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.

Hacklet #11- Cameras

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We preempt this week’s Hacklet to bring you an important announcement.

Hackaday.io got some major upgrades this week. Have you checked out The Feed lately? The Feed has been tweaked, tuned, and optimized, to show you activity on your projects, and from the hackers and projects you follow.

We’ve also rolled out Lists! Lists give you quick links to some of .io’s most exciting projects. The lists are curated by Hackaday staff. We’re just getting started on this feature, so there are only a few categories so far. Expect to see more in the coming days.

Have a suggestion for a list category? Want to see a new feature?  Let us know!

Now back to your regularly scheduled Hacklet

There are plenty of cameras on Hackaday.io, from complex machine vision systems to pinhole cameras. We’re concentrating on the cameras whose primary mission is to create an image. It might be for art, for social documentation, or just a snapshot with friends.

pinstax[theschlem] starts us off with Pinstax, a 3D Printed Instant Pinhole Camera. [theschlem] is using a commercial instant film camera back (the back for a cheap Diana F+) and 3D printing his own pinhole and shutter. He’s run into some trouble as Fuji’s instant film is fast, like ISO 800 fast. 3 stops of neutral density have come to the rescue in the form of an ND8 filter. Pinstax’s pinhole is currently 0.30mm in diameter. That translates to just about f/167. Nice!

largeformat

Next up is [Jimmy C Alzen] and his Large Format Camera. Like many large format professional cameras, [Jimmy's] camera is designed around a mechanically scanned linear sensor. In this case, a TAOS TSL1412S. An Arduino Due runs the show, converting the analog output from the sensor to digital values, stepping the motor, and displaying images in progress on an LCD. Similar to other mechanically scanned cameras, this is no speed demon. Images in full sunlight take 2 minutes. Low light images can take up to an hour to acquire.

democracy[Jason's] Democracycam aims to use open source hardware to document protests – even if the camera is confiscated. A Raspberry Pi, Pi Cam module, and a 2.8″ LCD touchscreen make up the brunt of the hardware of the camera. Snapping an image saves it to the SD card, and uses forban to upload the images to any local peers. The code is in python, and easy to work with. [Jason] hopes to add a “panic mode” which causes the camera to constantly take and upload images – just in case the owner can’t.

digiholgaThe venerable Raspberry Pi also helps out in [Kimondo's] Digital Holga 120d. [Kimondo's] fit a Raspberry Pi model A, and a Pi camera, into a Holga 120D case. He used the Slice of pi prototype board to add a GPIO for the shutter release button, a 4 position mode switch, and an optocoupler for a remote release. [Kimondo] even added a filter ring so he can replicate all those instagram-terrific filters in hardware. All he needs is to add a LiPo battery cell or two, a voltage regulator, and a micro USB socket for a fully portable solution.

openreflex

Finally, we have [LeoM's] OpenReflex rework. OpenReflex is an open source 3D printed Single Lens Reflex (SLR) 35mm film camera. Ok, not every part is 3D printed. You still need a lens, a ground glass screen, and some other assorted parts. OpenReflex avoids the use of a pentaprism by utilizing a top screen, similar to many classic twin lens reflex cameras. OpenReflex is pretty good now, but [Leo] is working to make it easier to build and use. We may just have to break out those rolls of Kodachrome we’ve been saving for a sunny day.

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet! Until next week keep that film rolling and those solid state image sensors acquiring. We’ll keep bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

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

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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.

Clever Reed Switch Catches Thief

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When [Abhimanyu Kumar] noticed money going missing from his small bookshop, he decided to set up a little trap to catch the thief.

The problem was that the bookshop’s money was stored inside a cupboard in their house (back end of the shop), which meant that the culprit was likely one of their own employees. They already have a CCTV system installed in the actual store, and although he could simply add another camera in the house, [Abhimanyu] didn’t really want to do that.

He instead devised a simple security trap: dubbed the Jugaad Security System. In Hindi, Jugaad quite literally means “hack”. He added a small magnetic reed switch to the cupboard where the money is stored—well, was stored—which is then linked directly to an intervalometer. This then connects to an inconspicuous DSLR sitting on one of the work benches. He aimed the camera at the cupboard and, in case the lights are out when the system is tripped, set it to an extremely high ISO.

[Read more...]

If You Own a Camera You Need to Try Light Graffiti

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Light graffiti orbs over a lake as seen here.

Do you have a camera that’s capable of controlling how long of an exposure it takes?  With this and any small light source, you can make a really awesome illuminated image like the one featured above.  Combine this with the hacking skills that you’ve hopefully learned from reading Hackaday, and the visual possibilities are endless.

Let’s look at the background of this entertaining light hacking technique, and how you can make images like this yourself!

[Read more...]

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...]

Scratch-built gigapixel scanner

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The presence of a camera in this image may be a bit confusing since we’re calling it a scanner. What’s actually going on is that macro-images this piece of art are being captured automatically. The multiple shots will later be assembled into one fascinatingly high-resolution image. The CNC scanner rig is [Charlie Romer's] summer project.

Unfortunately [Charlie] hasn’t yet collected all the information on the project into one place. After the break you’ll find more images, as well as a few demo videos. The best place to start is probably his proof-of-concept from this Spring. He shows a single-axis CNC mount for the camera. It takes an entire row of images. The assembled photo from that test is shown below. We believe the faint yellow dots in the macro part of the example are fingerprints purposefully left by the printer called printer stenography to help prevent forgery.

The larger rig uses movement on two axes. The idea is that the artwork will be perfectly positioned so that manual focus set at one point will work along all points in the capture routine. He’s using a lamp for a light source but we’re sure he will upgrade so something like a ring light as the project continues.

[Read more...]

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