Classic Canon AE-1 Gets A Digital Upgrade

Shots of this Canon AE-1 camera-gone-digital have a lot of people scratching their heads. Originally there were a lot of “that’s been photoshopped” cries but the video after the break shows that it physically exists. This particular model of camera hasn’t been manufactured since 1984 so there’s little chance that the company’s bringing it back in a digital format. What we have here is a classic camera body with a modern point-and-shoot fit inside. This seems to be a PowerShot SD 870 IS and we’d guess the original lens has been replaced with a plate of glass so as not to affect the PowerShot’s focus, and the “AE-1 Program Digital” screen is probably just an image on the memory card.

We admire the clean mod work necessary to produce this hack.


[Thanks Juan]

32 thoughts on “Classic Canon AE-1 Gets A Digital Upgrade

  1. I appreciate the evident skill in the hack, and a couple of benefits: 1) the powershot sensor benefits from (IMO) better glass, and 2) manual focus. On the other hand, the main reason I’d go to the trouble of hauling around a DSLR rather than a point-n-shoot is the faster exposure. This set up leaves us with the “click… wait for it… exposure” issue.

  2. Put this on craft-a-day.

    It used to be an honor to be featured on HAD.
    Now it seems I can take my NES, stuff inside an empty xbox case… and I’m frontpage. too bad.

  3. Damnit, I still have an AT 1 sitting around somewhere (manual focus, manual exposure cousin to the AE 1). Time to figure out how to do this one RIGHT.

    Arent there already digital backs out there for some of the older film cameras? Ones whose sensor is situated at the same focal plane as where the film would have been during use?

    Perhaps I could convert one of those to fit the back of my AT 1 and do this hack right. Keep the original optics, focus, exposure control, and ability to use exchangeable lenses.

  4. this “mod” makes me wanna start my minolta 500si digital video conversion(a webcam placed on the film plane and modded electronics,it’s not impossible but i need to break my 500si and i don’t also want to spend any money on it so if i’ll find one webcam for free i’ll may try it).

  5. I’m sorry, but this is not a hack. Notice in the video that it still has auto focus – The SD’s lens is still intact!!! I was wondering about this, since without the lens fully functional, the camera will not start up. I know this from experience with a very similar model SD.

    This guy gutted a real camera and put a point and shoot digital inside. The only “plate of glass” in this camera is in the “lens” up front.

    OK, so some guy gets +1 for good use of a razor blade and glue, but that’s it. There is absolutely no benefit to doing this.

    I realize you guys want to post new stuff on your site every day, but damnit, this is not a hack!!!

  6. Poor Canon AE-1. I don’t like this “hack”.
    It should at least be made all the way. Disassemble the new digicam, attach just the display and move the controls to the cameras old controls and add extra ones that look similar if they are not enough.

  7. The main problem with trying a mod like this with a point and shoot is the sensor size. To take adavantage of the lenses for the slr there would be a severe crop factor for the small P&S sensor, unless you move the sensor toward the lens. Still don’t see the advantage of doing all the work for crappy image quality and lots of noise.

  8. All this guy did was make a heavy and unwieldy case for a stock point and shoot by cutting a hole in a bigger camera. Thats it.

    What I think you guys are missing is that the AE-1 was simply gutted. The lens had the glass busted out.

    This isn’t anything other than a waste of a very, very good camera. Kind of like the asshole who took a hammer and busted the lenses out of a pre-war Voigtlander to house a stock webcam, it is just trashing things with a hammer and glue gun.

    Function please? Skill? Anyone can vandalize for no apparent reason.

  9. There is no taking advantage of the larger lenses. The lens is a hollow tube with the glass busted out.

    there is a stock point and shoot with stock lens in there. All he did was cut a hole in the bigger camera to stuff it in.

  10. Of course there’s no functionality, it’s just a new case with an untouched camera inside. Still a pretty cool start IMO, and a real conversion that could use the old glass would be nothing short of epic.

    Being a camera lover I sort of understand the argument against destroying it, but on the other hand as long as it doesn’t hold sentimental value and you got it for cheap (for a few bucks at a yard sale or trift store, for example) I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. AE-1’s were nice in their day but it’s not a super rare or expensive camera. That said I have many older cameras (including a similar AV-1) that I would never even think of doing this to.

  11. Maybe this is a stupid question — if the digital camera has auto focus, can’t it auto focus through the AE-1’s stock lens (thereby rendering the need for a plate-glass replacement unnecessary)?

  12. The AE-1 is of historic interest as an early automatic SLR for the masses, but it’s NOT a “very very good” camera (at the time, for SLRs, that more or less meant Nikon) nor even a particularly good one. It’s sort of collectible but I can’t fathom why anyone would buy one now to actually use it, unless it’s digital Canon brandwhores who don’t know anything about film cameras. I used one in school and was more than happy to ditch it for a Nikon FE as soon as I graduated and got a job (the FE’s not ideal, I wish it was an FM3A).

    I agree it’s silly to hollow out a working camera just to stick another one inside it, but if you’re going to trash an old SLR better an AE-1 (they’re common as dirt) than a true classic like an FM2 or an OM-1 or K1000. And far better to smash our Canon optics of that era than Nikkor.

  13. I would rather stuff a decent make of digital point and shoot into a film camera as long as the original lenses could be used … with that said a mild firmware change could likely be made to add the ability to either disable auto focus and use only the film camera body’s optics or just both camera’s stock optics and settle for an auto adjust/calibrate menu option. either is a good idea if the “said hacker has skills or balls” to gut both said camera’s to do said deed.
    an all time low would be say add a canon or Sony point and shoot to a “Nikon” film body with absolutely full function in both { no demand to have the process reversed …say rescue a point and shoot that has a busted lens and a Nikon film body with a busted film door. Challenge !!!

  14. shell that opend a great big can of conversational worms,cant wait for the follow up hacks,digital zenit please gubbins from a fuji fine pix?…..wait dont practika make adigital camera??

  15. For the novice, the first thing you need to understand is what the term “Digital Single Lens Reflex” means.
    Whereas some cameras will auto-focus while doing video, others do not which is something else to consider.
    The Fujifilm Fine – Pix x100 is generally considered a
    professional compact rangefinder camera.

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