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Convert Any Analog Camera to Digital With This DIY Hack

The additional steps and costs involved with shooting on film often put many photographers off. What if you could have the best of both worlds and use digital in your older film cameras?

Digital and analog cameras have for the most part stayed on opposite sides of the track. There have been several attempts in the past to merge these two worlds but nothing concrete has ever taken off. Enter stage left Befinitiv who recently took it upon himself to build a custom film cartridge for his analog camera so it could act as a digital one.

At the heart of this creation is a Raspberry PI Zero W with a camera module and battery. What I love about this particular incarnation of "digital film" is that all of the electronics fit neatly inside the camera body itself. This crucially means that you don't have to modify your beloved antique cameras in any destructive way which would be a major deal-breaker for many of us.

The video goes on to show the camera in action and we see a few different scenarios of it being used to great effect. Befinitiv talks about the ability to also record video and well as live stream thanks to the particular version of Raspberry PI being utilized. While this creation is not going to replace your regular camera, I can see such a thing being a great addition to your camera bag when you want a certain look to your images or you just want to shoot with one of your older cameras without worrying about buying or developing film. Also worthy of note is that this DIY "digital film" is modeled around the standard 35mm film cartridge which means if you built one of these for yourself it could technically fit in any camera that also accommodates the same size film. If you have some basic electronic skills or know someone who does, you could easily breathe new life into many cameras that haven't seen action for decades.

What do you think of this hack? Are you tempted to give this one a try? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  

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Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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If I were that SLR camera I would either vomit that Raspberry PI Zero W through the lens or dump it through the back door.

Why? This is a fun use of modern technology. I would understand your sentiment if the camera had to be mangled in some way, but it has no impact on it.

I would love to make one of these, or purchase one, and pop it into one of my SLRs or rangefinders and mess with it for an afternoon.

People take things too seriously, photography can be serious, but it can also be fun, experimental, etc.

It would be fun if the sensor were full frame, but with this microscopic one what quality can we expect with such a crop factor, as even a fisheye lens would become a tele lens?
While we are at it, why not put that Raspberry PI Zero W in a 8” x 10” camera? There is more room for the batteries…

Yes that's fair, it needs a larger sensor to make any sense. I believe it can be done, but so far all the kickstarter projects for products like this have gone nowhere. One can continue to hope!

That's pretty cool to see one custom made. 20years ago a company tried to launch their own cartridge but it never materialized.

I'd be more interested in converting my old DSLRs to be able to shoot film. The DSLRS are essentially worthless (value wise) while my film cameras not only work perfectly, they're appreciating in value.

There's film presets for that. :P

I propose an even more funny opposite hack for that:
A film back attached to the DLSR camera, where the film will be exposed by direct contact with the LCD. You rapidly switch on then off the camera to take a picture and while the camera is switched off you advance the film to the next frame. With the LCD brightness set to minimum and ISO 3 copy films…

The sad thing about DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is I don't think they will ever have collector value outside of possibly a few limited run models, stuff like that. Everyone wants the latest tech, biggest sensors, highest IQ, etc.

Film has a timeless quality to it and many of the old SLRs and rangefinders are just gems of manufacturing and design

Looks like could be a fun project for those that like to tinker, but, not really practical.

Fun project. Maybe, just maybe with refinement there could be a desirable product here. likely not for professional use but for a niche fun thing to do. Like maybe LOMO could run with the idea. I built some electronics and modified some film cameras my self and appreciate his effort. Extra interesting as he doesn't seem to be a photographer as he doesn't use the terminology or point out things a photographer would so his approach isn't hung up on those concerns which could maybe be resolved later. I feel a photographers first thoughts might be like how big a sensor can I throw on it and how wide of lenses would be needed to make up for this crop factor and how fast will my shutter speed need be with a shaking sensor. Could I run digital switches to the body for programing controls. Maybe adding a bit of foam so it is more snuggly pinched in place reducing internal sensor shake. I think to fit more camera models I would have the sensor frame on tether to the battery and other components so that it can be more freely moved to fit multiple camera bodies. At least with live view trying to line up the sensor shouldn't be too hard. Adding a memory card slot if there isn't one already might not be to hard. Pretty fun. Won't be surprised if it gets to Kickstarter or something if someone really wants to run with it. I bet tons of people have this idea but it's cool to see an actual home made prototype.