What Is a Passport Camera?

G. Wiesen

A passport camera is a type of camera developed specifically for creating pictures for use in making passports. These cameras are designed to take two or more pictures simultaneously, often using multiple fixed lenses that can take several pictures at once. The images captured in this way can then be quickly printed, usually because these cameras are instant; otherwise any camera could be used and multiple pictures could be printed during development. As digital cameras have come into prominence, however, the use of a passport camera has become largely unnecessary, as a single digital photograph can simply be printed from a computer multiple times.

A passport.
A passport.

The basic purpose of a passport camera is, as the name suggests, taking pictures for use in the making of passports. Many passports use multiple photographs within the passport, or require multiple photographs be submitted for passport processing. In order to facilitate this, the use of a passport camera allows multiple similar, nearly identical, images to be captured by a single camera in one moment. This is done by designing the camera with multiple lenses, essentially making a single camera built as two or more cameras in one body.

A passport photo.
A passport photo.

A passport camera is an instant camera, designed to print out pictures very quickly. Just about any camera can be used to print out multiple photographs from a single negative, though this process can take a fairly long amount of time for development and printing. A passport camera is designed so that the multiple photographs can all be developed instantly, or much more quickly than would be required for the development and printing of multiple images from a negative. The number of prints a passport camera produces depends on the design of the camera and the number of lenses used, though two lenses are quite common and some cameras can print four or more photographs.

As digital cameras became more affordable and practical for use in photography, the need for a passport camera has largely been eliminated. A digital camera can be used to take a digital photograph, which can then be transferred onto a computer or portable storage device. This file can then be used to quickly and easily print as many photographs as needed from a printer connected to the computer or storage device. Such printing is usually cheaper than development and printing from an analog camera, and digital cameras have become increasingly affordable and easy to use.

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