This DIY gadget captures and saves metadata for your film photography cameras

Jan 30, 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.

This DIY gadget captures and saves metadata for your film photography cameras

Jan 30, 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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One of the great things about digital photography is that it stores metadata within the files of each your photos. It allows you to have a permanent, searchable archive of every image you’ve ever shot. Right now, I can quickly and easily go search for any photograph I’ve shot in the last 21 years (I switched to DSLRs in ’02) and see exactly what camera and lens I used, as well as the exposure settings and other information.

Film doesn’t really do this, though. After all, it’s an analogue medium. At best, typically, we might see the date and time impressed upon the image itself during capture but beyond that… Not really. This device, though, from Alessandro Genova helps you to capture the settings for every film photo you ever take. And it even has a built-in light meter!

The device (film-memo) is built around an Arduino-like board. In this case, that was the Adafruit ItsyBitsy ATmega32u4 dev board, a device similar to the Arduino Pro Micro. It features a built-in light meter, which constantly measures the light levels and adjusts the exposure reading on the top display. You then dial those settings into your camera and when you hit the shutter, it also captures the metadata digitally alongside the film in your camera that’s capturing the image.

Side note: The device connects to the camera’s hot shoe, so presumably, it uses the single-pin flash trigger signal to know the camera’s been fired. If your older film camera doesn’t have a hot shoe, you might need to mod a PC Sync cable into this thing.

You can override the exposure settings on the meter, though, if you know exactly what exposure you want to shoot based on other meter readings, forcing the device to capture the correct information when you hit the shutter.

It’s a neat device with very few components, really. There’s the microcontroller (Adafruit ItsyBitsy ATmega32u4), a 128×64 pixel OLED display with an I2C controller, a couple of standard rotary encoders, a photo transistor, a 1K resistor, battery, enclosure, hot shoe mount and other bits… If you can claim a hotshoe from a broken flash, awesome. Then your total cost for the rest of the stuff to build one will probably be under $50.

Alessandro says this was a holiday project that allowed him to combine a couple of his hobbies together. And he’s posted all of the code, schematics and details for construction over on GitHub. This looks like it could actually be a fun and useful project for those of us who always forget to take written notes!

[via Hackster]

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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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