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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F/stop Printer For Analog Printing Black And White Photos

This beautifully crafted device is a timer used for getting the perfect exposure when making film prints of photos. But in addition to keeping time, it also does logarithmic calculations that are based on the f-stop values used for each exposure. It does this in 1/100th of a stop increments. While he was at it, [William] also decided to pack in a bunch of other features like dry down correction, and support for making test strips. This is a little hard to understand when discussed in the abstract, but just take a look at his video after the break where [William] walks us through an example exposure and all will become clear.

You can see from the construction page that the device is basically an Arduino shield. It provides a relay for controlling the exposure lamp, a keypad, rotary encoder, and character LCD. Slap it in a fancy case, connect it to the equipment you’re using, and you’ll be creating perfect prints in no time flat!

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