Some Assembly Required: Alexander Peitrow’s Game Boy Camera

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

 Game Boy Camera mounted to Fraunhofer telescope.

Game Boy Camera mounted to Fraunhofer telescope.

Alexander Peitrow, Stockholm, Sweden

Advising a photographer to "shoot for the moon" is usually intended to encourage them to follow their lofty aspirations. In the case of Alexander Peitrow, an astronomy student at Leiden Observatory, "shooting for the moon" meant following his lofty aspirations of developing an ingenious way to just plain shoot the moon. Rigging a Game Boy Camera to an antique telescope, Peitrow became the first photographer to photograph the moon (and Jupiter) with a gaming device.

When the Game Boy Camera came on the market in 1998, it was the world’s smallest digital camera and sold for just $50. It renders black and white photographs at a 2-bit resolution (today’s iPhone 7 camera is 12 megapixels with a 128 x 112 sensor. Those who wanted to print their images could use a Game Boy Printer which printed on thermal sticker paper.

To photograph the moon, Pietrow used a Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter to attach the Game Boy Camera to a 6-inch Fraunhofer telescope in the Old Observatory of Leiden. The telescope was built in 1838 and Pietrow’s job as a tour guide allowed him access. Pietrow’s first celestial images with his device were of the moon, but since even smartphone cameras are capable of producing decent images of the moon, Pietrow decided to test technological limits and photograph Jupiter. Not only was Pietrow able to capture an image of Jupiter, but also its four Galilean moons. They photographs don’t print well on the sticker paper, but as images on a screen they are astonishingly detailed for such outdated technology. 

 The moon photographed with Game Boy Camera

The moon photographed with Game Boy Camera

 Jupiter photographed with Game Boy Camera

Jupiter photographed with Game Boy Camera

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at info@donttakepictures.com