I'm Back 35 gives old film cameras a second life
Back in early 2018, Samuel Mello Medeiros launched a project on Kickstarter aimed at giving old film cameras some modern relevance. The I'm Back attachment added a digital image sensor and touchscreen display to 35-mm film cameras of old, and now the next generation has been revealed.
The first 3D-printed I'm Back 35 attachment was launched on Kickstarter in 2016, and followed by another version in 2018. Mello Medeiros turned his attention to vintage medium format film cameras in the middle of last year, but has now reworked the 35-mm format device and again launched a Kickstarter to fund production.
The digital back essentially gives photographers the choice to use their dusty old analog snappers as film cameras, or to go digital. This latest version sees the camera back wear a fresh new look, get a bigger (7.4-V/2,400-Ah) Sony battery, and gain the ability to fully control shutter speed and diaphragm aperture through manual mode. An auto mode is also available.
This edition is reckoned compatible with "99 percent of all 35-mm analog cameras available on the market," though dedicated covers allow for a better fit to specific film cameras. It benefits from a PCB that's been specifically designed for the new camera back, with a Sunplus V39 processor, Panasonic 34112 image sensor, external microphone, USB-C connectivity, and flash sync. The device can output RAW and JPEG format images to microSD card or over Wi-Fi via a dedicated mobile app.
The new I'm Back 35 is reported capable of snapping up to 14-megaxpixel images and up to 4K video at 30 fps. That said, the setup uses a focusing screen, bouncing it off of mirrors and eventually onto the sensor. As a result, you won't get the kind of crisp and detailed output you'd expect from a modern digital camera but "something between analog and digital."
"You have full control of your camera," its creator said in a press release. "You can shoot now with your old analog as you always did and record the photos and videos digitally."
Kickstarter pledges for the new I'm Back 35 start at CHF 249 (about US$260) and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in December. The video below has more.
Source: I'm Back
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Here's the kind of digital conversion that I would pay that kind of money for. A unit that would fit in any 35 m.m. body with the pressure plate removed so that a full frame sensor with a minimum 20 megapixels would fit at the focal plane. The electronics would fit in place of the film cassette and take up spool (which would likely also need to be removed). There would need to be a mechanism to function in lieu of the sprocket holes in the film when the advance lever, or motor drive if so equipped, "advances" the "film" so that the camera cocks the shutter. The camera, including all controls and features, would function exactly as if film were loaded. The electronics package of the adapter would connect via Wi-Fi with the users phone or tablet so that the sensitivity could be set to match the camera's ISO setting, thus allowing the camera's exposure metering system to work normally. This would also allow photos to be viewed on the phone or tablet. The technology exists to develop this kind of device, it would take some market testing to determine if there are enough potential buyers to make it cost effective to actually produce. i hereby release my idea to the public domain for anyone that wants to have a go at it.
If you have a good 35mm etc, then there is a fair bet that the lens will fit a modern digital camera. Its the cost of the optics that really kills you!