Somewhere in Italy, photography enthusiast, Samuel Mello Medeiros, is living his dream to bring thousands of neglected film cameras back from obscurity and into the digital era. His project to replace 35mm film canisters with a digital sensor module that can, in relative terms, be easily transplanted in to a wide variety of old cameras, is now in full swing thanks to Kickstarter crowd funding. The product of Medeiros’ labours is called ‘I’m Back’ and designed to be affordable, too.
Laughable? Maybe not
Digital replacements for film in 35mm cameras have had a laughable history. In the late 1990s an outfit called Silicon Film tried to develop a solutions called EFS-1. It never made it to market. More recently in 2011 the idea was re-hashed via a website called www.re35.com. This was launched on 1st of April by a German company that had no product, but simply sought to demonstrate that there was real interest in such a goal. You may be tempted to greet the I’m Back news with some suspicion, but to date the signs are looking positive.
Medeiros has more than achieved his pledge targets on Kickstarter. His design appears to be functional and the specifications look realistically cheap enough to not be vapourware. The electronics are based around the popular and inexpensive Raspberry Pie versatile microcomputer board. It’s mated to an off the shelf Ambarella image processor. Another relatively inexpensive component – a 2/3rd inch 16 megapixel image sensor made by Panasonic. That’s a compact camera sensor, incidentally, with a cropping factor of around 4x.
A mirror diverts the host camera’s field of view downwards to the sensor. Everything is housed in a simple plastic module that can be screwed to the base of the host camera once the film compartment door has been removed. Medeiros says that potentially hundreds of film camera models can take variants of the I’m Back device. A finished ready-ti-use product is promised for May this year. If you’re that way inclined you can save a large chunk of the €175 price tag by purchasing a kit or even the blueprints for your own DIY build.
Clearly I’m Back is not about full frame camera image quality aspirations. Instead, Medeiros says it should interest those attracted to Lomography and pin-hole photography.