How did the word CAMERA came about??

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If my memory serves me right, "camera" is the Latin word for "room" or "chamber". The reason this word is used for the photorecording devices we have today is probably due to the original pinhole setup of early cameras.


Senior Member
Feb 20, 2002
Perth Australia
The word "Camera" is a contracted form of the late latin term "Camera Obscura" which literally means "Dark Chamber".

From there it traces it's roots back to the late Latin "Camera" which means "chamber" or "room" (depending on your view) thence to the Latin "Arched Roof" and thus to the Classical Greek word Kamera which means 'vault'

And now a bit of history....

The camera abscura was a device with a darkened chamber or enclosure with an aperture (either lens or pinhole) which light passed through to produce an image on the opposite surface.

Camera Obscura using lenses were certainly in use by the 14th Century as it was Francis Bacon and Robert Grossteste who laid the optical experimentation required in the 13th Century. Portable camera obscura were in use by 1420.

Mo Tsu the Chinese philosopher first recorded the essential ingredients of a camera obscura sometime around 400 BC while Euclid and others made observations regarding similar within 100 years or so.

Other notable ancient philisophers who contributed to the development of the camera obscura included Aristotle who noted that if you decrease the size of the aperture the image appears sharper, Euclid, Ptolomy and Heron of Alexandria.

The main purposes of Camera Obscura were to view The Sun, solar eclipses, and as an aid for painters and artists.


Senior Member
Jan 21, 2002
Originally posted by Ian

The main purposes of Camera Obscura were to view The Sun, solar eclipses, and as an aid for painters and artists.
There's a "Camera Obscura" in Edinburgh Castle which allows tourists to see paranomic views of the city... and I thought it was some modern gimmick... ;p



Verre Vrai

From etymology online,

camera - 16c., Mod.L. camera obscura "dark chamber," from L. camera "vaulted room," from Gk. kamara "vaulted chamber," from I.E. base *kam- "to arch." Shortened to camera when modern photography began, 1840. Contrasted with camera lucida (L., "light chamber"), which uses prisms to produce an image on paper beneath the instrument, which can be traced. Camcorder is from 1982.

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