digital conversion?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jerry_moore|1, Oct 18, 2014.

  1. I've got a ton of money invested in magnificent Topcon Super D cameras and lenses. Now they're dinosaurs! How hard would it be to convert one of those removable film compartment backs to digital?
  2. It would be very hard. Search the internet for e-film, although that was vaporware you may get a idea of the difficulties
    they met in developing a digital cartridge to replace film. Just think of the exact placement of the sensor and syncing the exposure button/shutter with the dgital electronics.
  3. SCL


    Exceptionally difficult - many have tried and given up in frustration with a variety of manufacturer's bodies. Get a miicro 4/3 body and $15 generic lens adapter and enjoy using your lenses again in the digital world (with a 50% crop factor).
  4. I haven't looked for one but an adapter to allow use of Exakta/Topcon mount lenses on a Canon EOS seems just barely possible.
  5. For now your most obvious course of action would be to just scan your negatives. Leica tried something along these lines with the DMR back for the R9. People who have higher end DSLRs are using them with slide copiers of various types to digitize film images. You can also get a Micro 4/3 camera and use your Topcon lenses with an adapter. Some people have a lot of luck with that arrangement and some find focusing difficult. You need to experiment to see which lenses work well with the digital sensor.
  6. You have a few options:
    • There are micro-4/3 mount adapters to Ekakta, which will work fine with the wonderful Topcor lenses. But you have a 2x crop factor. With the 20/4 crazy expensive, and the 25/3.5 not one of the best Topcors, you're quite weak on wide-angle lenses. Also, it's not an SLR.
    • There are Sony E-mount adapters. No problem with infinity focus, but you're no longer using an SLR. But you have full frame cameras available (Alpha-7), eliminating the crop factor problem.
    • There are Canon EF mount adapters. Most or all of them are a bit too thick to allow proper infinity focus. You can remove the infinity shim from the Topcor lenses as a fudge to allow infinity focus. Just keep track of which one came from which lens to put them back later when you sell the lenses. (This takes some skill at lens repair.) You may also run into mirror clearance problems with some lenses on the full-frame Canon DLSRs. (You probably can find specifics on forums.) With the crop-sensor Canons, no mirror clearance problems, but a 1.6X crop factor.
    • There are eBay sellers selling conversion kits for the lenses that convert them to M42 mount. This is easy, remove four screws and store away a few parts, and use the screws to put on the new mount. (I've read comments that the quality of the adapters currently made not being as good as the original ones.) This opens you up to DSLR cameras from Pentax and Canon. (Nikon cameras are just too thick to adapt to anything else.) Of course, there are also E-mount and micro-4/4 to M42 adapters.
    You will see on that the Topcors are very well respected, being used in all of the above ways.
    Myself, I got a Pentax LX and a set of Pentax-A lenses. Much as I love the Super-D, the LX is a better camera, if not as rugged.
  7. Once there was a company that said they were going to make a digital insert for film cameras. They never delivered and went bankrupt.
    Another company stirred up hopes, but it was a April Fool's joke:
    Dream on. With film developing getting scarce on the ground, much less film itself, those of us who love old cameras, well,......
  8. Shoot film. Film has an attraction all its own. While I don't shoot 35mm any longer, I do use my Medium Format film equipment. There are many people who shoot film. Here's a good site.
  9. it is possible. it is possible but not for us to do.
    despite that there was a story about someone making a lash-up. to create a digital slr.
    there was the "silicon film" project that many believe to be a money-making scam.
    but they did demonstrate a sort of working model.
    This is how I think it would eveove.
    take an average film slr. remove the shutter but keep the lens mount and
    and finder. replace the mechanicalor electronic " works" with digital parts.
    some kind of totally non mechanical shutter would be employed.
    there would be no wind or reqind parts. and likely the shutter speeds and the apertures would be semi automatuc. there would be no auto focus. It would take lenses of that type of camera. Topcon., nikon cann fds, pentax.
    Once one model was produced other brand-compatible models could be produced. then techniocally it would be possible.
    HOWEVER., users would expect a full-framne model.
    the sensor would be expensive. and the camera itself- no lens. would likely be $400-600.
    would you pay that money for a fd compatible digital canon. so you could use 25 year old lenses.
    So we can think all we want but would it sell? would many eb interested.
    could they tolerate no af and somewhat limited ae.
    I really think not.
    Folks dream of their old cars like 55 chevys.
    but would you actually buy one.
    By the timethe digi-cam industry
    gets the price of components to make such a camera the lenses will be too old. and the original FD loving users
    will eb in retirement home collecting social security.
    it is not as simple as taking a film camera a digicam and a scdrewdriver and playing mixee-matchee. I wisk it were.
    possible (yes) likely ( not a chance)
    maybe someone else can see this more clerly.
    Or maybe they have better screwdrivers.
  10. "hard!". there is a Scottish kid dabbling with hacked MILC components inside 3D printed custom backs on older manual rangefinders.
    but lets be honest: If you have lenses it probably makes more sense to adapt these on which ever sensor or camera might take them more or less unhappily, than to rely on a camera core cobbled into your existing SLR, probably just able to record RAW files without any convenience functions offered by the original camera it was ripped from. Paying somebody to build you a conversion on a prototype base might not be cheaper than figuring out how your lenses perform on a Leica M (240), which should be a fine camera and at least resellable in case you don't like the results.
  11. I did as well as I think that "18-year old" did, probably using the same tools.
  12. JDM: I recall that White-Rodgers is a controls manufacturer. Hmmm. I think you converted your film camera to a digital thermostat!
  13. one thing we forgot. Kodak sold converted Nikon cameras as digital cameras..
    IF they could do i 10-15 years ago why could not someone do netter today.
    in my heart of hearts I still want a DIFITAL FD FF body.
  14. Alan, I didn't say what KIND of digital.
  15. Someone made a back for an old 35mm camera using the
    guts of a broken APS-C dSLR. The result was an inferior
    camera with something like a 1/30 max shutter speed, due
    largely to the difficulty of syncing between the
    mechanical shutter and digital back. Also it was a one-
    off involving hours of custom 3d printing and/or CNC
    machining and the startup costs of making it for one
    camera model with mass production techniques would
    pretty much preclude it ever being made profitably.

    Oh, and he had to shave the hot mirror off just to fit
  16. Remember: the camera is just a light tight box between
    the lens and the film/sensor. Most people are having
    much better luck just using a lens mount adapter to use
    lenses in manual stop-down on a mirrorless system body.
  17. As you can see from the examples, doing that would be a huge custom project. Instead I'd shoot film and scan, or put the
    lenses on an adapter and shoot a Sony A7 or A7S.
  18. Even as a DIY deep pockets will be required. I think for now shooting film and scanning is the way to go.
  19. Kodak did it years ago, and made very expensive cameras. I think the Nikons have removable backs, designed for being replaced.
    There are too many affordable DSLRs now to make it worth doing.
  20. It "may" be possible by using a digital back designed for medium format mounted on Hasselblad rails for attaching film backs. It would need to align with the film plane of the camera.
  21. I had dreams of this a few years ago, then decided it was a silly notion and would likely never be a reality. I think I'm much better off doing 'digital conversion' by just shooting film and getting high quality scans made. It really is the ultimate RAW format -- you have a physical neg that will always be great quality, and new scanning technology can always be applied to get better digital files in the future. Whereas digital photos that I shot years ago on an early DSLR are stuck in their inferior quality forever.
    And if you really want the convenience of shooting digital, then the other comments about adapting the lenses to a new digital camera are a much better idea than trying to convert an old camera to digital. That Konica conversion that guy did is pretty amazing though!
  22. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Back about 15 years of so ago a company (I forget the name) claimed to have developed a working prototype for efilm. This one was for the Nikon F5:

    The company stock skyrocketed from $5 a share to $25 a share but the company soon folded.

    At a time when digital cameras had a top resolution of 3MP and most pros still had film cameras and dedicated expensive lenses his would have sold like hotcakes. Most people said it was impossible to have such a small device to be capable of capturing a photo. Today even small cel phones can take photos so I imagine it would not be difficult to make an efilm. Alas, it is too late now as most pros and amateurs have embraced digital cameras or camera phones. They are not about to take that old film camera out of the closet (if they still have one) to use efilm.
  23. The best option you have is getting a Topcon to EOS adapter (see and then use the lenses on a Canon DSLR, or even on a Sony NEX or similar

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