Blog: The Frankencamera Project – Part 1

See what the TechResort Elves get up to when there are no sessions going on in Kestrel House…

One of the Elves is quite a keen photographer and recently bought a very pretty old film camera from a second-hand shop.  She thought it would be something interesting and mechanical to take apart.


It got taken home and examined by the resident engineer-elf who declared (via a controlled partial dismantle, clean and reassembly)  that it seems to be broadly in working order and it seemed a bit of a shame to dismantle it.  They then started wondering whether it would be possible to put a digital sensor in it.

This is how project FRANKENCAMERA was born.

It’s not a trivial matter to add a digital camera sensor – it’s very hard to buy actual sensors and even if you could, most companies don’t exactly publish interfacing information for their sensors as this is very much proprietary stuff.  Then Raspberry Pi brought out a new single board computer – the Pi Zero – which is tiny.  They also brought out a new a camera module of higher quality than their previous camera and it can talk to the Pi Zero.

Our summer holiday workshop to send a Pi Zero and camera up into the air with helium balloons demonstrated that the camera is quite cable and it’s not too hard to code the Pi to get some basic functionality.

There are a lot of technical hurdles to go – but one of the first was to check that the little Voigtlander Vitoret camera is broadly light-tight.  The simplest way to check this is to run some film through the camera and check the quality.  So, on Monday evening we popped an old roll of black and white film in it and went for a stroll along the seafront taking pictures as we went.  They’ve been sent off to be developed and we’ll show you the results when they come back.

If you’ve never seen film go into a camera…it looks kind of like this:


Why would anyone bother?

Photographer-elf has several very creative photographer friends in the Bristol area and she reckons a few of them might find this project something interesting to tinker with, at least for a bit.

Mind you, although engineer-elf is beavering away to see how the next stages might be done, we’re a long way from a working prototype.  So watch this space!




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