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Author Topic: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?  (Read 19402 times)

eatstickyrice

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Every once in a while I find myself using ebay searches as a camera museum tour in appreciation of the numerous cameras that have been designed in ages past. I have a great appreciation for the traditional Rolleiflex design, and am wondering how possible it would be to retro fit one with digital parts from semi recent digital cameras like the canon 20D. It seems like there would be enough room inside to accomplish this. I also know I am not the only camera nut in these forums that has contemplated such! Have any of you tried to retro fit a film cam with a digital sensor, processor, battery, card slot etc? Please share your experiences. At the very least this is a fun topic for us.

Rick 
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Dick Roadnight

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2010, 12:16:29 am »

Every once in a while I find myself using ebay searches as a camera museum tour in appreciation of the numerous cameras that have been designed in ages past. I have a great appreciation for the traditional Rolleiflex design, and am wondering how possible it would be to retro fit one with digital parts from semi recent digital cameras like the canon 20D. It seems like there would be enough room inside to accomplish this. I also know I am not the only camera nut in these forums that has contemplated such! Have any of you tried to retro fit a film cam with a digital sensor, processor, battery, card slot etc? Please share your experiences. At the very least this is a fun topic for us.

Rick 
The obvious way to do this would be to put an MF digiback on it, but you might have to remove some of the back of the camera to get infinity focus.

The (fixed) lens would become a "tele", depending on the sensor size.
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uaiomex

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2010, 01:50:00 am »

Possible, yes.  Worth it? I don't think so unless you're determined to be in the Guinness Book of Records.
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NikoJorj

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2010, 06:10:45 am »

A canon 20d sensor (APS-C size, 22*15mm) into a Rolleiflex (56*56mm picture size)? That should hurt!
Shooting with an unharmed 20d will be, photographic-wise, much more productive. ;D

But on the "unbelievable contraptions" side of things, it could be fun, no doubt.
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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vandevanterSH

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2010, 10:02:20 am »

"Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?"
*********
Yes....A quality film scanner. 

I have been thinking about getting a Rolleiflex myself.

Steve
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eatstickyrice

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2010, 11:38:11 am »

I saw a little bit online about the scanner approach, but it sounded like the scans were still done from left to right or top to bottom, and not all at once, thus causing distortion. Have you found any useful articles that explain things differently?

Thus far this has been the most insightful site I found on the topic: http://www.bigshotcamera.org/ . It used to be that people would make their own film cameras for special projects. Surely one of these days we'll figure out how to do this in the digital age. There's just too much good equipment, specifically lenses, laying around to let it all go to waste.

Rick
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Dennis Carbo

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2010, 04:37:04 pm »

I think what vandervanterSH meant was scan the film, a 120 film scan will hammer the 20D anyway....and you dont have to butcher a classic rollei !

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Justinr

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2010, 05:12:45 pm »

Amongst the sooth sayers and crystal ball gazers of the technology world there is often talk of computers becoming as thin and flexible as cloth. I can't quite recall how this new idea works but it seems to me that if you produce a 'cloth' computer the same size as a strip of 120 film then you have your answer, assuming of course that the technology allows the creation of sensors in the way that it does other chips.

Might have to wait a while though.
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vandevanterSH

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2010, 06:55:17 pm »

I think what vandervanterSH meant was scan the film, a 120 film scan will hammer the 20D anyway....and you dont have to butcher a classic rollei !



Precisely...120 negatives scan very well, even with an affordable scanner such as Epson 700/750.  Film is also more forgiving (or is forgiven) with focusing issues, hand-held vs tripod,  MUP, etc.

Steve
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IanB

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2010, 06:57:48 am »

56x56mm scanned on a Nikon 9000 @ 4000dpi = 8820 x 8820 pixels = 77.8 Mpx. That almost equals a Leaf Aptus II 12 (theoretically, anyway - if all else were equal!).

Later TLR Rolleflexes have good enough lenses for the limiting factor to be the film grain. I use this setup for monochrome work, and it gives outstanding results. Grain is invisible if you choose your developer carefully.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion (!) that an MF digital back is now much better for colour work in almost all respects, but it is still nevertheless possible to get very good results indeed from a TLR Rolleiflex with modern colour film optimised for scanning. They will certainly not be put to shame by even the latest full-frame DSLR, and for my taste are actually preferable. If your technique is good you can print onto A1 size paper very nicely, and on A3 there is quality to spare, and usually little or no visible grain. The only reason pros don't use this kind of set-up is that the resulting workflow is S - L - O - W, and, of course, time is money. There is certainly no image quality problem.
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vandevanterSH

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2010, 11:49:55 am »

I have just started home B&W developing and scanning (Nikon 9000ED) and 120 film produces excellent files.  Lab developed color negs (Ektar) also produce excellent files, different from digital but not inferior.

Steve
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Dave Gurtcheff

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2010, 12:16:02 am »

A little off topic, but I have a sizeable collection of "Classic" 35mm SLRs: Leicaflex SL with lenses, Praktina, Topcon, Pentax, Exakta, Canonflex, Pentax, Contax S  with all the variants (Hexacon, Pentacon, etc), Miranda, Petri, Edixa, Nikon F, etc. The list goes on. About 10 years ago, when digital was first making it's inroads, a company issued a press release: they were developing a digital chip; it was attached to a round container, the exact size of a roll of 35mm film, which apparently contained the "guts" of the digital processor.. The idea was you buy the the chip/processer, drop it into your classic SLR in lieu of film, and BINGO *ALL* your classic cameras with exotic lenses are now digital! Obviously, it never came to fruition. Anyone else remember the press release(s)? WOW it would be a real killer if it ever happened.
Dave
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Rob C

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2010, 03:57:59 am »

A little off topic, but I have a sizeable collection of "Classic" 35mm SLRs: Leicaflex SL with lenses, Praktina, Topcon, Pentax, Exakta, Canonflex, Pentax, Contax S  with all the variants (Hexacon, Pentacon, etc), Miranda, Petri, Edixa, Nikon F, etc. The list goes on. About 10 years ago, when digital was first making it's inroads, a company issued a press release: they were developing a digital chip; it was attached to a round container, the exact size of a roll of 35mm film, which apparently contained the "guts" of the digital processor.. The idea was you buy the the chip/processer, drop it into your classic SLR in lieu of film, and BINGO *ALL* your classic cameras with exotic lenses are now digital! Obviously, it never came to fruition. Anyone else remember the press release(s)? WOW it would be a real killer if it ever happened.
Dave


Yes, you're not dreaming, it was referred to as digital film. I have no idea if it ever got anywhere, but there were several 'on the verge of' announcements...

The idea of using mf film and then scanning is attractive, on the face of it, but for anyone thinking 6x6, not so clever. Think of the size of the final print on A3+: it's going to be a tiny square in the middle of the sheet (unless you crop like hell, defeating the 6x6 real estate advantage) and you'd be better off using straight ff digital 35mm.

But the same problem applied to wet prints from 6x6 as well; you had to know exactly what the final intended result was going to be and then frame within the square to suit. In practice, it worked better for vertical final useage than horizontal (with people shots), which sounds odd, but was true.

However, if you have the fortune to use roll papers, then you have fewer waste problems...

Rob C

Justinr

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2010, 05:43:11 am »

In the early days of any technological advance there will be all sorts of ideas as to what can be done with it. Look at flying and space exploration, By now we are all meant to have our own mini choppers parked on the drive and Mars should be colonised but it has hardly turned out like that and the same is true of digital capture. In retrospect it is easy to see where the problems of digital film canisters lie and why they never stood a chance against purpose designed bodies.

First of all how do you tell the sensor an exposure is being made? How do you set it's sensitivity? A full frame sensor produces a lot of info, where would you store it without the memory devices available to us now? An ex-camera digital file is a highly processed thing, without the room for the appropriate processors a digital canister would probably kick out pretty awful files which will then need further processing. Sensors are highly variable items and are less forgiving to incorrect exposure (certainly 10 years ago anyway), most film camera bodies probably could not offer the level of exposure control required. Purpose designed bodies can incorporate a viewing screen to display not just the picture but the metadata allowing much quicker and more accurate alterations to settings etc and so on.

The clincher is though  that with digital everybody had to go and buy a new camera and keep buying new cameras, an opportunity for the camera makers that they were not going to leave unrealised.


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Dave Gurtcheff

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2010, 08:49:56 pm »

In the early days of any technological advance there will be all sorts of ideas as to what can be done with it. Look at flying and space exploration, By now we are all meant to have our own mini choppers parked on the drive and Mars should be colonised but it has hardly turned out like that and the same is true of digital capture. In retrospect it is easy to see where the problems of digital film canisters lie and why they never stood a chance against purpose designed bodies.

First of all how do you tell the sensor an exposure is being made? How do you set it's sensitivity? A full frame sensor produces a lot of info, where would you store it without the memory devices available to us now? An ex-camera digital file is a highly processed thing, without the room for the appropriate processors a digital canister would probably kick out pretty awful files which will then need further processing. Sensors are highly variable items and are less forgiving to incorrect exposure (certainly 10 years ago anyway), most film camera bodies probably could not offer the level of exposure control required. Purpose designed bodies can incorporate a viewing screen to display not just the picture but the metadata allowing much quicker and more accurate alterations to settings etc and so on.

The clincher is though  that with digital everybody had to go and buy a new camera and keep buying new cameras, an opportunity for the camera makers that they were not going to leave unrealised.

AHHHH...Yes. of course you are correct...but at 73 years old I can dream. Can you imagine dropping, for example, a digital module into a Leicaflax SL2 and making high quality digital images? In my earlier years we kept high quality camera bodies, and once in a while "upgraded" by buying the latest and greatest *FILM*, not a new body. Remember going from Kodacolor, then Ektacolor Profesional, (Commercial and Portrait varietys), Extar, etc. There was also in the earlier days Agfacolor negative with no orange mask. I made 16"x20" Ektacolor prints using this film sandwiched with a blank, developed Kodacolor negative. Worked....
Best..
Dave


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BradSmith

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2010, 12:18:40 am »

"how possible it would be to retro fit one with digital parts from semi recent digital cameras like the canon 20D. It seems like there would be enough room inside to accomplish this. I also know I am not the only camera nut in these forums that has contemplated such! Have any of you tried to retro fit a film cam with a digital sensor, processor, battery, card slot etc?"

Dear Mr. Rice,
I haven't tried it, but I think you're on the right track.  Just take a hammer to the 20D, and extract the sensor, processor, battery, card slot, etc, and then open the back of the Rollei and just jam them in there.  Voila, a digitally retrofitted Rollei.  Let us know how it all works out. 

Brad
 
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JonasYip

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2010, 12:58:57 am »

there's a picture of a digital back hacked onto a Rolleiflex here:

http://forum.getdpi.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=7623

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Rob C

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2010, 01:22:58 pm »

there's a picture of a digital back hacked onto a Rolleiflex here:

http://forum.getdpi.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=7623



I like that Jonas; I can just see myself doing the same to the fridge - that tape sure was a useful invention!

;-)

Rob C

eatstickyrice

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2010, 04:05:52 pm »

I'm not ready to put a hammer to any cameras yet. I was thinking more along the lines of finding a cam with a good sensor in it on ebay... One that is dead for some reason though, like perhaps the autofocusing system having failure or something like that. Occasionally such cams are sold for parts only for less than $100.

The rolleiflex cams have a lot of room in them, and at least some models have an adapter for the 35mm format. So, it's not too far of a stretch to consider retrofitting one with a 35mm sensor. It seems that using an old 1Ds or similar full frame sensor would make the most sense, as it would eliminate any additional crop factor. I guess what I am wondering is how hard could this actually be? There's a sensor, a processor, a power source, a flash card and a trigger. I guess if I had the available parts laying around I'd give it a go. If anyone is interested in collaborating on this and has some available parts, please let me know. I know it can be done!

My basic approach would be to extract the parts, and then try mounting the sensor where the film plate is supposed to be. Then place the other parts carefully where the film canister is supposed to go. Additional space could be found by removing any other film specific parts. Then the trigger would need to have some sort of relationship with the existing trigger of the Rolleiflex, so as not to take away from the retro beauty of the camera itself. Cutting holes in the body itself would be avoided if at all possible. Dust would probably be the most problematic area. If anyone else has additional suggestions for this theoretical plan, please post them. At the very least, it's a fun little dream!

Rick
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Gigi

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Re: Is it possible to turn a traditional Rolleiflex into a digital camera?
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2010, 07:06:11 am »

Oh don't we all wish it were so: WLF, no mirror issues, and a good digital file. The holy grail, and no, it isn't so.

Simplest version (only version?) is the Hassy V series with a digital back. All sorts of issues there - manual focus isn't sometimes on precisely enough, everything has to be aligned just right, floppy mirror, but it does work. Rollei's version of this was practically the same, but with the kinks worked out - the Hy6 solves all those issues, and is about the same size, but all electronic.

As to a nice hand-holdable small form factor MF digital back to replace (or add to) a TLR: Don't I wish someone would make one. The best would be to put the sensor down low, and take the guts and put them up high where the take up roll space is.... So far,no one has nibbled a that. But if you are so motivated, get a digital back, take it apart, and rearrange it to fit. Conceptually could work, might have an advantage or two (think of all the old Rollei buffs who would send you their TLR to be so modified - if you could engineer a back and the guts to fit into the film slot with a replacement back, and not butcher the camera). One could offer a "focus calibration" service as well (they'd all need that - to get the new precision alignments).

I for one offer you encouragement - with the caution it is easy to imagine and hell to produce. 
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