As digital photography has become so good, perhaps just too good, at capturing near-perfect pictures, some photographers have ventured back into the world of film. There they have found the imperfections requiring technical skill to cope with that they desire, but they’ve also come face-to-face with the very high cost and sometimes sketchy availability of film stocks. From this has come the so-called post-digital movement which marries analog cameras and lenses with digital sensors, and of this a particularly nice example comes from [Michael Suguitan]. He’s taken a classic Leica M2 rangefinder camera, and built a new back for it containing a Raspberry Pi Zero and sensor.
Perhaps the best thing about this conversion, and something which should propagate forward into other builds, is the way it does not hack or modify the original camera beyond the replacement of the already-removable back. A vintage Leica is a pricey item, so it would be a foolhardy hacker who would proceed to gut it for a digital conversion. Instead he’s mounted everything that makes a digital camera, the sensor, Pi Zero, and screen board, behind the camera body. The Pi shutter trigger comes from the Leica’s flash terminal, meaning that there’s plenty of time for it to take a photo while the shutter is open.
He’s admirably preserved the usage and properties of the Leica, and his photographs as can be seen in the video below the break bear testament to what is possible with the camera. He still has to work with the tiny sensor size though, meaning that all photographs are at a much higher zoom level than on the original. We would love to see a camera conversion like this one that incorporates appropriate lenses to bring the picture to focus on this small sensor.
We won’t own a Leica any time soon, but we like this conversion. It’s by far the most sympathetic, but it’s not the first rangefinder conversion we’ve seen.
Continue reading “A Non-Destructive Digital Back For A Classic Leica” →
The advent of the high-quality version of the Raspberry Pi camera has given experimenters a good-enough quality camera system that they can use it to create better devices than mere snapshot cameras. It’s been used by experimenters for some exciting projects, but so far, very few of them have broken away from the Pi camera’s C-mount lens system. [Tom Schucker]’s Pieca is an interesting departure then, because it takes the Pi HQ camera into new territory by using Leica rangefinder lenses.
There are enough Pi camera projects that by now the process of setting one up should be pretty well known. This one is a bit different in its use of a focal length reducer, mounted inside a 3D-printed Leica lens mounting plate. The result is that the Leica lens is better matched to the much smaller size of the Pi camera sensor compared to a 35mm frame.
The camera’s aesthetic design is on the chunky side, probably because of the choice of a Pi 4 rather than a Pi Zero. It remains very usable though, and produces photographs with a distinctive feel. You can see more in the video below the break. Meanwhile if you aren’t lucky enough to own a stable of Leica lenses, perhaps you could think about adapting more common optics? We’ve seen it before with the original Pi camera.
Continue reading “Pieca Is A Pi Camera With Some Very Nice Lenses” →
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!
The quality of a photograph is a subjective measure depending upon a multitude of factors of which the calibre of the camera is only one. Yet a high quality camera remains an object of desire for many photographers as it says something about you and not just about the photos you take. [Neutral Gray] didn’t have a Leica handheld camera, but did have a Sony. What’s a hacker to do, save up to buy the more expensive brand? Instead he chose to remodel the Sony into a very passable imitation.
This is a Chinese language page but well worth reading. We can’t get a Google Translate link
to work, but in Chrome browser, right clicking and selecting “translate” works. If you have a workaround for mobile and other browsers please leave a comment below.
The Sony A7R is hardly a cheap camera in the first place, well into the four-figure range, so it’s a brave person who embarks on its conversion to match the Leica’s flat-top aesthetic. The Sony was first completely dismantled and it was found that the electronic viewfinder could be removed without compromising the camera. In a bold move, its alloy housing was ground away, and replaced with a polished plate bearing a fake Leica branding.
Extensive remodelling of the hand grip with a custom carbon fibre part followed, with significantly intricate work to achieve an exceptionally high quality result. Careful choice of paint finish results in a camera that a non-expert would have difficulty knowing was anything but a genuine Leica, given that it is fitted with a retro-styled lens system.
We’re not so sure we’d like to brace Leica’s lawyers on this side of the world, but we can’t help admiring this camera. If you’re after a digital Leica though, you can of course have a go at the real thing.
Thanks [fvollmer] for the tip.
There’s nothing quite like waiting for something you’ve ordered online to arrive. In [Alex]’s case, he’d ordered a new Leica camera, only to find out there was a six month backlog in shipping. Wanting to whet his thirst regardless, he decided to investigate the Leica website, and reverse engineered a whole heap of camera firmware. As you do.
[Alex] didn’t stop at just one camera, instead spreading his interest across whatever firmware Leica happened to have online at the time. This approach led to improved effectiveness, as there were similarities in the firmware used between different cameras that made it easier to understand what was going on.
There are plenty of surprise quirks – from firmwares using the Doom WAD data format, to compression methods used by iD software in old game releases. [Alex]’s work runs the gamut from plotting out GUI icons on graph paper, to building custom tools to tease apart the operation of the code. Sample components were even sourced from connector manufacturers to reverse engineer various accessories, too.
[Alex]’s methodical approach and perseverance pays off, and it’s always interesting to get a look under the hood of the software underpinning consumer devices. We’ve even seen similar work done to decode the mysteries of Pokemon cries.
[Thanks to JRD for the tip!]
[Eugene] wanted to use his vintage Leica M4 as a digital camera, and he had a Canon EOS 350D digital camera sitting around unused. So he Frankensteined them together and added a digital back to the Leica’s optical frontend.
It sounds simple, right? All you’d need to do is chop off the back from the EOS 350D, grind the digital sensor unit down to fit into exactly the right spot on the film plane, glue it onto an extra Leica M4 back door, and you’re set. Just a little bit of extremely precise hackery. But it’s not even that simple.
Along the way [Eugene] reverse-engineered the EOS 350D’s shutter and mirror box signals (using a Salae Logic probe), and then replicated these signals when the Leica shutter was tripped by wedging an Arduino MiniPro into an old Leica motor-winder case. The Arduino listens for the Leica’s bulb-flash signal to tell when the camera fires, and then sends along the right codes to the EOS back. Sweet.
There are still a few outstanding details. The shutter speed is limited by the latency in getting the signal from the Leica to the 350D back, so he’s stuck at shutter speeds longer than 1/8th of a second. Additionally, the Canon’s anti-IR filter didn’t fit, but he has a new one ordered. These quibbles aside, it’s a beautiful hack so far.
What makes a beautiful piece of work even more beautiful? Sharing the source code and schematics. They’re both available at his Github.
Of course, if you don’t mind completely gutting the camera, you could always convert your old Leica into a point and shoot.
If you think there’s a gun inside that camera you’ve been fooled. We just like the juxtaposition of the 1940’s era camera with the iconic sidearms. What you see is a point-and-shoot cameras inside of the classic Leica II body (this is actually a Zorki 1 knockoff). It is much like the Canon AE-1 hack but this time there’s plenty of build details.
Digital camera makers try to get the smallest form factor possible and consequently the inside of those things is a nightmare of tiny parts and intricate connections.The Sony DSC-WX1 is no exception, and even the battery is disassembled to fit inside. See the final product and its features in the video after the break.
Continue reading “Point And Shoot In A Classic Camera Body” →