Adding a Digital Back to a Sweet Old Camera

[Eugene] wanted to use his vintage Leica M4 as a digital camera, and he had a Canon EOS 350D digital camera sitting around unused. So he Frankensteined them together and added a digital back to the Leica’s optical frontend.

It sounds simple, right? All you’d need to do is chop off the back from the EOS 350D, grind the digital sensor unit down to fit into exactly the right spot on the film plane, glue it onto an extra Leica M4 back door, and you’re set. Just a little bit of extremely precise hackery. But it’s not even that simple.

Along the way [Eugene] reverse-engineered the EOS 350D’s shutter and mirror box signals (using a Salae Logic probe), and then replicated these signals when the Leica shutter was tripped by wedging an Arduino MiniPro into an old Leica motor-winder case. The Arduino listens for the Leica’s bulb-flash signal to tell when the camera fires, and then sends along the right codes to the EOS back. Sweet.

There are still a few outstanding details. The shutter speed is limited by the latency in getting the signal from the Leica to the 350D back, so he’s stuck at shutter speeds longer than 1/8th of a second. Additionally, the Canon’s anti-IR filter didn’t fit, but he has a new one ordered. These quibbles aside, it’s a beautiful hack so far.

What makes a beautiful piece of work even more beautiful? Sharing the source code and schematics. They’re both available at his Github.

Of course, if you don’t mind completely gutting the camera, you could always convert your old Leica into a point and shoot.

Controlling a Point and Shoot With Bluetooth

Loading point and shoot digital cameras is old hat around here, but [Alex] and [Andreas] are taking it to the next level. They’ve made a Bluetooth controller for a cheap Canon camera, allowing pictures to be taken with an iPhone or Android device.

The camera in question is a Canon IXUS70, although any camera supported by CHDK will work. We’ve seen a few builds using this firmware to take pictures of the sunrise every day and transmitting images over a radio link, but this build is far more interactive.

The camera is connected to an Arduino and Bluetooth shield with a hacked up USB cable. The ‘duino communicates with a phone using a JQuery app, giving any phone with a Bluetooth module control of the camera’s zoom and shutter.

All the code is available on the github, with a very good video demonstration of the build available below.

Continue reading “Controlling a Point and Shoot With Bluetooth”

Enjoying The Sunrise Every Single Day

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

[Andy] wanted to take a few at sunrise, but waking up before sunrise has obvious problems associated with it. Instead, he built a device that calculates the local sunrise time, snaps a picture, and goes to sleep until the next morning.

The camera used for the project was an old Canon point and shoot, chosen for the ability to load CHDK firmware. Other electronics included an Arduino pro mini, a LiPo battery and charger board, real time clock, and an old Nokia LCD for the user interface.

There’s quite a bit of code that goes into figuring out when the sun will rise each day, but once that’s figured out, all [Andy] has to do is take the camera somewhere pretty, point it East, and record a few days worth of sunrises. When put into a ‘game camera’ enclosure, its rugged enough to stand up to everything except a thief, and has enough battery power for a few weeks worth of sunrises.

Video demonstrating the local sunrise time below.

Continue reading “Enjoying The Sunrise Every Single Day”

Retrotechtacular: Kodak Built World’s First DSLR… Using a Canon Camera Body

worlds-first-dslr

It has been far too long since we’ve seen an installment of Retrotechtacular, and this is a great one to start back with. It’s always a treat to get the story from the horse’s mouth. How about the tale of the world’s first Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera? [Jame McGarvey] shared the story of how he developed the device in 1987.

That’s it shown above. It’s not surprising to see that the only real modification to the camera itself is the back cover. The difference between an SLR and a DSLR is really just the D, which was accomplished by adding a CCD in place of the film.

The entire story is a treat, but there are a couple of nuggets the we enjoyed most. The possibly-clandestine purpose of this device is intriguing. It was specifically designed to pass as a film camera which explains the ribbon cable connecting the CCD module to the control box which would be stored in a camera bag. It is also delightful to hear that the customer who tasked Eastman Kodak with developing the system preferred Canon camera bodies. So this Kodak DSLR indeed used a Canon F-1 body.

Once you get done looking this one over you will also enjoy learning how a CCD actually works.

[Thanks Ben]

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

1980′s Ingenuity Yields Mechanical Intervalometer

DIY Intervalometer

Let’s go back in time to the 1980′s, when shoulder pads were in vogue and the flux capacitor was first invented. New apartment housing was being built in [Vince's] neighborhood, and he wanted some time-lapse footage of the construction. He had recently inherited an Elmo Super-8mm film camera that featured a remote control port and a speed selector. [Vince] figured he might be able to build his own intervalometer get some time-lapse footage of the construction. He was right.

An intervalometer is a device which counts intervals of time. These are commonly used in photography for taking time-lapse photos. You can configure the intervalometer to take a photo every few seconds, minutes, hours, etc. This photographic technique is great when you want see changes in a process that would normally be very subtle to the human eye. In this case, construction.

[Vince] started out by building his own remote control switch for the camera. A simple paddle-style momentary micro switch worked perfectly. After configuring the camera speed setting to “1″, he found that by pressing the remote button he could capture one single frame. Now all he needed was a way to press the button automatically every so often.

Being mechanically minded, [Vince] opted to build a mechanical solution rather than an electronic circuit. He first purchased a grandfather clock mechanism that had the biggest motor he could find. He then purchased a flange that allowed him to mount a custom-made wooden disk to the end of the minute hand’s axle. This resulted in a wheel that would spin exactly once per hour.

He then screwed 15 wood screws around the edge of the wheel, placed exactly 24 degrees apart. The custom paddle switch and motor assembly were mounted to each other in such a way that the wood screws would press the micro switch as they went by. The end result was a device that would automatically press the micro switch 15 times per hour. Continue reading “1980′s Ingenuity Yields Mechanical Intervalometer”

Hacking a Sigma lens to work with a Canon camera

sigma-lens-canon-camera

[Martin Melchior] wanted to use an older Sigma lens with his Canon camera. The problem in trying to do so is that the camera uses a different communications protocol than the lens is expecting. But if you don’t mind cracking it open and doing a little microcontroller work you’ll be using the lens in no time.

The hack uses an ATtiny24 chip, two resistors, and a capacitor. You won’t need to do any coding, but you do need to burn the firmware to the chip (you can use an Arduino if you don’t have a proper AVR programmer). There’s plenty of room for the add-on hardware inside the lens so after reassembling the enclosure you won’t even be able to tell that the unit was altered. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like [Martin] took any pictures of the lens with his added electronics, but the schematic he posted should be enough for you to get the job done yourself.

If you’re into these types of DSLR hacks you should try something extreme, like using view camera parts with your modern camera.

LiFePO4 batteries work much better in a camera than NiMH

SAMSUNG

We agree with [Zapmaker] that Canon cameras chew through nickel metal hydride batteries. But we’re not going to use Alkaline because we think it’s wasteful. His solution is to use a battery that has a higher voltage rating. What you see here is a single lithium iron phosphate cell paired with a dummy cell to increase life between charges.

The reason that NiMH batteries don’t last very long is that they’re only rated at 2.4V. It won’t take long for that voltage to drop below the camera’s cutoff threshold since they didn’t start very high to begin with. But a single LiFePO4 cell has the same form-factor but produces 3.2V and maintains voltage well through it’s discharge cycle.

The size is right, but using one cell won’t work by itself. He built a filler for the other slot which is just a wood dowel with a screw all the way through it. The point was ground down and a bit of foil added to ensure a proper connection. We’d be interested to hear back about how this performs over the long term.