The Giant Camera

My colleague Peter L’Abbe has been researching Camera Obsucra recently and inspired me to visit the Giant Camera last time I was down at Ocean Beach! It had been years since I was last inside it and it was even cooler than I remember.

The Giant Camera perched on the cliffs at the northern end of Ocean Beach

It’s the last remnant of the various amazing entertainments that were found at this end of the beach back in the day. The Sutro Baths (burned down in 1966) and Playland (closed after a series of unsolved macabre murders – just kidding) were the big pieces in this now long gone picture.

Sutro Baths

Now the only amusement left is the Giant Camera. Standing alone on the cliff edge it has a bittersweet nostalgia about it. As if it too is waiting patiently for the end to come – watching the sun set on a bygone era – sniff, sniff.

Giant Camera and Seal Rocks

Roll up! Roll up!

Lots of helpful signage. from antiquity...

You pay your $3 and go in through the narrow squeaky doors to the darkened room. Eventually the MC comes in from the ticket booth, opens the all-seeing oculus and the world outside is magically projected on to the 5′ diameter dish in the center of the room.

The deep dish diorama

Its remarkably bright and the detail is incredible. As the upper tower rotates the full 360° panorama unrolls across the screen. You have to walk around with it otherwise the world starts to slip and slide.

Its a great experience! The curvature of the screen, the rotation, the constant sliding of the image, the incredible clarity. I want one in my house!

It looks like we are about to slide off the end of the world.

One Comment

  1. My dear friend Mimi emailed this to me –

    playland was so much fun.
    it was so big and never tiring.
    the ladies with skirts would get the blast of air under when they entered —
    one’s mom’s dress coming up was so funny.
    obviously couldn’t do it today!
    there were huge huge huge wood indoor slides that let you fly down many stories.
    rolling barrels to make your way through —
    and the huge cylinder that you’d position yourself on as close to the center
    as possible that would start up and go faster as you’d try to stay on
    then get centrufically pulled off of and go sliding outward to the sides.
    the gallery of mirrors that made you all kids of shapes —
    and then outside the Fun House — all kinds of carney fun and food.
    they had great chicken pot pies and salt water taffies.
    i remember i went back in the 70s and it had gone down —
    right before it got turned into condos.
    it was really a great place.
    so great the camera remains.


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