Converting A Sigma Lens To Canon, Digital Functionality Included

These days, camera lenses aren’t just simple bits of glass in sliding metal or plastic housings. They’ve often got a whole bunch of electronics built in as well. [Dan K] had just such a lens from Sigma, but wanted to get it working fully with a camera using the Canon EF lens fitting. Hacking ensued.

The lens in question was a Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG, built to work with a Sigma camera using the SA mount. As it turns out, the SA mount is actually based on the Canon EF mount, using the same communications methods and having a similar contact block. However, it uses a mechanically different mounting bayonet, making the two incompatible.

[Dan] sourced a damaged EF lens to provide its mount, and modified it on a lathe to suit the Sigma lens. A short length of ribbon cable was then used to connect the lens’s PCB to the EF mount’s contacts. When carefully put back together, the lens worked perfectly, with functional auto-focus and all.

It goes to show that a little research can reveal possibilities for hacking that we might otherwise have missed. [Dan] was able to get his lens up and running on a new camera, and has taken many wonderful pictures with it since.

We’ve seen some great lens hacks over the years, from 3D printed adapters to anamorphic adapters that create beautiful results. If you’ve got your own mad camera hacks brewing up, drop us a line!

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Hackaday Links: April 17, 2022

There are plenty of stories floating around about the war in Ukraine, and it can be difficult to sort out which ones are fact-based, and which are fabrications. Stories about the technology of the war seem to be a little easier to judge, and so stories about an inside look at a purported Russian drone reveal a lot of interesting technical details. The fixed-wing UAV, reported to be a Russian-made “Orlan,” looks quite the worse for wear as it’s given a good teardown by someone wearing Ukraine military fatigues. In fact, it looks downright homemade, with a fuel tank made from what looks like an old water bottle, liberal use of duct tape to hold things together, and plenty of hot glue sprinkled around — field-expedient repairs, perhaps? The big find, though, is that the surveillance drone carried a rather commonplace — and cheap — Canon EOS Rebel camera. What’s more, the camera is nestled into a 3D printed cradle, strapped in with some hook-and-loop tape, and its controls are staked in place with globs of glue. It’s an interesting collection of hardware for a vehicle said to cost the Russian military something like $100,000 to field. The video below shows a teardown of a different Orlan with similar results, plus a lot of dunking on the Russians by a cheery bunch of Ukrainians.

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Canon Temporarily Abandons Smart Ink Cartridges

An unexpected side effect of the global semiconductor shortage came to light this week — Japanese printer manufacturer Canon announced they are temporarily going to provide consumable ink and toner cartridges without microchips. Furthermore, they provided instructions for consumers on how to bypass the printer’s logic, allowing it to function even when it incorrectly thinks the ink or toner is low. Included in the announcement (German), the company stated what most people already knew:

There is no negative impact on print quality when using consumables without electronic components.

It’s well known that many printer companies make their profit on the consumable cartridges rather than the printers themselves. And most printers require consumers to only use factory original cartridges, a policy enforced by embedded security ICs. Use a third-party ink cartridge and your printer will likely refuse to print. There are legitimate concerns about poor quality inks damaging the print heads. But with reports like this 2003 one from the BBC noting that 17% to 38% additional good quality pages can be printed after the consumable is declared “empty”, and that the price per milliliter of inks is seven times the cost of vintage champagne, one can reasonably conclude that these DRM-protected consumables are more about on ensuring profits than protecting the hardware.

For now, this announcement applies to German customers, and covers the Canon imageRunner family of multi-function printers (the complete list is in the company announcement above).

Game Boy Camera Gets Ridiculously Good Lens

How do you get better pictures from a 20+ year old Game Boy Camera? How about marrying a DSLR lens to it? That’s what [ConorSev] did and, honestly, the results are better than you might expect as [John Aldred] mentioned in his post about the topic. You can check the camera out in the video below.

A 3D printed adapter lets you mount a Canon EF lens to the Game Boy Camera, a trick that we’ve seen in the past. [ConorSev] looked at the existing adapters floating around, and came up with the revised version you see here. There was still the problem of actually getting the images off the Camera cartridge, but luckily, this isn’t exactly unexplored territory either.

While there might not be anything new with this project, using a high-quality lens on the toy makes for some interesting photographs, and you wonder how far you can push this whole idea. Of course, no matter how much of a lens you put on the front, you still have to contend with the original image sensor which has hardly well. Still, we were impressed at how much better things looked with a high-quality zoom lens.

We bet the original designer of the Game Boy Camera never imagined it would have the kind of zoom capability you can see in the video. We love seeing these little handhelds pushed beyond their limits. Cryptomining? No problem. Morse code? Piece of cake.

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Proprietary Lenses Are No Problem With This USB Adaptor

There was a time when a camera lens was simply a set of shaped pieces of glass in a tube, with a mount and an aperture. But as cameras have embraced electronics ever more, technology has found its way past the lens mount to the extent that all features of a modern lens are electronically controllable. Can they be used outside the confines of the camera they were designed for? If the user is [Jana Marie] then certainly, because she’s created a nifty USB adapter and mount for Canon lenses for use with her custom streaming camera.

The hardware is a 3D printed lens mount with a PCB that mates with the pins on the lens. An STM32 does the hard work and talks to the outside world through a USB interface, however it’s in the software that the real effort lies. The Canon lens protocol has been extended since the 1980s, and the commands for different generations of lenses can be convoluted. All the information is in a GitHub repository, so the curious hacker can roll their own.

There are a wealth of camera projects to be found for those that don’t mind tearing apart some of their more valuable possessions, and this isn’t the first we’ve seen involving the hacking of the Canon protocol.

Building A USB-C Charger For Canon NB-4L Batteries

One of the most appealing aspects of USB-C is that it promises to be a unified power delivery system. You’ll no longer need to have a separate power cords for for your phone, camera, and laptop; physically they’ll all use USB-C connectors, and the circuitry in the charger will know how much juice to send down the line for each gadget. But in reality, we’ve all got at least a few pieces of older equipment that we’re not about to toss in the trash just because it doesn’t support the latest USB spec.

Note the relocated status LEDs.

Case in point, the old Canon camera that [Purkkaviritys] modified to take infrared pictures. Instead of abandoning it, he decided to make a custom USB-C charger for its NB-4L batteries. Since they’re just single cell 3.7 V lithium-ions, all he had to do was wire them up to the ubiquitous TP4056 charger module and design a 3D printed case to hold everything together.

He did go the extra mile and replace the SMD charging indicator LEDs on the PCB with 5 mm LEDs embedded into the 3D printed enclosure, though you could certainly skip this step if you were in a hurry. We imagine if you print the enclosure in a light enough color, you should be able to see the original LEDs glowing through the plastic.

This project is yet another example of how incredibly useful the TP4056 module really is. If there’s even a chance you might want to build a rechargeable gadget in the near future, you should have a few of these cheap boards ready to go in the parts bin.

A Teeny Tiny 3D Printed Macro Extension Tube

When you hear the term “extension tube”, you probably think of something fairly long, right? But when [Loudifier] needed an extension tube to do extreme close-ups with a wide-angle lens on a Canon EF-M camera, it needed to be small…really small. The final 3D printed extension provides an adjustable length between 0 and 10 millimeters.

But it’s not just an extension tube, that would be too easy. According to [Loudifier], the ideal extension distance would be somewhere around 3 mm, but unfortunately the mounting bayonet for an EF-M lens is a little over 5 mm. To get around this, the extension tube also adapts to an EF/EF-S lens, which has a shorter mount and allows bringing it in closer than would be physically possible under otherwise.

[Loudifier] says the addition of electrical connections between the camera and the lens (for functions like auto focus) would be ideal, but the logistics of pulling that off are a bit daunting. For now, the most reasonable upgrades on the horizon are the addition of some colored dots on the outside to help align the camera, adapter, and lens. As the STLs and Fusion design file are released under the Creative Commons, perhaps the community will even take on the challenge of adapting it to other lens types.

For the polar opposite of this project, check out the 300 mm long 3D printed extension tube we covered a few weeks back that inspired [Loudifier] to send this project our way.