Bringing a 160-Year-Old Projector Back to Life

When you hear the name Magic Lantern, you probably think of third-party Canon firmware. But long before there was such a thing as firmware, or Canon for that matter, there was the Magic Lantern projector.

In his latest video, vintage camera and lens enthusiast Mathieu Stern dives into the history behind this forefather or cinematography before bringing a 160-year-old magic lantern projector back to life.

The projector in the video was a Christmas gift given to Mathieu’s great great grandfather when he was just 10 years old: about 160 years ago. It looks sort of like a steam engine, complete with a big smokestack but with a lens on the front instead of an actual locomotive.

To use the projector, you simply put it on top of a light source—traditionally an oil lamp—and insert painted glass slides into the slot upside down. The light would shine through the slide, be flipped and focused by the lens, and wind up projecting an image onto the wall.

It’s not what you would call cutting edge, but it’s a fascinating bit of imaging history that’s worth knowing about.

Check out the full video above to see how the Magic Lantern projector works and see the 160-year-old product in action for yourself. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in modern day (by comparison) camera and video gear, you can find plenty more of that on Mathieu’s YouTube channel.

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