Crowdfunding Watch: Digital rescue for analogue SLR cameras


selection of older SLR cameras one fitted with I'm Back - Digital rescue for analogue SLR cameras

Source: Samuel Mello Medeiros

You can still get film, of course, but we’ve all got so used to the instant gratification of digital imaging that it’s only for very special occasions that we allow ourselves the luxury of using film, and always as an addition to digital, never instead of…

I was delighted, therefore, when a colleague pointed out stories of a Kickstarter project that might restore my F3 to a useful life. I’m happy to report that it achieved its target with backers pledging a total of €53,991 against a target of €20,000 (269%) and is now in the pre-sale phase of development.

Hybridise your old camera

Called “I’m Back”, it describes itself as an add-on that will turn your classic SLR into a “hybrid” camera working with photographic films or in digital mode.

To adapt your old SLR to digital mode  simply “detach the rear cap from the camera, adjust the exposure ‘hole’ to the camera module installed on the [I’m Back] back (16mp camera), connect the Sync Flash cable from the camera to the case and set the exposure to ‘B’ (Bulb) and you’re ready to go”.

The current I’m Back is available for:

  • Nikon F, F2, F3, FA, EM, FG, Nikkormat EL, FM, FE and S2,
  • Canon F1, A1, AE1 and FT
  • Pentax ME super, Spotomatic and K1000
  • Praktica b200 and MTL
  • Contax II, RTS and G2
  • Olympus OM1, OM2, OM4 and OM10
  • Minolta Dinaxx 7000 and XD series
  • Yashica JP and FX3
  • Leica M and R
  • Diana F and F mini

It also boasts a “universal accessory”, which can be adjusted to almost all 35mm cameras, so the list above is not exclusive.

Creator Samuel Mello Medeiros says:

“I love photography, be it analogue or digital, and I love the great cameras that, by a sudden change of technology, ended up being archived and forgotten inside a box or drawer. So I couldn’t stop thinking how to revive those wonderful vintage 35mm cameras.”

Medeiros worked to keep a lid on costs by developing a system called “image photo over the focusing screen” where the whole 24×36 area is optimised and digitally recorded.

cutaway drawings illustrate the mechanism

In the DoF adapter digital back, the image is projected on to the focusing screen. Then a digital camera takes a photo of this focusing screen
Source: Samuel Mello Medeiros

Instead of using large expensive sensors Medeiro developed what he called a depth-of-field (DoF) adapter.

“In normal digital cameras, the image from the lens is directly projected on to the sensor. The smaller the size of the sensor, the more the image is cropped, which we call the ‘crop factor’. In the DoF adapter digital back, the image is projected on to the focusing screen. Then we use a digital camera to take a photo of this focusing screen and there is no crop factor.”

The technology

Novatek processor

Novatek processor

Early prototypes were developed using a Raspberry Pi, but the production model I’m Back has a 16mp Panasonic CMOS sensor that can take pictures and record video at 20mp, 16mp, 12mp, 8mp, 4mp or 2mp.

“Thanks to the focusing screen it will always maintain the vintage flavour of your 35mm camera,” says Medeiros.

A smart two-inch touch screen display is included for GUI.

Wi-Fi is also on board so that images can be uploaded to a smartphone, and if you want a bigger interface the I’m Back can be synced with a smartphone in order to use the bigger display fore easier control of the camera.

Professional photographers should note that the I’m Back was designed to reuse analogue equipment in a digital way, which gives what the makers call a “retro” aspect to its pictures not on a par with pure digital or analogue.

Let’s give Medeiros the last word:

“It’s far beyond the idea to shoot digital images with millions of pixels; the mission here is to capture the silent fraction of a piece of time: it’s inspiring, it’s a life style, it’s spiritual.”

Amen to that.

Sue Proud






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