A 3D Printed 35mm Movie Camera

Making a camera can be as easy as taking a cardboard box with a bit of film and a pin hole, but making a more accomplished camera requires some more work. A movie camera has all the engineering challenges as a regular camera with the added complication of a continuous film transport mechanism and shutter. Too much work? Not if you are [Yuta Ikeya], whose 3D printed movie camera uses commonly-available 35 mm film stock rather than the 8 mm or 16 mm film you might expect.

3D printing might not seem to lend itself to the complex mechanism of a movie camera, however with the tech of the 2020s in hand he’s eschewed a complex mechanism in favour of an Arduino and a pair of motors. The camera is hardly petite, but is still within the size to comfortably carry on a shoulder. The film must be loaded into a pair of cassettes, which are pleasingly designed to be reversible, with either able to function as both take-up and dispensing spool.

The resulting images have an extreme wide-screen format and a pleasing artistic feel. Looking at them we’re guessing there may be a light leak or two, but it’s fair to say that they enhance the quality rather than detract from it. Those of us who dabble in movie cameras can be forgiven for feeling rather envious.

We’ve reached out to him asking whether the files might one day be made available, meanwhile you can see it in action in the video below the break.

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The Seductive Pull Of An Obsolete Home Movie Format

It’s dangerous for a hardware hacker to go into a second-hand store. I was looking for a bed frame for my new apartment, but of course I spent an age browsing all the other rubbish treasures on offer. I have a rough rule of thumb: if it’s not under a tenner and fits in one hand, then it has to be exceptional for me to buy it, so I passed up on a nice Grundig reel-to-reel from the 1960s and instead came away with a folding Palm Pilot keyboard and a Fuji 8mm home movie camera after I’d arranged delivery for the bed. On those two I’d spent little more than a fiver, so I’m good. The keyboard is a serial device that’s a project for a rainy day, but the camera is something else. I’ve been keeping an eye out for one to use for a Raspberry Pi camera conversion, and this one seemed ideal. But once I examined it more closely, I was drawn into an unexpected train of research that shed some light on what must of been real objects of desire for my parents generation.

A Thrift Store Find Opens A Whole New Field

One f the surprises comes in just how small this thing is.
One of the surprises comes in just how small this thing is.

The Fuji P300 from 1972 is typical among consumer movie cameras of the day. It takes the form of a film magazine with a zoom lens assembly on its front, a reflex viewfinder on its side, and a handle with a shutter trigger button on it protruding vertically below the magazine and also housing the batteries.

Surprisingly it still has a mercury cell that would have powered its light meter; a minor annoyance to dispose of this correctly. Sometimes these devices had clockwork motors, but this one has an electric motor. It also has a light sensor that is coupled to some kind of electromechanical aperture. It would have been an expensive camera when it was new, probably as much of a purchase as an SLR or a decent mirrorless camera here in 2021.

The surprise came when I opened it up, for it looked like no other 8mm camera I had seen. I’m familiar wit the two reels of a Standard 8 or the boxy cassette of Super 8, but this one used something different. That film magazine is made to fit a compact twin-reel cartridge whose film fits in a metal film gate. This is a Single 8 camera, Fuji’s entry in the all-in-one 8 mm film market, and a format I never knew existed. To explain my unexpected discovery it was necessary to delve into the world of home movie formats in the decade before videotape arrived and drove them out. Continue reading “The Seductive Pull Of An Obsolete Home Movie Format”