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Input Devices Media Upgrades

How To Get 39 Megapixels From a 53-Year-Old Camera 347

G3ckoG33k writes "An article at The Register Hardware describes how Hasselblad film cameras dating back to 1957 can be given a new life using a digital back to get images at a super resolution of 39 megapixels. From the article: 'The CFV-39 digital back allows you to get those cameras out from the last century and use the V-System cameras with their beautiful glass once again, it simply fits in place of where the roll film used to be. Hasselblads have never been inexpensive, but talk about a return on investment. Here is a manufacturer looking after a fiercely loyal user-base and along with it offering what could be seen as the ultimate green camera system.' Oh, by the way most pictures taken during the Apollo space program in the 1960s were taken with Hasselblad." Hasselblad's been making digital backs for quite a while now, but this one's very impressive in speed (and cost — "only" about $14,000) compared to earlier models.
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How To Get 39 Megapixels From a 53-Year-Old Camera

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  • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:45PM (#31977822)
    Film. You know, that cellulose acetate image capture and storage medium that uses silver halides? You might remember it from "last century".

    Why not just shoot a $4 roll of film, and scan it on a $200 flatbed scanner at a mere 2400DPI for a fat 30 megapixel image, plus you have an in-camera archival backup slide, which can later be drum-scanned at an even higher resolution if needed?

    And you don't even need batteries.
  • Nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fauxhemian ( 1281852 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:55PM (#31977900)
    It's nice to see a capability like this being added to such an old design. Personally I'd like to see a camera manufacturer or third party come out with digital versions of old manual focus SLR greats like the K1000, or produce reasonably priced digital backs for them.
  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrentH ( 1154987 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:03PM (#31977968)
    One thing you just cannot physically get with small lenses and small CCD-areas like in you phone is plenty of light without too much distortions. There's a reason there's a DSLR market. And i you want to to make a moving picture, you're gonna have to settle with even lesser amounts of light per frame/photo per unit area, which is why almost any good movie camera is an oversized machine on wheels with cannons (not the brand!) for lenses. Obviously there's a good enough for people like you and me, but Hasselsblads are targeted at the high end of high end, for the cases in which physics leaves you no other choice.
  • by TheRedShirt ( 1767228 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:15PM (#31978062)

    Wow, you can still find film? I haven't exactly been looking, but I haven't seen any in years...

    I don't think that film photography will ever go the way of the dinosaur. It will just be further relegated to the realm of art and to highly esoteric and technical uses.

    I think that NASA aught to take a look in storage and see if they have any Hasselblads left over from their old space programs. I have a strong feeling that a $14k adapter for a 39MP camera would be a better investment than the money spent on the R&D for a new system for future space missions.

    It would be quite poetic too... Standing on the backs of giants and the foundation laid by our space exploration forefathers and continuing to use (after a fashion) some of the same equipment they did.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:26PM (#31978150) Homepage
    Nope, they've switched to Nikon D2x and Nikon D3s cameras [](at least for the shuttle and the ISS). I really doubt that NASA would try to space qualify the hassy back. Might as well qualify the newer H3 system.

    For the total costs involved in qualifying the cameras, the actual camera costs aren't so very important.
  • "In the "which is easiest to prevent data loss" wars, digital wins hands down."

    Not when your camera is storing those shots as JPG. You've just introduced loss before you've even made your first copy.

    And is that really a relevant point when discussing a medium format back for a really fucking expensive camera? I think it's a safe bet that everything done with these things is being originally stored in raw format as dumped from the sensor.

    For archival, there is no beating digital. Analog copies will always have flaws where digital copies are theoretically perfect assuming nothing went wrong in the process. Even if something did go wrong, that can be verified and accounted for by copying the damaged portion again.

    I have a home server and a rented server with ISP-hosted backup. If I take a photo that I find important, I can drop it in a folder on my laptop that is regularly rsynced to my home server. Within 15 minutes as long as I'm at home it's now stored on at least three hard drives (laptop + RAID1 in the server), plus possibly still the flash memory used in the camera. If I think it's really important (usually reserved for financial data and work), I can put in in a subfolder that my home server automatically rsyncs hourly with my remote rented server. Now it's on four hard drives and one flash device in four different machines and located in two different states entirely. Tonight the server will back up the "really important" directory to the ISP-provided space. Now it's on four hard drives, a flash drive, and a SAN.

    While what I do is complicated, it is possible to use tools like Dropbox and Mozy among others to deliver the same functionality in a form more usable to the average person.

    Thanks to digital, as long as I am responsible with where I store my files it is practically impossible for anything to be lost. If I had taken them on film, I would have exactly one "original" grade copy and that's it. If the negative is lost, it's gone and there's no getting it back.

    Assuming sufficient capture quality, digital always beats analog.

  • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:40PM (#31978672) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to see a hack of old movie cameras. If someone would replace the film cartridge area with a cheap, off-the-shelf elctronic video system, that would be awesome.
  • The other way around (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:54PM (#31978782)

    I routinely shoot the other way around: old Pentax and Nikon lenses on my DSLR (Canon Digital Rebel series), with suitable lens adapters. The best adapters are the M42 to EOS adapters, which let you use Pentax screwmount lenses. The digital imaging doesn't cut you any slack, a crummy lens makes crummy pictures, while a good lens makes good pictures. Plus all that old-fashioned lens flare, cool bokeh, and more. Fun.

    The Nikon adapters aren't as solid. Maybe it's the fault of my cheap Ebay adapter. Nikon made some amazing lenses in the F2/F3 era.

    Forget automation, of course: stop down metering, manual focus.


  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:59PM (#31978828)
    Sigh, I wish that attitude would die a horrid death. That's mostly because most photographers don't have any concept of color theory. And don't have access to the equipment to do their own color prints.

    Black and white can definitely be artsy, but there's a lot of leeway you get that you don't get with color film. For instance in color you actually have to care about blowing highlights, you also have to care about what the color of the composition is conveying. A surprising number of otherwise great shots are ruined because you can't cram the lighting conditions into the range the camera can handle.
  • Re:In color? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:14PM (#31978948)

    Not to mention that a scanned image will never achieve the same quality as a born-digital picture. Also, convenience. If you take hundreds of shots, and factor in the time spent in getting them processed, then scanned, you'll be loosing a lot (compare to just plug in your camera and there are your pictures).

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:41PM (#31979146) Journal

    Yeah, unless Hasselblad (never owned one) has changed the lens mounts on the digital versions, the box itself is really not a huge deal. I'd rather get the integrated camera and sensor.

    Personally, I just switched from an old Nikon F4s to a D3. It might have been nice to get a digital back, but there's just not enough space to get all you can with a fully digital body. I've got a truck load of learning to do, too - I've done nothing but point and shoot for a decade, and while I like bokeh as much as the next guy, having a big sensor and a bunch of F/1.8-f/2.8 lenses again means having to remember that wide open means most of the frame is out of focus!

    The big key is that all my old AF and MF lenses still work with the new body. Sure, I've got my eye on some better mechanisms (mine are all manually coupled AF) in the new glass, but I'm back in the field with a bag full of fantastic optics and all I had to do was get the new back. Besides, if it lasts me 3-4 years, I can probably make back the cost in film, developing, and scanning - and I'm getting better digital images than the punched version that comes with $10 processing, and stupid-high ISO speed to boot.

  • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:23PM (#31979774) Journal

    That's a good point.

    Another is that a craftsman does not begrudge good money spent on quality tools of their trade that will last for years/decades[1] with proper care.
    It's considered a sound investment that pays back across the board.

    [1] YMMV, depends on craft/trade

  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:56PM (#31979948)
    Indeed - back in the old days, my lecturer said the human eye has a brightness range response of approx 1000:1, the best B&W film is about 128:1 (about 8 stops), and colour film about 80:1, so you're going to have to play the zone system, then burn & dodge in the darkroom.
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @10:56PM (#31980222)

    Not to mention you don't have to wait for processing with digital. For a professional the time saved might add up to $14K on the first job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @11:35PM (#31980472)

    Sure, Hasselblad might have been used for the US space program... but Nikon inherited that mantle.

    There's a Nikon camera on the moon *right now* - because one of the lunar astronauts accidentally left it behind.

    Although that's not the only Nikon in space: NASA has used Nikon cameras on the Space Shuttle for 30 years (yes, it is that old) - and currently uses the D3s on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. [] According to the press release [], there are 35 lenses in orbit right now.

  • by black_penguin ( 621675 ) <bahathir@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:29AM (#31980714)
    I really happy if Nikon can produce Digital Back CCD for Nikon F4, the best Nikon SLR camera I ever use. Or, the new DSLR based on Nikon F4 body. Really love the buttons and switches.
  • by imhennessy ( 1425987 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:47AM (#31980770)

    It's always a little cool and crushing to see someone actually doing the things I talk about. I've actually been thinking that It needs to be a generic 35mm digital back. There ought to be plenty of room for a substantial battery and memory/processing with those two big spaces either side of the area of exposure.

    Here's to people who actually follow through on those nifty ideas which seem to float around looking for a patch of fertile motivation.


  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @01:40AM (#31980960)

    I often just turn my resolution down on my consumer grade camera.

    The 8 MP (or is it 10?) just gives more white noise. No point, unless you want to fill up your hard drive, and slow down online backups.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.