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06-01-2007, 07:11 PM   #1
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Digital Spotmatic, Here I Come!

I'm not the first to try this, yet I'm sure it is still novel enough to share.

What I want: a manual focus camera with a big, bright viewfinder, a mechanical aperture coupling for either K- or M42-mount, and an interchangeable film/digital back - for less money than a *ist DS.

My solution - take the 'guts' out of a digicam and fashion it to the back of a Spotmatic.

As a proof of concept, I took my Kodak DX4900 (nice colors, crappy interface and controls) digicam and took it apart, flipped the CCD backwards, and slapped it facing the lens of a Ricoh 500G rangefinder. (My Pentax ESII and ME Super don't have interchangeable backs - if someone has a Pentax manual focus film camera with interchangeable backs let me know! For the time being the Ricoh is the easiest to get at.)

For now, I have the digital camera manually set to 1" exposure - I trigger the digital and then within one second snap the film camera. (Any electrical engineers out there who want to help?!?)

Here is the Frankencamera:


And here are some shots with it:




(An abstract, below - I'm going to have to do some calculating to get the sensor in just the right spot. One or two mm off produces some interesting shots indeed.):



So far it works - I'm honestly a little surprised. If I can hack up a proprietary digicam and create something that with a very small step can be incorporated into a modified back for a film camera...why isn't this a marketable product?! How many Spotmatics are still out there? For that matter, how many Nikon F/F2 cameras are still out there?

It looks like on my way to the Digital Spotmatic I've at least come up with the Digital Holga!

Hope you enjoyed,
Sean

06-01-2007, 07:28 PM   #2
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oh man, that is so incredibly cool. I might buy one of the cheap $99 fixed zoom 5mp digi cams that a few department stores around here are selling and try it myself.

Ill have to get my dad to ask around the electrical engineer guys at work about working it all into one neat unit with one shutter button. I wonder how hard it would be to work it all into the internals of the camera?
06-01-2007, 07:33 PM   #3
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Looks like you've been having some fun. Keep sharing your experiments!

PS - I imagine there are lots of "dead" cameras amongst the various forum members - I've got 4 film cameras and 4 digital cameras lying around the house (only one of which - a Spotmatic - I've never actually used). Just can't part with them though . . . .
06-01-2007, 07:41 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by -spam- Quote
oh man, that is so incredibly cool. I might buy one of the cheap $99 fixed zoom 5mp digi cams that a few department stores around here are selling and try it myself.

Ill have to get my dad to ask around the electrical engineer guys at work about working it all into one neat unit with one shutter button. I wonder how hard it would be to work it all into the internals of the camera?
My preference is to find a digicam that has good manual controls - actually allowing me to select 1/60th or 1/125th, ISO 100, f/8 for example. Then I think it would be relatively easy to connect the physical trigger on the film camera to the electrical trigger of the digital. I don't care about - or want - too many controls on the film camera side, except maybe a light meter.

I actually toyed with the idea of keeping the light meter on the digicam (which appeared to be a separate item on the Kodak) but the ribbon cable wasn't long enough. Ask your dad's EE friends how easy it is to extend ribbon cables like that, because I'd like more room with the CCD as well but am afraid to stretch the ribbon cable too far.

06-01-2007, 07:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by betsypdx Quote
Looks like you've been having some fun. Keep sharing your experiments!

PS - I imagine there are lots of "dead" cameras amongst the various forum members - I've got 4 film cameras and 4 digital cameras lying around the house (only one of which - a Spotmatic - I've never actually used). Just can't part with them though . . . .
Do any of your film cameras have removable backs? If you flip open the back, there should be a little latch on the hinge if they are removable. I know the Pentax MG is removable...not sure of the Spotmatic versions that are.
06-01-2007, 08:17 PM   #6
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Great work!

How about using the flash sync (from the hotshoe?) to trigger the digital shutter?
06-01-2007, 08:58 PM   #7
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If they can fit a digital camera into my cell phone, there is no reason in the world (other than $$$, of course) they can't make some sort of "drop-in" solution for doing digital on a 35mm film body. The battery/electronics/memory would all have to fit in something resembling a 35mm film cartridge, and the sensor would have to be very thin and protrude out to the side, over the image window.
06-01-2007, 09:20 PM   #8
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Some one (Kodak?) developed a digital back for Nikon about 8 years ago. I saw one in a display case at a computer/digital trade show in Brisbane for about $6000. That was when 3mp was a huge sensor.

Did a check - not Kodak but a company called Silicon Film. There is an article here that tells all - Electronic film focuses on low power, high image quality - 7/5/2001 - EDN


Last edited by Arjay Bee; 06-01-2007 at 10:44 PM.
06-01-2007, 09:30 PM   #9
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Please keep the research and development going! I'm in the market for a digital back for my Spotmatic! Perhaps the Germans can inspire you but please, try to get the Spotmatic D-Back priced somewhat lower than 6 grand...

Shutterbug: Leica’s DIGITAL-MODUL-R
06-01-2007, 10:10 PM   #10
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Carpents

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5 may be a good candidate. It has great manual controls and a very intuitive user interface. The sensor was a 4mp 1/1.8" CCD. It is really sensitive to IR.
06-01-2007, 10:48 PM - 1 Like   #11
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Idea

What Pentax should do is take the original K1000 or spotmatic and simply put a digital sensor in where the film would be. The memory shoud be built-in (8gb) and there should be a discrete USB port where the old batteries used to be. The camera would be powered by two AAA batteries that would go where the film canister used to be. Wouldn't that just be perfect? No screen, no AF, no auto shutter, nothing!

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06-02-2007, 05:39 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
...there is no reason in the world (other than $$$, of course) they can't make some sort of "drop-in" solution for doing digital on a 35mm film body.
QuoteOriginally posted by Arjay Bee Quote
Did a check - not Kodak but a company called Silicon Film.
Mike & Arjay - I've seen the Silicon Film debacle before. One big disincentive for their idea was that the big manufacturers (Nikon, Canon, Oly) wouldn't be interested in the R&D expense since there would be nothing stopping you from using it on a rival brand's camera. I also think Silicon Film was hurt by the downward spiral of prices. One last downside is how small the entire thing would need to be - miniaturization comes at a cost. My wish is for something more like the Leica Digital Modul-R or Mo's K1000 idea below.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
Ole - this is exactly what I'd like to do. I like the idea so much that I actually considered buying one of these myself...until I realized that I could go and get an entire set of FA* glass for the price of an R9/Modul-R/50 f1.4 lens!

QuoteOriginally posted by Rico Quote
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5 may be a good candidate. It has great manual controls and a very intuitive user interface. The sensor was a 4mp 1/1.8" CCD. It is really sensitive to IR.
Thank you!
I'd be happy with a 4MP sensor, especially such a small one. Part of my modifications removed the IR cut filter from the Kodak - talk about IR contamination!

QuoteOriginally posted by Mo Quote
What Pentax should do is take the original K1000 or spotmatic and simply put a digital sensor in where the film would be. [...] No screen, no AF, no auto shutter, nothing!
The K1000 is just a bit too stripped down, but some of the Spotmatics are entirely what I'd love. Once I get everything aligned correctly and the timing set, I'd be OK with removing the LCD - it just gets in the way really.
06-02-2007, 05:41 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisN Quote
Great work!

How about using the flash sync (from the hotshoe?) to trigger the digital shutter?
Now that's a great idea!

I will admit, however, that I know virtually nothing about electronics. If anyone can help describe what I would need to do to connect the output from the flash synch to the shutter on the digicam I'd very much appreciate it!
06-02-2007, 09:39 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteQuote:
ME Super don't have interchangeable backs
Register just for one post!!!

Are you sure the ME super doesn't have an interchangeable back? Mine does. You could buy the date stamp back for them.
06-03-2007, 06:54 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tag141 Quote
Register just for one post!!!

Are you sure the ME super doesn't have an interchangeable back? Mine does. You could buy the date stamp back for them.
Ha ha, welcome to the forum!

If I had to guess, they do have removable backs, but not as easy as (for example) the Nikon F2. I don't have the instruction book for it - maybe I can look it up online.

I went ahead and cut a hole in the back of the F2 and have the sensor fitted nicely in there - I'll share more pictures later.
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