Vintage Camera Digital Hybrid Project

Vintage cameras look great, but film is expensive and so is processing. I’d like to take a vintage camera to a 1940’s event, and use it liberally without the expense of film!

Initially I considered putting a Raspberry Pi and the dedicated HQ camera into the old Ensign folding camera that I bought from eBay. However, the C/CS lenses are either pricey or crap or both. Thanks to a Twitter reply from Maks Surguy I now know about higher quality M12 lenses; but there’s no easy way to focus and no aperture adjustment. Fine for other projects though 👍🏻

Then I wondered if I could “transplant” the workings of a digital compact camera?

Fortunately the slightly-battered Fuji A series that I bought for £1 off eBay has a sensor and lens assembly that is attached to the main PCB by ribbon cables. This is ideal! It won’t be easy to extend if I want to put the gubbins in the rear of the Ensign, but not impossible 🤔

After this discovery I bought a fully working A series for a few more English Pounds to use as the donor camera. I also have spare parts from the battered one I bought first!!

Retro Google AIY Phone

[wpvideo KLZM1auc ]

We’ve had an old Bakelite phone for years as nothing more than an ornament, because some of its innards are missing.
I’d been itching to hide something in it for quite some time, but I was loathe to damage the Bakelite casing.

I removed all the parts I could, so that I could use the threaded holes and screws for mounting the new 21st Century innards!

The hook-switch contacts were carboned up, so I cleaned them with some P1600 abrasive paper, and tested them with a multimeter.

Rather than using just the hook-switch to trigger the Voice HAT, I decided to use the dial as well, to avoid false triggering if the receiver gets knocked.
I wired the switches in series, in a logic AND configuration; this requires the handset to be lifted and dial to be rotated to trigger.

Again with the steel base-plate, I really didn’t want to drill it to mount the Raspberry Pi. Were it not for the circuit diagram printed onto a large paper label and stuck to the base, I’d have used self-adhesive PCB mounts. Instead I opted for magnets!!

Because I couldn’t find enough technical data on the Voice HAT, and I wasn’t sure how the pulsing LED was powered, I used an opto-isolator to trigger a pair of transistors. One transistor powers each strip’s blue LEDs, whereas the green LEDs are connected straight to the power so that they are on constantly whilst powered up.

The board containing the opto-isolator and transistors is also held in place with magnets!

Colour-check quality approval.

The speaker included with the AIY kit is waaayyyyy too big to fit in here, so I bought a 4W subminiature speaker instead. I crafted a horn from some 3mm ABS and a Bosch glue-gun, to channel the sound through the little holes — where the sound from the bells would have originally escaped!

The sound does unfortunately sound “plasticky” — plywood would likely be better for this — maybe a future modification…

To avoid voltage drop in the supply, I opted to use 12V power in, then a DC-DC converter. The converter I bought states it can handle 15W and comes with USB A sockets on flying leads. I was able to mount the module using existing holes and non-metric screws; you can see the module in the top-right of the next image.

The original cable is fabric-covered, and it is possible to buy new mains cable in this style. However, I’m also running an ethernet cable out of the back so I used expandable nylon braided sleeving to cover the flat ethernet cable and power cable. I underestimated just how much this stuff can expand to accommodate plugs passing through (like a snake swallowing a meal!) so the current sleeving is way over-sized!

So, future mods include improving the speaker enclosure, and replacing the cable sleeve with some of narrower diameter.