Camera Hacker


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Converting a old camera into a digital camera

Do you know anywhere/anyone who can tell me how to convert old cameras so they use a 'ccd' (charged coupled device) instead of film. I am sure I have seen it done somewhere before but do not know where or who was converting these old cameras.

I would like to do this myself, so if anyone has any plans documents that can tell how to convert a old camera to digital I would be oblged.


Richard Clarke
Fri, 23 Jul 2010 10:22:25 +0000

I just discovered this forum. Originally there was a company who claimed to be creating something that would fit in a standard camera and produce digital images, but IIRC, the company was actually a giant fraud to separate investors from their money.

Anyway, I've had this obsession for about a year now to make a camera shell that looks like the iconic newspaper photographer camera from the 1930's and 1940's (i.e. Speed Graphics, etc.), but I can put my current digital camera inside.

To that end, I've bought a few view cameras on ebay. The first camera I bought was a 4x5 Seneca Chautauqua body, but my wife decided it was too nice to wreck, so it sits on my shelf. I then bought a Speed Graphic 4x5 camera, and this looks like it is in good condition, so I'm hoping some day to actually put some 4x5 Fuji instant film through it (the lens is clear and I paid to have it cleaned, etc.). Also, in looking at the two 4x5 bodies, there really wasn't enough room for my superzoom and DSLR cameras, so I started looking for a 5x7 body instead.

Eventually I found a Kodak Pony Premo 5x7 body in my price range. I was able to take the lens out, and put my E-P2 inside. The lens board in the Kodak Premo is rather small, and I can only fit the kit lens of the E-P2 inside. Since I use it indoors, I would like to be able to us a faster lens. I have to fix the focal length of the lens, so I have to go really old school with a prime lens.

In my first iteration, I had the camera on the outside, and now I have rigged up a holder, so I put the camera inside the body, and close the flap when I'm not shooting.

I bought a Leica clone 40.5mm lens hood, that I use to attach the lens to the lens board, and by sticking out you see the lens is a lens. It is a little fiddly and I generally have to play with it when I adjust the focal length so that the lens can focus once again.

Now, given digital cameras tend to have the lens off center because they don't need to have a film take up roll, I have to jam the camera all the way to the right side, to get the lens roughly centered. Unfortunately, the E-P2 puts the wired shutter release on that side, and I've been loathe to make any permanent modifications to the Kodak donor body. So I worked up a simple holder for a mechanical film shutter release and used it. Afterwards, I found an ebay seller that sells a little stand with a shutter release cable for cameras like the E-PL1 that don't support an electronic shutter release, and I just got it.

My current project is to build a prototype to hold my larger Olympus E-3. I'm using an 8x8" shadowbox as the frame, and I picked up a red bellows, and so forth. Right now, it is a work in progress, and I'm investigating how to be able to zoom the DSLR lens from within the setup.

I've taken the camera setup in various incarnations now to several renaissance faires, a steampunk festival, and a science fiction convention, and I've gotten a lot of comments about it.

I have two albums that hold pictures of the work in progress. The first album is where I've collected the various hacks and things I've gotten for my E-P2, including pictures of this setup: . . .

The second album, I have some preliminary pictures from my new prototype: . . .

Here are pictures in the album that shows the Kodak Pony Premo before I started putting the E-P2 inside. . . .

I don't know if pictures show up on this site, but here is a picture of me in my costume with the camera: . . .

Here is a picture from a renaissance faire, showing how the camera is setup (it is filming a video of the singer): . . .

Here is a side view, complete with squirrel (Nutzo): . . .

Michael Meissner
Sat, 11 Sep 2010 23:11:02 +0000

Haha. That looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing your trick with us, Michael. Those are great ideas.

Chieh Cheng
Sun, 12 Sep 2010 07:51:59 +0000

Very cool... I've been looking for ideas similar to this. I just bought an old 6mp DSLR for cheap. I intend to remove it's innards and try to find a suitable film camera body where I can put it in. Any tips from the experts? This will be my first DIY/hack... the reason why I want to do this is because I love the feel of old film cameras, but can't do without the instant gratification of new ones... if anyone has ideas, or suggestions, feel free to email me :) [email protected]


Franz A.D. Morales
Mon, 18 Oct 2010 17:01:07 +0000

Sorry, I've been busy with work and a conference.

Franz, it is hard to answer your question, because I'm not sure what you want to do.

Assuming you want to do something like I've done, of putting a working DSLR into an old body, the main problem is finding an old body big enough that would work with a normal DSLR. I first went with a 4x5 body, and then went up to an 5x7 body, and it barely fits. If I went with the full size DSLR, I probably would need to go up to an 8x10 body. On ebay, 4x5 bodies come up regularly, 5x7 come up less often, and 8x10's tend to be rarer or more expensive than I wanted to pay.

Note, the camera that I'm using in an Olympus E-P2 with the 14-42mm lens (40.5mm diameter), which is much smaller than most DSLRs, particularly with normal lenses. I could not put 9 year old C-2100UZ with a 49mm lens in the camera without cutting away more from the lens board, and my E-3 with the 67mm lens would not fit in the opening, even if I cut away the old lens board. Older bellows cameras did not have large lenses in general, because of the difficulty in manufacturing large glass back then, instead they moved the lens further out (with the bellows) to get to the appropriate focal length.

Another problem is that modern digital cameras often don't have the lens centered because they don't need to have a film take up reel like 35mm cameras had. In my E-P2 hack
The way I see it, there are several different approaches:
1) Find a large enough camera shell for your DSLR and lens;
2) Get a smaller camera and put it inside;
3) Build a shell that looks like a view camera;
4) Get an adapter for mounting your DSLR without lens into the camera;
5) Get a 4x5 camera and get the Fuji instant film now that Polaroid is out of business for your instant image fix.

As I said, it can be hard to find an appropriate sized donor body for the larger DSLRs, particularly if you are buying on ebay.

A smaller camera might be an option, depending on how good it is. I have an Olympus SP-550UZ, that would fit in the body, but I really hate using it, because it is so slow in focusing (a DSLR can spoil you).

Right now, I'm starting to build a shell, so that I can put my E-3/14-54mm lens inside. At the moment, I'm looking at a 9x9x4" box that will be big enough to have the lens centered, but still allow me to attach an off camera flash cable.

There are several plans for building your own view camera such as: . . . . . .

There is a company that will offer kits for a DYI camera next year (I was hoping they would sell it this year, but it got delayed):

If you wanted to use your DSLR as a back for a full size monorail camera, there are adapters, and such. With my 5x7, the lens was on the cloudy side, so I wasn't sure it would be feasible to do this but maybe it would have been possible: . . .

Michael Meissner
Mon, 01 Nov 2010 00:31:29 +0000

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