A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture — effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. The human eye in bright light acts similarly, as do cameras using small apertures.

Up to a certain point, the smaller the hole, the sharper the image, but the dimmer the projected image. Optimally, the size of the aperture should be 1/100 or less of the distance between it and the projected image.

A pinhole camera's shutter is usually manually operated because of the lengthy exposure times, and consists of a flap of some light-proof material to cover and uncover the pinhole. Typical exposures range from 5 seconds to hours and sometimes days.

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