Cheap Camera, Interesting Shot

by Joey deVilla on January 13, 2009

Believe it or not, the photo below hasn’t been Photoshopped:


The guy who took the photo says:

The cheap CMOS sensor of an iPhone does not expose the whole thing at once, it scans from left to right. If you take a picture of something that moves very fast (like an airplane prop) you can get some crazy pictures out of it since each column represents a slightly different time.

This oddball-but-cool effect is reminiscent of some of the distortions you see with scanner photography (for some examples, see this page).

Maybe it’s time to pull out those camera phones and start snapping pics of oscillating or rotating objects!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 AK March 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Here is a simulation video demonstrating how it happens:

2 meh March 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm

“cheap camera” ..?

but you know prices of ‘real’ cameras? cheap? the iphone?

what a mentality…

3 Internet Wolsztyn May 5, 2009 at 3:05 am

It can’t make videos too

4 John Sessions August 13, 2009 at 9:37 am

@ meh

“cheap camera” ..? cheap? the iphone?

The iPhone is not cheap but the iPhone is not a camera. The iPhone has a cheap camera attached to it. So you can say that the iPhone is a cheap camera. This is perfectly good mentality!

5 Matt Coller October 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Yes indeed, it is a slice through 4-dimensional space-time on an oblique angle. Another interesting way to think of it is that the propeller sweeps out a corkscrew along the time dimension, and the photograph is taking a slice through that on an angle.

It makes me think: if only the CMOS censor didn’t sweep across the field of view, and captured a single strip streaked across the width of the photo, then you’d have a ‘photo finish’ type camera. Imagine the cool photos you could take! I’d love it if an iPhone app could do that, but I’m guessing the sweep is hard-coded into the camera hardware.

6 Kaida February 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm

The prop hub, or “spinner” as it was so eloquently called, is indeed exhibiting signs of motion. This is why the blade ports (those are the “holes,” CypherFC) aren’t symmetrical (that means “lined up right,” CypherFC) as they should be on a two-blade propeller.

Quite a cool picture. I miss the days when cameras used film. Then people of limited understanding of physics couldn’t claim “shooped I kan tel by da pix0rz…”

7 i8ababy April 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Piskor, you’re a fucking retard.

8 Tanya April 27, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Great picture! I love that effect. Here’s my very own zany propellor shot:
(taken with an old Sony Ericson phone)

9 batur April 28, 2010 at 8:40 am
10 9fingers April 28, 2010 at 9:18 am

Brilliant idea.

11 Warner Onstine April 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

I took a few on a plane flight to Minnesota a while back.

12 steve April 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Very nice effect. Thanks for bringing to my attention

13 Aviator August 24, 2010 at 12:08 am

I need to shoot from the cockpit thru propeller.
Iphone distorts prop. Any suggestion which camera is good to shoot thru prop?


14 zenon August 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

It’s because you hold the phone the wrong way.

15 Justin Bieber September 1, 2010 at 3:23 am

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature ;)

16 sign spinners September 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

wow thats really cool! i guess i don’t need to learn photoshop now, I can just use my iphone.

17 Andrew Davidhazy December 10, 2010 at 3:22 pm

When asked about this artifact some time ago I set up a simul;ation using a flat bed scanner as the equivalent of a rolling shutter. You can read about this at:

18 Shelley Hennig January 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Wow, who knew?! That’s really cool. I wonder how this would look on a fan.

19 updated blog post May 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm

e cigarettes Cheap Camera, Interesting Shot — Global Nerdy

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