Would you buy a product that could do this?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by ryan_warner, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. I asked this question in the Rangefinder Leica forum and got some really excellent feedback, but I'm looking at expanding my research.
    I'm just trying to get a feel for the desire of a product that I'm working on. It's been no small task to this point, and lets just say to continue I need to be convinced that it's worth my time. So, I'm asking this question or various forums to help judge the interest from the film community.

    What if you could record digital images with your film camera? I know it's been tried before but I feel my approach is a bit different. Imagine being able to simply place this device on the back of your film camera and shoot digital images, then quickly swap back to film. Is that a product that you would want to buy? How much would you be willing to pay?

    I'm not talking about a device that could replicate the quality of film, or the simple joy of film, but rather a tool that you could use in place of film. Something you could use to inexpensively put that film camera to use.

    You could use this device to sharpen your rangefinder skills, to learn how to better implement the use of your rangefinder. I mainly have rangefinders in mind due to the fact that if you want to use that old SLR (with a removable lens) you can just buy an adapter for your DSLR body. If I plan to provide this type of device for that market I think the price point would have to be less or equal to an Infinity Converter.

    So what do you think?
    This is not like the silicon film disaster, my approach in how the product works, it's capabilities and limitations differ greatly. It is also nothing like the April Fools joke of e-film or whatever they called it.
  2. I would take a look at what leica did with in the last decade with their R-series SLR. I personally always thought it was a great idea. That particular idea was just to expensive. The medium format market has quite a lot of this in the beggining because many of the digital backs mount on film bodys. The rangefinder market has yet to be tapped and is probally the largest film market that stil exists. I would be interested in hearing the details about this. I personally like the idea as a avid rangfinder collector to beable to do this. Personally i jsut dont have the patience for film anymore working in commercial work but would love to have the abiltiy to use those cameras again easily for a hobby.
  3. Certainly, I would be interested in such a product. How much I would pay would depend on the quality of the product.
  4. Thank you for your input. I have looked at Leica and their approach and solution with the R. I would love to share more with you about the product and it's capabilities, but that will have to wait until I find out if there really is a market for this product. In the meantime you can go to the Rangefinder forum and read what other people have been saying.
    However, I'm a bit hesitant to share this information as it could effect my research...if there isn't a viable market for this product I will be making an in-depth release of all my research and the development phases in hopes that one day the market will be there.
  5. Les. In order to answer the question of how much will it cost, I first need to know how much of a market there is. So, in turn I can then determine how much money I am willing to risk in further development of said product. But just to give you an idea of it's potential numbers. 3-5mp Full Frame .RAW output, ISO range 50-1600.
  6. I would certainly be interested, but I think that it would be marketable only if it was very competitive in price and quality to existing dslr's; if it was much cheaper, it might find a market even if the quality was lower.
  7. the 5mp version would be 2592Hx1944V dpi.
    Well Vick the hard part is determining the market, how big would a low quality market be vs a high quality market. All the research that I've been able to do so far leads me to believe that the market for such a product depends greatly on it's price. I think the per unit cost for a low quality version could be about the same as a Point and Shoot, where a higher end version could tip the "pro-sumer" end of the DSLR scale. I've also been researching a way to produce a very basic version...but I don't know how much I want to pursue that version.
  8. Same old answer as the first ten or fifteen times this has come up (not by you personally, I don't mean that).
    There was a brief shining moment of opportunity for the idea back when most people were shooting with film cameras.
    That is decidedly not the case now.
    Imagine being able to simply place this device on the back of your film camera and shoot digital images, then quickly swap back to film.​
    This is NOT novel, but is exactly what was proposed years ago in a 'vaporware' product that tried to attract investment, but never came anywhere close to coming to market (see the end of the article at the link below).
    I'd bet hard money (and I'm not a gambling man) that there is virtually no market for such a device today. It would have to be very inexpensive to have any demand for it at all, and I can't imagine that it could be cheaper than any number of completely digital cameras.
    I can't see how anything but the most wildly optimistic interpretation of the previous discussion in your first post would have led you to the view that "it's worth my time".
    By the way, the most recent story on this sort of device was only in April of this year, yes, April 1, to be exact.
    The story is here http://www.popphoto.com/news/2011/04/re-35-will-not-turn-your-35mm-film-camera-digital
    Older post on that here on P.net at http://www.photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00ZAsE
  9. I wouldn't be interested, I don't know anyone who would be interested and I certainly wouldn't invest in such a device.
    I'm sure there could be a VERY small market for something like that but certainly not one worth any significant development and manufacturing investment.
    I imagine whatever market there was would be among Leica users since they're just about the only group with rangefinders these days. I have 4 old rangefinders (Canonets, Yashicas etc.) sitting in a shoe box in the basement and there's no way I'd be interested in a digital adapter for them. I suppose if you have $8000 invested in an M series film Leica and lenses and don't want or can't afford a digital Leica body, then an adapter might be something I'd consider if the price was right and it actually worked (i.e. wasn't some sort of awful kludge).
    Don't forget that you're not only competing with P&S and DSLR cameras now, but a whole new family of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras from Nikon, Sony, Pentax (and I assume Canon at some point soon), with buy in prices starting at aropund $600 (with a lens).
  10. BTW posting the same thread in multiple forums is a good way to get one of them deleted. It's against the rules and if one of the moderators takes objection, it will be history. I'm inclined to let it slide this time but one of the other moderators may not feel the same way.
  11. I'd just carry two cameras as I did for several years.
  12. The market for something like this has long disappeared.

    Just take a look on eBay. Thousands of 90s and 2000s model film cameras are trading for $20. I just bought a Nikon
    N90S for $30, for example.

    If the product were introduced 10 years ago, perhaps.

    Everone interested in digital has pretty much already migrated. And are positioned for upgrading. I doubt many people
    are going to want a $1000+ gimmick that they can use in their used $20 Canon or Nikon

    If you could do it in the $100 range, sure. But If the R&D folks at Kodak, Fuji, or Whatever couldn't do it, how can you?
  13. Ryan, have you done any work on hardware implementation or is it all conceptual at this time? It's not trivial to get something like that to work at any performance level so I'm not convinced it's likely to be real unless there are multiple parties participating with keep pockets and diverse talents.
  14. I guess your product will cost approximately the same as a DSLR body of same quality? In such case I think not.
  15. JDM the April event that you reefer to
    is an April fools day joke. But the
    response they got was apparently very
    large. Still trying to determine if it's
    worth my time.

    Thanks Bob.
  16. Ryan,
    You must note that I gave the day as April 1.
    Mark Twain lost his wealth in a scheme for typesetting that duplicated human typesetting motions. It failed because the Linotype idea made the old way of doing it inefficient and uneconomical.
    When people these days want to shoot both digital and film, they throw in two cameras.
  17. While an insert might be done it would exclude many of the abilities of current products, menu's of setup and selections, flash and other camera settings, while also not giving a visual report. You would not be able to provide control access outside of aperture and shutter speed (unless you hacked the body)and it would not report anything more as to the recorded image then film does. Right there as far as I''m concerned you can't compete. I have always felt that digital cameras won the race as much due to the ability to see the picture then for the digital workflow; At least for the general public. As concerns an external application as in Leica's pov, it's just not doable unless it was an accessory for just one type of body and then the model and machine work would probably cost you can arm and leg so your overall cost would be very high in a crappy economy. Your choice would have to come down to an adapted back for M bodies
    Not long ago I posted a response to a thread where I mentioned the possibility of an insert-able sensor with a film canister comprising a computer and memory storage. The sensor would be cold soldered or glued to cover the film gate effectively rendering the body useless for film usage and thus the pressure plate could be pulled for additional room. It would also have to have x/y/z adjustments. Doable, but probably more for people that like to hack things, and therein lies a "possible" very small market and only a nose above water level business if that. Essentially you can't insert a sensor without body mofifications to download and control, and you can't build mulitple adaptive backs.
    I could probably think of a half dozen other accessory projects that would be better ideas with less outlay then what you propose and with better market penetration. I do applaud you for your creativeness, but it's just not a Model T idea.
  18. Twain didn't lose his money because his (invested in) typesetting machine didn't work, he lost his money because the alternate technology was better and had fewer problems.
  19. I will enthusiastically buy such a product six months after it first appears on late night infomercials. That's approximately the time it takes for such a novelty to become available at Walmart for $9.99. At which time I will happily use it in my Nikon F3HP or FM2N, Yashica TLR or Agfa Isolette folder.
  20. "In order to answer the question of how much will it cost, I first need to know how much of a market there is."
    You'll never really know how much of a market there is until the product becomes available and start selling. Further, a target retail price is required to be the very first line-item in the design specification. How would you know what to design if you don't know what it's going to sell for? If you don't know where to start, use "cost x 4" as a baseline for your retail price (where "cost" is equal to the next paragraph amortized plus assembled/tested unit cost).
    "So, in turn I can then determine how much money I am willing to risk in further development of said product."
    The product development cost is often an insignificant fraction of the total start-up cost. Having a thoroughly debugged functional prototype only means you'll be ready for:
    • Manufacturing - including parts sourcing, assembly, testing, packaging, shipping etc; and
    • Distribution - including sales, marketing, dealer network, advertising;
    Providing you have the infrastructure to accommodate these activities and the financing to make it happen at the projected scale.
    "But just to give you an idea of it's potential numbers. 3-5mp Full Frame .RAW output, ISO range 50-1600."
    The project sounds like a pretty big deal to me given the ambitious numbers and features. Not to say it's impossible, but unless you're in the midst of writing a robust business plan and possess the skill set to pull it off , I would say tinker on to the point of at least having a working prototype, then you'll be in a much better position to receive useful feedback and folks will be inclined to take you more seriously.
  21. Without knowing the price it how can one answer such a question?
    If the product is cheap less than $100 I would certainly use it even if it doesn't work very well. It would be nice for testing the camera, taking test shots.
    But I estimate, such a product would cost about the same price as a DSLR camera body of similar quality and the resulting camera would be much bulkier than a DSLR. Similar to the case of the digital back for Leica R. In that case I can't see why I want to buy one.
  22. 5mp digital camera back that attach on a fim camera.. for the price of a better construct, up to date 13mp (a rebel T1i for example)... i dont see why i will buy that? You plan of selling it for the price of a pocket camera, 200-300$ i could have a look, why not... let say if could become a kind of digital polaroid for film user.
  23. Here's the way I see it. Yes there are a lot of people who say “it can't be done” or “it will never happen” or “the market just isn't there” Are they right? To a certain extent yes, they are right on all three counts. However, at some point in time 35mm film will become extinct, or become very costly to use. All these beautifully crafted 35mm cameras will become decorations, or worse trash. How do we, the film loving 35mm shooting community prevent that from happening? I for one don't want to see this happen. Now, I'm not saying “I know for sure without a doubt 100% that 35mm will die” I just can't stand the idea of 35mm being to expensive for a hobbyist to use and I can't stand the thought of all those 35mm rangefinder cameras going to waste. So, how do we prevent 35mm from dieing? How do we avoid wasting cameras with only one minor flaw? We fix that flaw with technology and thereby prolong the life of that camera. Do we have the technology that we need to fix this flaw? I believe the answer is no, we do not have that technology. The next question that we should be asking is how do we create the technology to fix this flaw? I believe that answer is simple, we fix that lack of technology by funding the development of the technology needed to replace 35mm film. We cannot procure the funding to develop that technology if there is no market to support funding that technology. I see it in the simplest form possible, I guess...
    Funding = Market = Technology = The Fix. (this isn't 100% true, sometimes the technology creates the market which then creates the funding, but you get the idea)
    But we can't just start at the beginning, we can't start at the holy grail of 35mm replacement. Silicon Film learned this the hard way. Other industries and technologies have learned that lesson the hard way. Technology doesn't just happen over night, it's a journey it's an adventure, it's a long and often bumpy path wrought with failures and lessons learned. But unless you can prove that the technology is worth the cost of that journey, no one will ever try.
    After reading all the messages and chatting with a number of people I firmly believe that the technology to replace 35mm film does not exist. But there is a hunger for that technology, but it is ever so slight. It's just a miniscule little speck at this point. Does it have the potential to grow? I believe so, and my research points in that direction. However, the product which will grow that market needs to be simple and affordable. It needs to show people the potential for what that technology could do, it needs to give you just enough to make you want more.
    I do not have the knowledge to create the “Holy Grail” to create the technology to replace 35mm film. However, I feel I have the knowledge to create a product that will make people want to create that technology, or at the very least prove that there is that miniscule finite speck of hunger for that technology.
  24. Hi Ryan,
    The approach you need is not a finished component that locks into just one brand of camera. There are different body sizes and styles to consider. So even two or three assembled units are not going to work. It really needs to be a kit of the main components which all easily can be plugged together to work. This way the components can be fitted into the cavity areas where the film used to reside.
    I would be interested in this if the price is right and proven to work. I would not convert back to film once it is done. The sensor will have to be simple so it can be fitted and leveled on the plane where the film used to reside. Then you need the battery to fit onto one of the spool areas and the electronics and storage card fitted into the other spool area.
    I have wanted to convert a Polaroid 95 or 95A to digital. A classy looking folder brought back to life. And think of all of the other old folders or box cameras that might be converted to digital. Then again, smart electronics people would figure out how to hide it all into weird items for taking covert images. So the custom builders could adapt all sorts of items into cameras ala the old box camera approach. However, one has to realize that the sensors cover a lot smaller area than the film in film cameras. It would be nice if the sensor for a Polaroid 95 was the same size as the film area that was exposed. It would be nice to convert an old Rolleiflex if the digital sensor was a match for the film size so it was a simple plug and play idea. In the end it seems to not be practical but one could wish for it to happen.
    A Rollei tlr with a 40 megapixel Pentax 645D type sensor but square. with no sensor filtering. This way you could shoot regular color or infrared depending on which filters you used over the lens. Mike Johnson at TOP wants a dedicated B+W sensor. That sounds good to me too.
  25. Mathew: I completely agree with you that a modular device that just plugs into the back of a camera is the solution, however it's technologically impossible for several reasons. The first being sensor size, digital sensors are made from materials that preform better at smaller sizes, smaller size equals more units per wafer, less waste, less defective units...the potential gains for making sensors smaller goes on and on. So from birth a sensor is destine to work better the smaller it is. Which fly's in the face of what is needed to capture digital images from a 24mmx36mm area. Now 24mmx36mm may sound small, but like Silicon Film found, it's not. 24mmx36mm is huge, and photographers don't want some quarter, or half frame digital sensor, they want full frame. Now in the case of the old Polaroids, like you mentioned, the issue of size becomes even more apparent.
    There are some other factors that put a heavy burden current technology, one that would never allow the product to take flight.
    So for now we have to concentrate on what is possible what is obtainable, and then work towards the goal of a self contained plug and shoot model.
  26. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    my research points in that direction​
    You have quantitative data? If so, what is it? Sample size, questions, results?
    Ever ask people if they would buy a technology-based product for over $100 from a tiny business with no financial guarantee of long-term support?
  27. Ryan! While we can't predict the future I would agree to let say 35mm film available no more. In such a case, I would simply buy the digital camera because as much as I love my film cameras, I don't believe you can come up with a solution that would even equal the quality or as economical as simply buying a digital body. If you don't want those beautiful film cameras going to waste the best thing you can do is to continue making film and processing material for us while the big guys like Kodak and Fuji have stopped. And that makes a lot more sense as well as much more feasible.
  28. Jeff: Qualitative. I fail to see how the willingness of the general public to buy a technology from a tiny none financial guarantee business relates to the matter at hand or how that factor should be calculated into the my research.
  29. BeBu: Although I agree that someone still needs to make 35mm, and that business venture is much less of a risk, I still feel there is a portion of 35mm users that want a digital option. As a business would go, I think it would be a great opportunity to use the revenue generated from film production to help cover the cost of the development for a digital replacement.
    If we are talking about the company that provides this alternative to 35mm, I truly think that one product can not be the only source of income for the business. You have to somehow approach this situation from all angles in order to squeeze every last penny of capital out of the market.
  30. If you want to know more about the type of business model I'm talking about just look at "The Impossible Project" they do not rely solo on the sales of film to help sustain their companies financial needs.
  31. Ryan.
    You don't really want comments or opinions about your dream.
    You clearly just want to do it.
    Power to you. Go to it. I'll definitely be interested if you ever get it done, but I am not going to hold my breath.
  32. Ryan:
    I'd pay $400 in order to get good quality, 5 megapixel images using my Leica M6.
  33. In the end I think it will prove impractical. We are talking about taking a digital computer system and trying to install it into a unit designed for a different technology. Which is exactly what the camera companies did. Each type, digital and film, was designed around the technologies of their time and built into a box, a reflex camera obscura with a lot more control. The mirrorless models, aka point and shoots, are more to the basic box camera with a few extra controls, and a whole lot smaller to tote around. That evolution is hard to work backwards.
    Take the Polaroid 95. The lens and bellows are designed to project an image to the film plane that was of considerable size. An equivilant sensor size would be about 6x9 format and 120 film size. If the sensor pixels could be made larger but still give the quality of the film of the period, that would be of interest. However, you would have to deal with the memory storage and electrical needs. Teathering the camera to a laptop and an external power supply are doable. The end result with such a contraption is you have lost the convenience of the original camera and the equivilant convenience already built into modern digital cameras. Conversion to basic roll film is a workable way to go. Still...one can wish.
    Granted, one of those conveniences is digital has largely eliminated the need for the chemicals, not to mention the building of basic skills knowledge for using a film type camera. Automation can inhibit an extended learning of the basics. I for one admit to having fallen into that trap for a long time. Digressions aside, each picture making process has its positives and its negatives. For film, its positive is it does not require electricity to make a finished print. Its negative would be the environmental and health problems associated with the chemicals needed for development and printing. For digital, the positive is about the only chemicals need are those for the inkjet printing. The negative is all of the processes need electricity. Take that away and it all becomes useless junk. If anything, both compliment each other and are workable for their dedicated task. Even if film finally disappeared, some people will still be making their own coated glass plates, such as the Autochrome fellow in France. And a company might be a lot smaller and offer just one color and a B+W film stock, but someone will still make it for the common cameras. It just might cost more and not be the greatest quality. It will be the quaintness of using those old cameras that will be fun. Much like me still shooting with my Canon 300D.
  34. Mathew, I believe from what i have read in the past, the environmental impact of digital technology is worse then film photography, including film processing.
  35. So from birth a sensor is destine to work better the smaller it is.
    No. The only thing "better" about a smaller sensor is that it is cheaper to manufacture than a larger one. Why else do you think people are willing to pay high prices for cameras with large sensors? Respectfully, I think you need to read up a bit more on image sensor technologies.
  36. Hi Wayne,
    Can you provide any reading references for your claim?
    I can see this though given all of the materials needed to build the electronics for the cameras, plus the batteries. Then add all of the computer based stuff needed for viewing, processing and printing images. It all adds up pretty fast in chemicals and rare earths. Photo printing has fallen a lot so the related materials of the paper industry might provide some balance to the equation.
  37. I would certainly be interested if the price is right. However, I am primarily using older MF equipment presently and barely using my range finders.
  38. I switch between film and digital all the time on my Mamiya AFD.
    I use a digital back most of the time, but I always carry a film back with Ektar 100 loaded and another with Portra 400. If I have a subject that I think may deserve a 40"X60" print I pop on the Ektar back for a frame or two. My current digital back gets a bit noisy over ISO 200, so I use the Portra 400 back (often pushed a stop) in those situations.
    I'd think that anyone who really needs this capability would be using the same sort of solution.
  39. Zane: My opinion that "Sensors, from birth are designed to work better the smaller they are" is based on more then just the fact that they are cheaper to manufacture. They are also easier to keep clean, easier to power, easier to transport. The digital photography world will always progress towards smaller because smaller is better for business. Case-in-point, Micro 4/3's growing popularity. If a manufacturer can produce a camera that requires less raw material to produce but can deliver the same or greater image quality then a larger product they will take that route, because it's the better business choice. Less raw material equals more profit, especially when you are not loosing image quality. Besides, a digital sensor works more efficiently at a smaller size because it takes less electricity to power it which makes it run cooler which translates into efficiency. Smaller is beneficial for all battery powered electronic devices.
  40. Sensors, from birth are designed to work better the smaller they are...They are also easier to keep clean...​
    A spec of dirt of a given size is going to be a bigger problem on a small sensor than it would be on a large sensor.
    And you're going to have a tough time convincing me that a small sensor with fewer photo-sites or smaller photo-sites (or both) is somehow going to "work better" than a larger sensor when it comes to image quality. Smaller sensors are cheaper. Period.
  41. Greg: Smaller sensor size is easier to keep dust off of, it's also cheaper and easier to make a cleaning system for. Smaller sensors with smaller photosites and improved microlenses can take higher quality images then a sensor of the same MP size. Look at the OmniVision 8850, it's 1.1 micron 8mp size can produce better images then the 1.4 micron 8mp. Larger sensors suffer from signal delays and signal failures mainly due to the distance the signal has to travel, smaller sensor equals less signal delay. There are many advantages to smaller sensors, in my opinion.
  42. Larger sensors suffer from signal delays and signal failures mainly due to the distance the signal has to travel​
    Signal delay? Really? We're talking about the signals that move at nearly the speed of light. How much delay can an inch of travel induce?
    My comparison is based on my Nikon D2x vs my D3 and D3x. The D2x was great, but the D3 has less noise and greater dynamic range. At large print sizes (I have a 44" printer) the D3x wins going away, and has an even greater dynamic range than the D3.
    And when I compare the D3x with my Leaf Aptus II 10, which has twice as large a sensor as the D3x, there is, again, no contest when it comes to image quality.
    The smaller cameras shoot much faster than the medium format back, but that's not at all important for my work (architecture). The dynamic range, resolution and lack of noise are very important and, at the current state of the art, simply can't be matched by smaller sensors, though they are much cheaper.
  43. D2x sensor size = 23.7 x 15.7 mm with a pp of 5.5 x 5.5. 12.2mp
    D3 sensor size = 36 x 23.9 mm with a pp of 8.45 x 8.45. 12.1mp
    D3x sensor size = 35.9 x 24 mm with a pp of 5.94 x 5.94 24.5 mp
    Leaf Aptus 10 = 56 x 36 mm with a pp 6.0 x 6.0(?) 56mp
    You are comparing 4 different sensors all with varying parameters. I would hope that the image quality has progressed as the technology progressed.
    I'm talking about the same sensor, I'm talking about (for instance) an 8mp sensor that at a smaller physical size preforms better on all levels then that same 8mp sensor at a larger physical size.
    Signal delay is an issue for large sensors. Why do you think it takes a full second for you leaf to capture one frame? It takes forever (in relative terms) to collect and process all that data.

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