Camera Museum @ Penang, Malaysia

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Malaysia Penang

The newly opened Camera Museum in Penang (槟城相机博物馆) is set up in Muntri Street in a straits eclectic style shophouse.  Where else could be a better place to showcase the history and evolution of cameras in the heart of Georgetown, filled with that nostalgic atmosphere from  the yesteryears?        

DSC_4412The ground floor area is FOC so you can roam around and check out the photo gallery and some old cameras on display.  The ticket is purchased on the ground floor if you wish to visit the Camera Museum that’s on the first floor. 

DSC_4229DSC_4230Photographers used to have to work inside this claustrophobic dark space to take a nice shot!
 DSC_4236 DSC_4235I love this mural here with the photographers holding cameras that pop out in 3D and they seem to be paparazzi at work, trying to shoot a superstar that’s going to walk down the stairs.

The blue wooden window is definitely tempting and inviting for people to walk up the stairs and see what is behind the window.

But the truth is, the staircase is aptly named “The Staircase to Nowhere” because there is only a wall behind the window.  Despite the truth is already posted out there, some people just gotta climb up the stairs and see it for themselves!
The main hall on the first floor houses a collection of cameras from the 1800 – 1990.  There was a friendly and knowledgeable guide who gave us a short 15 minutes interactive tour around the museum.

A few cameras are on display and you can play with them.

This piece of heavy metal is a camcorder which I thought looks like a hair dryer.  I held it with my left hand to take the photo and I already felt rather strainous.


This camera is called the “Jsolette” manufactured by Agfa.  At the prompt of the guide, I pressed on a specific button, releasing the lens which popped out like Jack in the box, also generating chuckles among the group, just as if an actual Jack in the box would have created. 

DSC_4364 DSC_4363
These two cameras, Brownie Flash II on top and YashicaFlex below, will really shock you because the method of using them to take photos seems rather bizarre; even somehow illogical and you realize that the cameras have come a long way and become how advanced they are today.

To take photos, you would hold the camera at tummy level, open the lid so you can see the image displayed on the screen, and you snap away once you have aimed at your object.

The exhibition series is in reverse chronological order and  starts off with cameras from the 1960’s to 1990’s.  The cameras are more squarish looking and not as sleek but the cameras from that era have pretty much set the prototypes for the cameras that we are using today.

The flashlights back then look like satellite dishes and much less environmental friendly because the bulbs were disposables and were only used once.

The cameras for kids have also branched out to more than just Barbie and Action Man today.

DSC_4376In between, new ideas sprouted like the “Disc Camera” from the 80’s which looks much more compact and the film came in a form of a disc.  The cameras didn’t stay in the market for long because the negatives produced on the disc films were too small and resulted in grainy photographs.

During 1950 – 1960, the polaroids were first developed with the earlier models called “Land Cameras” because it was first invented by Edwin Land.  Some of the cameras came with rather trendy bags I would say!

Some of the cameras are stylish themselves too! Look at this gold Leica camera in snake skin from Russia!!

The pink velvet casing looks pretty nifty too!

The cameras from 1910 – 1950 began to increase in size, moving away from the prototypes that set the basis for our cameras today.

And eventually, the cameras from 1800 – 1900 are much bulkier and looking completely different it might be mistaken that they come from the same family as the acordions.

At the end of the main hall is a display of vintage 3D viewers.  What you would immediate notice is that the viewers resemble a pair of binoculars where both of your eyes would look through.

The technique that allows these viewers to see 3D images is called stereoscopy where both eyes are each presented with a variation of the same image.  When the brain processes and overlaps the images together, the result is an enhanced 3D view and provide a greater depth of field.

The wooden viewer is not encased so you can get your hands on this one and see for yourselves how different the 3D technology is back then!

Moving to the Obscura Room, the camera obscuras are the earliest precursors of our highly advanced cameras today.  Can you imagine, all the elements of photography evolved from such a tiny little wooden box?

The room has three camera obscuras and a floral wall to experience how images can be captured by such simple devices.

Through simple sliding movements of the pinhole, the focal length is adjusted and now can you see the floral wall and the chair being projected on to the screen? The image you see here is up right, but the left and right is rotated and you will be able to see that clearer when somebody sits on the chair, wave his left hand but you will see the right hand being waved on the screen.

Moving into the room with unique collections, you see some not-your-everyday-cameras. The machine gun and camera are two rather unrelated items that were combined during World War II when the shooting of the photos was triggered by the shooting of the gun, at the same time documenting the killing action of enemy aircrafts in photos.

This one here is Type 89 machine gun camera made by the company Rokuoh Sha, which later became K.K. Koninshiroku and later the more well-known Konica.

The room with unique collections is also a “Spy Room”, housing some of the world’s smallest cameras, including the Minox that’s smaller than a cigar;

and the spy camera KMZ F21 from the Soviet Union (USSR), commonly used by the KGB to collect information discreetly.

The darkrooms have fallen in popularity when the new digital era commenced.  At the Camera Museum, you still get to catch a glimpse of the darkroom where light sensitive photographic materials are processed, and also along with the equipment required for processing.

The films are loaded into this film box to prevent any light exposure.

The chemical solutions and trays are used for film developing.

Once the film is processed, a photo enlarger is used to make prints of various sizes

Moving on to the next room, the pinhole room is my favorite.  Do go along with the guide for this room because without him, you might just think it’s a useless empty room

The room has three black walls and one white wall with one small opening on one of the black walls where light is allowed to enter. The room is a whole lot of fun because the room really is the inside of a camera, where image is captured.

As the pinhole is opened, light comes in and allowing an upside down image to be projected onto the white wall in the room.  Can you make out what image this is?

Now let’s go outside and have a look.  It’s roof tiles, glass panels and stairs!

The museum isn’t very big but all the spaces within are put to good use. The corridor is a lovely place to stroll along too with an illustrated timeline of history of camera and photographer’s work on display.

As you ext from the museum on the first floor, the stairs are decorated with jolly umbrellas and a slab of cement with semi-buried cameras, and brings you to the coffee place and souvenir shop downstairs.

The coffee place is named in theme with the Camera Museum – Double Exposure!

The souvenir shop.

As you end the visit in the museum, there is a mural of a child in pyjamas just one door away.  I thought it was a bit eery looking but nonetheless something interesting to see.


More Info
Penang Camera Museum Official Website
Address: 49 Lebuh Muntri, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel:  04 261 3649
Opening Hours: Daily 9.30 am – 8pm
Admission Fee : RM 20 for adults.  RM 10 for students with student ID.




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