Camera back brings classic 35 mm film cameras into the digital age
Though photographic film still has its proponents, for the majority of snappers today, digital is now the medium of choice – whether through the tiny lenses of smartphones or courtesy of bigger sensors inside dedicated cameras. But older shutterbugs may still have a classic rangefinder or 35 mm SLR stowed away in a cupboard somewhere, gathering dust and unloved. Italy's Samuel Mello Medeiros may have a way to inject new digital relevance into boxy old film camera classics with his I'm Back Kickstarter project, a camera back that sports a 16 MP CMOS sensor and touchscreen display panel.
The I'm Back project has been 5 years in development, and seen a number of prototypes come and go. The camera attachment has been designed to offer 35 mm camera owners the option to take photos on photographic film or in digital mode, simply by attaching the I'm Back module. The first version was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2016, and was built around the processing power of a Raspberry Pi. This latest design makes use of a 16 MP Panasonic CMOS sensor paired with a Novatek processor.
Rather than focus an image directly through the lens onto a modern CMOS sensor, and possibly suffer cropping, the I'm Back attachment sends the light coming through the host camera's lens onto a focusing screen, bounces it off mirrors, sends it through another lens and then onto the sensor. The result is a digital image that retains a vintage film camera flavor.
Stills are captured to a microSD card in the attachment's housing, but the system can also record up to 2,880 x 2,160 resolution videos. It has built-in Wi-Fi, and HDMI and USB ports. And photographers can adjust ISO light sensitivity (from ISO100 to 1,600) and exposure control using the 2-inch capacitive touchscreen display panel (which can facilitate Live View) and three buttons underneath (for menu navigation and settings control). A 3.7V/1,050 mAh battery provides the juice.
A user first needs to fix a bayonet attachment to the bottom of the host camera using the tripod mounting screw and the digital back then slides into place, locking in position with two lateral clamps. Covers designed to match the style of a range of classic 35 mm film cameras have also been created.
The bayonet docking system is currently compatible with Nikon F, Nikon F2, Nikon FM, Nikon FE, Nikon S2, Canon F1, Canon A1, Canon AE1, Pentax ME super, Pentax spotomatic, Pentax K1000, Praktica b200, Praktica MTL, Contax II, Contax RTS, Contax G2, Olympus OM1, Olympus OM2, Minolta Dinaxx 7000, Olympus OM10, Yashica JP, Yashica FX3, Leica M, Leica R, Diana F, and Diana F mini cameras. But if you're retro classic isn't included on that list, a universal accessory has been developed that will fit almost all other cameras.
The I'm Back project is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, where pledges start at €225 (about US$280), though there is a €45 option that allows backers to 3D-print an I'm Back module for a Raspberry Pi. If all goes to plan, shipping is expected to start in September. The pitch video below has more on the project.