This 3D printed film canister turns any old camera into a Raspberry PI digital camera

Jul 18, 2021

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

This 3D printed film canister turns any old camera into a Raspberry PI digital camera

Jul 18, 2021

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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If you have a bunch of old analog cameras that you want to use, you may be interested in this Raspberry PI project from befinitiv. According to befinitiv, the module is capable of mimicking a modern digital camera, so you’ll have “everything that you expect from a digital camera nowadays [it] can do video, it can do a stream-video over wi-fi and store things on an SD card.” Obviously, I got drawn in, and I was quite impressed.

Befinitive repurposed an old Cosina camera with a classic 50mm lens. The first step was to mimic the form factor of a film canister, including a short film strip that would cover the sensor. This case is the housing for a Raspberry PI 0W and a RasPI camera module.  With the two combined, the PI can transmit captures images right into the computer.

The actual build is quite simple and would be a great weekend project. It comprises an RPI 0W, a camera module, a small LiIon battery, and a step-up converter. A total of four main parts. The camera module is mounted on the “film strip” part, and the battery goes into the canister.

Then the RPI camera is stripped of its lens, and it will use the original camera lens. This is a nice feature because it will allow you to swap lenses to get different zoom levels. The best feature here is that this digital back loads into the camera like an old film canister.

On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi camera’s sensor is only about 3.68mm wide. Compared to a full-frame sensor, you’d be getting about x10 crop factor. Using the 50mm lens above, you’d be getting the focal equivalent of a 500mm lens. This is quite evident by the camera shake that you see in the video. You would need either a very short lens, a sturdy tripod, or a super bright day to get sharp images.

In the video, Befinitive plays with the focus ring of the lens. Surprisingly, it is giving off quite a pleasant bokeh.

Of course, the camera mechanics are not there, so you would have to keep the shutter open at all times to actually get an image feed.

This kind of reminds me of I am Back, a project designed to bring cameras back to life using a grip style attachment. The sensor there is bigger, but the cost was around 350 dollars. Far greater than the 40-50 dollars that this design will cost you.

[Digital Film Cartridge for Analog Cameras via PP]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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25 responses to “This 3D printed film canister turns any old camera into a Raspberry PI digital camera”

  1. Craigspiderr Avatar
    Craigspiderr

    This is fantastic! I tried doing something like this with the sensors from thrift store point and shoot cameras. I modified a Kodak Duaflex II to use/house the sensor, LCD, and battery. I ran into a lot of problems so I scrapped it. This is so much of an better idea. I would love to see more digital backs. Eventually it would be awesome to some how have a full frame sensor. The logistics of that are a bit difficult at the momment though.

  2. Brian Bledsoe Avatar
    Brian Bledsoe

    An actual DIY Photography project?! Please keep posting stuff like this – This is why we follow this page!

  3. Libby Sutherland Avatar
    Libby Sutherland

    This is the Holy Grail for old timers like me who have been shooting for 40+ years. I still have the Zeiss Ikon Contessa that I cherish, and oh how I hated to sell my old Nikon f4s, absolutely the best handling camera I ever owned even in my smaller female hands. My old Nikon lenses were reused of course on digital SLRs, but giving up the old bodies like my FE-2 was hard. Kudos to the project initiator here —- look forward to more advances in this area.

    1. Chaiwallah Avatar
      Chaiwallah

      I used to own a Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK decades ago and thought the lens, a West German Zeiss 50mm f2.8, was really special. Recently, I found a German man on Etsy who removes old lenses from fixed lens cameras and makes mounts for them, usually m42, using a 3D printer. He had the lens from the Contessa and I bought it. Shooting with it has confirmed that it is indeed a special lens.

      1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
        Libby Sutherland

        Interesting for sure. My parents bought me the Zeiss, used, when I was 14 yrs old. I don’t think I could ever dismantle it? Back around 1982, I was using the camera a lot for travel. Two different people walked up to me and offered me money for it. Couldn’t do it! I wonder if the little old light meter still works on mine. I doubt it.

        1. Chaiwallah Avatar
          Chaiwallah

          You’ll have to use the Sunny 16 Rule. Doing that and guestimating distance and zone focusing will make you a real photographer. I’ve been using the lens on a Sony a7, setting the aperture at f11, aligning the infinity symbol with the f8 mark (for insurance), and everything is in sharp focus from about 6 feet to infinity. Point, frame and shoot, no focusing required.

          1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
            Libby Sutherland

            The old Zeiss actually has split image rangefinder focus. It was always spot on. Now I need to pull this thing out of mothballs and use it again?

            I do have other cams where you need to “guess and shoot” although I have not used them in ages. Should really drag them out. I know I do have film in one of them. It takes 120 and you have to look thru the little red window to guess your frame on the roll. Fun times! Can’t remember the camera name/model though. Was gifted to me by a relative with the original leather case and manual.

          2. Chaiwallah Avatar
            Chaiwallah

            You must have a later model of the Contessa, perhaps the LKE. The LK just had a viewing window. If it has a rangefinder I think you should definitely play with it. I just bought a Kiev 3 Soviet rangefinder to perhaps get back into film in a small way. But I’m in Ecuador, and film development will be a challenge. If you haven’t used the Contessa in a while, it might pleasantly surprise you.

          3. Libby Sutherland Avatar
            Libby Sutherland

            The one I have looks like this

            https://www.flickr.com/photos/s-demir/5424708669/

            I have a box of old film cams here that I need to go though. My friend’s father passed away and they did not know what to do with it. Most is junk, some old 127 stuff. But there are a few gems in there.

            If you plan on using black and white film, you might want to look into alternative development methods if traditional chemistry is hard for you to get. I played around with the Caffenol method a few years back. Had some good success but time became scarce.

          4. Chaiwallah Avatar
            Chaiwallah

            What a pretty camera! I think you should definitely put it back into service. There’s a film developing service in California that provides digital scans as well as prints that I recently read about in a film blog,
            https://thedarkroom.com. You might be interested to check them out. As for me I wouldn’t be interested in shooting black and white unless I could set up a darkroom and get some good papers for printing. I think those days are past, but analog cameras and color print films are something I’d like to get into again on a small scale. As I said I have this Kiev rangefinder and some rolls of Kodak Color Plus 200 on the way. If I can find a mule to carry the exposed rolls to the US for me and send them off to the lab I’ll be very interested to see the results.
            If you have a Flickr account and plan to take some pictures with the Contessa, please send a link. If you’re interested in vintage lenses, you might like to check my account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/101244128@N07/with/51323253287/
            Talk to you later.

          5. Libby Sutherland Avatar
            Libby Sutherland

            With digital processes these days, I get the best of both worlds. I run the film thru the tank and then scan the negatives. Currently I am shooting 120 with my old Mamiya RB67 when I get in the film mood. The thing weighs a ton but I love that camera. I usually save the film projects for the winter months. I will check you Flickr. Haven’t been on there in ages! More later. ;-)

          6. Libby Sutherland Avatar
            Libby Sutherland

            Had a quick look at your flickr and re[lied to you there. You shoot like I shoot LOL!

          7. Chaiwallah Avatar
            Chaiwallah

            Well that’s interesting. Where can I view your work?
            I responded to some of your comments, but the response I made to your planetarium comment didn.t seem to link to you, so you might have to revisit it to see what I wrote. As I said, I look forward to any criticism you might want to make.

          8. Libby Sutherland Avatar
            Libby Sutherland

            I got off of Flickr ages ago when I kept getting those dastardly requests to use my photos for free. It just got to be too much of a hassle maintaining things, so I just took everything down. Website/blog, twatter, everything. Freedom! When I replied to you it was off of a brand new flickr account. I do keep a fakebook account but rarely look at it. Use it mainly for gaming.

            The social media became a time sucking black hole and I said, “Enough!” I really don’t need social media for commercial work because it’s all referral now.

            I have recently acquired a few new fun cameras though including a Sony RX100 VII. Have been playing around with that a little bit so I’ll try and post some images to flick.

  • Howardo Mansfieldio Avatar
    Howardo Mansfieldio

    Sounds impractical.

    1. Jim Avatar
      Jim

      How? Makes film unnecessary……

  • Kirt Olson Avatar
    Kirt Olson

    Simple ways to bring the focus closer include diopter lenses, extension tubes, and reversing rings. Each of these methods uses accessories comparable in price to the components already employed and has a long history in both film and digital photography. All will use only the central portion of the main lens, maximizing performance.

    I’m impressed with the progress so far. Congratulations!

  • David Doonan Avatar
    David Doonan

    are there any instructions on how to construct this rig?

  • Daniel Williams Avatar
    Daniel Williams

    This really needs the hd sensor. It’s not physically larger (eliminating the crop) and a much better sensor.

  • James Head Avatar
    James Head

    Something similar was developed back some time in the late 1990s I remember but failed to take off at time as the quality of the image wasn’t goid enough.

  • Kmpres Avatar
    Kmpres

    Fantastic idea! I have a Canon AE-1 Program with many accessories that’s been my treasure since I bought it in 1980. Took it to my local camera store recently for appraisal and they said it was worthless. Worthless! I was never more insulted! I vowed to figure a way to convert it to digital use without destroying its original film function and this RPi conversion might be just the thing. It just needs a larger CCD sensor to cut down the crop factor. Surely someone out there knows of one that can be mated to the RPi camera interface? I’ll be first in line to buy one either ready made or in DIY kit form.

  • Dunja Djudjic Avatar
    Dunja Djudjic

    Way better than that Yashica scam. :D Great stuff, I’d love to be handy with electronics enough to make this! Or I’ll just ask John :D

    1. dwest Avatar
      dwest

      If you can follow a moderately involved recipe (for baking cooking whatever) then you can follow a tutorial, pause, rewind, watch again until you understand, proceed. I won’t say it’s easy, but broken into smaller steps, each of those steps are like, np..
      You could probably do it. Surprise yourself. RPi is cheap..

  • dwest Avatar
    dwest

    This is a great idea ? ? ?
    I have a few ancient cameras kicking around in some box of junk. Love this idea.

  • Wolfgang He Avatar
    Wolfgang He

    Hi, this is a great Idea that fascinates me since I knew about digital imaging and when my analog camera went temporarily obsolete. Meantime I claimed some IP on this, so let’s come together to get it ready for the market.