Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W Turns 70-Year-Old Camera Digital

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Airpocket)

Like many other makers in the Raspberry Pi community, we’re suckers for old hardware. If there’s a chance to revitalize a vintage machine or even give it new features, we’re almost always on board with it. Today's project, created by a developer known as Airpocket, is a great example of just that—using a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W to convert a 70-year-old 8mm Bell & Howell camera into a digital camera.

A quick look at Airpocket’s profile at Elchika shows a history of microelectronics projects with a recent exploration into the Raspberry Pi—specifically using the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, which includes this project. Previous projects include familiar components such as Arduinos as well as open-source software (OpenCV and Python).

Work began on the project after Airpocket ordered an old Bell & Howell Magazine-loading 8mm camera model 172 online. Once it arrived, he took it apart and determined a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W could easily fit inside and got to work.

Raspberry Pi

(Image credit: Airpocket)

To construct his digital camera project, Airpocket opted to use a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, a much more powerful progression of the Zero form factor with near Raspberry Pi 3B processing power. Behind the original lens of the retro camera is an Arducam for Raspberry Pi Zero camera OB5647 module. In order to keep the unit mobile, a USB rechargeable battery has been included, as well.

According to Airpocket, recording on the camera is tricky and required extra work on the software side to pull off. He explains that it’s critical to monitor the shutter timing in order to capture images and video. To alleviate this issue, Airpocket uses OpenCV to help determine the shutter timing and converts the images captured into clean video output. Demonstration videos of the progress so far can be found at Airpocket’s YouTube channel.

Check out the project page at Elchika to get a closer look at how this Raspberry Pi project goes together and maybe even recreate it yourself. Airpocket has stated that this project is a work in progress so updates will be posted in the future as they are complete. Be sure to follow him for more cool projects and any new developments on this one.

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Ash Hill
Contributing Writer

Ash Hill is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware with a wealth of experience in the hobby electronics, 3D printing and PCs. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting while also finding the best coupons and deals on all tech.

  • Findecanor
    I'm thinking that you can do this because it is a 8 mm camera, and the size of the Pi camera is of that order ( 3.67 × 2.74 mm)

    It would be more difficult to convert a 35 mm camera.