A sideways glance into the mind of filsmyth (previously Phil Smith), author of Virtual Dreamer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'virtual film'

'virtual film'

My 1950s Ansco Memar Pronto would be worth maybe $10 -- if the shutter weren't stuck.  I only managed to shoot a couple of rolls with it before it fell off the top of a refrigerator about 13 years ago.  That really sucked, because this is not something that is easily taken apart and having it fixed at a camera shop would have cost more than I felt comfortable spending on a hobby, at the time.  During my short time using it, I found its 100% manual operation to be quite engaging...

Of course the shot of it above was taken with a digital camera, and yeah, I do like being able to see my shots as soon as they're taken, but it never ever takes the shot at the exact instant I press down on the button.

I'm sure there are digital cameras out there that give you the option of setting things 'manually', but I do have to wonder if any of them give you that instant response of manually operating a shutter...


A couple of years ago I had an idea.  I knew I was probably not the only one to have had it, but I never Googled it to see -- until tonight.  Turns out someone started a company over a decade ago to develop 'silicon film' -- but the company appears to have folded in 2006 or so...

The idea is simple.  As small as digital cameras have become, there's no reason they can't be made to mimic a roll of film inside an old camera.  You'd prime it by 'winding the film', and it would be ready to capture an image at the moment you open the shutter.  It could immediately shut itself down, or preferably stay in standby mode for 20 seconds or so.  It could beep to let you know it was ready, beep again (maybe twice) before shutting down.

Except for the beeping (which you could turn off), it would act just like a seemingly endless roll of film -- but then instead of having to wait for (and pay for) developing, when you take it out you can just plug it in with a USB cord and upload your images to any computer.

So you wouldn't be able to look at your photos right away.  Would you really mind all that much?  It wouldn't take all that long to pop the 'virtual film' out of the camera and connect it to a computer.  Besides, the tiny monitors on the backs of digital cameras can't really represent your images all that well anyway. You don't quite know what you've got until you see it on a larger screen.

WHEN this kind of device is made available, those of us who used to enjoy manual photography but would rather not have to deal with actual film will be putting our vintage cameras back into service...

Article excerpt below (published February 2001) copied & pasted from:http://www.dpreview.com/news/0102/01021404pma04.asp

Silicon Film

Silicon Film, after many years of press releases and delays have finally brought working product to a trade show. At PMA Silicon Film finally demonstrated their EFS-1 digital film product (along with various add-ons). Essentially the EFS-1 is a digital insert which replaces film in a normal 35mm camera and records the images digitally.
There are still however several limitations, first of all the unit itself has a built-in capacity for 24 images (64MB) after which time it must be inserted into the E-Box and its contents either transferred to a computer or CompactFlash card. The second limitation is that the relatively small 1.3 megapixel CMOS sensor uses only about 30% of the center of the frame, this means that when looking through the viewfinder you have a small field of view (marked out by a supplied rub-on transfer) which equates to a 2.58x focal length multiplier, thus a 28mm lens becomes 72mm. Lastly it only currently supports certain camera models: Nikon F5, F3, N60/N90 and Canon EOS-1N, EOS-A2, EOS-5.
That said, Silicon Film have brought this product to market and we hope are capable of producing similar devices with larger sensors and more internal capacity (or wireless transfer to storage devices). We were lucky enough to be allowed to take a couple of sample images away from the stand, I'll let you decide for yourself.
Shooting an image writes an RAW file onto the EFS-1 which is then decoded by a Photoshop plugin which performs bayer interpolation, white balance, gamma and exposure compensation.
EFS-1 digital film insertEFS-1 and its two batteries (good for several hundred shots)
EFS-1 being inserted into e-porte-port (note PCMCIA connector, can be inserted directly into a PCMCIA slot for download)
e-port inserted into e-box for "in the field" download onto CompactFlash cards (Type I/II)EFS-1 and e-box
EFS-1 inserted into cameraPhotoshop plugin transferring three images
Three images transferred and ready for savingA final Silicon Film image
External links: Silicon Film


I can't imagine this idea is dead and gone forever.  Sure, it may be quite a while before someone picks up where Silicon Film Technologies left off, but I do believe it will happen...


[Screenshot from Pan Am, Season 1 Episode 4, Eastern Exposure, as seen on Hulu.]

17 October 2011