This photographer converted a 60-year-old Yashica from analogue to digital

Apr 6, 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 photographer converted a 60-year-old Yashica from analogue to digital

Apr 6, 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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In the years since photographers started transitioning from film to digital in the early 2000s, many companies promised conversion kits. Devices you could put inside a film camera to turn it into digital cameras. None of them ever really materialised. But thanks to devices like the Raspberry Pi, DIY analogue to digital conversions have become quite popular projects.

In his debut video, photographer and YouTuber Malcolm Jay shows off his custom DIY conversion. Inspired by projects such as the Becca Cam, he modified a broken Yashica Electro 35, adding a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W and the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera to bring his 1960s 35mm SLR into the 21st century.

YouTube video

While converting analogue cameras to digital using a Raspberry Pi, or even building them from scratch with the assistance of a 3D printer, has become quite commonplace. What’s interesting about every single one of these projects, though, is that they’re all pretty unique. The very nature of the Raspberry Pi kind of forces this individuality on DIY creators, as it’s basically just a mini PC running Linux.

This means that you can customise it in ways not possible with commercially available digital cameras. You have 100% control over how it works to make it completely your own. If you need a custom feature that other cameras don’t have, you can add it. If you think certain features are superfluous and not relevant to your needs, you can omit them.

Malcolm’s creation is based on the Raspberry Pi Zero 2W and the Pi HQ camera module inside the Yashica Electro 35mm. His video isn’t a complete how-to on building one of these, although he says that will be coming in a future video. Instead, it’s an overview of the system and how it works, along with some samples of the types of images you can shoot with it. However, one of the big challenges he talks about is the sensor size.

The Yashica Electro 35 came with a 45mm f1.7 Yashinon lens fixed to the front. It was not an interchangeable lens camera. The Pi HQ utilises C mount lenses, commonly used in 16mm film and CCTV cameras. The Pi HQ camera also has a pretty tiny 6.287 x 4.712mm sensor, much smaller than the typical 36x24mm of “full-frame”. So, Malcolm’s Frankenstein camera also uses C mount lenses. But he also built his own speed booster, allowing that small sensor to see the full field of view with M42 lenses.

The results shown at the end of the video are very interesting. Some look like they could’ve been shot with any modern digital camera, while others look almost like scans of film stocks from yesteryear. This is largely down to lens choice, with many older lenses having a fantastic character that just can’t be achieved with modern glass. Newer lenses are often chasing perfection. They’re very precise and clinical. That’s not what you always want in a retro-styled DIY digital camera like this.

I can’t wait to see the complete step-by-step guide. I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy a Yashica Electro 35 to convert, but I might have one or two other old broken cameras around here that could work for something like this!

[via Digital Camera World]

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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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One response to “This photographer converted a 60-year-old Yashica from analogue to digital”

  1. Walter Wing Avatar
    Walter Wing

    Small correction to paragraph #2. The Yashica Electro 35 was not an SLR (single lens reflex) camera. “Rangefinder” camera was the term for that camera type back then.