Or should I just save up & buy the expensive back?
April 25, 2010 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Where the heck do I get a really high-res board camera with a basic embedded system & the software libraries to control it?

So I've been working on this technical camera project, building a one-off medium format monorail view camera with all geared movements. It's nowhere near done, but it's coming along nicely. I've got a roll film back with a winder that I bought years ago for testing stuff out, but I'm hoping to eventually turn this into a digital camera.

I first started daydreaming about this years ago after discovering & working with alternative photo printing & digital negatives. I realized I would need an insanely expensive setup to do the kind of stuff I was really hoping to do digitally. Aside from the UV exposure unit & alt printing darkroom, I'd need a camera & tripod head plus a Phase One digital back ($??,???.??) & a great big Epson printer to round it all out.

I figure there's no way out of the printer & darkroom expenses, but the finances & logistics of this whole project are already making it strech out over many, many years.

I don't know exactly what the new backs go for, but even the used & older digital backs are pretty expensive, so if I'm going the "just buy it route" I would probably just get a 5D MKII since I could use it both as an SLR and as a back for my rail camera. I would much prefer a larger, dedicated sensor for the technical camera if I can build it or buy it for less than $1k.

I have programming experience as well as a metal lathe & mill, so it seems like if I can get a high-res sensor & shutter on a board with a USB interface & a basic embedded system that I'd be good to go. So where the heck does one buy one of those things?

Or if they can't be bought, how hard & expensive is it to source the parts & learn to build my own?
posted by spaghetti to Technology (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ironic semi pertinent story on slashdot today...

link to slashdot.
posted by chasles at 2:45 PM on April 25, 2010

I can't answer any parts of this but the last:

how hard & expensive is it to source the parts & learn to build my own?

Very, very hard. Stupefyingly hard. Witness this Sparkfun item and the manual eventually created by the competition winner. CCDs are just, straight up, not DIY-friendly. Note that this guy was a ridiculous digital-signals nerd who played with FPGAs and complex logic analysis as a warmup.

If I wanted to source this I'd start by calling Sparkfun (above) for sourcing tips and then go to the camera makers themselves to see if they had any ideas. But fundamentally, getting data from a CCD into some kind of storage medium is so mind-bogglingly complicated that I'd be stunned if it didn't fail even a basic cost/benefit analysis (e.g., for how many hours would I have to pour coffee @ Starbucks to be able to buy a pre-made back vs. how many hours it would take me to fabricate a back even 10% as good as what Canon or Nikon sell).
posted by range at 6:33 PM on April 25, 2010

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