The “Paperoid” is a DIY instant camera uses an e-paper display instead of film
Polaroid cameras and photographs played a significant role in the development of photography. When they were first released, they were an instant hit because of the “instant” nature of the cameras themselves. You’d point it at your subject, and within minutes you’d have your fully finished print right there in your hands. It’s that same instant gratification that’s driven digital photography, too. But it’s not quite the same.
This is a pretty neat project by “Cameron” that kind of combines the two, allowing you to create a sort of temporary Polaroid of your scene. It uses an e-paper display – which retains its image when power is removed – to show your photograph. This display can be taken off the camera and attached to your fridge or wherever you want to display it without requiring a power source. Then when you want to shoot another picture, you just put it back on the camera.
On the outside, the camera body and e-paper display housing are 3D printed. They’re very small and compact, and the screen attaches to the camera body itself using magnets. These same magnets allow you to stick it on your fridge or other metal surfaces upon removing it from the camera. The 3D printed housing looks very sleek and minimalist.
On the inside, though, it’s powered by an ESP32 microcontroller with a tiny camera module, along with a custom-made PCB and battery holder. It charges over USB-C and uses the OV2640 2MP camera module. The OV2640 camera module only offers a resolution of 1600×1200, but when the screen the images are being displayed on is only 400×300 pixels, and they’re being displayed in black and white, this camera module is still kind of overkill.
The image is transmitted to the display using NFC. In fact, the display itself is a fully NFC-powered e-paper display, so it doesn’t suck any juice directly from the batteries and requires no other external power source to update. It just needs to be in close proximity to the main camera body. It takes a couple of seconds to update after hitting the shutter and taking a photo, but as it’s not really designed for catching action, I think this is a compromise worth dealing with.
There’s something interesting about the fact that they’re temporary images. Images you capture until you find something else that speaks to you. And when you shoot that photo, the old one is gone forever. Sure, you could build up multiple displays to store and show multiple pictures, but that would get very expensive quickly! That being said, if you did want to save the images for future recall or to transfer to your computer, smartphone or the internet, you’d probably want to add in a microSD card slot or something so that you can save them locally. This would require you to modify the code a bit, though.
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.