Printed Adapter Puts Vintage Lens Back To Work

While browsing through an antiques shop, [Nick Morganti] came across a Kodak slide projector with an absolutely massive lens hanging off the front. Nearly a foot long and with a front diameter of approximately four inches, the German-made ISCO optic was a steal for just $10. The only tricky part was figuring out how to use it on a modern DSLR camera.

After liberating the lens from the projector, [Nick] noted the rear seemed to be nearly the same diameter as the threaded M42 mount that was popular with older film cameras. As luck would have it, he already had an adapter that let him use an old Soviet M42 lens on his camera. The thread pitch didn’t match at all, but by holding the lens up to the adapter he was able to experiment a bit with the focus and take some test shots.

Encouraged by these early tests, [Nick] went about designing a 3D printed adapter. His first attempt was little more than a pair of concentric cylinders, and was focused like an old handheld spyglass. This worked, but it was quite finicky to use with the already ungainly lens. His second attempt added internal threads to the mix, which allowed him to more easily control focus. After he was satisfied with the design, he glued a small ring over the adapter so the lens could no longer be unscrewed all the way and accidentally fall out.

To us, this project is a perfect application of desktop 3D printing.[Nick] was able to conceptualize a one-of-a-kind design, test it, iterate on it, and arrive on a finished product, all without having to leave the comfort of his own home. To say nothing of the complex design of the adapter, which would be exceedingly difficult to produce via traditional means. Perhaps some people’s idea of a good time is trying to whittle a lens bayonet out of wood, but it certainly isn’t ours.

So it’s probably little surprise we’ve seen a number of similar projects over the years. From monstrous anamorphic adapters to upgraded optics for the Game Boy Camera, it seems there’s a healthy overlap between the 3D printing and photography communities.

3D Printing Your Own Sturdy Lens Caps

Lens caps are important for protecting expensive camera lenses from damage. Dust, grit, and other nasty things will all quickly spoil the quality of a shot, and can even permanently damage a lens if you’re unlucky. However, lens caps are also lost quite easily. Thus, it’s useful to be able to make your own, and [DSLR CNC DIY] has the low down on how to do it. 

The benefit of printing your own lens caps is customization. No matter the oddball size and shape of your lens, when you’re 3D printing your own cap, you can design it to fit. The video also shows off the benefits of being able to embed text right into the body of the cap, so you’re never confused as to which cap goes with which lens. The caps use the metal lever from a binder clip in order to provide the clamping force necessary to hang on to the lens. It’s an improvement over some living-hinge designs that grow weaker over time.

Overall, if you’ve got a bunch of lenses that need a new cap, this could be the project for you. It’s also likely much cheaper and easier than hunting down replacement caps for obscure lenses online. Alternatively, contemplate what you could do with fancy lens adapters. Video after the break. Continue reading “3D Printing Your Own Sturdy Lens Caps”

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Radioactive Lenses

We think of radioactive material as something buried away in bunkers with bombs, power plants, and maybe some exotic medical equipment. But turns out, there are little bits of radiation in the water, our soil, bananas, granite countertops, smoke detectors, and even some camera lenses. Camera lenses? A few decades ago, camera companies added rare elements like thorium to their glass to change the optical properties in desirable ways. The downside? Well, it made the lenses somewhat radioactive.  A post by [lenslegend] explains it all.

Exotic elements such as Thorium, Lanthanum and Zirconium are added to glass mixtures to create the high refractive indexes necessary in sophisticated lens designs. Selection of premium quantities of glass from the large glass pots, stringent spectrophotometric tests after stress and strain checks provide the valuable raw glass for ultimate use in lens elements.
Konica Hexanon Lens Guide, Konica Camera Company, 1972

According to [lenslegend] the practice started in 1945 with Kodak. However, by the 1980s, consumer distaste for radioactive things and concern for factory workers ended the production of hot camera lenses.

Continue reading “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Radioactive Lenses”

One Of The Largest Large Format Cameras You Will Ever Have Seen

When fate lands a very high quality lens in front of you, what do you do with it? If you are [Tim Hamilton], the solution is obvious. Use it in a huge large-format camera.

The lens came from a newspaper magnifier made redundant by digitalisation and used as a paperweight. It’s an extremely high quality piece of optical equipment so seeing it wasted in this way was a source of distress. So after characterising it an enormous scaled-up box and bellows was constructed, and set upon a suitably substantial wheeled tripod.

Instead of a huge piece of film or some unobtainable giant electronic sensor, the image is projected onto a large screen at the rear of the camera. A modern digital camera is mounted inside the box just beneath the lens and photographs the screen, resulting in the feel of the largest of large format cameras with the convenience of a digital format. The resulting images have a special quality to them that recalls pictures from the past, and definitely makes the camera a special if slightly inconvenient device.

This may be one of the larger cameras we’ve featured, but it’s not the first that uses a similar technique.

Analog Camera Goes Digital

The digital camera revolution swept through the world in the early 2000s, and aside from some unique situations and a handful of artists still using film, almost everyone has switched over to digital since then. Unfortunately that means that there’s a lot of high quality film cameras in the world that are gathering dust, but with a few pieces of equipment it’s possible to convert them to digital and get some more use out of them.

[befinitiv]’s latest project handles this conversion by swapping in a Raspberry Pi Zero where the film cartridge would otherwise be inserted into the camera. The Pi is attached to a 3D-printed case which mimics the shape of the film, and also houses a Pi camera right in front of the location where the film would be exposed. By removing the Pi camera’s lens, this new setup is able to take advantage of the analog camera’s optics instead and is able to capture images of relatively decent quality.

There are some perks of using this setup as well, namely that video can be broadcast to this phone over a wireless connection to a computer via the Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty interesting build with excellent results for a remarkably low price tag, and it would be pretty straightforward to interface the camera’s shutter and other control dials into the Raspberry Pi to further replicate the action of an old film camera. And, if you enjoy [befinitiv]’s projects of bringing old tech into the modern world, be sure to check out his 80s-era DOS laptop which is able to run a modern Linux installation.

Continue reading “Analog Camera Goes Digital”

Lego Microscope Aims To Discover Future Scientists

When it comes to inspiring a lifelong appreciation of science, few experiences are as powerful as that first glimpse of the world swimming in a drop of pond water as seen through a decent microscope. But sadly, access to a microscope is hardly universal, denying that life-changing view of the world to far too many people.

There have been plenty of attempts to fix this problem before, but we’re intrigued to see Legos used to build a usable microscope, primarily for STEM outreach. It’s the subject of a scholarly paper (preprint) by [Bart E. Vos], [Emil Betz Blesa], and [Timo Betz]. The build almost exclusively uses Lego parts — pretty common ones at that — and there’s a complete list of the parts needed, which can either be sourced from online suppliers, who will kit up the parts for you, or by digging through the old Lego bin. Even the illuminator is a stock part, although you’ll likely want to replace the orange LED buried within with a white one. The only major non-Lego parts are the lenses, which can either be sourced online or, for the high-power objective, pulled from an old iPhone camera. The really slick part is the build instructions (PDF), which are formatted exactly like the manual from any Lego kit, making the build process easily accessible to anyone who has built Lego before.

As for results, they’re really not bad. Images of typical samples, like salt crystal, red onion cells, and water fleas are remarkably clear and detailed. It might no be a lab-grade Lego microscope, but it looks like it’s more than up to its intended use.

Thanks for the heads up on this, [Jef].

Air-Assist Analysis Reveals Most Effective — And Quietest — Methods

If there’s one thing that continues to impress us about the Hackaday community as the years roll by, it’s the willingness to share what we’ve learned with each other. Not every discovery will be news to everyone, and everything won’t be helpful or even interesting to everyone, but the mere act of sharing on the off chance that it’ll help someone else is really what sets the hardware hacking world apart.

Case in point: this in-depth analysis of laser cutter air-assist methods. Undertaken by [David Tucker], this project reads more like a lab writeup than a build log, because well, that’s pretty much what it is. For those not into laser cutters, an air assist is just a steady flow of air to blow smoke and cutting residue away from the beam path and optics of a laser cutter. It’s simple, but critical; without it, smoke can obscure and reflect the laser beam, foul lenses and mirrors, and severely degrade cut quality.

To see what air-assist methods work best, [David] looked at four different air pumps and compressors, along with a simple fan. Each of these methods was compared to a control of cuts made without air assist. The test was simple: a series of parallel lines cut into particle board with the beam focused on the surface at 80% power, with the cut speed slowly decreasing. It turned out that any air-assist was better than nothing, with the conspicuous exception of using just a fan, which made things worse. Helpfully, [David] included measurements of the noise levels of the compressors he tested, and found there’s no advantage to using an ear-splitting shop compressor over a quieter aquarium air pump. Plus, the aquarium pumps are cheap — always a bonus.

Not sure how to get up to speed with lasers? Laser Cutting 101 might be a great place to start.