My little point-and-shoot-enstein.
June 28, 2011 7:31 AM   Subscribe

What's the best, most hackable point-and-shoot digital camera?

I'm an avid DIY-er/ craft-er/ digital art-er and I'm looking to move more into photography. The only problem is that I'm currently without a digital camera and browsing through Amazon's pickings gave me serious sticker shock. I think for what I need right now a DSLR would be overkill but I really like the idea of being able to swap out lenses for different effects.

Does anyone have experience with hacking a regular, little, semi-cheap (up to $200) point-and-shoot kind of guy? Would an older model be easier to take apart and mess with? What kind of options do I have here?
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. to Technology (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Seems pretty clear the jay wants to take it apart.

I don't have answer, but I'd suggest working backwards-- get on EBay and see what's the cheapest digital camera you can get that works (I'll bet you can find some < $30). Take that apart and get an idea what components there are and how difficult it would be to put back together.
posted by justkevin at 8:11 AM on June 28, 2011

There's so much crammed into such a small space in a point-and-shoot that you're not likely to be able to do much with them, even if you have access to a machine shop and a surface-mount reflow station. Given that most point-and-shoot lenses are camera-specific, integrate zoom and aperture, maybe even light-metering, etc, right into the lens with probably a custom-ish ribbon cable, and mount to the body in a non-swappable way, this is going to be a BIG project, especially if you want it to turn out taking good photos. Honestly, I think you're likely to spend far more money, time and energy on this than you would just buying an older DSLR body.

If you want to have a go of it, I say follow justkevin's advice and buy a few super-cheap, ancient cameras to sacrifice as you're figuring out how to take them apart.
posted by Alterscape at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2011

The mechanicals in modern cameras are crazy complex. And with P&S cameras, taking it apart will introduce dust into the lens and sensor you'll never get out. Feel free to take them apart but don't expect to ever get it back together again in working order. People do hack lenses but mostly for DSLRs where the camera can handle ridiculous stuff like pringle can macro lenses.

Old webcams are also fun to hack and can be had for cheap.
posted by chairface at 1:58 PM on June 28, 2011

You might find hacking into analo[p-[ppp-
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:54 PM on June 28, 2011

Ha! That was seriously my cat!


You might find hacking into film cameras just as rewarding once you get over the added step in digitizing the results. I have a number of strange, slightly messed up cameras whose results I develop in the dark in my bathroom, then scan or have scanned to manipulate on the computer. It's been endlessly rewarding for me.

I just can't imagine circuit-bending a PowerShot. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try, of course, but the chances of it resulting in a useful artistic tool are extremely slim.

CDHK can be fun, though.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2011

I'll make another appeal to your pre-digital craftiness:

The Gakkenflex is a camera kit once sold in Japan in the pages of a magazine, to be assembled at home by the user. It's available assembled now, too, and it has the potential to create beautiful images.

Pinhole cameras are neat-o mosquito, to use the technical term, and are easily crafted from scratch using paper, cardboard, cans, tape, and tinfoil. The images can be haunting and beautiful. That photo is a 6-month exposure on photo paper!

I discovered something else recently that I haven't had a chance to play with yet: liquid emulsion. It can be spread on any surface to make it photoreactive, opening pinhole camera possibilities even further. This guy spread it on the inside of an eggshell, which is sort of brilliant.

Hacking with light! <3
posted by tapesonthefloor at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2011

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