Digital back for film cameras? For real?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by wogears, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. Some of us may remember the April Fool's hoax about the "digital film". This here sucker appears to actually be real. Yes, it's a gawd-awful kludge as far as I can see, but what matters is that it exists. Not that I'd buy one...
  2. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I wonder how much it'll cost. Not that I'd be buying one either.
  3. Seems to be about 175 euro from the Kickstarter.
  4. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    beegeedee likes this.
  5. The local shop has a Hasselblad-branded back made by Phase 1 to fit V-system cameras. It's an older model back, and truthfully I don't know what type of storage it takes(I'd hope decent capacities at 39mp) or what the power source is. I think that while it CAN be used in the field, it's more of a studio device. $4000 and it could be yours...
  6. I'll believe it when they pry it into my warm live hands.

    Much as I would like to cut myself free from film, I doubt that this will fit more than one or two of my 200+ film bodies, at most.

    I'm also enthusiastic about 3-D -- but I haven't yet bought a 3-D TV. (Maybe when there is a 3-D version of Them).
  7. Canon made a modified F-1 with a digital back. Never went on sale, though.

    stuart_templeton and wogears like this.
  8. As JDMvW says "I'll believe it when I see it." I know enough about manufacturing to know he can't produce a product for his $99K startup budget. Using the Rasberry Pi is a good idea, but if he's writing the firmware for the camera, he's gonna have a million hours invested in code before it takes one photo.
    beegeedee likes this.
  9. There's another for my F-1 collection :)

    I think there were also a few F4s that NASA modified with low-res B&W CCDs.
  10. "New life for your 35mm." OOooh. Meh. If you want to use your film cameras, they do still make film - just use them as intended. If you want to shoot digital, get one and use it. The concept of using just one camera for everything makes no sense to me.
  11. I don't get the appeal of the idea. Wasn't there a similar device using 35mm lenses in front of smart phone cameras? Wouldn't bigger, hardware only, versions cobbling early MILCs onto MF &/ LF make a bit more sense, at hopefully even lower cost?
  12. Kodak experimented with a digital back for the Nikon F3HP. Don' t know if it ever went to market in that form, but they showed up on the surplus market some years ago.
  13. I don't doubt that they can produce these systems - they've already produced (allegedly) a numbers of working prototypes.

    The real problem with this setup is something not yet mentioned here - perhaps it's gone unnoticed? Their system places a "focusing screen" where the film would normally have gone, then a small digital camera is mounted behind that. They are essentially using a tiny-sensor camera to photograph a focusing screen. They're not trying to hide this fact, either - they come right out and say it (see the section on how it works). So the bottom line is that it won't be able to produce the image quality of a "legitimate" digital back.

    But perhaps the general public won't notice this, and they'll buy into the project. It may have a good life as a niche product for "artistic" scenes, not unlike the "TtV" (through the viewfinder) fad a few years ago, albeit with probably much better quality (they must have specially selected their focus screen).

    Personally, I would love to have a high-quality digital "insert" for some of my older film cameras - for what purpose I don't really know. But this is not it.
    Karim Ghantous and wogears like this.
  14. I kind of agree with you. What is the purpose? The purpose to me for using film cameras is for authenticity and the art of the process and its enjoyment along with some nostalgia. Maybe for those who want the older lenses just come up with ways to mount older lenses on digital cameras
  15. Some of us are more into the machinery than the medium used to record the image.
    Besides almost all of my favorite films are gone, deceased, or shuffled off this mortal coil, so to speak.
    shall we ever see its like again? I think not, but camera RAW can let me get closer than I can with film
  16. Certainly all the old lenses have been resurrected for smaller than FF camera bodies. As they always say the lens is for always. I try to buy the good ones. But then again, resurrection is tougher than giving birth---old saying ..
  17. Bill is right - it's one of the first things about this idea that made me scratch my head. Focusing screen?? Really?? Now, I'm all for free enterprise - in a free market, you can have stupid crap if you willingly pay for it. That's cool. But as Judge Judy says, don't pee on my shoes and tell me it's raining.

    This device has to be one of the most unintelligent pieces of photographic equipment I have ever seen. If you like old lenses, you can adapt them to cameras like the Sony A7. And you'll get good performance out of them, for the most part. I'm really trying to wrap my head around this regressive product. I have no problem with something like Leica's DMR - it basically looks like a motor winder with its own back. But with this device, or at least the prototype, the rear box would likely get in the way of the VF.

    A product of this type should let you use your 35mm camera normally. Not only is there a box sticking out the back, but you need to stick a mobile phone to the thing as well. And speaking of phones, I'd rather use a late model iPhone than a 35mm camera with this digital back. Mobile phones are not suitable for professional work but they would give much better results overall.

    It's odd what passes for a good idea these days. But, every generation has its delusions. Today, we're supposed to applaud the Hyperloop even though it is not viable. I suppose it is better for people to idolize unworkable technology than obsessing over racial purity. Progress!

    And then there's the awful branding and promo videos with no narration, awful footage and over-used cutesy stock music. But I've said enough.
  18. I know this really isn't what the topic is talking about, but none the less here's another example of the "digital back" idea.


    Many of you all will know this, but the Fuji FinePix Pro DSLRs were somewhat common up until the mid-2000s. I think the S1 was the first sub-3K DSLR on the market. Even after more affordable cameras were available, they stuck around with some wedding photographers. The "Super CCD" allowed more dynamic range than conventional CCDs and also allowed some limited highlight recovery(albeit nothing like a modern sensor). Many photographers also thought they gave better skin tones-or at least better caucasian skin tones-than any other digital then on the market. Also, the "weird" staggered arrangement of the photosites, combined with using two pixels per photosite, allowed images to be upsampled reasonably well to higher resolution. Fuji advertised the resolution as double the number of photosites(which did reflect the actual number of pixels) although in the "real world" the results were roughly equal to a conventional CCD with 1.5x the number of photosites.

    All of that aside, the Fuji didn't build their own cameras, but rather went to Nikon for the bodies. The S1(pictured above) very much has the feel of a digital back grafted onto an N60. In fact, for a lot of purposes you treat them as two separate systems. It requires two CR123A batteries in the hand grip(just like N60 and most other low end to mid range film SLRs of the era, and even the F6 today) that power the "camera" functions. This includes the meter, shutter, mirror, autofocus, built in flash, and all the associated duties with these. The top LCD only shows the shutter, aperture, and status of the camera battery.

    The "digital" part, consisting of the sensor, playback LCD, all controls of these, and recording(to either a SmartMedia card or a CF) are handled by four AA batteries in the base. As best as I can tell, there's limited communication between the two systems-the "digital" part tells the camera the set ISO so it can compute exposure, and the camera part tells the digital part when the shutter has been activated(and for how long) so it can turn on the sensor. It also won't operate with either set of batteries dead. The camera even SOUNDS like an N60 when it operates-you can hear the motor that cocks/resets the shutter and associated parts running for 1/2 second or so, which is about how long it takes an N60 to advance a frame of film. Also, like most low end Nikon AF film SLRs it will not focus AF-S(or AF-I) lenses-autofocus via the single point is screwdriver only.

    The S2 had the same "split personality" but I understand it was integrated somewhat better(I've not owned an S2). It also moved up to the N80 body(also the basis for the Kodak DCS 14n and Nikon's own D100) which gave a small speed boost and probably-more importantly-much better AF. It has 5 point AF, is much more sensitive, a lot faster(it both processes faster and has a larger motor) and supports AF-S lenses. The S3 still used the N80 body, but managed to power everything off of one set of 4 AAs(supplied NiMHs) and also integrated the two systems a lot better(i.e. custom functions can be viewed/adjusted on the playback LCD)-the big downfall is that the camera is slow as molasses if you have the quality settings on high. The S5(which I've not used) supposedly is where they FINALLY got it-the body is based on the D200 so is digital from the ground with seamless control integration. It runs off an Li-Ion battery that's suspiciously similar in size, shape, and appearance to the EN-EL3a used in almost all other Nikon DSLRs of the era, but unfortunately is different enough that it's not interchangeable(and also requires its own charger).
    Glenn McCreery likes this.
  19. This would be interesting on my Minolta X700....but it would make my F5 HUGE.

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