Turning A Sony Into A Leica Through Extreme Camera Modding

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.

Reon Pocket Keeps You Cool With A Peltier Element

With another summer of heatwaves leaving its mark on our planet, finding a way to stay cool during the day isn’t an easy task. From the morning and afternoon commute in public transport, to busy crowds outside during lunch hour, there are many times when you cannot just find a place inside an airconditioned room to deal with the heat. Exactly for this purpose Sony has successfully completed a kickstarter (in Japanese) on its corporate ‘First Flight’ crowdfunding platform for the Reon Pocket.

Many people probably aren’t aware of Sony’s crowdfunding platform, but it’s a way to gauge the interest from the public for more ‘out there’ products, which do not fit Sony’s usual business model. In this case the Reon Pocket is a Peltier-based device which is placed against the back of one’s neck, from where it can either lower or increase the body’s temperature, reportedly by -13 ℃ and +8.3 ℃ respectively.

Covered in more detail by Engadget and its Japanese sister site, the reported 24 hour battery life refers to the Bluetooth link that connects the device with one’s smartphone, whereas the battery lasts under two hours with the peltier element active. This is probably not too shocking to anyone who knows how a peltier element functions, and how much electricity they consume.

Still, the basic concept seems sound, and there are functioning prototypes. While a 2-hour battery life isn’t amazingly long, it can be just the thing one needs to keep one’s cool during that 15 minute walk to the office in a three-piece suit, without needing a shower afterwards. The device isn’t expensive either, with a projected ¥12,760 (about $117) supplied. Naturally the device will only be on sale in Japan.

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Forget The Walkman: It’s The Headphones

Forty years ago this month, a product was launched  in Japan that would have such a huge impact on the consumer electronics market that we are still using its descendants today. The story goes that one of the Sony founders would listen to music while traveling for the business, and found the company’s existing products cumbersome and awkward so asked his engineers to design something more convenient.

The resulting prototype became the Sony MDL-3L2, a set of miniaturised hi-fi headphones with distinctive foam earpads and a sliding metal headband that in total weighed an astoundingly svelte 45 g. It was paired with a cassette player called a “Walkman” derived from the company’s existing recorder that had been intended for journalists, and went on to sell in the millions. The market for headphones would never be the same again, and if you have a set of lightweight cans in your possession then this was their revolutionary progenitor.

But Hang On, What’s So Special About Headphones?

You probably won’t have heard the Walkman’s 40th anniversary described in those terms in the various reports covering the event, because of course the social impact of the portable music player rather than its headphones is what people remember. The joy of making a mix tape, of listening to The Human League on the bus, and of the adult disapproval of anything involving Kids Having Fun. Previously, music had been a static affair involving bulky record players, but now it could be taken anywhere. The other youth audio icon of that era, the boombox, simply couldn’t match the Walkman, and everybody wanted one.
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Raspberry Pi Cyberdeck Inspired By Rare MSX

When we see these cyberdeck builds, the goal is usually to just make something retro-futuristic enough to do William Gibson proud. There’s really no set formula, but offset screens coupled with large keyboards and a vague adherence to 1980s design language seem to be the most important tenets.

Granted the recent build by [lewisb42] still leans heavily on those common tropes, but at least there’s a clear lineage: his Raspberry Pi retro all-in-one is styled after a particularly rare bright red variant of the MSX that Sony released in Japan. Known as the HIT-BIT HB-101, some aficionados consider the circa-1984 machine to be the peak of MSX styling. Since getting his hands on a real one to retrofit wasn’t really an option, he had no choice but to attempt recreating some of the computer’s unique design elements from scratch.

The faceted sides were 3D printed in pieces, glued together, and then attached to a 1/4″ thick backplate made out of polycarbonate. For the “nose” piece under the keyboard, [lewisb42] actually used a piece of wood cut at the appropriate angles with a table saw. The top surface of the computer, which he calls the FLIPT-BIT, is actually made of individual pieces of foamed PVC sheet.

If all this sounds like a big jigsaw puzzle, that’s because it basically is. To smooth out the incongruous surfaces, he used a combination of wood putty, body filler, spot putty, and more time sanding then we’d care to think about. For the 3D printed surface details such as the screen bezel and faux cartridge slots, he used a coat of Smooth-On’s XTC-3D and yet more sanding. While [lewisb42] says the overall finish isn’t quite as good as he hoped, we think the overall look is fantastic considering the combination of construction techniques hiding under that glossy red paint job.

As for the electronics, there’s really no surprises there. The FLIPT-BIT uses a keyboard and touchpad from Perixx, a seven inch TFT display, and of course the Raspberry Pi 3. The display runs at 12 V so [lewisb42] used a combination of a generic laptop-style power supply and a 5 V step-down converter to keep everyone happy. While it doesn’t currently have a battery, it seems like there’s more than enough room inside the case to add one if he ever wants to go mobile.

If this build doesn’t properly scratch your Neuromancer itch, never fear. Just take a look at this decidedly less friendly-looking build that even includes a VR headset for properly jacking yourself into the matrix.

Replacement Batteries For The Sony Discman

Some of the first Sony Discmans included rechargeable batteries. These batteries were nickel metal hydride batteries (because of the technology of the time) and are now well past their service life. The new hotness in battery technology is lithium — it offers greater power density, lighter weight, and a multitude of ready-to-go, off the shelf cells. What if someone were to create a new battery pack for an old Sony Discman using lithium cells? That’s exactly what [sjm4306] did for their entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The Discman [sjm] is working with uses a custom, Sony-branded battery based on NiMH technology with a capacity of around 500 mAH. After carefully measuring the dimensions of this battery, it was replicated in plastic with a 3D printer. This enclosure was then stuffed with a small lithium cell scavenged from a USB power bank.

The only tripping points for this build were the battery contacts. The originally battery had two contacts on the end that fit the Discman exactly; these were replicated with a small PCB wired up to the guts of the USB powerbank. The end result is a direct, drop-in replacement for the original Discman battery with a higher capacity, that’s also rechargeable via USB. It’s a fantastic project, with the entire build video available below.

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The CD Is 40, The CD Is Dead

The Compact Disc is 40 years old, and for those of us who remember its introduction it still has that sparkle of a high-tech item even as it slides into oblivion at the hands of streaming music services.

There was a time when a rainbow motif was extremely futuristic. Bill Bertram (CC BY-SA 2.5)
There was a time when a rainbow motif was extremely futuristic. Bill Bertram (CC BY-SA 2.5)

If we could define a moment at which consumers moved from analogue technologies to digital ones, the announcement of the CD would be a good place to start. The public’s coolest tech to own in the 1970s was probably an analogue VCR or a CB radio, yet almost overnight they switched at the start of the ’80s to a CD player and a home computer. The CD player was the first place most consumers encountered a laser of their own, which gave it an impossibly futuristic slant, and the rainbow effect of the pits on a CD became a motif that wove its way into the design language of the era. Very few new technologies since have generated this level of excitement at their mere sight, instead today’s consumers accept new developments as merely incremental to the tech they already own while simultaneously not expecting them to have longevity.
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PlayStation Classic Hacked Live On Stream

When Sony announced they planned to release their own classic/mini/plug-n-play system this year, many fans were filled with excitement at the chance to relive countless classic games from the 90s. However, once the actual list of titles were made public that excitement faded as reality set in. So many favorites like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were left off the final PlayStation Classic list, no doubt due to the complexity of licensing agreements. That will all soon change now that [YifanLu] cracked the PlayStation Classic live on a Twitch stream thus laying the ground work for swapping-in a “more curated” list of classic PlayStation games.

Over the course of three days, [YifanLu] documented the process in real-time of cracking the PlayStation Classic’s security armed with little more than a keyboard. The crux of the hack came from fellow hacker [madmonkey]’s revelation that the firmware update files were signed with a key that had been mistakenly left behind on the device by Sony. Or as [YifanLu] stated, “One key is, ‘Hey am I Sony?’…The other key is saying, ‘Hey I am Sony.’ They distributed the key that identifies [themselves] uniquely and this key doesn’t expire for another 50 years or so.”

Once inside [YifanLu] was able to sideload a prototype image of a Crash Bandicoot over USB. He simply overwrote the first title on the list, Battle Arena Toshinden, and could launch the freshly injected game from the PlayStation Classic menu screen. The video below is from Day 3 of the PlayStation Classic hacking series, so skip to timecode (03:44:45) to see the results in action. For a bit more nuance there are another 15 hours or so of video to catch-up on [YifanLu]’s Twitch page. Here’s to everyone getting their favorite onto the PlayStation Classic in the near future.

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