This very old camera records digital video thanks to a Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi community is full of tinkerers willing to give old devices a second chance. There are plenty of original examples of people who have revitalized technology products old or directly, they have provided these gadgets with new functionalities. Our protagonist today is a developer known as Airpocket, who has transformed a video camera from almost a century ago into a digital camera using a Raspberry Pi. The process may seem simple, but there is much more to science than meets the eye.

Bell & Howell 172 with digital sensor

camera model 172 mod.

Airpocket is often quite involved in Elchika, a forum where users often share their creations. This user has in his profile a good history of microelectronics projects in which he has used Raspberry Pi and Arduino equipment to develop his own ideas. Airpocket is not just limited to electronics. His projects are nothing more than an excuse to test himself with the programming. For the same reason, his creations use his own lines of code written in Python and OpenCV.

In this case, Airpocket has transformed a camera Bell & Howell model 172 on a digital camera. It is a camera 8 millimeters that he found on the Internet at a good price, and that is no more and no less than 70 years old. Upon receiving it, Airpocket opened the chamber and quickly concluded that a Raspberry Pi could fit inside. Without thinking twice, he imagined how he could bring a touch of freshness to the camera and got to work.

To build their vintage digital camera, Airpocket chose to use a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W, a really small and powerful computer that performs in a similar way to a Raspberry Pi 3B, only with much fewer connectivity options. An ideal machine for this project.

In order to turn the camera into a digital one, Airpocket had to place a module with a CMOS sensor behind the original retro camera lens. In this case, he used a Arducam OB5647 module for Raspberry Pi Zero. To power the entire system, a lithium battery that can be recharged via a USB cable was placed inside the camera.

A project more complex than meets the eye

However, the invention is not plug & play. As Airpocket says, to record and take pictures, you need to work the software a lot. According to the developer, it is essential sync shutter times of the camera and module of your Raspberry Pi to capture images and video.

On Airpocket’s YouTube channel you can find videos of demonstration of the progress made so far. Your software implementation isn’t perfect yet, but it’s progressing nicely. Airpocket has commented that this project is moving forward and not finished, so updates will be posted in the future as solutions are found.

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