Start Printing From Film For Around £100

For the vast majority of readers, the act of taking a photograph will mean reaching for a mobile phone, or for a subset of you picking up a digital camera. A very small number of you will still use chemical film for its versatility and resolution, and we’re guessing that more would join those ranks if some of the cost barriers to doing so could be reduced.

It would be near-impossible to reduce the cost of a chemical photograph to the infinitely repeatable click of a digital camera shutter, but at least if the cost of a darkroom is intimidating then [Sroyon Mukherjee] has an interesting post over at 35mmc about how a darkroom for black-and-white printing from negatives can be equipped for less than £100 ($123). It’s a fascinating read even if your photography remains firmly in the digital, because along the way it explains some of the mysteries of the process. Few people had this type of equipment at home even in the days when most of us took our films to the drugstore, so as time passes this knowledge is concentrated among an ever narrower group.

The guide is full of useful hacks. Finding a second-hand enlarger takes an element of patience, but once it has been secured there are a variety of other essential items. The red safe light can be as simple as a mobile phone flashlight with a red filter, but we learn the trick of exposing a sheet of photographic paper with a coin laid on it to check that no white light is sneaking in. One of the main points of the piece is that there is no need for a special room to make a darkroom, and we take a tour of a few photographers’ set-ups in hallways, bathrooms, and basements.

So if you spot an unloved enlarger just waiting for a hacker to pass by, this might inspire you to do something with it. He doesn’t cover the development process, but if you throw caution to the winds you could always try coffee and vitamin C.

[via Hacker News]

Classic Leica Film Camera Turns Digital

While there’s still a market for older analog devices such as vinyl records, clocks, and vacuum-tube-powered radio transmitters, a large fraction of these things have become largely digital over the years. There is a certain feel to older devices though which some prefer over their newer, digital counterparts. This is true of the camera world as well, where some still take pictures on film and develop in darkrooms, but if this is too much of a hassle, yet you still appreciate older analog cameras, then this Leica film camera converted to digital might just attract your focus.

This modification comes in two varieties for users with slightly different preferences. One uses a Sony NEX-5 sensor which clips onto the camera and preserves almost all of the inner workings, and the aesthetic, of the original. This sensor isn’t full-frame though, so if that’s a requirement the second option is one with an A7 sensor which requires extensive camera modification (but still preserves the original rangefinder, an almost $700 part even today). Each one has taken care of all of the new digital workings without a screen, with the original film advance, shutters, and other HIDs of their time modified for the new digital world.

The finish of these cameras is exceptional, with every detail considered. The plans aren’t open source, but we have a hard time taking issue with that for the artistry this particular build. This is a modification done to a lot of cameras, but seldom with so much attention paid to the “feel” of the original camera.

Thanks to [Johannes] for the tip!

[Ben Krasnow] Rolls Old School Camera Out For Photolithography

In a time when cameras have been reduced to microchips, it’s ironic that the old view camera, with its bellows and black cloth draped over the viewscreen for focusing, endures as an icon for photography. Such technology appears dated and with no application in the modern world, but as [Ben Krasnow] shows us, an old view camera is just the thing when you want to make homemade microchips. (Video, embedded below.)

Granted, the photolithography process [Ben] demonstrates in the video below is quite a bit upstream from the creation of chips. But mastering the process on a larger scale is a step on the way. The idea is to create a high-resolution photograph of a pattern — [Ben] chose both a test pattern and, in a nod to the season, an IRS tax form — that can be used as a mask. The camera he chose is a 4×5 view camera, the kind with lens and film connected by adjustable bellows. He found that modifications were needed to keep the film fixed at the focal plane, so he added a vacuum port to the film pack to suck the film flat. Developing film has always been magical, and watching the latent images appear on the film under the red light of the darkroom really brings us back — we can practically smell the vinegary stop solution.

[Ben] also steps through the rest of the photolithography process — spin coating glass slides with photoresist, making a contact print of the negative under UV light, developing the print, and sputtering it with titanium. It’s a fascinating process, and the fact that [Ben] mentions both garage chip-maker [Sam Zeloof] and [Justin Atkin] from the Thought Emporium means that three of our favorite YouTube mad scientists are collaborating. The possibilities are endless.

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Film Negative Viewer Has Many Positives

Not so long ago, taking pictures was a much more sacred thing. Film and processing were expensive compared to the digital way, and since you couldn’t just delete a picture off the camera and get your film back, people tended to be much more selective about the pictures they took. Even so, for every roll of film, there was usually at least one stinker. If you’ve made it your quest to digitize the past, you’ll quickly realize that they’re not all gems, and that some can be left to languish.

[Random_Canadian] recently found himself knee-deep in negatives, but wanted an easy way to weed out the mediocre memories. With this film negative viewer and converter, he can step through the pictures one by one on a big screen and decide which ones to keep.

The Pi uses the negative image effect to turn the negatives positive, and then outputs them to the TV. If [Random_Canadian] finds one worth bringing into the 21st century, he pushes the green button to take a picture with the Pi camera and save it to that awesome cryptex USB drive. When he’s tired of walking down memory lane, he pushes the red button to exit the program.

We especially like that [Random_Canadian] made his own light panel by edge-lighting a piece of 6 mm Lexan. Fresh out of flat-topped LEDs, he made his own by grinding down some regular ones on a belt sander.

Got some old 8mm film you want to digitize? Check out this beautiful automated film scanner.

Foam Board, Old Electronics, And Imagination Make Movie Magic

When it comes to building sets and props for movies and TV, it’s so easy to get science fiction wrong – particularly with low-budget productions. It must be tempting for the set department to fall back on the “get a bunch of stuff and paint it silver” model, which can make for a tedious experience for the technically savvy in the audience.

But low-budget does not necessarily mean low production values if the right people are involved. Take [Joel Hartlaub]’s recent work building sets for a crowdfunded sci-fi film called Infinitus. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that needed an underground bunker with a Fallout vibe to it, and [Joel] jumped at the chance to hack the sets together. Using mainly vintage electronic gear and foam insulation boards CNC-routed into convincing panels, he built nicely detailed control consoles for the bunker. A voice communicator was built from an old tube-type table radio case with some seven-segment displays, and the chassis of an old LCD projector made a convincing portable computer terminal. The nicest hack was for the control panel of the airlock door. That used an old TDD, or telecommunications device for the deaf. With a keyboard and a VFD display, it fit right into the feel of the set. But [Joel] went the extra mile to make it a practical piece, by recording the modulated tones from the acoustic coupler and playing them back, to make it look as if a message was coming in. The airlock door looks great too.

Like many hacks, it’s pretty impressive what you can accomplish with a deep junk pile and a little imagination. But if you’ve got a bigger budget and you need some computer displays created, we know just the person for the job.

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[Ben Krasnow] Looks Inside Film Camera Date Stamping

Honestly, we never wondered how those old film cameras used to put the date stamp in the lower right-hand corner of the frame. Luckily, [Ben Krasnow] does not suffer from this deplorable lack of curiosity, and his video teardown of a date-stamping film camera back (embedded below) not only answers the question, but provides a useful lesson in value engineering.

For the likely fair fraction of the audience who has never taken a photo on film before, cheap 35-mm cameras were once a big thing. They were really all one had for family snapshots and the like unless you wanted to invest in single-lens reflex cameras and all the lenses and accessories. They were miles better than earlier cartridge cameras like the 110 or – shudder – Disc film, and the cameras started getting some neat electronic features too. One was the little red-orange date stamp, which from the color we – and [Ben] assumed was some sort of LED pressed up against the film, but it ends up being much cooler than that.

Digging into the back of an old camera, [Ben] found that there’s actually a tiny projector that uses a mirror to fold the optical path between the film and a grain-of-wheat incandescent bulb. An LCD filter sits in the optical path, but because it’s not exactly on the plane of the film, it actually has to project the image onto the film. The incandescent bulb acts as a point source and the mirror makes the optical path long enough that the date stamp image appears sharp on the film. It’s cheap, readily adapted to other cameras, and reliable.

Teardowns like this aren’t fodder for [Ben]’s usual video fare, which tends more toward homemade CT scanners and Apollo-grade electroluminescent displays, but this was informative and interesting, too.

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3D-Printed Film Scanner Brings Family Memories Back To Life

There is a treasure trove of history locked away in closets and attics, where old shoeboxes hold reels of movie film shot by amateur cinematographers. They captured children’s first steps, family vacations, and parties where [Uncle Bill] was getting up to his usual antics. Little of what was captured on thousands of miles of 8-mm and Super 8 film is consequential, but giving a family the means to see long lost loved ones again can be a powerful thing indeed.

That was the goal of [Anton Gutscher]’s automated 8-mm film scanner. Yes, commercial services exist that will digitize movies, slides, and snapshots, but where’s the challenge in that? And a challenge is what it ended up being. Aside from designing and printing something like 27 custom parts, [Anton] also had a custom PCB fabricated for the control electronics. Film handling is done with a stepper motor that moves one frame into the scanner at a time for scanning and cropping. An LCD display allows the archivist to move the cropping window around manually, and individual images are strung together with ffmpeg running on the embedded Raspberry Pi. There’s a brief clip of film from a 1976 trip to Singapore in the video below; we find the quality of the digitized film remarkably good.

Hats off to [Anton] for stepping up as the family historian with this build. We’ve seen ad hoc 8-mm digitizers before, but few this polished looking. We’ve also featured other archival attempts before, like this high-speed slide scanner.

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