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’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.
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.