A particularly common piece of Magitek
. A handheld device which captures an image is immensely useful, and so it's not surprising that in a fantastical setting, someone will come up with a way to provide such a device, using the magical means at their disposal. Similarly, magic-users in more modern settings can hardly resist using their powers to soup up the technology around them, and cameras are particularly disposed to this kind of tinkering.
Expect the Magical Camera
to have traits far different from those mundane pieces we enjoy, and probably to work by a very different means. Or, it may be just like any other with only a slight twist. But at the end of the day, it is at its core a device which exists to preserve the image of a moment in time.
On a related note: it is a superstition of many Real Life
religions and cultures that cameras and photography are harmful, which is a valid argument since being able to produce unlimited copies of an image ruins its specialness, but many believe that being photographed may steal their soul and take great pains to avoid it (This is ostensibly the Soul Jar
variant of the Phantom Zone Picture
). This is a handy excuse for shy individuals or people wishing to remain anonymous, usually because of some criminality or witness protection system. Nevertheless, the claim that cameras steal souls is a functional form of the Magical Camera
, and one you'll occasionally encounter in straight fantasy as a reasonable fear.
Magic employing a photograph itself also counts.
Anime and Manga
- The main character in Speed Grapher has a power that lets blow up anything he shoots with his camera, although the magic is in himself rather than the object.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, when Joseph Joestar smashes a camera with Hermit Purple, he can capture an image from anywhere he can envision.
- In Ultra Maniac, there was a camera that would show who the subject of the picture liked.
- Sailor Moon had one villain who captured people within the pictures she took of them.
- And in the live action adaption, the magical pens in the original that the heroines used were updated to magic cellphones. One function was the ability to create a disguise based on a photo taken with it.
- Iconographs, as they are called on the Discworld, are little more than boxes containing a very tiny imp with a sketchpad and set of paints. Because the imps have no imagination whatsoever, the images they create are accepted as objective. The flash works by frightening a captive Salamander, a magical lizard which absorbs light and can release it suddenly. In Moving Pictures, movies were created using six imps triggered in succession, suggesting an imp can paint an image in only 1/4 of a second.
- Also in the Discworld universe, Moist Von Lipwig uses the "steals your soul" argument, but he really has other reasons to avoid being photographed. His avoidance naturally makes authority figures suspicious.
- A notable example was the use of a different creature as a flash source. Its light caused psychological visages of its subjects thoughts to pop up in the picture.
- The Goosebumps book Say Cheese And Die is about a camera which causes tragedy to befall any person shot with it.
- Marginal example: Photographs and paintings alike in Harry Potter are animate and semisentient, due to some kind of special darkroom process. Considering the penchant some wizards have for tinkering, there are probably magical cameras too, but they aren't played up.
- Early in Anansi Boys, Spider passes into a photograph to travel to the location it shows. He later mentions he can go to any location he's seen, including by picture.
- Stephen King's story The Sun Dog, one of the novellas of Four Past Midnight. The protagonist receives a polaroid camera for his birthday, but every picture it takes, regardless of what it's pointed at, is of a monstrous dog that gets closer and closer to the camera with each successive shot.
- The Twilight Zone episode "A Most Unusual Camera". It shows the future.
- In Warehouse 13, Artie has a camera which turns the people it takes pictures of into pictures, specifically life-sized cardboard cutouts. A second picture puts them back to normal. Another episode had Man Rey's camera, which could steal youth from one person and give it to another.
- Black Scorpion villian Flashpoint has a Magical Camera that let him to take PhantomZonePictures
- In the music video for Amy Grant's "Takes a Little Time," an instant camera reveals snapshots of the subjects' future. For example, a man who steals the camera and snaps himself is horrified to see a photo of himself dead.
- The Picto Box in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker functions more or less like a normal camera, except that it develops instantly and can only keep three pictures at once. In order to upgrade it to the Deluxe Picto Box, which takes colour pictures, you need to capture and use a special kind of firefly that emits prismatic light. In the HD remake, the Picto Box can now hold 12 images at once, and the firefly is no longer needed to upgrade it (Lampshaded if you give Lenzo the firefly anyways).
- The Camera Obscura in Fatal Frame can take pictures of spirits, which are not normally visible. It can also sap the spiritual energy of hostile ghosts (probably inspired by the aforementioned belief that cameras stole a person's soul).
- In The World Ends with You, Joshua's cell phone camera can take pictures of the past, and Neku's is later upgraded to be able to do the same.
- Snapshot is a puzzle platformer where you can photo an area of the level to cut and paste objects around.
- Double Spoiler has Hatate's camera, which has some sort of magical Google image search function that allows her to get pictures without actually taking them. In game, the only difference between Aya's and Hatate's cameras are the zoom distance and charge speed.
- About that camera capturing soul business: minus. did it. Then again Minus Did It.
- Achewood has the Mexican magical realism camera that shows how people perceive their true inner selves. This ends up forcibly outing Pat.
- SCP-978 is an instant one polaroid camera that when, taking a picture of a person, the photograph is not of that person but of what that person wants to be doing at that time.
- In Angels Friends, Urie has a camera that can capture peoples dreams. Turns out to be very handy when Raf's friends need to prove her innocence by going through Raf's memories.