“I’m Back” is back once more with a new digital film canister for 35mm SLRs

Oct 10, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

“I’m Back” is back once more with a new digital film canister for 35mm SLRs

Oct 10, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I'm Back Film

Promises of devices that let you convert your 35mm SLRs and other cameras to digital have been coming ever since DSLRs started to take hold in the early 2000s. There have been one or two devices out there, but there’s a holy grail.

I’m Back is a company that’s produced a number of film to digital conversion systems over the years, as big clunky grips that also add a digital sensor. Now, though, they might have hit that holy grail. A 35mm film canister-sized device that works in any 35mm camera.

Holy Grail Analogue to Digital Conversion?

It’s called I’m Back Film, and as you can see from the images above and below, it’s a 35mm canister-sized device at one end with a ribbon cable coming out of it attached to a sensor. Another ribbon cable appears to be coming off the other side of the sensor in the second image, which presumably (somehow) is used to control the exposure.

The reason this is the most desirable holy grail of conversion products is because, hypothetically, you can use it with any 35mm camera. Most analogue to digital conversions have been camera-specific or limited to a range of cameras.

I'm Back Film

I’m Back’s previous 35mm to digital camera conversions worked this way. The original announcement came in 2017 with a failed Kickstarter campaign. In 2018, the world received an update, and a new Kickstarter campaign, which succeeded. There were even some demo units on the floor at Photokina 2018.

After a slight medium-format detour in 2019, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2020 for the I’m Back 35. It listed compatibility with over 50 different models of 35mm SLR, but it was still just a clunky bolt-on grip.

The ideal solution, the holy grail, would be something that could simply slot inside the camera in place of the 35mm film roll. And that’s what I’m Back appears to be offering now with the aptly named “Film”. This means not just SLRs, but compacts, too!

It’s kind of been vaporware for the past two and a half decades. Could it finally be here?

Not a Full-Frame Sensor

Now, there is one big caveat. It’s not a full-frame sensor. It’s not even an APS-C sensor. But don’t worry, it’s not a teeny tiny smartphone sensor. It’s Micro Four Thirds. This means all your lenses will present with a 2x crop compared to using actual 35mm film.

I'm Back Film

The company provides a semi-transparent mask to place over your camera’s focusing screen. This allows you to see the Micro Four Thirds composition that you’ll actually be shooting. The image above on the right shows the amount by which the scene will be cropped.

If they can pull this off, I think I might have to pick one or two of these up. I’ve got some cameras here I’d love to be able to shoot regularly, but without the cost and hassle of film all the time. I’d be very keen to see the prices once they’re announced.

Price and Availability

At the moment, pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Although, it looks like the company is once again taking to Kickstarter to launch the product. The campaign is not yet live, but it’s expected to launch on October 14th.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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46 responses to ““I’m Back” is back once more with a new digital film canister for 35mm SLRs”

  1. samellos Avatar
    samellos

    “The image in the article is incorrect, as it actually shows a photo taken with our filter, and therefore, the central area is equivalent to the same photo taken with a full-frame camera. So, it’s true that we are using Micro 4/3 sensors, but we have found a cost-effective solution to ensure that the captured image is equivalent to a full-frame sensor within the Micro 4/3 sensor. This makes the I’m Back Film an attractive option for those who want the image quality of a full-frame sensor without the high associated costs. I hope this clarifies the issue.

    Our approach aims to balance quality, cost, and versatility, making the I’m Back Film an affordable and creative tool for photography enthusiasts who want to breathe new life into their old and beloved analog cameras.” Look my example here; https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/38525e8986f98fa6cbd6243e8aed5bbd57c95d1ef1f39c155596ed5377e49065.jpg

    1. Leo @ Image Melbourne Avatar
      Leo @ Image Melbourne

      That is an interesting idea, but the wide angle adapter looks sized to fit small – medium size lenses only. What is the largest filter size it can be used with?

      1. samellos Avatar
        samellos

        Entendi, aqui está a tradução revisada:

        Our filter will have a size of 62mm and will come with 5 adapters for smaller lens sizes. We believe that larger dimensions will not be necessary, as they are typically for telephoto lenses.

  2. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    Until there’s a full-frame version this is IMHO absolutely pointless. And even then, it’s never going to be anywhere close to as useful as a genuine DSLR.

    This would have been revolutionary 20 years ago. Now it’s just meh.

  3. Michael Jay Avatar
    Michael Jay

    Every 5 years or so for last 20-25 years this pops up again.

  4. Sean P Sullivan Avatar
    Sean P Sullivan

    Kickstarter. No thanks

  5. Jukka Jalkanen Avatar
    Jukka Jalkanen

    “we have found a cost-effective solution to ensure that the captured image is equivalent to a full-frame sensor within the Micro 4/3 sensor.”
    0.35x wide angle adapter. 😁

  6. Thomas Davies Avatar
    Thomas Davies

    I loved this idea first time round, would be great to be able to use it in all manner of quirky cameras without worrying about the cost of film

  7. Suirad Tram Avatar
    Suirad Tram

    What is the ideal behind this?
    You can adapt classic lenses with ease on mirrorless cameras.
    If you really want to use a film camera, use it for the joy and character of film.
    If all that fails, buy a Fuji or a Nikon. They do modern interpretations on digital.
    Huge fail once again

    1. Martin Tran Avatar
      Martin Tran

      Suirad Tram it’s the tactile feel of it all. Basically, it’s like an Epson RD-1.

    2. Robert Gonzales Avatar
      Robert Gonzales

      Suirad Tram those modern interpretations are mirrorless cameras. They simply don’t make cameras like they used to. People want an optical viewfinder and the nice all metal feel something like a canon, Nikon or Leica have. Having a brass body is such a nice feel although heavy, and these cameras can be had for less than the price of a new lens

    3. Suirad Tram Avatar
      Suirad Tram

      Robert Gonzales the quality of film and the of the film cameras should keep people only on film. There’s no need to for this joke again

  8. Gil Balden Avatar
    Gil Balden

    When this becomes available I will buy it in a heartbeat, assuming the price is not astronomical. I have several full frame SLRS on the shelf that I would love to be using.

  9. David Minick Avatar
    David Minick

    another fundraising scam. their track record sucks. ignore.

  10. Eric Friedemann Avatar
    Eric Friedemann

    Ohhh, FFS!

  11. Frank Götz Avatar
    Frank Götz

    Vor 20 Jahren wäre das eine Meldung wert gewesen, heute nutzlos wie sonst was. Spiegellose Kameras lösen die DSLR ab, die bekommt man hinterher geworfen. Und selbst Einsteigermodelle liefern vermutlich bessere Bilder als diese Konstruktion. Und meine analogen Schätzchen: die bekommen einen schönen Kodak, Ilford etc. eingefädelt und machen wunderbare Abzüge.

  12. Larry Wiezycki Avatar
    Larry Wiezycki

    Post again when it’s full frame lol

    1. Mike Houghton Avatar
      Mike Houghton

      Larry Wiezycki it’s not really possible in 35mm without replacing the entire backs of cameras (Leica Digital Modul-R style), because the 35mm sensor’s overall package size is too large to fit where the sensor needs to be while placing the sensor at the film plane. (Look at how large the package is for a four-thirds sensor in the photo above).

      Personally I think we’re at the point where adapting lenses is easier and more practical.

  13. Monty Rakusen Avatar
    Monty Rakusen

    Sadly it’s a nonsense. It would need to be the thickness of the film to focus accurately.

    1. Mark Hahn Avatar
      Mark Hahn

      Monty Rakusen no, the sensor has to be placed at the same distance the film’s emulsion sits, which it can, the thickness just makes the film pressure plate push it tighter. There are many othe problems though.

  14. Matti Lehtonen Avatar
    Matti Lehtonen

    How do you rewind it before opening the camera

  15. Daniel Bell Avatar
    Daniel Bell

    There are so many technical reasons why this is hard to do… and so many necessary compromises. I’m not sure you could actually build something where the advantages outweigh the problems. Right off the bat, an MFT sensor means I couldn’t use the lenses I want to use.

  16. Greg Cracker Carrick Avatar
    Greg Cracker Carrick

    Presumably the images are stored inside the canister shaped bit of plastic… Does that house a micro-USB card? How many images can be stored? How does the user download the images? If this is practical, I’d use it :)

  17. 陳宥源 Avatar
    陳宥源

    李俊霆 來

    1. 李俊霆 Avatar
      李俊霆

      陳宥源 好好笑,被嗆ㄌ

    2. 陳宥源 Avatar
      陳宥源

      李俊霆 確實…

  18. Nicolaie Costel Avatar
    Nicolaie Costel

    The nikon zf is here so ..

  19. Aljoscha Sokolov Avatar
    Aljoscha Sokolov

    2x crop?? rip

  20. Matija Miklaužić Avatar
    Matija Miklaužić

    I can’t comprehend that…
    If I shoot with analogue camera I’ll put film in it.
    After that I can scan flim…
    If I want to shoot digitally I’ll choose my digital camera.
    If I want to try vintage lenses I’ll put an adapter on my digital camera.
    In which case should I use that?

  21. Mark Janes Avatar
    Mark Janes

    Sounds like it might appeal to those who enjoy the film-shooting experience and like to digitise their work, but want to avoid the scanning step and cost of film. For me one of the attractions of film is the creative limitation of having one type and speed of film in the camera at a time, so I’d drop the touch screen adapter and instead enable the “canister” to be programmed outside the camera with film type and speed before “loading”. Personally, for digital capture with old-school ergonomics, I still think Fujifilm occupies the sweet spot with their X-pro line.

  22. Miles Thompson Avatar
    Miles Thompson

    I remember talk of this in camera magazines ages ago. You would need a live view to your phone or a screen to get the exposure correct, so not very likely. Just buy a digital camera or put film in your old camera. Interesting Pentax are talking about making film cameras again, possibly they hadn’t noticed how much a role of film is now £9+ then developing and printing on top.

    1. Scott Merrick Avatar
      Scott Merrick

      Miles Thompson apparently from an article I read a good 20% of the Japanese market is still shooting film.

      With that sort of market I’m surprised Pentax is the only one looking into it with the camera market shrinking like it is.

  23. Miela Mikkel Bachmann Avatar
    Miela Mikkel Bachmann

    I don’t really understand why people would want this; The whole idea and charm of using a old school SLR is the way film works, the limitations of film.

    If it’s the look of old school SLRs then Olympus pen.

  24. Christopher Sforza Avatar
    Christopher Sforza

    Is this too little too late?

  25. Marilyn RP Smith Avatar
    Marilyn RP Smith

    Truth is, you might as well get a secondhand Olympus or panasonic and an m42 or whatever lens adaptor. Id be surprised if this worked better in any way.

  26. Jason Canavaggio Avatar
    Jason Canavaggio

    Angel Foice

  27. Michael Gstettenbauer Avatar
    Michael Gstettenbauer

    war doch 20 Jahren doch schon ein Flop

  28. Ács-Farkas Krisztián Zsolt Avatar
    Ács-Farkas Krisztián Zsolt

    Not gonna work! It’s not even 35mm. Also not the film size thin! Not worth the effort.

  29. Tony Lee Avatar
    Tony Lee

    A digital attachment for film camera is more viable than this

  30. Tristan Noel Avatar
    Tristan Noel

    Part of me would like a medium format version of this for a laugh, to throw in my old Ciroflex, but the sensor will almost certainly be crap, and honestly I can’t be arsed enough to care.

  31. David EP Avatar
    David EP

    So it’s a thousand dollars for a 2x crop?? That’s strike one.

    It’s Kickstarter, so that’s strike two.

    I don’t even need a strike three.

  32. Andrew Graham Avatar
    Andrew Graham

    Forrest Pittard

  33. John Adams Avatar
    John Adams

    Cool, another go at vaporware. Get excited for more product, don’t even get to buy more product

  34. Paolo Ciccone Avatar
    Paolo Ciccone

    No need for this at all. Just put a nice roll of film in that SLR and you’ll get awesome pictures. Film is fine and it delivers better than ever

  35. John Harvell Avatar
    John Harvell

    But why. Load up film and develop it.

  36. Riley Mangan Avatar
    Riley Mangan

    Damn I kinda don’t care