PetaPixel

Convert Your Old Film SLR Into a Digital Camera with the DigiPod

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The idea of fitting electronics into a film SLR in order to capture digital photos with it is not new. The thing is, most of the ideas we’ve shared ranged from April Fools jokes to promising concepts that never seem to advance beyond that.

The DigiPod is the first product we’ve seen actually become a reality. It’s a digital cartridge that fits inside your old film SLR, and if it makes it to market, it could be quite groundbreaking.

The DigiPod was designed by UK developer and former photographer James Jackson, who has spent the last 5 years perfecting his design for this Digital Film Pod that could put his old Nikons, Canons and Leicas back in the game.

Much of his time designing the DigiPod was spent researching a similar attempt by a company called “Silicon” from 2000, and learning as much as he could about digital photography. The product he came up with is a simple “pod” that loads right into the back of your film SLR and interacts with the automatic or manual mechanics in the same way that film would.

Taking a picture is as easy as pushing the shutter button. And once you’ve taken a picture, you prepare the camera for the next shot by “advancing the film” in the same way you would if there were actual film in there.

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A prototype is ready and the manufacturers are lined up, all Jackson needs now is the funding, which he is attempting to secure through Indiegogo. In order for the DigiPod to make it into consumer’s hands, he’ll need to raise almost $307,500 (£199,000), and so far the first few days of the campaign have seen no backers.

That goal is set so high in order to maintain the current price of $370 ($310 for early bird backers). But if you want one of your own, there’s even more incentive to tell your friends. The current model will come with a 2/3-inch sensor, but the more people that back it, the bigger the sensor he’ll pack inside.

A sample photo captured using Jackson's 1/2.5-inch prototype sensor

A sample photo captured using Jackson’s 1/2.5-inch prototype sensor

Jackson needs 1,000 backers to reach his current goal, but if the number hits 2,000, the sensor size increases to 1-inch. And if they hit 5,000, they’ll go even bigger and put a 4/3-inch sensor inside.

For now 5,000 seems very far away when the campaign hasn’t even logged its first backer, but who knows what will happen in the next 41 days. To learn more about the DigiPod and put your name down for one of the early bird models today, head over to the campaign’s page by clicking here.


 
  • Killroy™

    Here, take my money!!!!!

  • Fuzztographer

    This has been vapourware since the dawn of digital. Until I can get this thing on Amazon, it’s status as the unicorn of photography will remain.

  • Will Mederski

    I love this.
    Not even so much because of the idea. Heck I’ve got a dismantled F body and little Casio P&S sitting right here on my desk that I’ve been trying to do the same thing with for a couple weeks.

    But, I love this, because it is proof that some 20-somethings can render pretty pictures of dreamy ideas all day. They can get the internetz all abuzz about it.
    But, have they built anything? No.

    It takes a average guy, a badly shot video and clumsy explanation of the concept to get me excited.
    BECAUSE HE MADE A THING.
    a REAL, actual prototype.

    And believe me, I don’t want to like this. There are so many points in this video that make my ‘designer’s mind’ cringe, from him not knowing how to open an image to the name DigiPod…

    Props to this fellow!

  • Rob

    I imagined something very similar when I was at Rochester Institute of Technology back in the late 90’s, after playing with an early Hasselblad digital back. Being a poor ignorant student I didn’t have the faintest idea how to take an idea in my head out into reality. I wish I’d had at least the foresight to save my sketches or apply for a patent! I’ve been waiting 15 years for somebody with the knowledge/connections/wherewithal to make this happen. More power to him, and sign me up!

  • Chris

    His biggest problem is that, for nearly $400, I can buy a 4/3rds camera and adapt whatever lenses I need to it. And they undoubtedly have better sensors than his.

  • http://shashinkaichiban1.wordpress.com/ 写真家

    While true, there are many of us who still like ergonomics of older film cameras. I would love to have a digital back for my old Nikon F4s.

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com/ Stan B.

    Want to love it (I only have film cameras)- but if it’s not even going to give me the quality of film, then… what’s the point?

  • Briwil

    I’m really tempted to contribute to this, because I’ve also tried making something like this before, and I really want it to exist, but for one thing, he really needs a better video. Take it off the tripod, get a friend to hold the video camera, and post it at something higher than 480p, because I can’t see anything in this video.

    I want to believe in this product and what he’s telling me, but this is a lot of money to ask people to put forward, I need something to make me believe this is a real thing.

  • superduckz

    I’ve barely skimmed the article and I want one. I don’t even care if it works all that well. It’ll be enough if it just gets this new “segment” rolling. He needs a kickstarter funding page to go along with it too. Like Killroy said “Here take my Money” My AE1 Program and my F100 are begging for this…

  • MS

    Indiegogo? I’ve never heard of it. I have however heard of kickstarter….

  • Renato Murakami

    I wish someone with expertise in videography helped this guy make a better produced video…. the powerpoint style with garish/corny stock images plus huge text with horrible blue edges kills every designer inside us. Gladly, he didn’t use Comic Sans. xD
    But all that aside, it’s an awesome project that should get support… I’d gladly pony up some money to give new life to my inherited Asahi-Pentax Spotmatic, even if the system didn’t work smoothly. But it’s a bit too much for me… plus I’d have to spend far more than that to clean up the whole camera, lens, and whatnot.
    I must say that I became a (still amateur to my standards) photographer in the digital era, only having fiddled with film a bit when I was a kid/teen… but having learned all sorts of things about it since my dad had a restroom-turned-homelab at home years ago (most of the equipment is ruined nowadays or was lost during moves).
    But it’s undeniable how different it feels to shoot with a film camera.
    Of course it’s just better to go through all the process of revealing a film and all, but nowadays, who has everything needed for it? I’d guess only pro photographers and/or very serious hobbyists with tons of money.
    In any ways, congrats to James Jackson for all the research and for putting up a bunch of different tech to turn this into a real thing… I see 3D printing, plus electronic parts and an interesting method of using the mechanical parts of the camera to set the whole thing in motion which I can kinda guess how it works – it makes sense.

    Oh, for those doubting IndieGogo, it’s a fine platform for crowdfunding… I backed a project on a photo book called “Happy End” by Dietmar Eckell with photos and documentary about plane crash sites in which passengers and pilots survived. Received the book just recently, and was plenty satisfied with the result. Very high quality paper and overall material, better than lots of commercial photo books I own.

  • JamesMcDaniel

    A Panasonic GF3 body with a (half-frame) micro-4/3 sensor is only $199 on Amazon. (Previous-generation bodies from Olympus aren’t much more.) That plus a $20 lens mount adapter from Rainbow Imaging or Fotodiox and you can be shooting some vintage glass significantly cheaper and much sooner. Long before (if ever) this Quixotic project reaches the 5000 backers necessary to include a similar sensor.

    Using vintage and “toy” lenses is a creative and fun thing to do. I have almost 100 of them, most obtained from thrift shops for around $10. Highly recommended!

  • meekroard

    So he put a micro camera behind the lens of an open shutter (BLUB set) SLR. Scam. The company that did this was originally Israel based about 12 years ago. They quickly had the patents bought out by both Nikon and Canon, and have since been locked up in vault, never to see the light of day again. It will never come to fruition. It is a unicorn.

  • JamesMcDaniel

    I watched the video, and I’m not so sure he has “made a thing” quite yet. He mumbled something about a “video card / capture card” that was actually taking the images, but said nothing more (and showed even less) about what was actually doing the work. Was he essentially just holding an SLR lens in front of a webcam? The rest was handwaving, both figuratively regarding how you set the ISO and shutter on the device, and literally waving an empty white plastic shell around.

  • Camstone Fox

    Been watching this “promise” go unfulfilled for over ten years. Reason… you can’t get the shutter to sync properly with the focal plane array. Say what you like, but if this was possible… it would have already existed years ago. Until then, I’ll use my Nikkors on my FujiFlex S3 Pro.

  • Chris

    That’s really on you then…IndieGoGo is a similar vein, though you get less people offering side-crap (shirts, stickers, etc) and a lot more people offering the actual product

  • zeptom

    A better video and an other funding platform would help him a lot. Looks like IndieGogo is a great platform for creative projects and not so much for inventions. He should use Kickstarter or FundedByMe and the right crowd will see it.

    Also aim higher at start, guess none want to put crappy expensive digital-film in there analog camera (read to small sensor).

    Like the idea tho even if it’s nothing for me.

  • Chris

    Unless of course you can get 5000 people to buy into an extremely amateurish roll-out of a mostly unproven concept. Only then can you pay twice as much for the same thing you can get today, from any retailer, without the risk of delays. Cause you know, sometimes these campaigns take nearly 2 years to deliver (Digital Bolex)

  • Will Mederski

    True.
    But still better than pretty pixels.
    If he’s got the passion, and maybe the funding, he will iterate and make something better.
    And hopefully a better demo too. :o)

  • Will Mederski

    You are missing the point.
    It’s less the lenses, more the feel and romantics of using an old body.
    Also, if it were a canister based digital “implant,” you could easily pop it in & out of every 35mm camera in your collection.

    Part of it for me is the inconspicuous element of shooting with a beat up old camera. People just dismiss you as some hipster hobbyist.

  • ShootsWithFilm

    Here’s a novel idea – use your old Film SLR to, shock horror, shoot film!

  • Steve

    I’s only be interested in a full frame or near full frame sensor. Otherwise, I really don’t see the point in this?

  • Procentje20

    It should be full frame. The old 5D mark 1 sensor is just fine. As long as it is full frame. This way my old rangefinders turn full frame digital. Which is the awesomeness I want. I would pay up to 1250,- for a decent full frame sensor that fits my film bodies. Even if it is fixed ISO, and just echos raw images to the memory card.

  • Dirk

    My problem here is not so much the product. But in order to put some money in the game I need to be convinced of the maker. He needs not only to be an inventor of something – he needs to eagerly make a business out of it. And – sorry to say so – he seems to me like some bloke who fiddles around with that stuff as a hobby. A serious hobby with dedication, but a hobby. Look at what energy other guys put in the making of their funding videos. He’s wayyyyy off here. If I contribute a Dollar to any Kickstarter / Indiegogo project, I see this from an investor’s perspective. Is he commited enough to overvome all the hurdles to make this a selling product? – The video didn’t convince me …

  • http://www.observingtime.com/ agour

    if he had tried to post that same project on kickstarter, they would have rejected it in quality control. I know someone currently drafting a kickstarter project, and he has to jump through a ton of hoops to get it published

  • beautox

    You nailed it. This guy is clueless.

  • superduckz

    because it’s a first step. Someone has to take that first leap. And if it gets even the smallest bit of traction then corporations with REAL assets might get involved.. or of course they might kill it… I’ll take the chance..

  • superduckz

    I remember that plane crash project. good Stuff. And valid points all. One point you’re overlooking is that this invention won’t prevent anyone from swapping back and forth to film. It appears to be non-destructive of the basic film functionality.

  • superduckz

    It’s apparent that you didn’t/don/t appreciate the mechanical “feel” of older cameras. I can’t explain it…

  • superduckz

    That’s my biggest worry in a nutshell. The big corps will never let this out. I’ve little doubt they could release this in a few weeks of design… but why cut their own profits.

  • superduckz

    Nikon already patented an easily micro-adjustable system. There’s a link to it on here somewhere. They just won’t release it.

  • superduckz

    That does not sound unreasonable..

  • Zach

    I’d agree about waiting until a full-frame version is possible. Given that there’s a working prototype now, I’d say it’s only another 5 years or so until this is feasible. Right now, it’s a bit more trouble than it’s worth for me to worry about crop factors in a 35mm camera that has no way of showing. Plus I’d like to help keep film alive for as long as I can!

  • Brandon Howard

    what Joan responded I'm alarmed that a stay at home mom is able to earn $6149 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this webpage...Gig25.cℴm

  • Ralph Hightower

    Ingenious! It looks like the camera with the pod can shoot digital; remove the pod and it can still use film. There is that bit about the pressure plate…
    I’d be interested, but I think I’d wait for a production version.

  • GoCat

    This: “Part of it for me is the inconspicuous element of shooting with a beat up old camera.”

  • noisejammer

    Even though I’m heavily invested in Canon EOS and ZE glass, I’d happily pay $3k for a monochrome 36×24 Sony sensor that could attach to my OM or ZI systems… but there’s not way in Hades I want to go backwards to an 8.8 x 6.6 sensor.

    I think the problem is his attempt to replace a film canister. If he decided to make a replacement for the camera back, it becomes a far easier proposition – and the product can be far more versatile. After all, even though I might not want to chimp every image, it would be convenient to change the ISO rating from time to time. (On reflection – this might be possible with the invention if you opened the camera?)

  • Josofa Harris

    A concept several others have attempted good to see someone else trying and fabricating something. What type of power source does this run off of and what is the average number of shots on a single charge. I imagine since all the mechanics are a different system a higher number can be reached. I would also assume that the sensor has a hot mirror/filter, and that in the future the quality would be a bit higher than current (photo quality that is)
    Like others have said at them moment the results look a little bit like having a frosted piece of glass (focal screen) between the focal plane and a webcam.

  • Felipe_Paredes

    just in case I’m going to keep some FM and FM2

  • Espen Johansen

    …But everyone is just posting their pictures on the internet anyways…why go trough the expencive and timeconsuming middle-step of spending money on a new film for every 36th (?) picture and have someone do magic, then using a scanner to get them on the web…

  • JamesMcDaniel

    It’s apparent that you make (incorrect) assumptions about people you don’t know on the internet. I have well over 100 vintage mechanical cameras, most of which I’ve run film through. You can see just a handful of them here – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.533867209883.2046988.121204104&type=1&l=65e5a1e733. One of my photographs taken with a mechanical camera on film even won an honorable mention in a roller derby photo contest – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=304052376369371&set=a.304050476369561.70472.301501196624489. So I appreciate them quite well, thank you very much.

  • photomadd

    It’s a lot of money for something that looks like it takes pictures at a lower IQ than my iPhone. If there was an APS-C or FF sensor in there, it would make for a lot more interesting low-production high-cost niche product.

    As it is, I don’t see people wanting to use it as an alternative to film, or simply buying a low/mid-end dSLR for less if they want digital.

  • picnouse

    there is only one problem with it: the exorbitant price. when i could save up for a canon rebel dslr for between 4 and 500 dollars, why would i spend 370 on a gadget to convert old cameras? the main reason i’d want to convert them is to save money.

  • Vin Weathermon

    mmm..not sure…

  • Bewar3them00n

    With that sensor, it’d be like driving round in a Porshe with a family car engine.
    I want to like the concept, as I have some great film cameras that I’d love to use digitally, my OM-1, with loads of lenses (which I use on my Canon DSLR already anyway ) it’s cameras like my Oly 35 SP rangefinder and my Zorki that id want to use daily.
    But it’d want it to be full frame sensor.
    Plus what about cameras with Autowind? My Contax TVS would be fantastic with digital capabilities.
    But at that price it defeats the purpose, shouldn’t one of the big digital camera companies have been approached ? or for that matter, developed one themselves ?

  • petter goldstine

    Somebody please help him out with the presentation and a concise summary of the specifications. This needs to be repackaged to give people the confidence to back the project. I don’t have the confidence with this sort of presentation, unfortunately.

  • JoanieGranola

    I agree with Stan. I understand that it’s a first step, but there are already digital backs to medium and large format cameras (albeit expensive).

    Of course, if this were to become reality and take off, I’m sure he’d make millions selling to a company that could make a better one.

    However, in the age that we live in, which is the disposable age, it’s highly unlikely that this man’s idea will get off the ground. Sure there are people who hold on to the older cameras and/or still use film, but the current trend is digital, small and high quality (sensors for images, that is). While film may take a lot longer to die than many originally thought, it’s still not the medium of choice for 2013 (or ANY of the 2000s) and with newspapers firing departments of photojournalists so reporters can “take pictures” with iphones, the future of this device doesn’t bode well.

    I’d love to have a digital insert for my film camera. However, I’d like to get a decent image instead of something that I can get with my Holga.

  • jonathan pearson

    wheres the power coming from how

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com/ Stan B.

    Hope, you’re right- a FF version would ultimately fill the bill (maybe in 10-15 yrs)…

  • jjonesFE

    I’ve seen and heard ideas like this before, but if somebody can actually make it happen, I’m all for it. Why would anyone use a functional version of this, you ask? How about the times when a client wants a digital format vs. film. Simple. Just drop in the unit and shoot. The best part is that you would already be familiar with the camera (vs. switching between an F4s and a D3s, example). If they were to be full frame, and the resolution was good enough, I’d buy a couple. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Shoot Velvia 50 for the color saturation and then shoot something along the lines of the D800 (if only…) by dropping in a “pod”, all from my F4s or F5? That’s a no brainer for me.