Camera Museum

Special thanks to Camera Museum for extending this attraction invitation.

Not counting my previous visit to Double Exposure Cafe, this is my first actual visit to Camera Museum. Camera Museum is managed by Footprint, a tourism developer which also operates Purrfect Cat Cafe (two doors away from Camera Museum) as well as The Owl Museum and Love Lock on Penang Hill. The Camera Museum should not be confused with Asia Camera Museum (also in George Town), which is a separate entity altogether.
There are two entrances to Camera Museum. The main entrance is at Muntri Street (Lebuh Muntri). This entrance is easily recognizable by a large camera prop in front.
The alternative entrance is at Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia). This back entrance is closer to Double Exposure Cafe. The entire length of the Camera Museum is open to public, so either entrance makes little difference. Only the upper floor of the museum is ticketed.
Admission to Camera Museum is RM20.00 per person. Senior citizens (55 years or older) and students (12 years old and above) enjoy 50% discount, while children between 7 and 11 years old are charged at RM5.00. Children under 7 years of age do not require admission tickets, but must be accompanied by adults for safety reasons.
Despite limited floor space, there are plenty of activities to enjoy during the visit. For complete experience, it is advisable to set aside an hour to thoroughly explore the entire museum. Should you prefer a guided tour, it is available every hour starting 10:00am. This complimentary tour takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
The main exhibition room is arranged in reverse-chronological order. The evolution of imaging technology is presented like a rewinding tape: starting from today's multi-function digital cameras, then gradually going back in time to the most primitive imaging method what humans have ever conceived.
The first camera is the only digital camera in Camera Museum: "Lego" camera from the 1990s. I believe you can still find this in Legoland.
Moving back in time to the era of photographic film and flash bulbs in 1960s, the Canon Pellix is a classic example. Unlike modern-day digital storage media, a camera from those days uses a shutter to briefly expose light on a photosensitive sheet made from silver halide (AgX). Due to technological limitations at the time, the flash bulb has to be replaced after each use.
Around the same time, Leica lens is starting to take form. This is the precursor to the compact point-and-shoot camera that we know today. It is interesting to note that there are thousands of camera manufacturers back then. Some of the best brands are from Germany and the Soviet Union. Espionage during the Cold War resulted in nearly-identical models on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Moving to the 1940s, camera lenses do not have sufficient diopter magnification as today. As a result, the lens and film require significant distance from each other in order for an image to be focused correctly. This means that camera is quite unwieldy to be carried around. In this Polaroid Land Camera Model 95, we can see how the most brilliant minds innovated around the problem by designing "retractable" lens.
Winding the clock further back to the 1920s, we have the Kodak Premoette Junior and Contessa-Nettel Adoro Tropen. During these days, only the rich and influential are able to afford cameras. Therefore, possessing a camera is a sign of prestige back then, similar to owning an iPhone 6 today.
Speaking of 3D cameras, this concept has been around since the 1910s. The Kodak stereo Hawkeye No. 4 is one such example. Using two lenses separated apart with the same distance between human eyes, each lens captures a slightly different angle of the image. This gives a stereoscopic "depth perception" of the original image.
At the turn of the 20th century, photographic film was still in its infancy. Made from silver nitrate (AgNO3), the film requires exposure for over 15 minutes for chemical reactions to take place. As a result, the photographed subject (such as President Abraham Lincoln or Empress Dowager Cixi) needs to remain stationary throughout the duration. This is why they do not smile! Can you hold your smile for 15 minutes without twitching your cheeks?
What happened earlier in the 19th century? The manual sketching method! A network of glass panels use total internal reflection to project the intended image in front of a sheet of paper. The user simply sketches the outline of virtual image on the piece of paper. This concept is very primitive yet it still works!
All camera pieces in Camera Museum are actual pre-owned ones, not mock copies of the original. In fact, many of these cameras are still functioning. While the rarer exhibits are enclosed in glass shelves, selected models like the Yashica D TLR can be touched and held by visitors.
After visiting the main exhibition room, there is a long corridor to other rooms. Along the wall is a historical timeline illustrating the milestones in optical science and technology. It is amazing to realize how long we have come since Isaac Newton's theory of color in the 17th century.
On the window panels to the right, check out these beautiful negative films.
Just imagine the clarity and fidelity of the imaging technology before the days of digital cameras.
In the Unique Collection Room, the Type 89 Rokuoh-Sha (六桜社) 35mm machine gun camera is an innovative application of cameras. This camera was used by the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy to practice bombing raids. Instead of firing actual bullets, the machine gun camera captures images of intended targets as the trainee turns the hand crank. This innovation allowed Japan to conserve ammunition during wartime.
The Unique Collection Room also displays some of the world's smallest cameras.
Mainly used for espionage, some of these cameras are barely larger than a coin. I am sure James Bond would like to own one of these.
The Dark Room shows how photosensitive films are chemically processed. To avoid accidentally exposing film, only red light is used in the room.
In reality, a dark room is significantly darker than this. Working in a dark room back then was not exactly the most comfortable job. And speaking of the stench of ammonia (NH3) fumes!
The Obscura Room shows one of the earliest methods to capture an image before the invention of photographic film. Notice that a sharp image is formed on the back panel when it is placed exactly one focal length away from the lens.
By walking into the Pinhole Room, one can visualize the physics of light such as diffusion. Except the absence of an actual lens, this room showcases the basic principle of how an image is captured inside a camera. Note that this principle still applies to today's digital cameras!
At the conclusion of the tour, check out this exhibit at the staircase for a selfie or group photo. It contains a number of obsolete cameras casted in cement.
Another good photo opportunity is next to the spiral staircase at the air well. Notice that real cameras are glued against the wall.
If you are the adventurous type, feel free to climb the spiral staircase. There is an interesting Easter egg at the top! What is it? This is for me to know and for you to find out!
Camera Museum has a gift shop which sells photography-related souvenirs such as key chains, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Besides disposable cameras, no actual cameras are sold here.
From time to time, Camera Museum hosts artistic exhibits for local photographers. The exhibition is located downstairs, so it is not part of the ticketed section.
Each paying visitor is given a simple quiz towards the end of the visit. As a reward, a special postcard is given as souvenir or for actual use. Yes, you can use it as long as you affix a postage stamp.
Camera Museum is one of the many interesting places to visit in downtown George Town. The exhibits here are informative as well as entertaining. You do not need to be a photography expert to truly appreciate the exhibits. In fact, Camera Museum is designed to convey camera knowledge in layman terms.
Name: Camera Museum
Address: 49, Lebuh Muntri, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-3649
Business hours: 9:30am-6:30pm
Coordinates: 5.41975 N, 100.33569 E
Directions: The front entrance of Camera Museum is located on Muntri Street (Lebuh Muntri). The museum is located on the right of this one-way street, just two doors after Purrfect Cat Cafe. The back entrance is accessible from Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia), at the end of an alley somewhat opposite of Jalan Pintal Tali. Street Parking is available on both Muntri Street and Chulia Street.


  1. I love this! Will definitely include this on my iti when I go visit Penang! :)

    1. You are most welcome! There are many hidden attractions all around Penang. Happy exploring! :-)