The camera raises questions about how we see the world and the development of our visual understanding.  Artists, Engineers, Architects and Designers all interpret the world as rectilinear while it is spherical. The rectilinear world is something we construct to define form and space, so much so that our brains are educated to interpret vision as rectilinear information. Think about how we need the invention of perspective to understand a view.

The camera is a box with a lens to focus light inside as an image on a flat plane, the eye is spherical inside and out, yet we need straight horizontal and vertical lines for our visual perception to work even though we live on a sphere.

Lens designers produce camera lenses that confirm to the desire for the rectilinear, plus an even distribution of sharpness and light across the image plain while our brain produces a moving image in stereo and in compliance with our perception of the world by selectively compiling our view.

Our eyes can take in a field of view of around 120 degrees but we concentrate our an area of sharp focus of within 50 degrees and designers have chosen that as the view for the ‘standard ‘ camera lens. A photographer would regard 90 degrees as ‘Wideangle’ and describe a view of narrower than 20 degrees as long focus or ‘telephoto’.  

A simple spherical lens projecting an image on to a flat plain will produce an image that looks distorted but is it much different to that which appears in our eye?

Here I show snaps of Cullercoats and North Shields taken with an old 16mm ‘semi fisheye’ and compare with images taken with a modern fully ‘corrected’ 20 mm wideangle.

I’m still thinking about this ! ….

Mike Tilley

16 mm
20 mm
16 mm
75 mm

Both the above of North Shield Fish Quay are from the same viewpoint. The 1st with a 16 mm and second  a 75mm focal length equivalent on 35mm full frame.

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