Raspberry Pi Crammed Into Old Film Camera

If you wanted an expensive film camera when you were a kid, you are in luck. Used film SLRs are super cheap now that everyone wants digital cameras. Of course, in reality, you want a digital camera, too. So do what [befinitiv] did. Make a film cartridge out of a Raspberry Pi that can convert your camera to digital. (Video, embedded below.)

In theory, this sounds like a genius idea. The practical aspect isn’t perfect, though. For one thing, the small image sensor used means that the camera is zoomed in quite a bit. Also, the shutter button isn’t integrated, so the shutter is open all the time. You may think that doesn’t matter, but don’t forget that the way an SLR works means if the shutter is open, there’s no viewfinder.

Still, the packaging is neat and we wondered if it might spur someone to take it a little further. You can find the design files in OnShape.

It seems clear you really need a larger image sensor, although we suppose you could mount a wide angle lens or adapter to help some. You could also put some optics inside the camera but that would be more packaging problems. We don’t know if the resulting image would be any better or worse than what you got on a film negative, either.

We think of digital cameras as relatively new technology, but they have quite a history. Or hack a camera for full spectrum.

21 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Crammed Into Old Film Camera

    1. Everything old is new again, I guess. I wonder if they realize they just covered it?

      I had been following the “I’m Back” adapter which has a pretty good following (https://imback.eu/home/) . I have a pile of 1970s Minolta stuff (XK, XE-7, SRTs, etc and lenses) that I’d love to be using again.

      1. Just pop in a fresh roll of film and start shooting? Film is not dead. We even have now two labs here in Arnhem doing bw, color, reversal development and scanning. Better than a mediocre tiny ccd.

        1. It’s hard to find here. It’s available through Amazon, of course. $10 for a roll of film plus nearly $20 to process it at a lab that’s about 45 minutes away. It may not be dead but it’s pretty darned inconvenient.

          Some of the Minoltas need 1.35V batteries, not the standard (now) 1.5V. They used mercury batteries that put out the lower voltage. The SRT202 in particular gives wacky meter readings on an alkaline battery. The XE-7 and XK would be okay though. It would be amusing to give it a go (at over $1 per picture…)

          1. Shoot B&W and you can develop it yourself. And if you don’t like the smell of Dektol and glacial acetic acid, there is a homebrew development process using instant coffee. It is a pretty strong push, if I recall right, so expose ASA400 as if it was ASA100.

          2. Go buy a 36-shot roll of film and do it. You can easily get close to 40 shots if you load the film yourself and don’t use a long header, dropping the cost per shot. And there is just something magical about recording a moment of time in silver halide crystals.

        2. yes, exactly and you can use medium format or large format also, you can find many excellent film base, you can self develop it, you can do experimental things with it, you can enlarge it traditionally or scan it and digital print it, yes it is more expensive but you only need to take good pictures that is a few per session not a 1000s :)

        3. But if you can pop in a cheap, little ccd, shoot a bunch of pics, get a feel for the light, exposure, composure of your shots on an SD card you can check on your phone then you can pop in film and get better pictures with less waste.

          1. What I like about shooting with a DSLR (or a mirrorless) is that I can take a bunch of shots, automatically bracketed by 0.3, 0.7, or a whole exposure step, and then decide afterward which one looks best. But the fun of film is spending that time thinking about the exposure, the highlights and shadows, picking a shallow depth of field for bokeh or a high DoF for lots of crisp lines.

            Maybe it’s because someone in my family was shooting film at every family event, I learned how to decide what I wanted from a scene really quickly. Sure, I might burn 3 to 5 shots “just to be sure I got it” but that was just what we did. When I grew up and talked to professional photographers, the mantra from wedding and event photogs was “one good shot per roll”. If you were a pro, you knew that you weren’t getting everything, so you shot a lot to make sure you got something.

            So, learn the Sunny 16 rule: in bright sun, f16, exposure will be 1/film speed (ASA100 will be 1/100s, ASA 400 is 1/400s). A full step more open on the f-stop (f-11) lets you go one step faster shutter speed (f-16 at 1/100 becomes f-11 at 1/200). And each change in light works the same way; sunny at f-16, light overcast f11, overcast f8, etc). Just get in the habit of evaluating the scene as soon as you arrive, pick a f-stop and speed, then you change that as a given shot demands.

            And if you want to practice with a DSLR or mirrorless, don’t chimp every shot. Take your pictures deliberately, pick your exposures, write down the exposure details and what you think the scene looks like, and only look at the pics when you are done. Treat it like film. You can learn so much more that way and you don’t get the habit of checking the screen after each shot.

    2. I would imagine they have that, but who makes people check? I would think there should be an assignments list on the dashboard of WordPress. As soon as everyone logs in, they can see who’s doing what and there should be a search feature or a list of the last months articles that should be checked against as well, but it’s WordPress, so… Don’t count on it.

      1. Also, who writes the part at the end that has links to older articles? They don’t realize they’re duplicating at that point? Didnt this person just do a search for older articles about the same topic? I dunno. It’s a weird problem. Organization is clearly the root, but show me an organized hacker. I’m not.

      1. “These camera backs are generally expensive by consumer standards (US$5,000 and up)”

        HOLY CRAP!!!! I would love to get a “nice” old film camera for a decent price and convert it to digital for less than the price of a new DSLR and my left nut. I’m sure these camera backs are fine for professionals but I’m just a poor amateur (accent on the poor) so I was hoping China, with their penchant for cheap electronics could make something more in my price/experience/expectation range.

        1. Most of the backs still being produced are for medium and large format cameras, like Mamiya and Hasselblad. When the camera bodies start at around $1000 used, and the lenses can go for several grand, a 5 grand digital back seems more reasonable.

          I have wondered if there might not be a way to use something like a scanner sensor attached to a mechanism that moves it across the open shutter. Sure, it would take locking the shutter open, and would be a large-ish device, but it should be doable.

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