Today, most of us carry supercomputers in our pockets that happen to also take instantly-viewable pictures.This is something that even the dumbest phones do, meaning that we can reasonably draw the conclusion that photographic capability has become a basic feature of everyday carry, a necessity of 21st century life.
Despite the unwashed masses of just-plain-bad photographs clouding the digital landscape, photography itself remains as important as ever so we can retain and disseminate information as history unfolds. In a sense, the more instant, the better — unless it comes at the cost of image quality. The invention of photography is on par with the printing press or with language itself in that all three allow us to communicate within our own time as well as preserve The Way Things Were in frozen silence. And no invention made vivid preservation more convenient than the instant camera.
This week on Hackaday, we featured a project that tickled my nostalgia bone, and proved that there are cool opportunities when bringing new tech to old problems. Let me explain.
[Muth] shared a project with us that combines old-school analog photography printing with modern LCD screens. The basic idea is to use a 4K monochrome screen in place of a negative, making a contact print by placing the screen directly on top of photographic paper and exposing it under a uniform light source. Just like the old ways, but with an LCD instead of film.
But what’s the main difference between a screen and film? You can change the image on the LCD at will, of course. So when [Muth] was calibrating out exposures, it dawned on him that he could create a dynamic, animated version of his image and progressively expose different portions of the paper, extending the available dynamic range and providing him the ability to control the slightest nuances of the resulting image contrast.
As an old photo geek, this is the sort of trick that we would pull off manually in the darkroom all the time. “Dodging” would lighten up a section of the image by covering up the projected light with your hand or a special tool for a part of the exposure time. With [Muth]’s procedure, he can dodge the image programmatically on the per-pixel level. We would have killed for this ability back in the day.
The larger story here is that by trying something out of the box, applying a new tool to an old procedure, [Muth] stumbled on new capabilities. As hackers, we’re playing around with the newest tech we can get our hands on all the time. When you are, it might be that you also stumble on new possibilities simply afforded by new tech. Keep your eyes open!
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As the world becomes more and more digital, there are still a few holdouts from the analog world we’ve left behind. Vinyl records are making quite the comeback, and film photography is still hanging on as well. While records and a turntable have a low barrier for entry, photography is a little more involved, especially when developing the film. But with the right kind of equipment you can bridge the gap from digital to analog with a darkroom setup that takes digital photographs and converts them to analog prints.
The project’s creator, [Muth], has been working on this project since he found a 4K monochrome display. These displays are often used in resin 3D printers, but he thought he could put them to use developing photographs. This is much different from traditional darkroom methods, though. The monochrome display is put into contact with photo-sensitive paper, and then exposed to light. Black pixels will block the light while white pixels allow it through, creating a digital-to-analog negative of sorts. With some calibration done to know exactly how long to expose each “pixel” of the paper, the device can create black-and-white analog images from a digital photograph.
[Muth] notes that this method isn’t quite as good as professional print, but we wouldn’t expect it to be. It creates excellent black-and-white prints with a unique method that we think generates striking results. The 4K displays needed to reproduce this method aren’t too hard to find, either, so it’s fairly accessible to those willing to build a small darkroom to experiment. For those willing to go further, take a look at some other darkroom builds we’ve seen in the past.
What is a photograph? Technically and literally speaking, it’s a drawing (graph) of light (photo). Sentimentally speaking, it’s a moment in time, captured for all eternity, or until the medium itself rots away. Originally, these light-drawings were recorded on film that had to be developed with a chemical process, but are nowadays often captured by a digital image sensor and available for instant admiration. Anyone can take a photograph, but producing a good one requires some skill — knowing how to use the light and the camera in concert to capture an image.
The point of a camera is to preserve what the human eye sees in a single moment in space-time. This is difficult because eyes have what is described as high dynamic range. Our eyes can process many exposure levels in real time, which is why we can look at a bright sky and pick out details in the white fluffy clouds. But a camera lens can only deal with one exposure level at a time.
In the past, photographers would create high dynamic range images by taking multiple exposures of the same scene and stitching them together.Done just right, each element in the image looks as does in your mind’s eye. Done wrong, it robs the image of contrast and you end up with a murky surreal soup.
Years ago, doing your own darkroom work was the only way to really control what your pictures looked like. In those days, coffee was what kept you going while you mixed another batch of noxious chemicals in the dark and fumbled to load a tank reel by feel. But did you know that you can process black and white film with coffee? Not just coffee, of course. [Andrew Shepherd] takes us through the process using what is coyly known as Caffenol-C.
Apparently, the process is not original, but if you’ve ever wanted to do some film developing and don’t want exotic and dangerous chemicals, it might be just the ticket. The ingredients are simple: instant coffee, washing soda, water and –optionally — vitamin C powder. If nothing else, all of this is safe to pour down your drain, something you probably aren’t supposed to do with conventional developers that contain things like formaldehyde and methyl chloroform.
How do you get better pictures from a 20+ year old Game Boy Camera? How about marrying a DSLR lens to it? That’s what [ConorSev] did and, honestly, the results are better than you might expect as [John Aldred] mentioned in his post about the topic. You can check the camera out in the video below.
While there might not be anything new with this project, using a high-quality lens on the toy makes for some interesting photographs, and you wonder how far you can push this whole idea. Of course, no matter how much of a lens you put on the front, you still have to contend with the original image sensor which has hardly well. Still, we were impressed at how much better things looked with a high-quality zoom lens.
We bet the original designer of the Game Boy Camera never imagined it would have the kind of zoom capability you can see in the video. We love seeing these little handhelds pushed beyond their limits. Cryptomining? No problem. Morse code? Piece of cake.
If you’ve ever tried to document a project on your workbench with photos or videos, you know the challenge of constantly moving tripods to get the right shot. [Mechanistic] is familiar with this frustration, so he built a small desktop camera crane.
Heavily inspired by [Ivan Miranda]’s large camera crane, this build scales it down and mainly uses 3D printed parts. The arm of the crane can pivot along two axes around the base, uses a parallel bar mechanism to keep the camera orientation constant through its vertical range of motion. The camera mount itself allows an additional 3 degrees of freedom to capture any angle and can mount a DSLR or smartphone. To offset the weight of the camera, an adjustable counterweight is added to the rear of the arm. Every axis of rotation can be locked using thumbscrews.
We can certainly see a crane like this being useful on our workbench for more than just camera work. You could create attachments for holding lights, displays, multimeters, or some helping hands. For some tips on creating an engaging project video check out [Lewin Day]’s excellent video on the subject.