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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digipod3

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.


 
  • flightofbooks

    yeah, the tiny sensor is ridiculous. a 28mm would be a telephoto on it. not like there’s a lot of super-wide legacy glass out there to choose from.

    I think unfortunately anything less thane an aps-c sensor will alienate most of the people who would be naturally excited about such a product (myself included).

  • flightofbooks

    370 is less than a premium point and shoot, but that would be just one camera. This is effectively as many cameras as you have laying around. For old film shooters who still have an arsenal of film cameras, $370 is a small price to pay to put that gear back to work.

  • flightofbooks

    I kind of like the fact you can’t change the ISO without fiddling with the cartridge. It gives you that authentic film experience ; )

    I think if this project finds backing, the final product will probably be more of a digital back, although it’s method of interacting with body’s mechanics via the mechanism of a film canister will no doubt remain at the center of the system.

  • flightofbooks

    Cool idea. Want to give me some money so I can go buy film and get it developed and scanned?

  • flightofbooks

    full frame would increase the price point considerably. I think he’s got room the raise the price from $370 not too much. I think a lot of people with film cameras they never use would pay $400 or even $500 for a digital conversion for those bodies. I think far, far fewer would pay twice that, and the cost of a full frame sensor would probably be about the $1k mark. Personally, I’d be happy to see something like this in aps-c format if it came in under $1k

  • flightofbooks

    How is he clueless when he’s managed to build a working prototype?

  • G

    Having a patent is not the same as having a product ready for production, you don’t even need to have a working prototype.

  • G

    Pay 4-500 to shoot crop sensor on a camera that shows full frame in the viewfinder? Sounds like a PITA to me. 1.5x crop is still gonna be pointless and not worth anything near $1000 imo.

  • beautox

    It’s not a working prototype. It’s a video capture card taped onto the back of an SLR with the shutter wide open in B mode. The crucial technical problem of how to sync the shutter has not been solved – note how he fiddles with the back of the capture card to take a picture, not by pressing the shutter release.

    It’s like claiming that you have a prototype flying car and showing a regular car with wings taped onto it.

  • flightofbooks

    according to the story “A prototype is ready and the manufacturers are lined up”, so is the story wrong? why not take issue with that first and foremost?

  • flightofbooks

    shoot fat and compose to compensate, it’s a pretty easy limitation to live with if you know what you’re doing. I’m not saying it’s a replacement for a regular dslr or mirrorless system, but I don’t think anyone on this thread sees it as that.

  • beautox

    His idea of a prototype is not what a manufacturer needs. He hasn’t solved the technical problems. Are you a gambler? I’d bet you any amount of money that this thing never sees the light of day.

  • James

    Thank you for the positive comments, something I had not thought about but with all the comments I’m getting every day is a new view on the digipod and how others see it working for them, I never thought infa-red, till I had a comment!
    regards James

  • James

    Hello Jonathan
    internal battery charged through mini USB with a 15 minute standby, it has to be in iPhone stlye but I will be looking at a fixed replacement cost+ P&P for users , but winding on a frame will bring it out of sleep, we have seen 150 mins of continuous use in testing and 1000+ images over a charge.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hello Petter,
    Sorry you feel that way, but I have put my money into the product not the box!
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hello,
    The size of the sensor in the prototype was dictated by the first board design and proof of concept which has been such a success in practical terms it allowed us to move on to pod hardware integration, I have had to price it with a 2/3 sensor at the 1000 unit activation point, but predictions of backers taken from web research give me reason to believe the final backer figures will see a 4/3 delivered to all the backers. I would love to be able to through a 24mm square or full frame in but that will be dictated by the number of backers.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hello
    They want to sell you new digital, I hear what your saying about sensor size but if I had come in with a full frame sensor you could have easily stuck a zero on the end of the 199! and everyone would have homed in on cost, the processor we are using can deal with a full format or full frame and I have designed the sensor to plug in the pod, so in theory those that want a bigger sensor could upgrade in the future if digipod launches successfully with its first 1000.
    As to cameras with auto wind 93% of our tests (18 were tested) operated fine, just one, a late model electric Trip gave a negative result, the pod interface relies on the sprocket ratchet movement, it is aimed more at the higher end SLR and view finder cameras
    regards
    James

  • James

    Hi Vin,
    Ask the questions, I will do what I can
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hi Photomadd,
    Its not an alternative to film, its about options and costs, roll film is about .09p a shot to neg, that is 2500 shots with the digipod, its like owning a classic car, sometimes you just want the old feel! with the digipod you get that across all your cameras with one pod.
    Regards
    James

  • Matthew Maddock

    Understood about the economics, but if I want the old feel I’ve got that… it’s called a Fujifilm X-Pro1 :-)

  • James

    Hi Josofa
    I have answered some of these in other comments but to save you going through the lot, internal battery power charged through mini USB (about a 1000 images on on charge, though that will reduce by around 15% with the bigger sensor with micro card (2gb comes with it ,up to 4gb at moment) I have made DigiPod so it doesn’t activate the SLR’s counter so you can shot till the cards full (audible sound when card is full) sensor crop is dealt with using a clear screen protector to attach to the SLR’s mirror with a thin red line (like a smart phone screen cover) that means you can swap to a roll filmm easy, there will be a sheet with sufficient to do 6 x SLR’s and 6X viewfinder.
    The images on the indiegogo pitch are from the prototype 5mp sensor on the card with the Minolta, you can expect no less than 12mp but no more than 14mp in the launch model with the minimum 1000 backers, I have two suppliers of sensors at the moment and I am evaluating their specification, its about the noise and power consumption as much as the MP.
    Regards
    JAmes

  • James

    Hello Noise Jammer
    I had to compromise with cost per unit and sensor size, as I said in a previous reply the gripes would have been about size or cost. however in doing the 2/3 sensor as the launch it allowed me to price DigiPod at £199, if we really get the interest marketing has predicted I think the launch DigiPod will go out to all with a 4/3, but in doing the compromise I did add a micro plug to the sensor so it can be replaced, so in theory you could upgrade to a full sensor (once I can get them at a marketable cost) at a cost if you so wished as the battery and processor are more than capable of doing the work. If I had come to market with a full frame at £3000 how many people would have bought one. so I am working on the bases of get the hardware out there and make it upgradeable, as thats what I would like.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hi Ralph
    Thank you for the ingenious! You are right about the roll film pressure plate it needs to be removed to give the room for the sensor, but thats a simple unclip in most SLR cameras.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hello Dirk,
    Are we not all blokes that fiddle, I don’t make a living through photography anymore and I am not asking you to invest in the R&D and pre-production, I have done that with my money and time, and as I do with my other businesses done all due diligence.
    What I am offering is the chance to buy a DigiPod. As to the video, everyones a critic, others have said they love that its not slick like a sales pitch! you either read the book or are influenced by the jacket!
    Regards
    James

  • http://www.jiriruzek.net/photography-courses/ Jiří Růžek

    great idea!

  • James

    Hello,
    I would love to add a full frame but its the cost, I have been working on suppling the launch model with the 2/3 sensor but giving a cost option upgrade to full frame at some point in the future. But I will be delivering the Launch Digipod with the biggest sensor I can at the budgeted cost and that will depend on the numbers that commit to the launch model.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hello Beautox,
    I’m sorry I didn’t see you in any of the meetings I have had with product suppliers, manufactures or R&D meetings, and I sure haven’t got an NDA with your name on it, but if you want a bet and from your statement it looks like you will give odds and not just even money so I will take some of that.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Hi Camestone
    Thats what digital camera makers would have you believe, I have it syncing with vertical and horizontal shutters, the pain was the iris type shutter on some range finder cameras, but that I have to say was a software eureka moment, sometimes the simplest solution is the best!
    Thing is Digital camera makers have realized the power of tech and the disire people have for the latest thing, It has never been my intention to compete with what film offers just compliment it.
    Regards
    James

  • James

    Every one has the right to a opinion, but as I have had no contact with you and you have never had hands on the DigiPod your anonymous Scam statement is slanderous, but I would expect no less from someone that hides their name.

  • Disqus is an NSA shill

    Indiegogo is Kickstarter without the BS
    a) Everyone is allowed to be creative unlike KS which assumes that only anglos (US and UK) deserve the opportunity to appeal to the world for funding.
    b) Anyone can post anything; there is no cabal of NY hipsters deciding what is cool enough to be given a chance. It’s only about you, your idea and how you present it.
    c) there are various donation models – from start-up completion only one as in KS to ongoing donations as for charities etc. To be blunt, KS doesn’t like orphanages and pet shelters.
    d) Indiegogo is actually older than KS, they basically invented crowdfunding but lost critical time at a crucial moment because they profiled themselves as focusing primarily on independent cinema (which is where the idea of crowdfunding originated)

  • noisejammer

    If you want the authentic film experience, you can always _not_ adjust the ISO… or refrain from doing it unless it’s 24 frames later, or only use 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 etc. I still shoot film & would dearly like yp preserve the versatility.

  • noisejammer

    Of course, James. I think we all understand your reason for choosing the 2/3″ chip.

    At GBP 3k ($5k), you would get very few takers – you’re then starting to compete with some very high end cameras – that’s the reason I suggested a $3k / 135 size mono option – if you offer something that’s not available and people may be more receptive. Of course it’s a nice market but there are a lot of people out there with $3k cameras.

    On the other hand, providing an inexpensive camera with a 4.1x crop factor is not going to get many takers either. Apart from the difficulty in framing, SLR lenses are simply not sharp enough to achieve reasonable resolution at this scale. You might consider the Kodak 8300 chip to be an absolute minimum.
    regards
    NJ

  • PatrickDonovan

    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

  • Marc Hill

    For me it is also the fact that I have got much loved SLRs that have I have inherited from close family members and this would make it much more likely that I would pick these cameras up and use them. I love it.

  • nitsan

    no offence to the guy’s hard work, in my opinion the idea is cool but the sensor size is 100% useless and the price is too high.

    and that sample image….

  • Kodachrome64

    Unless this had at least a APS-C sensor, I don’t see the point. APS-C adapts to full frame lenses very well, I think. A 24mm acts like a 35mm, a 35 acts like a 50, and a 50 acts like a 75. Perfect. But who wants to shoot with a M4/3 sensor where your 24mm becomes a 50mm and that’s about as wide as most people would be able to go. And the sensor might even be smaller than that!

  • timo musgrove

    hmm i can bring my contax rts back

  • Camstone Fox

    James,
    First, I’ll give you props, you responded to my post. I’ve truthfully been awaiting this for ten years, when the first hype said they’d do it, pulled in cash from investors, and then ran away with the cash with no results. You might even have a 3D printer concept and ideas, but ideas are not necessarily workable solutions.
    Straight up, I’m a scientist, and worse than that, I’m a professional rocket scientist and a researcher (who doesn’t work for NASA btw) who loves photography and knows “just a tad” about digital focal plane arrays. So your claims and reclama fill me with no more confidence than before. Sync’ing a horizontal and vertical shutter at 1/1000 (or faster) is “just plain hard” without a custom electro-mechanical system to synchronize the data capture system with a mechanical shutter. I’ll give anyone the benefit of the doubt, because while it might be expensive (and unaffordable for the average consumer, or yield very modest results) – I’ll give you it is not totally impossible.
    Now, if you want to “put your money where your webpage is” – I’ll not only sign any NDA you put in front of me (providing it’s legal, and doesn’t put my employment at risk, or ask something silly like exclusive rights to my thoughts, inventions, or brainwaves) -but if your product becomes available, I’ll buy/pay for an alpha or beta version (provided the price isn’t outrageous) and put it in my Nikons (FTN, FM, EL) and test them in the field, allowing others to critique the results, and write a full fledged test report comparing them to both my Fuji S3 Pro, and my Canon T1i.
    My requirements are thus, (1) it has to be able to record at least 10 megapixels. Why? Because I plan to make prints at least 8.5×11″, and in many cases I like to make 13×19″ prints from my Canon i9900 and Pro 9000 Mk II, which I have done with a 6MP canon digital rebel. (and yes, I will deal with any magnification factors dealt me, I’ve been dealing with these already…*yawn*)
    (2) It has to enable me to convert whatever format the image is captured in, into either RAW, PNG or TIFF (24 bit depth) or at worst JPEG, (3) The images remain my own property after they are taken, (4) Any software transfer system required to be used is compatible with Windows or Linux.
    So, James, my question is… are you game, and will this reply remain here longer than it took me to compose it?

  • Camstone Fox

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that the battery required to run such a system would also be “hard” technically, to get a decent shooting “life” out of such a system. FPA’s tend to be power hungry… and a 35mm film cart isn’t all that big.

  • beautox

    It’s not hard to make NDA, arrange meetings. It’s not hard putting a video card on the back of an SLR. It’s not hard designing a plastic case. What is hard is solving the problem I mentioned – syncing the shutter. And you have not demonstrated that you solved the problem, or even know it’s a problem. If you had I’m sure you would have taken the picture by pressing the shutter release rather than the capture button on the card.

    If you *have* solved this problem, it’s a pretty silly thing to do, not mention it at all in your funding presentation. So I can only assume you haven’t. Or you’re silly.

    Are you an engineer? Do you have other products that you have successfully designed and built and brought to market.It’s just that I’ve been a design engineer for like 30 years.

    PS I didn’t bet you. I bet the other guy.

  • Paulo

    Leica uses 0,01mm shims to laser calibrate the position of Leica’s m9 sensor. It’s impossible to be so precise with an accessory of this nature.

  • Camstone Fox

    Since I already have an old Nikon N90 that Kodak modified into a DCS, I don’t see it as impossible… but also not easy. And if Nikon and Canon patented the idea, so what? In 17 years (or 34, depending on renewals) it goes public domain anyway. And it doesn’t stop others from re-engineering another way to “skin the cat”… which they can own the IP rights to, and patent themselves… not that it would stop anyone from mass producing it in a country that didn’t honor patents or copyrights in the first place… (eyerollz)

  • Camstone Fox

    Show me a place to get Kodachrome developed, please?

    Point being, film labs are getting fewer, and film manufacturers are getting very thin on profit margins, further tightened by ecological cost constraints (e.g waste streams from silver halide labs are painful at best, and costly)… also with multiple megapixel and now 4K video formats (remember, most movie film was 70mm, 35mm, or 16mm – which made manufacturing machines much cheaper), I think film will become even shorter in supply.

  • Camstone Fox

    You mean like my Kodak DCS-420 in my basement? Heh… ever seen a 500mm f8 Nikkor turn into a 2000mm telephoto. Yeah, I mounted it on my canon T1i and shot it on manual with my tripod… it was AWESOME! XD

  • JamesMcDaniel

    Oh, one other issue/problem/complication with using anything besides a full-frame sensor – framing the image. Users will have to imagine 1/4 or 1/2-size frame lines floating in the middle of the scene as presented by the optical viewfinder, in order to visualize the central part of the image that will actually be captured by the crop sensor, versus the outer 1/2 or 3/4 of the image that will not. And for non-SLRs, adjust for parralax based on the distance from the camera to the subject. (Using any of the inexpensive mirrorless cameras as a “digital back” for SLR lenses avoids this problem, as the live view shows exactly what the sensor is seeing in real time.)

  • James

    Hello All
    I did start to reply to everyone but soon became clear that as in day to day life there are Drains and radiators, to all the radiators thank you for your comments and support and to the drains, well most drains don’t see themselves as drains! I have set up a email to answer direct questions from people that care to introduce themselves if you need to ask a question it’s [email protected] which I will visit twice a week Wed and Sat,
    Regards
    James

  • mijonju

    what about the Silicon Film project they had years ago?

  • James

    Hello Camstone,
    The comments will stay, they are relevant and make your point, which you have put well and without the need to result to insults as 1 or 2 have and I have always encouraged constructive conversation, it develops products. In answer to your requirements, 1. the 1000 production activation product will have either a 12 or 14mp sensor. (evaluating noise and power consumption now) 2. I had only considered offering PNG (as I use Gimp, got to love a free software), TiFF and JPEG as I didn’t think many would want a RAW option, well we can all under estimate things, and I am reviewing that now, it may not make the indiegogo production but I’m sure it will appear in the future (maybe as a straight software upgrade) 4. Will be Apple,windows and Linux compatible.
    and it will sync at 1/1000th.
    As to the Focal-Plane array, its been the developments in these and increased battery performance over the last 2 years that has allowed me to move this project on, in the last 12 months alone one battery manufacture I have been working with has reduced the size of a 1100mAh 7v battery from the size of a match box to about 1/3 that size, I need them to produce a half round, which they will do if I order the numbers.
    As to your other comments, when the digipod is made (I wont say “If!”, email me, though you will need to show you are who you say,as anyone could present them selfs as you) I will arrange with the nearest person that has a DigiPod to evaluate for a press release to meet you and you can have time with them using it with your cameras, I think thats a fair offer.
    regards
    James

  • Zos Xavius

    You haven’t addressed the real issues. The original digital film design concept ran into several stumbling blocks that were major. There was an interview with one of the designers of the original concept and their biggest problem was creating a device that could fit different cameras. Here you talk about taking out the pressure plate. How does the sensor stay pressed into the film plane then? The silicon film people had to custom tailor their prototype to each camera due to the internal differences. Then there was the problem of controlling ISO and so many other things with an electronic device sealed inside of a camera. There is also no way to sync with the shutter that is universal. In fact the shutter sync was a major obstacle they could never overcome. Even if you have solved the technical problems, you still have the issue of differently shaped film transports. The nikon solution someone mentions only works with a specific camera IIRC.

    Furthermore, after typing that I decided to watch your video. You never once show the sensor syncing with the shutter. This is disingenuous at best. You claim to have worked that problem out, but do not show a working solution. Going further, its clear that your sample pictures illustrate that you have problems keeping the sensor perfectly aligned with the film plane. I mean its not even uniformly sharp. Objects that should be on the same plane of focus are unsharp. Did you rip the sensor out of a minox camera and just slap it onto a plastic board? Then you start talking about shutters. The leica has an iris? WTF is an iris? The iris is the aperture typically. Do you even know what you are talking about?? Last I studied them Leicas all have horizontally travelling cloth shutters, except for the modern digital ones that I’m pretty sure vertically travelling metal shutters.

    Also what you are proposing with sensor size would make for an expensive useless toy at best. a 5x crop factor sensor would be virtually useless with no way to even review your captures or see your field of view. even a m4/3 sized sensor would be an exercise in frustration. I don’t want to be a downer, but if you are going to take people’s money you should be able to demonstrate to them that you have solved the major technical issues and that it works in more than one camera. Anything less puts it firmly in the vaporware category. There’s another thing. 20-40 year old SLRs are quite dusty inside. Sensors tend to be dust magnets due to the electrostatic charges that build up. DSLR sensors have robust coatings applied to their glass AA filters so cleaning doesn’t ruin your sensor. A cheap P&S sensor has none of this and is not designed to be cleaned regularly. You can easily damage a sensor cleaning it, and something like this would have to be cleaned pretty much constantly. There’s so many issues you haven’t worked out and they are all the reason that nobody has managed to make a successful product, and believe me, people have tried. A real DSLR would be infinitely better to use than some cobbled together SLR with sensor. If you want the same experience, just put some black tape over your LCD. Now you can’t chimp. I love shooting film, but couldn’t imagine a digital sensor being all that much fun to use in my K1000.

  • Zos Xavius

    and that’s the real problem. also the film plane is not the same with digital because light passes through the film where digital is a brick wall and a sensor has a different thickness than film.