixel 2017 article where a DIY camera consisting of straws and a film back was used to capture footage. After seeing this project, Sean was left with two looming questions: 1) Could the camera be smaller? and 2) Can the straw camera be converted to digital and not use film?

While Anderson says this camera build was one of the simplest DIY designs he ever made, it also ended up taking almost the longest time to complete. He had to accurately measure 1,000 coffee brewing straws, then cut them into three pieces each (for a total of 3,000 pieces of straw) so that they fit precisely into the container. This whole process alone took several days.

Once all of the straws were placed comfortably in the container, Anderson discovered a small problem with how the images would be “rendered” when taken with a digital camera. In order to see the full picture, he had to move the system a great distance from the “straw camera”. To solve this problem, he added frosted plastic on the straws to focus each point of light on the “element” allowing him to bring the camera much closer. Then he added a “bellows” cardboard box to the platform in order to have more control and eliminate glare and glare.

While testing the system, Anderson found that the subjects photographed had to be incredibly close to the straws, otherwise the image would be a muddy mess. This means that the pictures will also require a lot of additional lighting, so those who plan to try the build for themselves should be sure to keep that in mind. He says that unless you make it much larger, the system works best for photographing smaller objects in a still life format. Even so, the results are a fun and unique take on photography.

Here are some examples of images created with the straw camera:

Anderson says the camera works best in a studio environment, but is still used outdoors using natural light as a backlight to create intriguing silhouettes against the sun. While the “camera” is not without its flaws, it is still a fun and inexpensive creative project to do at home.

To see more of Sean’s DIY camera builds, visit Fotodiox’s YouTube channel.

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