3D printed cartridge turns any 35mm film camera into a digital camera

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YouTuber befinitiv posted a video in which he shows how he updated an old Cosina Hi-Lite film camera with a Raspberry Pi-based cartridge that transformed the analog camera into a device capable of capturing photos and digital videos.

Befinitiv’s video shows all curious minds how to build a custom film cartridge that turns any analog camera into a digital camera. With it, a photographer can drag any 35mm analog camera into the modern world.

“It can do everything you expect from a digital camera these days,” he says. “It can do video, it can stream video over WiFi, and it can store stuff on an SD card.”

As noted Hackaday, the design replaces the film canister that would normally be used with a Rasperry Pi Zero which is attached to a 3D printed enclosure that mimics the shape of the film canister and also houses and secures the Pi camera where the film would normally be exposed to light — behind the camera shutter.

He’s removed the lens from the Pi camera to use his own Cosina camera optics instead and shows how he’s able to take digital photos with the film camera that are of surprisingly decent quality .

“[The Pi camera] behaves like the movie,” he explains.

The custom cartridge is powered by a small battery and converter that are housed in the 3D printed film cartridge section. The whole device fits perfectly into the camera and allows the back plate to close neatly over it.

In addition to turning the film camera into a device capable of capturing digital photos, as mentioned, it is also capable of video functionality. Video can be streamed to a phone or computer over WiFi via the Raspberry Pi.

In his video, befinitiv shows that this particular implementation has, as he puts it, “pretty crazy zoom” due to the small Pi camera sensor, making it hard to see what he’s looking at. That said, it has full access to focus which allows it to get sharp images, despite the zoom.

“I couldn’t really tell from that that it was shot with a 50-year-old camera,” he says, analyzing the video feed. “It pretty much looks like a digital camera to me.”

That’s probably because it is, and the optics of the old film camera are perfectly matched to the small sensor of the Pi camera.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” he concludes. “It actually makes for some interesting and beautiful images. And it’s so weird to have this old school camera doing live streams here over WiFi and recording video. It’s a really weird feeling, but really fun. I can only recommend building something for your cameras as well, as it’s really fun and breathes new life into these things, which I think is always great for high-quality retro-tech items.

To learn more about befinitiv, subscribe to its YouTube channel.

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