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Raspberry Pi Revitalises Retro Film Camera

The Pi-powered package at the heart of the camera
(Image credit: befinitiv)

The beauty of many retro devices is only enhanced by their size, a necessity due to the bulk of analog recording systems. There's something wonderfully nostalgic and romantic about the use of film and tape that a digital sensor and Micro SD card just can’t match, despite producing an image that’s of much better quality. So you can imagine, when word reached us via Hackaday of maker and apparent nostalgia fan befinitiv, that we came over all wistful about their Raspberry Pi update of a Super 8 movie camera.

The camera in question is a German-made Agfa Microflex Sensor, a boxy little movie camera produced in the late ‘60s. It has auto exposure control, but things like zoom and focus are manual. It exposes 15m (50ft) of Super 8 film fed from a cartridge at 18fps (for 3 minutes and 20 seconds of continuous filming) and doesn’t record audio. It was once marketed as the smallest camera in the world, but today looks rather bulky, especially for a device that only does one thing.

Befinitiv (who we’ve written about before) knew they could improve on this, and set about creating a replacement cartridge to fill the aching void in the center of the camera, and of our hearts. The result is a neat little bundle comprising a Raspberry Pi Zero, the official Raspberry Pi camera module, a battery pack, and a power conversion circuit all in a 3D-printed enclosure that mimics the size and shape of the Super 8 cartridge. Instead of three minutes of footage, you can now record enormous amounts onto a MicroSD card, or connect to Wi-Fi for streaming video.

The Pi camera module is position in-line with the original Agfa lens, a 10-25mm, f/1.9 zoom. This, along with the mechanical shutter remaining in place, gives the subsequent footage a charming, sentimental feel. With all the modern technology contained within the movie camera’s body - plus the incorporation of the original record button into the build - this revitalised retro recording device is a fantastic Raspberry Pi project.