True interchangeable camera - is it possible again?

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stillshunter, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Brian's post on the " Do you still have a DSLR?" thread got me thinking.

    Here Brian mentions the DCS200which, I believe, shot both film and 'digital' - not simultaneously of course.

    Now although it was done 20 years ago I still think it a novel idea. But can the reverse be done today? From an engineering perspective, is it possible to design a camera (let's make a FF SLR for the sake of ease) which is a native digital that can be loaded with film? I mean in effect a film camera is nothing more than a light-tight box...and digital bodies need to be light-tight right? I know MF film bodies can have digital backs, which makes the camera dual-use, but I believe these backs end at the 120 size...

    Please just fight the urge to ask me why you'd want such a camera or that there is no market for it, etc. As one of the least technical people on this forum I'd be keen to know if it's possible...or possibly even already been done?

    P.S., For my **mind**, a major technical hurdle will be in loading film across the sensor to maintain the exact distance between the lens and the focal plane - a shame as I could see the biggest uptake of this hybrid camera with the range-finder market. Then again, I'm not really au fait with the tolerances of film...
     
  2. Grant

    Grant SC Veteran

    249
    Nov 12, 2010
    Lunenburg Nova Scotia
    I have a Nikon F5 that takes a changeable backs. If some one was industrious they could make a Digital back for it and I suspect I would buy it.
     
  3. Naveed Akhtar

    Naveed Akhtar SC Regular

    186
    Dec 8, 2011
    London, UK
    Well probably it is possible and is a good idea .. but you can do even better by making an interchangeable sensor pocket at the back of the camera. So you can slide in a different sensor, whenever you think your sensor is dying, got very dusty, need an update for better ISO, colors, resolution, DR benefits, just to get different taste of sensor sizes with different crop factors etc and then yes you can also slide in a module that can hold a film.

    Otherwise I agree and felt the same issue of keeping the sensor and film at the same distance, wouldn't be possible, or atleast very messy.
    Thanks .. the food for thought was yummy!
     
  4. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Grant that's sort of the same theory behind the DCS200 I believe. But I was more looking at the reverse and catering for folks who have, or want to maintain, digital as their primary medium.

    Having said that, the more I think about it, if they can work the registration distance thing out then they might even be able to work the system so it can expose both film and sensor simultaneously. Both receivers work in a light-tight environment and in mirror-less models they **might** still be able to derive enough light as it penetrates the emulsion to register an image on the exposed sensor behind. Meanwhile there might be possibilities in the SLR realm to utilise Sony's translucent mirror technology to have the same light refracted to hit both receivers simultaneously.

    Yeah, OK, I'm giving this too much thought. But, hey, I already apologised for my deficiencies in technical nous, but it's reciprocal is that I have a little bit of an over-active imagination :blush:

    ...and it just sounds so cool to me :cool:

    Naveed, mate you could bounce that one off the guys at Ricoh? Seems their GXR lensor system is already halfway there...they just need a film back...
     
  5. Brian

    Brian SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    638
    Jul 7, 2010
    Look up the DCS100. It was a digital back for the Nikon F3.

    And the DCS460: a 6MPixel back for the Nikon N90.

    Digital backs for medium format are readily available.

    The issue with interchanging just the sensor: different drive electronics are required.
     
  6. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    And you can't feed film over the sensor plane to produce an acceptable image?
     
  7. Naveed Akhtar

    Naveed Akhtar SC Regular

    186
    Dec 8, 2011
    London, UK
    Well GXR modules are combined sensor and lens into one socket module. Sensor can't be taken off from the module, its probably more complicated than removing a sensor from a DSLR or ILC. For the kind of requirement you asking, you need a separate interchangable sensor camera system!! I guess :frown:
     
  8. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    Steve
    Some companies tried to make a digital insert that would fit into 35 mm SLR bodies. They never got it working well. Here was a very recent attempt:
    RE-35 | Digital cartridges for analog 35-mm cameras

    They didn't actually have a product but the advantage was they loss much less money than other attempts. :tongue:
     
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  9. usayit

    usayit SC Regular

    113
    Sep 4, 2010
    Leica R8/R9 with the Digital Module-R. There's still a following. Unfortunately, most are searching and searching (or hacking together) solutions for their discontinued battery problems (consumables that need replacement).

    I honestly don't think there is a market for it.... I'm also thinking there is a lot of R&D work introduced into such an effort with little payout. In other words, its cheaper to buy a DSLR and Film SLR. Also, the design would be even more complicated if you wanted to allow for the swapping of "backs" mid roll.
     
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  10. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    Steve
    It's really too late for this. 5 years ago, sure, because folks had their favorite film cameras. Most have moved on by now. There are too many DSLRs that would outperform an old SLR and an insert.
     
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  11. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Real Name:
    Bill Palmer
    If it could be done EASILY there would be a huge potential market. BUT film cameras are awkward beasts. Getting a sensor into the film plane at the gate is just the start. You have to power it, hold it securely, tell it when you are depressing the shutter, etc. You have to be able to set ISO and white balance. What would you do with the existing shutter mechanism ...and so on.

    It is something I would love to see, but I just cannot see it, if you see what I mean... :rolleyes::D. In the meantime, film roolz. :cool:
     
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  12. Brian

    Brian SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    638
    Jul 7, 2010
    It was easier to make a digital back for a Nikon F3 than it was for Kodak to make an F3 equivalent, so they went that road. Technically, there is no reason that it cannot be done for most any camera with a removable back. Non-recurring engineering cost and competition with buying a new camera are the reasons for not doing the project. My lightly used M8 with 400 clicks on it was under $2500 two years ago. The developer's kit for a full-frame digital sensor runs more than a Leica M9. That developer's it would make a good starting point for making a back for an M3. We've discussed this at length on RFF. engineering point of view: nothing that cannot be handled, and less risk than making Digital Sensors 30 years ago. Market: need some real rich Leica M3 user that "must have it no matter what the cost", and we're in.
     
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  13. Naveed Akhtar

    Naveed Akhtar SC Regular

    186
    Dec 8, 2011
    London, UK
    Guys I think we are losing the track a bit. Stillhunter initiated this discussion for a new camera system that can take both film and digital sensor. Digital backs for the old film gears is a totally different sector. But seriously thanks for your inputs, it helps understanding those old and glorious days of Photography!
     
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  14. Brian

    Brian SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    638
    Jul 7, 2010
    A camera designed to take film or digital must always use an interchangeable back. a camera designed from the ground up for Digital has no reason to leave a chamber for film. A camera designed just for film needs a back that can be removed to make room for a digital insert.

    On the N8008s, I can use either the MF-20 back for film, or the DCS200 back for digital.

    On the Nikon F, I can use the F-36 motor back, standard film back, or Polaroid Speed-Magny back. If I wanted a digital back, it would end up looking like an F-36 motor drive back. The camera would trigger the digital through the linkage normally used for the motor and flash.

    I doubt that anyone would design a new camera specifically to take both film and digital, it would make some slight differences over one designed for just film. The guide rails would allow a bit more room for the sensor, the shutter curtains would be farther out from the image plane to allow for thicker IR absorption glass, and the interface between camera body and interchangeable back would relay more information required for the digital settings such as ISO, Sync, and operating mode.
     
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  15. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Thanks folks. That's why I needed the more technically inclined to step in. :blush: In the world of make-believe that I call home, I thought a serious compact digital camera with a slot (where my useless HDMI one is maybe) might accept 35mm film. Set the reel on the right via an accessory spool - as well as a take-up light-tight spool on the left - and just feed it through. Film goes across the sensor image plane and Bob's your uncle. Otherwise, in a non-serious compact, you could feed the film in similarly but use a translucent mirror to project the image - you could then selected either film or digital based upon where the light is refracted.

    I appreciate the hard cold truth....a bubble burst...but no matter another will form soon enough in its place. :cloud-9-039:
     
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  16. Naveed Akhtar

    Naveed Akhtar SC Regular

    186
    Dec 8, 2011
    London, UK
    Agree Brian, it will be too comborsome to accomodate best of both worlds .. they are totally different religions!

    Thanks mate, really enjoying your writings .. always :smile: waiting for the next formation
     
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