Have you ever tried turning your room into a camera obscura? It’s a simple and super-fun project that lets the view of the outside world project onto your wall. But due to camera obscura’s nature, there’s a catch: the image will be upside down.
Enter BonfotonUP, a weird and pretty awesome device that hacks camera obscura. By sticking it onto your window, the image rotates and appears on your wall as it does outside. I got the chance to test and review this gadget, and I’m sharing my impressions, tips, and some photos I took.
You can’t imagine how long it took for BonfotonUP to reach me. I don’t know any longer if it was the fault of FedEx, Serbian customs, or the forwarding agent, but I thought that Hell would freeze over before I got my gadget. Thankfully, guys from Bonfoton were so kind and eager to help that my BonfotonUP arrived to my address against all odds.
My very first impressions when receiving the package were positive. Everything was so well packed and protected that it even survived the “gentle” people of the Serbian Post.
Upon opening the cardboard shipping box, I was still pretty excited. This isn’t essential, but it’s a plus: the BonfotonUP box is gorgeous and rather compact, considering everything you get inside. It gets extra points for being shiny! :) It opens like a phone box, which is important to mention for another part of this review.
Mounting BonfotonUP to your window requires you to use its suction cup. However, if you think you need extra safety, you can add a tripod to it. Yes, it has a tripod hole on the bottom, which is always a plus. You also get additional safety bits and a rope that let you hang the device and get some support from the ceiling. Fortunately, I didn’t need it, and I don’t think you would either.
Among other things you get in the box, there are also two lenses for different room sizes. Depending on the lens, different objects outside will appear sharper when projected. You can also change the device’s angle and choose to show more or less sky – but more on that later.
Finally, there’s the build of BonfotonUP itself. The design is elegant, but it doesn’t lack sturdiness. It even survived being dropped on the floor! Remember I mentioned the box opening like smartphone boxes? Well, my boyfriend didn’t know it. He grabbed the package from the coffee table, wanting to move it to my desk. Before I could react, the bottom part of the box slammed onto the floor, and everything fell out. I was amazed to see BonfotonUP and the lenses survive, but I wouldn’t recommend tossing them around.
A trait I find neutral is the weight of BonfotonUP. It’s pretty heavy (almost 1kg/2lbs), so I was afraid to mount it at first. However, its suction cup lives up to the promise and holds incredibly well. I didn’t even need a tripod, and the thing stayed mounted for 2-3 days.
Another trait I find neutral is the instructions you get in the box. They are not detailed enough for me. Although, this was the first time I actually read the instructions before assembling something (and messing it up). However, there are extensive video instructions and more detailed instructions on Bonfoton’s website, so this really isn’t a big deal.
I used cardboard on two out of three windows, including the one I used to mount the device. When using cardboard, there are some light leaks around BonfotonUP, which isn’t welcome when you’re trying to make a camera obscura. Thankfully, it’s an easy fix: I just added tinfoil around it to fully darken everything. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.
Another thing I missed, comparing BonfotonUP with the standard camera obscura room, is the projection on the ceiling. With BonfotonUP, you only see the view right across your window. With the “poor man’s camera obscura room,” I would also get the parked cars projected onto the ceiling in the morning, and I thought it was epic! This isn’t a universal minus, but just something I personally missed when playing with this gadget.
Another minus is the price: BonfotonUP costs €359 (around $380), which I find a little costly for a gadget like this. But it’s subjective: what “expensive” means depends on your income, priorities, and your country’s standard. Also, this is still cheaper than when BonfotonUP was first launched, and shipping is free worldwide. By the way, your BonfotonUP will arrive to your country in a matter of days. I just live in a country where nothing works so it took a long time for it to reach my address from the customs.
Mounting BonfotonUP is pretty straightforward. Honestly, the most challenging part for me was approaching my windows, as they’re behind my work and craft desks. I darkened one window by spraying it with water and pressing tin foil against it, and I used large cardboard sheets for another window and the balcony door.
I precut the hole on a piece of cardboard using the provided template. When I taped it onto the window, I mounted BonfotonUP with its suction cup. Ta-da, all done!
As I mentioned, you get two lenses in the box, and they correspond to the size of your room. Changing them is as simple as mounting BonfotonUP. The how-to video shows the process with the device mounted onto the window, but I found it more convenient to do after taking the device off and changing the lens on my desk.
Once I mounted everything and turned the lights off, I was most sincerely blown away! The image projection was so detailed, as if I was looking outside. I could even see the flickering of the sunshine on the leaves. The sharpness you get with BonfotonUP is just incredible! It got a little cloudy during the first day of my review, but the image was still clearly seen on the wall.
Also, since you can adjust the device’s angle, I switched between projecting the sky and projecting more of a realistic view. Unfortunately, there was only one day when we had those puffy, white clouds, so I was left with only crappy-quality timelapse shot on my phone on day one. Sorry about that!
Finally, we get to the results. As I mentioned, the amount of detail is mind-blowing, and I did my best to capture it in the photo. I haven’t been too creative and inspired to take pictures lately, so there’s no story whatsoever in these images. But hey, they do the most important thing for a review: they show you what you get with the gadget we’re reviewing today. :)
Here are some photos of the BonfotonUP’s projection, taken with my phone and camera.
Just look at those details!
For comparison, here are some shots with the regular camera obscura.
First and foremost – tin foil and sunlight don’t match. It’s way quicker to use tin foil, but you’ll end up with weird stains on the glass if it stays exposed to the sunlight for a few days (ask me how I know). So, if you have the outside blinds like mine, close them if you decide to use the foil. For the window you use to mount BonfotonUP, you can use cardboard. Still, if you only plan to keep the room darkened for a few hours, I think you’re safe, and you can use the tin foil everywhere.
As I mentioned, the tin foil method is quicker: all you need to do is spray the glass with some water and press the foil against it. However, make sure to use distilled water, so you don’t end up with limescale stains on the glass.
Finally, dispose of the cardboard sheets and aluminum foil properly when you’re done. They’re recyclable!
The bottom line
Is BonfotonUP worth buying? Well, it’s a pretty unordinary gadget, so it all depends on your needs and what you plan on shooting. But since I love unordinary gadgets, it’s something I’m definitely glad to have in my collection! Even though I wasn’t too inspired when taking photos for the review, I’m already making plans for future projects I could do with it. And as soon as I grab a little free time, I’ll make sure to follow-up with what I came up with.