Adding a Digital Back to a Sweet Old Camera

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[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.

Sound blimp makes camera quieter and waterproof

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The D-SLR “crunch” sound can be pretty satisfying. Your camera has moving parts and those cell-phone amateurs can eat your shutter actuation. If you’re a professional photographer behind the scenes on a sound stage or at any film shoot, however, your mirror slapping around is loud enough to get you kicked off the set. [Dan Tábar] needed his D800 to keep it down, so he made his own sound blimp to suppress the noise. As an added bonus, it turns out the case is waterproof, too!

[Dan] got the idea from a fellow photographer who was using a prefab Jacobson blimp to snap pictures in sound-sensitive environments. Not wanting to spend $1000, he looked for a DIY alternative. This build uses a Pelican case to house the body of the camera and interchangeable extension tubes to cover lenses of various sizes. [Dan] took measurements and test-fit a paper cutout of his D800 before carving holes into the Pelican case with a Dremel tool. One side got a circular hole for the extension tubes, while the other received a rectangular cut for the camera’s LCD screen and a smaller circle for the viewfinder.

Lexan serves as a window for all of the open ends: LCD, viewfinder, and the lens. [Dan] snaps pictures with a wireless trigger, saving him the trouble of drilling another hole. You can hear the D800 before and after noise reduction in a video after the break, along with a second video of [Dan] trying out some underwater shots. If you’d rather take a trip back in time, there’s always the 3D printed pinhole camera from last week.

[Read more...]

The best photo booth for really small stuff

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[Doog] builds plastic models, and like anyone who makes really small stuff, he needed a good photo booth to show off his wares and techniques. He was working with the very common ‘poster board and work light’ setup we’ve all put together, but after photoshopping seam lines one too many times, he decided to upgrade his booth to something a little better.

The new setup consists of an aluminum frame with a 40×80 inch sheet of translucent plexiglass forming the bottom and backdrop of the booth. Two lights in diffuser bags illuminate the subject from the top, while the old worklights are attached to the bottom of the table frame to light the subject from beneath.

Compared to the ‘poster board and work light’ technique of the past, [Doog]‘s new photo booth is absolutely incredible for taking pictures of very small things. This model of a Spitfire looks like it’s floating and this snap of a Thunderbolt is good enough to grace magazine covers.

Of course this photobooth isn’t just limited to models, so if you’re looking at taking some pictures of hand-soldered BGA circuits in the future, you may want to think about upgrading your studio setup.

Cat5 camera flash extension

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Network engineer [Mario Giambanco] recently purchased a cable to move his flash off camera. Unfortunately, it ended up way too short for his purposes. Instead of purchasing a slightly longer proprietary cable, he decided to employ what he had around him: a lot of cat5e cable and ethernet jacks. He cut the cable close to the center in case things didn’t work out and he’d need to repair it. His post on building the custom ethernet flash extension cable goes into heavy detail to make sure you get it right the first time. He’s tested it using both five and 50 foot pieces of cable with no apparent lag.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen cat5 repurposed: composite video through cat5, vga cat5 extension, and cat5 speaker cables.

[via Lifehacker]

GigaPixel Panorama

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[Ewout] sent us some info on this Automated Gigapixel Panorama Acquisition system.  The system automates the process of taking the large amounts of images required to do gigapixel panoramics. You tell it key information, like what lens, and what percent overlap you want and the system will calculate how many images it will take, as well as the gigapixel count. The results are quite stunning, no visible seams with fantastic detail.  Interestingly, this was created for a class in embedded system design (ECE4180) at Georgia Institute of Technology and so was our post earlier today on Digitally Assisted Billiards. Is Hack a Day part of the class curriculum? It should be.

On-board focus confirmation for the Canon Digital Rebel


We’ve seen plenty of lens hacks, but [Koray] took things in a new direction. Rather than buy lens chips for modding all of his manual lenses, he added a lens chip inside his Digital Rebel 300D (aka XT). Most of us might cringe at gutting their Rebel, but he performed this bit of soldering surgery on a unit he picked up for £40 and repaired. Excellent work!

Update: yeah yeah, the 300D is the original Digital Rebel.

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