Medium Format Camera, From Scratch

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[Peter Johansson] has taken it upon himself to build a medium format camera, from scratch. We know this is a shock to some of you, but this camera uses traditional medium. There is no sensor. He will be loading it with (gasps) film. He bought the lenses pre made, but everything else is being constructed by himself. Probably the most notable parts are the aperture and the shutter. The project is about 80% complete right now. We can’t wait to see it finished.

[via Makezine]

A red and blue Lytro camera with a serial port soldered onto one

Unlocking Hidden Features Of An Unusual Camera

Back in 2012, technology websites were abuzz with news of the Lytro: a camera that was going to revolutionize photography thanks to its innovative light field technology. An array of microlenses in front of the sensor let it capture a 3D image of a scene from one point, allowing the user to extract depth information and to change the focus of an image even after capturing it.

The technology turned out to be a commercial failure however, and the company faded into obscurity. Lytro cameras can now be had for as little as $20 on the second-hand market, as [ea] found out when he started to investigate light field photography. They still work just as well as they ever did, but since the accompanying PC software is now definitely starting to show its age, [ea] decided to reverse-engineer the camera’s firmware so he could write his own application.

[ea] started by examining the camera’s hardware. The main CPU turned out to be a MIPS processor similar to those used in various cheap camera gadgets, next to what looked like an unpopulated socket for a serial port and a set of JTAG test points. The serial port was sending out a bootup sequence and a command prompt, but didn’t seem to respond to any inputs. Continue reading “Unlocking Hidden Features Of An Unusual Camera”

Printed Film Camera Gets 10 Seconds Out Of A 35mm Roll

When the British budget electronics brand Amstrad released their first budget VHS camcorder in the mid 1980s, they advertised it as making a filmmaker out of everyone. Now everyone truly is a filmmaker of sorts with their always-handy mobile phones, even though possessing a camera does not give you the talent of Steven Spielberg.

Such easy access to video hasn’t dimmed the allure of old-style film though, and there is a band of enthusiasts who seek out the older medium. [Joshua Bird] is one, and he’s produced a rather special 3D printed camera that can capture short videos on a standard roll of 35mm camera film. The downside is that, at the going rate, filming your masterpiece comes out to approximately $600 USD for each 10 minutes of footage. Better keep that dense exposition to a minimum.

The two most important mechanisms in a movie camera are the shutter and the film advance. The first is a disc that spins once a frame with an arc-shaped aperture over a section of it to let the light through, while the second is a hook that engages with the film once a frame after the shutter aperture has passed, to advance it to the next frame. Designing these to work in printed form is no easy task, and [Joshua] takes the reader through the various twists and turns in their development. Beyond that he takes a novel approach to a through-the-lens viewfinder, eschewing a split prism for an angled mirror on the shutter disk.

With each frame taking a fraction of the 35mm frame it’s clear from the video below that this doesn’t deliver the highest quality image. But that’s not the point of a device like this, above all it’s a working movie camera that he made himself. Since some of us have interests in that direction, dare we say we’re envious? Meanwhile, this isn’t the first 3D printed movie camera we’ve brought you.

Continue reading “Printed Film Camera Gets 10 Seconds Out Of A 35mm Roll”

The Seductive Pull Of An Obsolete Home Movie Format

It’s dangerous for a hardware hacker to go into a second-hand store. I was looking for a bed frame for my new apartment, but of course I spent an age browsing all the other rubbish treasures on offer. I have a rough rule of thumb: if it’s not under a tenner and fits in one hand, then it has to be exceptional for me to buy it, so I passed up on a nice Grundig reel-to-reel from the 1960s and instead came away with a folding Palm Pilot keyboard and a Fuji 8mm home movie camera after I’d arranged delivery for the bed. On those two I’d spent little more than a fiver, so I’m good. The keyboard is a serial device that’s a project for a rainy day, but the camera is something else. I’ve been keeping an eye out for one to use for a Raspberry Pi camera conversion, and this one seemed ideal. But once I examined it more closely, I was drawn into an unexpected train of research that shed some light on what must of been real objects of desire for my parents generation.

A Thrift Store Find Opens A Whole New Field

One f the surprises comes in just how small this thing is.
One of the surprises comes in just how small this thing is.

The Fuji P300 from 1972 is typical among consumer movie cameras of the day. It takes the form of a film magazine with a zoom lens assembly on its front, a reflex viewfinder on its side, and a handle with a shutter trigger button on it protruding vertically below the magazine and also housing the batteries.

Surprisingly it still has a mercury cell that would have powered its light meter; a minor annoyance to dispose of this correctly. Sometimes these devices had clockwork motors, but this one has an electric motor. It also has a light sensor that is coupled to some kind of electromechanical aperture. It would have been an expensive camera when it was new, probably as much of a purchase as an SLR or a decent mirrorless camera here in 2021.

The surprise came when I opened it up, for it looked like no other 8mm camera I had seen. I’m familiar wit the two reels of a Standard 8 or the boxy cassette of Super 8, but this one used something different. That film magazine is made to fit a compact twin-reel cartridge whose film fits in a metal film gate. This is a Single 8 camera, Fuji’s entry in the all-in-one 8 mm film market, and a format I never knew existed. To explain my unexpected discovery it was necessary to delve into the world of home movie formats in the decade before videotape arrived and drove them out. Continue reading “The Seductive Pull Of An Obsolete Home Movie Format”

Perfecting A 3D Printed Camera Motion Control Rig

If you’ve ever watched one of those high production value YouTube videos and wondered how they’re able to get those smooth shots where the camera seems to be spinning around an object, you were probably looking at the product of an motorized camera motion system. There’s no question these rigs can produce visually striking shots, but their high cost usually keeps them out of the hands of us lowly hackers.

Unless of course you do like [Andy], and build your own. The latest version of this impressive rig features the ability to continuously rotate thanks to commercial 12-wire slip rings, with optical endstops so the machine can still be homed at the beginning of a move. An onboard Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno are responsible for controlling the stepper motors, the configuration of which ends up being reminiscent of a standard 3D printer.

The MQTT remote can hold a phone for live video.

The software [Andy] has come up with lets him synchronize the camera rig with a small rotating platform he built, which allows for even more complex shots as demonstrated in the video below. It also supports a very slick MQTT-enabled remote controller that he built as a previous project, which makes taking direct control over the camera and monitoring its status much easier.

Want to add a little polish to your own project videos? [Andy] has released all of the files and information you’d need to build your own version of his motion control rig, though we wouldn’t blame you for feeling a bit intimidated by this one. It might not be the most elaborate camera motion control system we’ve seen, but it’s certainly up there. If you just want an overhead video and don’t need those fancy tracking shots, perhaps a modified VESA arm would fit the bill.

Continue reading “Perfecting A 3D Printed Camera Motion Control Rig”

Camera Hack Peels Back Layers Of Embedded Linux

Embedded Linux devices are everywhere these days, and sooner or later, you’re going to want to poke around in one of them. But how? That’s where posts like this one from [Felipe Astroza] come in. While his work is focused on the Foscam C1 security camera, the techniques and tools he outlines here will work on all sorts of gadgets that have a tiny penguin at their core.

Rather than trying to go in through the front door, [Felipe] starts his assault with the nuclear option: removing the SPI MX25L12835F flash chip from the camera’s PCB and dumping its contents with a Raspberry Pi. From there he walks through the use of different tools to determine the partition scheme of the chip and eventually extract passwords and other interesting bits of information from the various file systems within.

Getting ready to remove the flash chip.

That alone would be worth the read, but things really get interesting once [Felipe] discovers the FirmwareUpgrade program. Since the Foscam’s software updates are encrypted, he reasons that reverse engineering this binary would uncover the key and allow for the creation of custom firmware images that can be flashed through the stock interface.

Further investigation with Ghidra and friends identifies an interesting shared library linked to the executable in question, which is then disassembled in an effort to figure out how the key is being obfuscated. We won’t ruin the surprise, but [Felipe] eventually gets what he’s after.

This isn’t the first time [Felipe] has played around with the firmware on these Internet connected cameras, and we dare say it won’t be his last. For those who are really into tinkering with these sort of devices, it’s not unheard of to install a socket for the flash chip to make software modifications faster and easier.

Large Format Lego Camera Is A Bit Near-Sighted

Photography doesn’t have to be expensive, something that’s especially true in the realm of film photography, where the imperfections of the medium can be half the appeal. There are many DIY plans and kits available for analog cameras, but [bhiga143] had couple spare components and a pile of small, colorful bricks lying around, so he decided to build a functional 4×5″ film camera out of Lego.

Details are light for this build, but with a little knowledge about camera structure we can guess at what’s going on inside. Simplicity makes for robust design, and what we have here is in effect a box with a lens on one side and photographic film on the other. The center section of the front, which actually supports the lens, is capable of sliding in and out to adjust focus. On the far side (not pictured) is a slot just wide enough to insert a standard film holder.

The camera really is a hack. [bhiga143] stayed true to the “Lego” part of Lego camera, so there is no glue, no black paper lining, and no frills. The tripod is whatever stack of books lay underneath it. The lens is, quote, “barely functional”. There are light leaks galore, and it can’t focus beyond about 3 feet (1 meter). But every one of those points just makes us love it more. Every nugget of imperfection is a few words added to the story each picture tells. And we honestly can’t wait to see more pictures.

Other Lego cameras we’ve seen have been smaller and less colorful, but using a simple pinhole lens can reduce the overall cost. Of course, you’re not limited to Lego if you want to build your own pinhole camera. Although, the ubiquitous plastic bricks can also be useful in later stages of the film photography process.