SLR To DSLR Conversion Becomes Full Camera

At least as far as the inner workings are concerned, there’s not a whole lot of difference between an single-lens reflex (SLR) camera that uses film and a digital SLR (DSLR) camera that uses an electronic sensor except the method for capturing the image. So adding the digital image sensor to a formerly analog camera like this seemed like an interesting project for [Wenting Zhang]. But this camera ballooned a little further than that as he found himself instead building a complete, full-frame digital camera nearly from scratch.

The camera uses a full-frame design and even though the project originally began around the SLR mechanism, in the end [Wenting] decided not to keep this complex system in place. Instead, to keep the design simple and more accessible a mirrorless design is used with an electronic viewfinder system. It’s also passive M lens mount, meaning that plenty of manual lenses will be available for this camera without having to completely re-invent the wheel.

As far as the sensor goes, [Wenting] wanted something relatively user-friendly with datasheets available so he turned to industrial cameras to find something suitable, settling on a Kodak charge-coupled device (CCD) for the sensor paired with an i.MX processor. All of the electronics have publicly-available datasheets which is important for this open-source design. There’s a lot more work that went into this build than just picking parts and 3D printing a case, though, and we’d definitely recommend anyone interested to check out the video below for how this was all done. And, for those who want to go back to the beginnings of this project and take a different path, it’s definitely possible to convert an analog SLR to a digital one.

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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!