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Hardware Hacking Technology

Homemade Digital Cameras 230

Michael Golembewski writes "For the past three years, I've been taking apart cheap secondhand flatbed scanners and turning them into homemade large format digital cameras. They are well over 100 mexapixel in resolution, and produce results that are both similar to and significantly different from traditional digital and conventional cameras."
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Homemade Digital Cameras

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  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:30AM (#14507616)
    If it's the look and effect you are going for, you can achieve that more easily with a regular digital camera and a bit of post-processing.

    I don't see hwo you'd do that without a lot of photoshop work (go and look at some of the fun distortions they get due to the way a scanner scans the image).
  • by lamasquerade ( 172547 ) * on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:50AM (#14507686)
    From TFS: "This effect is impossible to create to anything near this level of detail or clarity using traditional digital tools. This is because the refresh rate of a video camera is 25 frames per second, and the refresh rate of a digital stills camera is even slower - between one and three seconds per image. Scanner photographs are made up of 15,000 individual slices of time, spread over 15,000 lines. Using any standard video camera to capture images this way can be done, but is limited to 720 lines, and the fastest capture rate is 40 milliseconds. This means that the images will be much low resolution, and the slower capture rate leads to blocky, jagged edges between the frames of video that are used to make up the composite."

    So that's one point. But more broadly, it seems to me to be a bit more organic than using photoshop. He says the effect is reletively predictable, but given unpredictable environments, such as cars on a road, the picture could end up more interesting than anything you could concieve and then coerce into existance

    Finally, I really, really, really don't understand why these types of comments are made. Every bloody hack article there's some grim, sad comments about how the hack sucks because a) it could be done easier in some other way, b) it's 'pointless', c) it's 'try-hard', or whatever other reason. It's so infuriating - do you have any sense of exploration and experimentation? Or understand the desire to tell others about your experiences?

  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @04:25AM (#14507788)
    For fuck's sake. I've got a Horizont, several large-format cameras, and a Panoscan. I still think this is cool. Not everybody can afford the equipment I use, and none of it is exactly the same as this, anyway. Good art is still made with disposable cameras. Why have a chip on your shoulder about non-elitist equipment?
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @04:44AM (#14507847)
    I don't. I have a chip on my shoulder about people claiming something as artistically and/or technically new when it has been done numerous times before, and often better.

    But nobody claimed this. The article says:

    "... and produce results that are both similar to and significantly different from traditional digital and conventional cameras."

    The examples you provide are not provided by the standard use of traditional equipment. The article does not claim this effect has never been done before.

    What do you mean by "better"? Art is very subjective, there is no absolute scale of goodness. Does it matter that Andy Warhol used mediums that many other people used?

  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:13AM (#14507910)
    The whole point of this kind of photography is that the equipment forces you to work and think in a different way. At that point, working with and against the equipment and conditions is what produces art. No amount of post processing or Photoshop is ever more than an artisanal job, which is why there is no Photoshop fine art.

    You'll find it in Goethe. I can't remember the original word for word, but in effect he says that without working within restrictions we never reach the highest levels of achievement; whoever wants to make something great must submit to the limitations of some medium. This guy has found a restricted medium that can be used to produce something like art. Arguments about megapixels are as irrelevant as arguments about how fine Renaissance artists could grind up their paint.

  • by nexarias ( 944986 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:29AM (#14507954)
    So what if it's been done before, and better?

    It's an individual accomplishment, and perhaps he discovered this himself. If you discovered an algorithm, made an invention, or such by virtue of your own intellect and effort, wouldn't you think it were nice? And that you wanted to share it?

    Just ease up a little. Don't be so picky about prior art. ; )

  • by blorg ( 726186 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:35AM (#14507975)
    Yeah, maybe he should just strap three of these [] together and post-process in Photoshop.

    Well, post-processing actually only works on the image you have in front of you. Given that the scanner exposes individual lines in the image over time (e.g. it - "scans") to generate the end image, you would actually need a movie to be able to generate the same effect with post-processing. A movie with very high-quality frames, and an unbelievably high frame rate (effectively you would want a frame for each line, so depending on the scan speed up to perhaps a few thousand frames a second - and then you would throw out the entire frame except the single line you wanted.) The scanner idea is starting to sound better to me.

    On a more general note, this whole attitude is endemic now. Sure you can correct stuff later, but it is generally better in photography to try to get the best image you can at the moment you are taking it; you've then have got a lot more to work with! The phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind...
  • Re:115 Megapixels? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markandrew ( 719634 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:11AM (#14508045)
    Firstly, 2400dpi is not "high-end" for a film scanner. My Scan Dual III (several years old, and only GBP 200 new) has a 2820dpi resolution. That gives around a 10-mpixel image for 35mm film. You can get consumer scanners of 4000dpi and more for not much more than that. I know of at least one flatbed scanner [] which is quite cheap and easily exceeds your supposed limit - and this from a person who has never bought a flatbed scanner in my life (there are sure to be many others). As for supposed "marketing" claims - I've yet to hear of a scanner which doesn't deliver the advertised resolution. They may not make full use of that resolution, and many high-res scanners may produce subjectively worse scans than lower-res scanners, but any scanner which advertises 2400dpi and only delivers 2200dpi would be false advertising, apart from anything else.

    Secondly, just because it is a 4x5 camera doesn't mean that the image being scanned is 4x5; if the scanner is placed behind the film-plane of the camera, the projected image size will increase. In fact, even if it is ON the film plane exactly, it's likely that there would be a (slightly) larger area than 4x5 inches available, as the projected image would be cropped to fit the rectangle of the film frame in normal use.

  • Re:115 Megapixels? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by leuk_he ( 194174 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:21AM (#14508069) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at the pictures again. Yup there are 115 Mega pixes for sure, but these are not numbers you can compare with your typical digital camara. This just a case of counting the pixels.

    You can see the scanning lines in a lot of the pictures and they are not a result of the art, but from techincal shortcomings. The time distortion effect is nice however.

  • Re:Analog hole (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:16PM (#14509995)
    Well, we could start by getting our representatives in Congress and the Senate to convene and pass a law in favor of consumer rights. Stop laughing. I'm serious.
  • Re:115 Megapixels? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by markandrew ( 719634 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @02:17PM (#14511241)
    The point is that such scanners are available and are not expensive (relatively speaking). Whether they are any good or not - I have no idea.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.