A Solar-Powered Point-and-Shoot, Circa 1961

Try to put yourself in the place of an engineer tasked with building a camera in 1961. Your specs include making it easy to operate, giving it automatic exposure control, and, oh yeah — you can’t use batteries. How on Earth do you accomplish that? With a very clever mechanism powered by light, as it turns out.

This one comes to us from [Alec Watson] over at Technology Connections on YouTube, which is a channel you really need to check out if you enjoy diving into the minutiae of the mundane. The camera in question is an Olympus Pen EES-2, which was the Japanese company’s attempt at making a mass-market 35-mm camera. To say that the camera is “solar-powered” is a bit of a stretch, as [Alec] admits — the film advance and shutter mechanism are strictly mechanical, relying on springs and things to power them. It’s all pretty standard camera stuff.

But the exposure controls are where this camera gets interesting. The lens is surrounded by a ring-shaped selenium photocell, the voltage output of which depends on the amount of light in the scene you’re photographing. That voltage drives a moving-coil meter, which waggles a needle back and forth. A series of levers and cams reads the position of the needle, which determines how far the lens aperture is allowed to open. A clever two-step cam allows the camera to use two different shutter speeds, and there’s even a mechanism to prevent exposure if there’s just not enough light. And what about that cool split-frame exposure system?

For a camera with no electronics per se, it does an impressive job of automating nearly everything. And [Alec] does a great job of making it interesting, too, as he has in the past with a deep-dive into toasters, copy protection circa 1980, and his take on jukebox heroics.

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Microcontroller Gives You More Control Of Your Camera Lens

Here’s one way to get more control of your camera lenses. [Vladimir] built an¬†Arduino-based pass-through ring¬†(translated) which intercepts automatic lens controls. It’s meant for use with the Canon EOS lenses which have their own electronics allowing control of things like focus and zoom.

It seems like part of the motivation here was to uses the lenses with other brands of cameras. But [Vladimir] does also talk about the possibility of improving on some of the sensors that don’t perform well in certain climate conditions (think of how crystal oscillators will drift as temperature changes).

The machine translation is a bit rough to follow, but it seems the adapter ring still uses the settings sent in from the camera but has the Arduino clone to translate them into a format that the lens is expecting. In addition to this there is a set of buttons on that small PCB beside the lens which allow for fine tuning the aperture.

This is a lengthy writeup, but there’s two more on the way that will help fill in the gaps of how this hack works with different lens models, and some more tips on how to use it.

[Thanks Vasily]