Interesting Optical Journey Results In Hybrid Viewfinder For Smartphones

Fair warning: if you ever thought there was nothing particularly interesting with optical viewfinders, prepare to have your misconception corrected by [volzo] with this deep-dive into camera-aiming aids that leads to an interesting hybrid smartphone viewfinder.

For most of us, the traditional optical viewfinder is very much a thing of the past, having been supplanted by digital cameras and LCD displays. But some people still want to frame a photograph the old-fashioned way, and the optical principles that make that possible are actually a lot more complicated than they seem. [volzo]’s blog post and video go into a great deal of detail on viewfinder optics, so feel free to fall down that rabbit hole — it’s worth the trip. But if you’d rather cut to the chase, the actual viewfinder build starts at about the 23:00 mark in the video.

The design is an interesting combination of lenses and beamsplitters that live in a 3D-printed enclosure. The whole thing slips over one end of a smartphone and combines an optical view of the scene that corresponds to the camera’s field of view with a small digital overlay from the phone’s screen. The overlay is quite simple: just some framing gridlines and a tilt indicator that’s generated by a little Android app. But it’s clear that much more information could be added now that [volzo] has all the optical issues sorted out.

We appreciate this deep dive into something that appears to be mundane and outdated, which actually proves to be non-obvious and pretty interesting. And if you have any doubt about the extreme cleverness of the camera engineers of yore, look no further than this sort-of solar-powered camera from the 1960s.

Continue reading “Interesting Optical Journey Results In Hybrid Viewfinder For Smartphones”

Trinocular Lens Makes Digital Wigglegrams Easier To Take

Everyone likes a good animated GIF, except for some Hackaday commenters who apparently prefer to live a joyless existence. And we can’t think of a better way to celebrate moving pictures than with a 3D printed trinocular camera that makes digital Wigglegrams a snap to create.

What’s a Wigglegram, you say? We’ve seen them before, but the basic idea is to take three separate photographs through three different lenses at the same time, so that the parallax error from each lens results in three slightly different perspectives. Stringing the three frames together as a GIF later results in an interesting illusion of depth and motion. According to [scealux], the inspiration for building this camera came from photographer [Kirby Gladstein]’s work, which we have to admit is pretty cool.

While [Kirby] uses a special lenticular film camera for her images, [scealux] decided to start his build with a Sony a6300 mirrorless digital camera. A 3D printed lens body with a focusing mechanism holds three small lenses which were harvested from disposable 35 mm film cameras — are those still a thing? Each lens sits in front of a set of baffles to control the light and ensure each of the three images falls on a distinct part of the camera’s image sensor.

The resulting trio of images shows significant vignetting, but that only adds to the charm of the finished GIF, which is created in Photoshop. That’s a manual and somewhat tedious process, but [scealux] says he has some macros to speed things up. Grainy though they may be, we like these Wigglegrams; we don’t even hate the vertical format. What we’d really like to see, though, is to see everything done in-camera. We’ve seen a GIF camera before, and while automating the post-processing would be a challenge, it seems feasible.

Continue reading “Trinocular Lens Makes Digital Wigglegrams Easier To Take”

Telephoto Lens Without The Fiscal Pain

If you’re in the market for a telephoto lens, the available range of optics for your camera is limited only by the size of your bank account. So when [Pixels and Prisms] promises a telephoto for $13 USD it has to be worth a second look, right? Where’s the catch.

The lens has a 3D printed shell containing the optics, with associated focusing and aperture, and has a mount designed for Canon cameras to give a result with 163 mm focal length and f/2.5 . When a Canon lens costs many times more it’s evident that there is some compromise involved, and it comes in the lens system being very simple and comprised of off-the-shelf surplus lenses without the great effort put in by the manufacturer to correct distortion. The result is nonetheless a very creditable lens even if not the first choice for a paparazzo in pursuit of an errant politician.

The real interest for us in this open source project comes in it being something of an experimenter’s test bed for lenses. There’s no need to use the combination shown and the design can be readily adapted for other lenses, so spinning one’s own lens system becomes a real possibility. Plus it’s achieved the all-too-easy task of engaging a Hackaday writer’s time browsing the stock of the Surplus Shed.

We’ve featured a lot of lens projects over the years, but they more often take an existing camera lens as a starting point.

Ultimate Bokeh With A Projector Lens

Bokeh is a photography term that’s a bit difficult to define but is basically soft, aesthetically pleasing background blur, often used to make a subject stand out. Also called “background separation” or “subject isolation”, achieving it optically requires a fast lens with an aperture below 2.8 or preferably lower. These lenses can get very expensive, but in the video after the break [Matt] from [DIY Perks] blows all the commercially available options out of the water. Using an old episcope projector, he built a photography rig with background separation equivalent to that of a non-existent 35mm f0.4 lens.

Unlike most conventional projectors used to project a prerecorded image, episcopes were used to project an image of physical objects, like books. To use this lens directly in a camera is impossible, due to the size of the imaging circle projected out the back of the lens. At a diameter of 500mm, there is simply no imaging sensor available to capture it. Instead, [Matt] built a projection screen for the image and photographed it from the opposite side with a normal camera.

The projection screen was made by sandwiching a sheet of diffuser film between two sheets of clear acrylic held in a frame of aluminum extrusions. To block out all other light, [Matt] added aluminum shrouds on either side of the screen, which also serves to mount the lens and a camera. The shroud on the lens’ side is mounted on a separate aluminum frame, enabling the image to be focused by adjusting the distance between the screen and lens. Linear rods and bearings on 3D printed mounts allow smooth motion, while a motor-driven lead screw connected to a wired remote does the actual adjustment. The gap between the two halves was covered with bellows made from black paper. Continue reading “Ultimate Bokeh With A Projector Lens”

Game Boy Repurposed Solely As A Camera

As much as we all love the Game Boy Camera, it’s really just an add-on to the popular handheld console. Twitter user [@thegameboycam] decided to build a dedicated camera platform using the hardware, and the result was the Game Boy DSLR.

Camera pedants will note that it’s not really a DSLR, but that’s not really the point. It’s a Game Boy with the camera accessory built into a proper camera-like housing. There’s a CS/C mount for the lens, and it’s got a custom shell with leatherette, just like the cameras of last century. It’s also got a cold shoe, and a 1/4″ screw thread for tripod mounting. Oh, and strap lugs! So you can really rock that old-school aesthetic with your tweed suit on.

More practical modern features include a 1800 mAh battery that charges over USB Type C and a backlit IPS display.Ā The screen has been turned through 90 degrees, and the cartridge port and buttons are relocated to create a more traditional camera-like form factor. If you really want, though, you can still play it like a regular Game Boy. Just swap out the modified camera cart with the lens mount for a regular Game Boy Camera or another game cartridge.

It’s a fun hack that scores big on style points. No longer can you be the cool kid just by rocking a Game Boy with a big ol’ lens hanging off the back. Now you gotta compete with this!

Our tipsline is waiting for when you’ve got the next big thing in Game Boy Camera hacks. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Game Boy Repurposed Solely As A Camera”

Converting A Sigma Lens To Canon, Digital Functionality Included

These days, camera lenses aren’t just simple bits of glass in sliding metal or plastic housings. They’ve often got a whole bunch of electronics built in as well. [Dan K] had just such a lens from Sigma, but wanted to get it working fully with a camera using the Canon EF lens fitting. Hacking ensued.

The lens in question was a Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG, built to work with a Sigma camera using the SA mount. As it turns out, the SA mount is actually based on the Canon EF mount, using the same communications methods and having a similar contact block. However, it uses a mechanically different mounting bayonet, making the two incompatible.

[Dan] sourced a damaged EF lens to provide its mount, and modified it on a lathe to suit the Sigma lens. A short length of ribbon cable was then used to connect the lens’s PCB to the EF mount’s contacts. When carefully put back together, the lens worked perfectly, with functional auto-focus and all.

It goes to show that a little research can reveal possibilities for hacking that we might otherwise have missed. [Dan] was able to get his lens up and running on a new camera, and has taken many wonderful pictures with it since.

We’ve seen some great lens hacks over the years, from 3D printed adapters to anamorphic adapters that create beautiful results. If you’ve got your own mad camera hacks brewing up, drop us a line!

Laser Brings Autofocus To Tricked-Out Large Format Film Camera

You can’t argue with the results of large-format film cameras — picture the boxy bellows held by a cigar-chomping big-city press photographer of the 1940s — but they don’t really hold a candle to the usability and portability of even the earliest generations of 35mm cameras. And add in the ease-of-use features of later film and digital cameras, and something like a 4×5 Graflex seems like a real dinosaur.

Or maybe not. [Aleksi Koski] has built a large-format camera with autofocus, the “Conflict 45.” The problem with a lot of the large-format film cameras, which tend to be of a non-reflex optical design, is that it’s difficult or even impossible to see what you’re shooting through the lens. This makes focusing a bit of a guessing game, a problem that [Aleksi] addresses with his design. Sadly, the linked Petapixel article is basically devoid of technical details, but from what we can glean from it and the video below, the Conflict 45 is a 4″x5″ sheet-film camera that has a motorized lens board and a laser rangefinder. A short video has a through-viewfinder view showing an LCD overlay, which means there’s some kind of microcontroller on board as well, which is probably used for the calculations needed to compensate for parallax errors during close focusing, as well as other uses.

The camera is built from 3D printed parts; [Aleksi] says that this is just a prototype and that the finished camera will have a carbon-fiber body. We’d love to see more build details, but for now, we just love the idea of an easy-to-use large-format camera. Just maybe not that big.

Continue reading “Laser Brings Autofocus To Tricked-Out Large Format Film Camera”