A Retro Camcorder Upgraded As A Raspberry Pi HQ Camera

In 2020 when we carry an all-purpose computer and data terminal able to store our every thought and deed on a global computer network, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time we were excited by the simpler things. Take the camcorder for example, back in the 1990s the idea of a complete video recording solution that captured moving images on tape cartridges and fit in the palm of your hand was a very big deal indeed, and camcorders as we called them in those innocent times were a prized posession. Now they’re a $0.50 find a Goodwill, which is how [Dustin] picked up the RCA camcoder he’s converting into something altogether more modern. He’s gutted it and upgraded it by removing the analogue innards and retaining only the case and lens assembly to put around a Raspberry Pi and associated HQ camera module.

Opening the camcorder up reveals a ton of miniaturised analogue circuitry, but once the original assemblies are removed it’s relatively straightforward to put the Pi camera on the rear of the lens unit. There’s plenty of space for the Pi in the box, and he’s putting a touchscreen on the outside.

Sadly the camcorder’s original tiny CRT is no longer working, else that would have been the ultimate retro viewfinder. Still we hope to see some tinkering on that part of the project since those little CRTS make for delightful hacks. The project is very much a work in progress, but should serve that these once ubiquitous devices are now in the realm of the throwaway.

This isn’t the first such conversion we’ve seen with a Raspberry Pi, the original camera module is a handy fit to an 8mm movie camera.

14 thoughts on “A Retro Camcorder Upgraded As A Raspberry Pi HQ Camera

      1. I’d love to know if people have had success with other lenses on Amazon. I got a 6mm c mount lens there and the hq camera. I found that the 6mm is nice and wide angle which is perfect as I use it as a super clear webcam. I’d be cool to have a varifocal or zoom lens to experiment with because I haven’t had luck with a zoom CCTV lens I got on Amazon.

        1. Using a C-mount lens on a CS mount, particularly if it’s fast or a varifocal/zoom lens, can lead to disappointment. It *looks* like it works (but poorly), but they’ll work much better with the C-to-CS adapter ring interposed — the ring usually comes with the mount for exactly that purpose.

          (note the opposite usually doesn’t work at all: a CS-mount lens generally won’t work on a C-mount camera, except maybe as a lousy close-focus macro lens)

          1. So it’s a film-to-flange distance problem, like why you can’t adapt Canon’s manual focus lenses to dSLRs without an optical element? In that case the Canon lens mount was originally designed with room to adapt other companies’ lenses and as a result adapting those lenses to other SLRs requires adapters of negative thickness if an extra element isn’t used to change the focal plane.

  1. I built a similar thing years ago with the back end of a Playstation 3 eye as the CCD part. I made it because I was live streaming events and I couldn’t find a webcam with zoom:

    https://imgur.com/a/kLX5i

    Since the drivers for old Playstation cameras don’t work that well any more on modern systems I was thinking of changing to the hq pi camera for that

  2. very cool project the one with the 8mm camera, the Pi and camera module might fit into a standard Super 8 cartridge, maybe not with battery but could be pretty cool and practical way to revive these old cameras, some of them with great optics

    1. I’ve shot a few test videos with it, but I honestly forgot to upload them. I’ll try to get some uploaded tomorrow. Check the logs and details section of the main page. Seems like a massive oversight, now that I think about it. :( My bad.

  3. I’ve been reading HaD since 2014, almost every single day. I never thought one of my projects would be featured. This is one of my favorite projects so far, of all that I’ve done. I just got home from a weekend of retro games with my cousin to find this article in my regular scrolling. Check the logs regularly. I have been adding many features and little updates. I actually plan to start making Youtube videos with this camera when it’s done. It should have features that don’t really exist on regular cameras. Hope someone enjoys this project as much as I do.

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