Film cameras can be complex and exquisitely-crafted masterpieces of analogue technology. But at their very simplest they need be little more than a light-proof box with a piece of film at the back of it, and some kind of lens or pinhole with a shutter. [ChickenCrimpy] adds the most basic of 35 mm cartridge to create what he calls the Minimum Viable Camera. It’s a half-frame 35 mm pinhole film camera with the simplest possible construction.
It can be built from almost any flat light-proof 3 mm thick stock, though something that you can run through a laser cutter is probably ideal. Once snapped together to make to box-like structure, tape is added along the joins for light-proofing. The film is reeled from a full 35 mm cartridge to an empty one, and cranked back frame-by-frame by means of a wooden key that engages with the spindle.
There’s no lens, instead this is a pinhole camera, and the shutter is a piece of the stock held on the front of the camera with bolts and butterfly nuts. Taking a photo is as simple as pointing the device at the subject and lifting the shutter away for a few seconds. There’s a video overview for the project which we’ve placed below the break.
It’s true that this camera needs a moment in the darkroom to load, but we like its extreme simplicity and the ethereal and grainy pictures it produces. If you fancy an introduction to 35 mm photography you could definitely do worse.
The first thing that strikes you upon watching this 1982 gem is just how physical a job it is to stand behind a studio camera. Part of the physicality came from the sheer size of the gear being used. Not only were cameras of that vintage still largely tube-based and therefore huge — the EMI-2001 shown has four plumbicon image tubes along with tube amplifiers and weighed in at over 100 kg — but the pedestal upon which it sat was a beast as well. All told, a camera rig like that could come in at over 300 kg, and dragging something like that around a studio floor all day under hot lights had to be hard. It was a full-body workout, too; one needed a lot of upper-body strength to move the camera up and down against the hydropneumatic pedestal cylinder, and every day was leg day when you had to overcome all that inertia and get the camera moving to your next mark.
Operating a beast like this was not just about the bull work, though. There was a lot of fine motor control needed too, especially with focus pulling. The video goes into a lot of detail on maintaining a smooth focus while zooming or dollying, and shows just how bad it can look when the operator is inexperienced or not paying attention. Luckily, our hero Allan is killing it, and the results will look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen any BBC from the era, from Dr. Who to I, Claudius. Shows like these all had a distinctive “Beeb-ish” look to them, due in large part to the training their camera operators received with productions like this.
There’s a lot on offer here aside from the mechanical skills of camera operation, of course. Framing and composing shots are emphasized, as are the tricks to making it all look smooth and professional. There are a lot of technical details buried in the video too, particularly about the pedestal and how it works. There are also two follow-up training videos, one that focuses on the camera skills needed to shoot an interview program, and one that adds in the complications that arise when the on-air talent is actually moving. Watch all three and you’ll be well on your way to running a camera for the BBC — at least in 1982.
The Quest 3 VR headset is an impressive piece of hardware. It is also not open; not in the way most of us understand the word. One consequence of this is the inability in general for developers or users to directly access the feed of the two color cameras on the front of the headset. However, [Hugh Hou] shares a method of doing exactly this to capture 3D video on the Quest 3 headset for later playback on different devices.
There are a few steps to the process and it involves enabling developer mode on the hardware then using ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands to enable the necessary functionality, but it’s nothing the average curious hacker can’t handle. The directions are written out in the video’s description, along with a few handy links. (The video is embedded below just under the page break, but view it on YouTube to access the description and all the info in it.)
He also provides some excellent guidance on practical things like how to capture stable shots, editing the videos, and injecting the necessary metadata for optimal playback on different platforms, including hassle-free uploading to a service like YouTube. [Hugh] is no stranger to this kind of video and camera handling and really knows his stuff, and it’s great to see someone provide detailed instructions.
This kind of 3D video comes down to recording two different views, one for each eye. There’s another way to approach 3D video, however: light fields are also within reach of enterprising hackers, and while they need more hardware they yield far more compelling results.
Most readers will have some idea of how a camera works, with a lens placed in front of a piece of film or an electronic sensor, and the distance between the two adjusted until the images is in focus. The word “camera” is a shortening of “camera obscura”, the Latin for “dark room”, as some early such devices were darkened rooms in which the image was projected onto a rear wall. [David White], a lecturer at Falmouth University in the UK has created a modern-day portable camera obscura using a garden gazebo frame, and uniquely for a camera obscura, it can be used to take selfies.
As might be expected the gazebo frame covered with a dark fabric forms the “room”, and the surface on which the image is formed comes from a projection screen. The lens is a custom-made 790 mm f/5.4, not exactly the type of lens found off-the-shelf. The selfie part comes from a Canon digital camera inside the gazebo focused on the frame, using its Wi-Fi control app a subject can sit at the appropriate point in front of the lens and take the selfie as they see fit.
The sort of affordable electronics available to hobbyists today opens up all kinds of possibilities, but connecting up various integrated modules brings its own challenges. This is especially true when there are physical constraints such as fitting everything into an off-the-shelf 1/64 scale toy car.
There are a lot of interesting build details that [Max] showcases, such as rebuilding a tiny DC motor to have a longer shaft so that it can drive both wheels at once. We also liked the use of 0.2 mm thick nickel strips (intended for connecting cells in a battery pack) as compliant structural components.
There are actually two web servers being run on the car. One provides an interface for throttle and steering (here’s the code it uses), and the other takes care of the video feed with ESP32-CAM sending a motion jpeg stream. [Max]’s mobile phone is used to control the car, and a second device goes into an old phone-based VR headset to display the FPV video feed.
The H7 is OpenMV‘s most recent device, and it supports a variety of useful add-ons such as a global shutter camera sensor, which [iforce2d] is using here. OpenMV has some absolutely fantastic hardware, and is able to snap the image, do blob detection (and other image processing), display on a small LCD, and send all the relevant data over the UART as well as accept commands on what to look for, all in one neat package.
It used to be that global shutter cameras were pretty specialized pieces of equipment, but they’re much more common now. There’s even a Raspberry Pi global shutter camera module, and it’s just so much nicer for machine vision applications.
Watch the test setup as [iforce2d] demonstrates and explains an early proof of concept. The metal fixture on the motor swings over the camera’s lens with a ring light for even illumination, and despite the moving object, the H7 gets an awfully nice image. Check it out in the video, embedded below.
The interesting thing about the SX-70 camera design is that its shutter speed and aperture setting are essentially linked together as the aperture and shutter assembly are combined into one unit with a variable tear-drop shaped opening. Thus, the timing of the shutter opening and closing and the extent to which it opens are what determines exposure and aperture.
Thankfully, [Jake Bright] has learned a lot about these unique cameras and exactly how this complex system operates. He shares his tips on firstly restoring the camera to factory-grade operation, and then the methods in which they may be converted to work with modern film. Fundamentally, it’s about changing capacitors or resistors to change the shutter/aperture timing. However, do it blindly and you’ll have little success. You first need to understand the camera’s mechanics, pneumatics, and its “Electric Eye” control system before you can get things dialed in just so.