The unarguable benefits of digital photography has rendered the analog SLR obsolete for most purposes. This means that a wide selection of cameras and lenses are available on the second hand market for pennies on the dollar, making them ripe targets for hacking. [drtonis] decided to experiment with a quick and easy digital conversion to an old Canon A-1, and it’s got us excited about the possibilities.
It’s a simple hack, but a fun one. The SLR is opened up, and the spring plate for holding the film is removed. A Raspberry Pi camera then has its original lens removed, and is placed inside the film compartment. It’s held in with electrical tape, upon a 3mm shim to space it correctly to work with the original optics.
[drtonis] notes that the build isn’t perfect, with some aberration likely caused by the reflective electrical tape in the film cavity. However, we think it’s a nice proof of concept that could go so much further. A Raspberry Pi Zero could be easily squeezed inside along with the camera, and everything glued in place to make things more robust. A specialist paint such as Stuart Semple’s Black 2.0 could also help cut down on light leaks inside. Plus, there’s plenty of small screens that can be used with the Raspberry Pi that would provide a useful preview function.
We’d love to see more conversions like this one. While it’s unlikely they’ll compete with commercial DSLRs on outright performance, everyone loves a little bit of charming distortion here and there, and all manner of fancy lenses can be had for cheap for analog platforms. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the tipline for further This fundevelopments – you know what to do!
37 thoughts on “Quick And Dirty Digital Conversion For Analog SLR”
Step one: realize that with that chip everything will be extremely tele as now you are only using a tiny portion of the original frame.
Step two: think “oh well”
Step three: stuff camera in a raven puppet to spy on neighbours…
I wanted to do this with an super 8 camera for a while but never started the project.
Maybe after reading this I’ll give it another try.
Me too. I have a couple of Super 8 movie cameras with motorized zoom and once the film mechanism was removed, there would be enough room inside for a USB hard drive too I reckon.
Hmmm. I think I might have a play :)
After reading through the comments again I wondered: Is it possible to build a super 8 film replacement i.e. with a raspberry pi which plugs in the camera instead of the analogue film?
Might even someone already sell this things?
You can just adapt the lenses for use with the pi camera, they are mostly C ring screw type.
I am waiting for such solutions as I have some nice analogue cameras including a Zenza Bronica 4.6 X 6 cm. I love the lens and the beautiful portraits I took with the camera and I would love to have a digital option for its use as well.
Make one and post it here!
You could start out with a digital back for a ‘blad, but you’re looking at 4 digits for an older one, and that’s used.
It’s a shame that analog SLR’s are becoming obsolete to many people.
Sure it interesting project, but it kills the soul of analog photography.
I second this.
But on the other hand more and more people seem to see analogue photography as art. And it is even avaiable to amateurs
And the cameras are priced lower than ever!
I still shoot & develop B&W film in my Nikon F3
(though I did buy a used filmstrip scanner so I can share the images)
Looking to buy a film-strip scanner (new, or more likely, used). Any hints or gotchas worth being aware of?
Don’t buy new. Barely-used scanners can be found used on the market (digital or otherwise) for roughly half the price of new. I only have personal experience with the Plustek Opticfilm line of scanners, which seem to do a decent job at a reasonable pricepoint. If you have the budget I’d recommend getting a flat scanner instead of a carriage type as film has a tendency to warp in the carriages and distort scans.
I have a used flatbed Epson V600 Photo with the negative holders and it works really well. I have a couple Mamiya RB-67’s and several hundred rolls of film. Portraits and scenery are excellent. (I got a load of Diafine for free and now everything just goes in the Diaphine 2-part developer with no worries about time or temperature. Also a free Jobo processor. All these things are free or nearly so today.)
In Ontario, they seemed to have hit rock bottom prices 5 years or so ago, they seem to be on the way up again now.
i’m doing a lot of photography but only on film, i can use a modern camera but consider them as a jokes or instant cameras, like in the old days was the polaroid, the result they are producing is not a real thing, not to mention the larger film stocks…
I used to think like this, then I realized a photo is still a photo no matter what it’s captured on. Nostalgia clouds the mind.
Analog is not the right term. Why do people repeat it?
As the sensor of a Pi camera is about 1/10 the size of a 35mm film frame, this would explain the very high zoom of the example photo – your 35mm kit lens will have an effective focal length of 350mm.
I’ve been pondering this: I’ve seen DOF adapters for phones/video cameras that effectively project the lens image onto a screen, then take an photo/video of this using the smaller sensor, but my understanding is this is necessary because the phone already has a lens focusing. is it possible to use some extra optics (such as a macro lens to focus the 35mm image onto a 4mm sensor?)
as the ccd is very small. it should be possible to attach it close to the lens mounting and close focus it on the place where the negatives sit. put a white sheet in its place and focus the lens on that sheet. you have some perspective distortion, but it should work. the super-8 path seems better.
Perhaps a macro tube to set the lens forward to make room for the ground glass + pi cam so it won’t stick out the back?
Nevermind – you couldn’t focus using the viewfinder, plus the mirror would be in the way. I’ve got rangefinders on my mind, evidently.
Certainly, although I’ve never seen an example of such an extreme application.
It’s done routinely for FF to APS-C, and also for FF to MFT, with the rather unique “Devil’s adapter” from Metabones targeting the Pentax Q sensor size to achieve f/0.666 when an f/1.2 lens is attached – https://www.metabones.com/products/details/MB_SPNFG-Q-BM1
I’d never heard of this before… Anything keeping a guy from throwing on a f.95 Noctilux and going even faster?
I think the only component that matters is the lens so making a 3d printed mount to put the PI camera should work, due the sensor size a Super 8 lens should be a better choice.
You can find very high quality lenses for Bolex 16mm at thrift stores and pawn shops. Even the once highly coveted Macro-Switar lenses (e.g. 10mm lens that will do 1 to 1). Magnification from a 16mm frame (10.26mm wide) to an 8 foot screen is over 200 times. Those are mighty nice lenses.
This is just using the camera body to hold the sensor at the focal plane for the lens. Much lighter to 3D print a lens mount that holds the sensor?
No, because the camera body is still taking care of the shutter, metering for the shutter timing, and providing a through the lens viewfinder to do composition and focus. If you recreated all those features in a 3d printed replacement, it would barely be any simpler. The only “useless” part you could omit is the film advance mechanism.
He has taped the shutter open, which apparently keeps the mirror raised. So AFAICS the camera is nothing but a dumb mount for the digital sensor.
No, because the camera body is still taking care of the shutter, metering for the shutter timing, and providing a through the lens viewfinder to do composition and focus. If you recreated all those features in a 3d printed replacement, it would barely be any simpler. The only “useless” part is the film advance mechanism.
I went to find a cheap SLR body, then came to the same conclusion as MIKE and Canoe above…
Don’t do it! Film photography is making a comeback! That Canon A-1 in the picture has gone up in significant price! $80 point & shoots from 90’s are selling for hundreds of dollars. Don’t hack them, sell them!
I was a Nikon fanboi back then, but even I wouldn’t do that to an A-1
I have a working Nikon FM10 film camera and a Nikon D5000 DSLR with a bad shutter. Any ideas how I can put the D5000’s sensor and electronics working with the FM10? Is it even possible?
Do a search on “35 mm digital film replacement”. Lots of stuff included digital “film cans” that don’t require you to modify the camera. Makes me sad about my nice 1980’s Nikon I sold a long time ago.
silicon film was supposed to come out with a drop in solution to do this way back in the late 90’s, it was vaporware.
They had a working product but a major stumbling block was making it fit different cameras. The distance between the film can and the edge of the film plane was never standardized. Their intention was to have a few different ones ready made for specific brands and models, then have a service where they could customize the length for other cameras. I assume that would have meant sending your camera in for a fitting.
I figure there should be a way to make the distance customer adjustable, at least once. Design it so that the distance can be set then permanently locked with a snap or crimp clip and a jig tool to set it. Depending on the specifics, and the price point, the tool could be included as a single use disposable, or a multi-use extra purchase if you’re going to be installing more than one digital film. Could do it on a purchase with refund when the tool is returned.
What would be far easier mechanically is a digital 126 or 110 cartridge. At least two models of 126 SLR were made. Kodak made one that was compatible with their Retina 35mm lenses. Some 110 cameras were pretty well made, especially the early ones. With a digital cartridge it should be possible to take better images than was ever possible with the 110 or 126 film.
Then there’s the Kodak Disc. I bet it would be possible to make a digital Disc cartridge. The tiny pieces of film those used are much closer to typical digital sensor sizes.
How about a digital Polaroid pack? Build it with a mechanism that raises a lens, mirror(s) etc inside the camera to intercept the light and focus it onto the small digital sensor. That could be actuated via a slide on the front of the digital pack when the loading door is open. SD card and charging port access would be done the same. Best chance of having this work would be to not expect it to work with the collapsing or folding Polaroid cameras, especially not the ones that opened with the lens not perpendicular to the film plane. The easiest would be a digital pack for the old Square Shooter and other Polaroid cameras that had the lens parallel to the film. Just have a lens that raises straight up to the right place after sliding the pack in.
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