20.7.21

Befinitiv's Digital Film Cartridge Adds a Raspberry Pi


Using a 3D-printed housing, a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, Raspberry Pi Zero, and LiPo battery, befinitiv has given an old camera a rebirth.

Pseudonymous maker "befinitiv" has shown off a Raspberry Pi-powered upgrade for film cameras, turning them into digital cameras capable of stills, video, and even live streaming — albeit with considerably different zoom from their stock designs.

"This was state of the art 50 years ago," befinitiv explains of a Cosina Hi-Lite film camera. "Back then, of course, you shot your films or photos on these films, and this was rather expensive back in the day — but today it's even more expensive and a bit cumbersome."

"So, of course, I did the obvious and replaced this film cartridge by a digital cartridge based on a Raspberry Pi — so you have a digital camera that looks like this and can do everything that you expect from a digital camera nowadays. It can do video, it can stream video over Wi-Fi, and store things on an SD card."
The secret behind the hack: A Raspberry Pi Camera Module with its integrated lens removed — something you don't have to do on the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera Module, which requires an external lens — fitted into a 3D-printed housing that secures it in the camera and aligns it at the focal point of the lens.

The Camera Module connects to a Raspberry Pi Zero W single-board computer, which handles the capture, streaming, and storage. A lithium-polymer battery powers everything through a DC-to-DC boost converter.

The result is functional, but a far cry from how images would have looked captured on film. "This is really far zoomed in," befinitiv notes — a result of the significantly smaller sensor size of the Raspberry Pi Camera Module compared with the 35mm film the camera and lens were originally designed to use."

"I can only recommend to also build something for your cameras because it is really fun and gives 
these things a new life, which is I think always great for these nice high quality 'retrotech' items."

19.7.21

5 Frames… At Pennsylvania’s Trolley Graveyard


5 Frames… At Pennsylvania’s Trolley Graveyard on ILFORD Delta 400 Professional (35mm Format / El 400 / Canon Elan IIe + Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II)

I had the opportunity to participate in an organized trip to a place called the Trolley Graveyard in Windber, Pennsylvania in December of 2020. As this was almost a year into the pandemic, I jumped at the idea of going anywhere at all. It was outside and everyone would be masked and distanced and so it seemed like a safe outing. That 160 mile round trip from my home in Pittsburgh was about an eighth of the total mileage for my car in the year 2020.

The Trolley Graveyard is a private collection of decommissioned streetcars that a man named Ed Metka has been collecting for almost thirty years in Windber, a suburb of Johnstown. It’s not normally open to the public but Mr. Metka will open it to groups occasionally. Ethereal Aperture, based here in Pittsburgh, organized the trip and half a dozen of us drove out there this winter.

There are train cars in better shape inside the barns but it was too dark in there for ISO 400 and I hadn’t brought a tripod or flash so these are all of the trolleys and train cars that have been out in the elements and slowly rusting in the relentless Western Pennsylvania weather.


I took my $25 Canon Elan IIe paired with a new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens; the 35mm cartridges were hand-loaded from a 100-foot bulk roll. I shot three rolls of ILFORD Delta 400 Professional and one of expired Kodak Gold 400 but these five shots are all from one roll of the ILFORD. It was a very gray and overcast day in Western Pennsylvania, typical here for about half the year, which gives you a signature soft, even light with few shadows. This quality of light turned out to be a good match for the somewhat melancholy subject matter and ILFORD’s Delta 400 does a terrific job of capturing the textures of the metal, wood and fabric surfaces.


Even though the site isn’t open, it’s pretty obvious from these pictures that young folk with spray cans manage to get in there. The graffiti just adds another layer of texture to the surfaces.

I developed the rolls in HC-110 using standard timings from the Massive Development Chart and scanned them in with an Epson Perfection Pro v850 and then tweaked the tones a bit in Lightroom. While I’m quite happy with these, I wish that I had access to a darkroom to print them properly and will eventually do just that, probably on some cooler-tone paper.

Eugene Wilson

14.7.21

Trump’s Fantasy Legal World


The former president is obscuring the very real legal problems he has with imaginary ones he wants.

Just like you, Donald Trump has some big summer plans, though his are probably more grandiose: He’s going to be reinstated to the presidency by August, and he’s going to sue Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube, and their respective CEOs for violating his First Amendment rights. The first of these is impossible. The second, which Trump announced during a press conference this morning, is only marginally more likely to succeed.

These two expectations share something in common beyond improbability: Both are examples of the former president trying to warp reality to better fit his desires. In the real world, Trump lost the 2020 election; in his fantasy world, he was cheated out of a victory but will still manage a return. In the real world, Trump and his company face troubling legal challenges; in his fantasy world, Trump is trying to overshadow those cases with one he’d rather be fighting.

“I stand before you this morning to announce a very important and very beautiful, I think, development for our freedom and our freedom of speech and that goes to all Americans,” he said at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, blacklisting, canceling, and shaming you know so well.”

Trump’s legal case, which demands the restoration of his social-media accounts and punitive damages, has very little chance of prevailing in court. The defendants are private companies not bound by the First Amendment. Trump’s legal argument hinges on the claim that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law passed by Congress in 1996, effectively makes the tech companies government actors. One could try to explain this argument in more detail, but it wouldn’t make any more sense.

The question is not whether Trump was banned by Facebook and Twitter but whether he has any legal recourse. Conservatives have long complained that the platforms are throttling their posts, but they haven’t produced any significant evidence to back that up. A useful Twitter feed created by Kevin Roose of The New York Times shows just how much conservatives dominate Facebook’s most popular posts on a daily basis. Trump is not banned from Twitter and Facebook because he is conservative (to the extent that he has any ideological commitments beyond himself), but because he used those platforms to foment violence and spread disinformation—a habit that eventually became too embarrassing and politically hazardous for the sites to bear.

Portraying himself as a defender of free speech is particularly rich for Trump, because he has long been an unabashed opponent of First Amendment protections for others. As a private citizen, he often sued reporters for statements they made about him; as a candidate, he called for changing libel laws to make defamation claims easier. As president, he sought to use the Justice Department to pursue his critics.

Talking about the merits of this new case, however, is mostly beside the point. Trump said during his press conference that he was not looking to settle and intended to see the cases through in court. Don’t put any money on that. Throughout his career, Trump has often threatened to sue and even filed lawsuits, but the litigation goes nowhere—not necessarily because of any problems with the merits, but because the downsides for Trump outweigh the benefits, as the eminent First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams explained to me in 2018, when Trump threatened to sue the author Michael Wolff.

In the discovery phase of the suit against these tech companies, should it go forward, defendants could demand information about Trump’s actions on January 6 and whether he incited the insurrection that day. Trump has prudently avoided disclosing much about what he did that day, and there’s no way he’d speak about the fiasco for a doomed lawsuit. As the legal commentator Harry Litman notes, the case might not even make it that far: It could be thrown out of court before discovery, because private companies cannot violate the First Amendment.

In short, the case is—like so many of Trump’s past frivolous suits and threats of suits—a publicity stunt, but it’s a stunt with an edge of anxiety. The former president has long recognized litigation’s power to change narratives. In his earliest turn in the press, when his family’s company was charged with racial housing discrimination, he countersued the government. Twitter and Facebook banned him back in January, but today’s announcement didn’t come until nearly a week after indictments of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer were unsealed in court in New York.

Those indictments are something of a disappointment for Trump’s detractors, as they do not target the former president himself. But although they may be, as the president says, politically motivated and unusual, the charges are also extremely convincing, based on claims made by the Manhattan district attorney and the New York attorney general. Last week’s indictments may only be the beginning, too. Enterprising prosecutors can find many other areas to investigate, and Trump’s initial reaction was dour and fatalistic, my colleague David Frum wrote. Elsewhere, Trump faces two major defamation lawsuits and a handful of other cases that vary both in seriousness and likeliness to succeed.

Trump seemed to be having a good time during his press conference today. His rambling remarks included digressions about defunding the police, Anthony Fauci, and the prowess of lawyers for tobacco companies. The fantasy world in which his First Amendment theories are strong is alluring, but it cannot erase or eclipse the real legal issues he faces.


David A. Graham

13.7.21

Behind the Scenes of How Kodak Film is Made


Curious how Kodak manufactures its film? In this 8-minute video, Studio C-41 shows the process from making the original giant rolls of plastic that eventually becomes film, to the finished product found on store shelves around the world.

Despite the demand for film falling significantly over the last couple of decades, Kodak continues to produce it in large amounts from its factory in Rochester, New York.

The manufacture of film can be broken down into three main steps. The first step involves heating, stretching, and forming the film base into a large rolled sheet. Those rolls can be up to 12,000 feet long. The next step is to sensitize the film rolls to light. Emulsions and chemicals are added to the film base to prepare it for final finishing.

The final step sends the sensitized film to the film finishing department, where it is cut to size, perforated, labeled, and prepared for shipping.

Despite what Kodak as a business has gone through over the past ten years and despite a shift to producing pharmaceuticals, the company still continues to press on with film production. While not particularly detailed in what it shows, the video does still provide an interesting look inside a company that was instrumental in the revolutionary spread of photography. Without Kodak and what it has been doing in that same factory for decades, many events may never have been captured for the future to look back on

2.7.21

Here Comes the Canon EOS R3: More Specs Emerge


Canon has made a few development announcements regarding the upcoming EOS R3, dropping some specs that underscore just what a powerful camera it will be. Still, there is a lot we do not know about the upcoming body, such as its resolution. However, Canon is planning to make the official announcement in just a few days, and we'll soon know everything about the camera.

Canon Rumors is reporting that the official announcement of the Canon EOS R3 is coming on June 29, 2021 and that the RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM will be announced on the same day. Perhaps the most exciting rumor is that the camera will come with a 30.1-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor. Canon already announced the design of the sensor, but its resolution has been up in the air until now. 

While it wasn't expected to be ultra-high resolution like EOS R5, I was certainly hoping it would be more than the 20 megapixels seen in the EOS R6. 30 megapixels seems to be a real sweet spot in modern cameras; it was an excellent balance in my 5D Mark IV. Of course, we'll also see other features like 30 fps continuous bursts, internal raw video, advanced autofocus, 8 stops of image stabilization when coordinated with optical and in-body capabilities, and more. It will be quite exciting to see what Tuesday brings!

Alex Cooke

26.6.21

4 Favorite Medium Format Film Cameras


If you love film photography, you’re missing out if you don’t use medium format film cameras. Arguably, this is where you’ll really to start a major advantage over digital photography. There’s also things like the look, the feel, and the overall approach to how you work with subjects. You have to be a million times more conservative with how you shoot photos. So we dove into the Reviews Index to find some of the best medium format film cameras we’ve used.

Why We Chose These Medium Format Film Cameras

First off, we’ve reviewed a bunch of medium format film cameras over the years. And we’ve specifically chosen these for a variety of reasons. With the exception of the Mamiya 6, all of these cameras are completely analog and don’t need batteries at all. Of course, if you get a metered prism for the two SLRs, that’s the exception. But a fully analog camera will always work no matter what. The Mamiya 6 was chosen because the system has arguably some of the best lenses ever made. It’s also incredibly versatile, and I love the square format.

No Hasselblad? Yes. The reason for this is because of the pricing. That’s also why we haven’t reviewed or listed the Contax 645, Mamiya 645, etc. We also chose the Mamiya RB67 because it’s often more reliable than the RZ67. We also didn’t choose a 645 format camera because digital 645 arguably outdoes film at this point.

Mamiya 6: Square Medium Format
“I’ve been on the search for the perfect medium format film camera for me for years now. This, the Fujifilm GW690 III, and the Mamiya RB67 Pro S are amongst my favorites. I prefer to have a multitude of formats and cameras that can handle different situations accordingly. But of any of those, the Mamiya 6 seems to offer the most versatility. I can use it for documentary work, studio work, landscapes, portraiture, and so much. It’s just meant to be a damned good professional film camera.”

Mamiya RB67: 67 Medium Format
“The Mamiya RB67 Pro S is a camera meant for the serious photographer that wants to stick to analog. It’s a studio and landscape camera that will most likely require a tripod from you. They’re fantastic to use; but also keep in mind its difficulty.”

Pentax 67: Obviously, 67 Format
“The Pentax 67 is honestly a fantastic medium format SLR camera. It has found a way into the heart of so many photographers. With a plethora of fantastic lenses, it is surely best used when shooting with natural light outdoors. It’s not the best for studio work and location work with a flash due to the long flash duration of 1/30th. You’ll also want to use wider lenses for something like that.”

Fujifilm GW 690 III: Big is Beautiful
“I’ve been using the Fujifilm GW690 III for a really long time now. By far, it’s my most used medium format film camera, even over my Mamiya RB67 Pro S. That’s because it’s got a small(ish) size, fantastic lens, rangefinder focusing, and it’s reliable. Sure, you’re only getting eight shots per 120 film roll, but if you’re careful then that’s enough.”

20.6.21

A Memory of Solidarity Day, on Juneteenth, 1968


The sight of the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., for Solidarity Day, on Juneteenth, 1968, seemed to say that Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s dream remained alive after his death.Photograph by John D. Bunns Jr.

To many Americans, the public outpouring over racism that has been taking place in America since George Floyd’s murder feels like a long-postponed renewal of the momentous reckoning that shook the nation, and then ebbed, more than half a century ago. That instant was one of the first memories I have of this country; my family had been living abroad, most recently in Taiwan. We returned when I was eleven, to Lake Barcroft, Virginia, a white middle-class suburb of Washington, D.C., just a few months before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. What I can recall most clearly is the sense of tragedy that instantly befell our new home.

My parents were white California liberals. They spoke often about King and the struggle for civil rights. I suppose they were trying to prepare us for the racism that existed in our country. I was one of five children: three of us were white, one was Asian, one Hispanic. Racism was not only an abhorrent concept; it was the antithesis of who we were as a family. The speech that Robert F. Kennedy gave in Indianapolis a few hours after King was murdered made my parents cry. The last time I could remember seeing them so stricken was in Taiwan, when I was six, and John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated.

A week after King’s death, my father took me for a drive around Washington. I recall it being a Saturday morning, and what my memory carries is the two of us driving slowly through empty streets, seeing the devastation of the neighborhoods that had been torched and plundered in the previous days of rage and despair. I don’t remember anything else, not even what we said, except that my father was not angry, only sad, at what we saw.

Later that month, with my parents’ encouragement, I volunteered to sell bumper stickers for the Poor People’s Campaign, which King had been organizing when he was killed. The campaign was coming to Washington, my parents said. Some three thousand people from different parts of the country would arrive in caravans and live in Resurrection City, a tent encampment set up on the Mall. There would be a march to the Lincoln Memorial. If King hadn’t been killed, he would have led it, they told me, but now that task fell to his widow, Coretta Scott King, and the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Excited to be allowed to participate, I went out to sell my bumper stickers, going house to house, ringing doorbells. The stickers, which I was to sell for a dollar apiece, to go toward the campaign’s expenses, were black and white, and printed with King’s phrase “I have a Dream . . . One America.” But I managed to sell only a few; my parents made me stop after two people had chased me away from their front doors. One threatened to unleash his Dobermans, and shouted “Fuck you!” I had not heard the term many times before; certainly no adult had ever said it to me. I was frightened by the dogs, shocked by the hatred, and disappointed that I wasn’t allowed to continue, but felt a child’s pride in the effort I had made.

The whole family went to the march, on what was called Solidarity Day. It had been originally planned for May 30th, but was postponed to June 19th. That was Juneteenth, the date that Texas became the last state in the Confederacy to learn that the Civil War was over—two months after Lee’s surrender—and that enslaved people were, officially, at least, emancipated—more than two years after Lincoln had issued that proclamation. We walked through Resurrection City, a bedraggled place full of people and purposeful activity, and joined a great crowd on the Mall, stretching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. I had never seen such a sight, and it seemed to say that King’s dream not only remained alive after his death but had become more viable.

A slew of famous people spoke that day, in addition to Coretta Scott King and Ralph Abernathy. Bobby Kennedy, who had suggested that King bring the campaign to the capital, had himself been assassinated just two weeks before, in Los Angeles, but the remaining Democratic Presidential candidates Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey addressed the crowd; Humphrey was booed. Walter Reuther, the head of the United Auto Workers, gave a rousing speech. Eartha Kitt sang and spoke in Spanish—Latino groups also took part in the campaign. But the person I remember most vividly was Rosa Parks—I knew who she was and what she had done, and was awed by the sight of her. There were statements of grief and of anger, but also of reconciliation and unity, and the hope that, like the song we sang said, we would overcome.

We didn’t. The next day, the police fired tear gas into Resurrection City. On June 24th, the day the campaigners’ permit expired, a thousand police officers raided the site and dismantled it, arresting more than a hundred people, including Abernathy. A few weeks later, my family left the country again, this time for Indonesia. I remember feeling relieved to be going.

The Poor People’s Campaign soon ended, after renewed unrest in the city, and more arrests. King’s hope to have Congress take up an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans was not realized. There has been much progress since then, of course, but it has been fitful, to say the least, and now, fifty years later, we’ve come from the unabashed, open racism of George Wallace’s Presidential campaign to Donald Trump’s dog-whistles. Echoing that time, Trump warned, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and threatened to turn “vicious dogs” on protesters outside the White House.

Last week, the President said that his first in-person rally since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic would be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma—on Juneteenth. Coming after his Tweets opposing the Pentagon’s mooted plans to rename military bases named for Confederate generals, the announcement of the date seemed intended as a provocation. So did the venue: from May 31 to June 1, 1921, Tulsa was the site of the worst racist massacre in American history, which left thirty-five blocks of black-owned homes and businesses burned, and as many as three hundred African-Americans dead. Trump backed off the date, but his rally will go ahead a day later, in Tulsa.

For three and a half years, many Americans have acquiesced to the fact that a race-baiting tormentor is their President. Some seemed to think that an appeal could be made to his better nature, that he could be persuaded to be civil and inclusive, to be Presidential. That capacity just isn’t there; there is no better nature. But now another moment of national reckoning has arrived and, come November, there will be another chance to achieve a better country.

Jon Lee Anderson