Vintage 8mm Camera Now Powered By Raspberry Pi

If you are a lover of the aesthetic of vintage photography and Instagram’s filters don’t quite cut it for you, then there are plenty of opportunities even in this post-film age to sample the real thing. Plastic lens cameras from the former Soviet Bloc countries or the Pacific rim are still in production, and you can still buy 35mm and 120 roll film to put in them.

You can even still buy 8mm film for your vintage movie camera, but it’s rather pricey. [Claire Wright] is a young film maker who had an old 8mm camera and really wanted that analog film feel to her work, and she and her father solved this problem by using the 8mm camera’s lens in front of a Raspberry Pi camera sensor. Since an 8mm film frame is 4.5mm x 3.3mm and the Pi camera sensor size is 3.76mm x 2.74mm, it’s quite a good fit.

Their first prototype had a custom case which concealed the Pi camera behind the lens on rails taken from an old CD-ROM drive, and had an HDMI screen on top and a pistol grip to make it portable. An external thumb screw allowed the camera to be positioned in the focal plane.

A further refinement has stepper motor driven focus driven from an Adafruit motor drive HAT. The software is simply the standard Pi camera utilities. To demonstrate the system, she made a short video about how it came to be, and took the camera on a road trip to Austin, Texas. She tells us a local 3D print shop is working on a 3D model to replicate the camera, but sadly as yet there are no resources for the Hackaday crowd to examine.

Her video is below. She has certainly captured the feel of an 8mm film very well. If the SUVs were replaced by cars with more chrome in her Mainstreet America, you might almost be there in the 1950s.

This appears to be the first 8mm camera we’ve featured here on Hackaday. We have however covered one or two vintage camera inspired projects, such as this Holga lens for a Canon digital camera, this completely open source camera, and this Arduino-driven single-leaf shutter.

20 thoughts on “Vintage 8mm Camera Now Powered By Raspberry Pi

  1. The lens really gives it that feel. reminds me of our old family films. Just need to get rid of that rolling shutter effect of the Pi sensor. What frame rate are you recording?

    1. It’s impossible to get rid of the rolling shutter effect with the Pi CMOS camera. You need a CCD sensor for that, or some super-expensive special CMOS sensor.

      Reason being that CMOS sensors work by clearing the sensor row-by-row, followed by reading the sensor row-by-row, and the timing difference between the clearing and reading sets the exposure time and produces the rolling shutter. It can be done in one sweep for the whole sensor, or multiple sweeps in parallel, but you’ll always get the wobblies unless you read every single row at once, and that’s practically impossible.

      CCDs used for video use what’s called a dark frame, which can be another covered CCD next to the sensor, or a mask pattern that covers every other row of the sensor. Because CCD can shift the accumulated charges around the sensor surface like in a bucket chain, it saves the image by quickly shifting it under the cover, and then reading it out at a slower rate, essentially capturing the whole frame in a single shot.

        1. My thoughts exactly. Use the original shutter controlled by pwm from the PI and match the recording frame rate step for step. Try any frame rate you like!
          Still, replacing the sensor would would make things a whole lot easier.

  2. Yes in 18 fps it would look about right
    Why use only one lens, that sensor is small enough to fit into the whole camera with the three lengths lenses. Then use the crank to generate power it if feasible.

  3. Ps3 camera is cheap and would probably make for a good vintage film replacement. One of the biggest things that throws off that video is the rolling shutter that distorts/slants fast moving parts, which a global shutter wouldn’t do.

  4. I don’t know what is the term in english, but the result is not a 8mm camera in any ways.

    The accurate title would be “creating a digital camera using a lense from old camera”. Since that what it is.

    To actually create 8mm RPi camera, you need to use the original shutter and fit all into an old 8mm camera. Then you have “vintage 8mm camera powered by raspberry pi”.

    1. That is as good as it gets with the complete crap lenses on cheap 8mm cameras. I am not really sure why people are soooo interested in shooting horrible quality video, There were good quality 8mm cameras and really good 8mm lenses out there that did not give you the smeared mess with only the center in focus. My grandfather’s 8mm camera kept everything in very sharp focus and his home movies look as clear as 16mm movie house movies of the day.

      That said, it is still a very neat project, and you can get kodak 8mm cameras still in thrift stores, so why print something, just gut a real camera and put it all inside. I personally would simply use a Pi camera board that has a C mount already on it, makes it a lot easier and opens up the world of lenses..

  5. All,
    Thanks for you comments, suggestions and dialog.

    We covered most of the topics while building the Pi8. It started off as a retro fit into the existing camera housing, however there are tricky alignment issues and you really need a focus adjust and a monitor.

    Yes, the rolling shutter is an artifact that is hard to work around, but something with the mechanical shutter might be cool.

    Yes, the road trip could have been in better focus, however it was our first time out with the camera and we forgot to refocus. As Jenny List said “they were all out of focus”, and if you took a couple of the cameras apart you would know why…
    FYI, Claire edited the “footage” for the most vintage 50’s 8mm look and pulled it together, we were all very surprised with the results.

    The existing plywood housing started out as a way to check various lens with the Pi camera on the bench, Claire pushed to put it all together so she could shoot with it.

    We are still learning about camera with different lens and getting some cool images from them. Claire will post more as she pulls them together into something.

    Net results, the lowly 8mm lens that have been forgotten and discarded because of the short focal length and 8mm focal plane area are great for modern smart phone image sensors. Raspberry Pi and camera make it all happen at a reasonable price and full Linux on the camera.

    Why do Pi8 instead of instagram filters? Vinyl records, tube amps, ribbon mics, analog tape, it’s all the rage…


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