What started out as an innocent experiment quickly turned into a chaotic adventure as I dove down the rabbit hole of historical lens development and optical design.

What is this?

The blender virtual camera is a model (a file setup, really) made inside Blender which leverages the Cycles rendering engine to render images in a physically accurate way through a series of lenses. A series of layers and filters are used along with a little bit of compositing to emulate the effects that are present when taking old film photographs.

All this put together effectively allows you to “take virtual photographs” inside Blender.

Each of the pictures below is a scene that’s been put together in Blender, and then rendered through the virtual camera. The lens distortion and bokeh effects are rendered in a physically accurate way and are thus unlike anything you can get by using the normal post processing effects to achieve something similar. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s difficult to achieve this specific look without simulating it physically.

Try It Yourself

If you’re a Blender user and you want to give the virtual camera a try, it’s available for download here. If you do take some virtual photos, feel free to send them my way! I’d love to see what you’ve made, and I’d like to compile a gallery of user created virtual photos.

Here’s a video detailing some improvements and explaining how to use it: