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Leica MPi | Michael Suguitan

Leica MPi | Michael Suguitan

2023-05-12 06:25:40

or How I Realized to Cease Gear Acquisition Syndrome and Construct My Personal (Put up-)Digital Leica

The Leica MPi: a Leica M2 with a Raspberry Pi-powered digital sensor.

I introduce the Leica MPi (pronounced both ‘em-pa-i,’ a portmanteau of the Leica ‘M’ and the Raspberry ‘Pi,’ or letter-by-letter as ‘em-pi-a-i,’ just like the Nintendo ‘DSi’): a movie Leica M2 with a digital again primarily based on a Raspberry Pi Zero W microcomputer and a 12-megapixel 1/2.3” digicam module.
The MPi preserves the important thing affordances of the bottom Leica M2, particularly its rangefinder focusing and mechanical shutter.
The system is non-destructive: the digital again swaps instead of the present movie door and strain plate, enabling reversibility.
Assuming part availability at MSRP, the entire value sums as much as lower than $100 USD, or ~1% the price of the latest digital Leica.
The venture combines the maintainability of an analog movie digicam with the comfort of a digital recording medium right into a (post-)digital system designed for maintainability and extensibility.

Nakano Broadway, 2023

Others have created related digital backs for movie cameras.
Becca Farsace and Malcolm-Jay gutted movie cameras to embed the identical digicam module, although the movie cameras are basically aesthetic housings for the digicam internals.
befinitiv created a digital again for a single-lens reflex movie digicam (Cosina Hello-Lite) utilizing a Raspberry Pi.
Although the complete meeting matches contained in the digicam, the implementation requires persistent distant entry to view the digicam’s output and makes use of an older, smaller 1/4” Pi sensor that yields a crop issue over 10x.
Some design objectives have been:

  • Preservation of the affordances of the bottom movie digicam, i.e. decrease the distinction between the use with and with out the digital again,
  • Usability not dissimilar to fashionable digital cameras,
  • Non-invasiveness and reversibility to the unique digicam, and
  • Maintainability and extensibility for eventual open sourcing.


Exploded view of the digital again.

The digicam is a movie Leica M2 courting again to 1966.
The sensor parts encompass:

I designed the 3D-printed enclosure in Fusion 360.
The digicam module relies on the Sony IMX477 1/2.3” sensor, which yields a 5.5x crop issue (e.g. a 10mm lens is equal to ~55mm on a 35mm full-frame digicam).
On account of tight tolerances and mechanical interference with the Leica’s shutter curtain, I eliminated the module’s C-mount attachment and anti-aliasing filter and filed down the highest fringe of the sensor board.


The rangefinder focusing system is preserved by matching the sensor place to the unique movie aircraft.
The sensor is mounted on spring-adjusted screws for calibrating the sensor’s flange distance.
I calibrated the sensor empirically by focusing, taking an image, and making changes till the main target was acceptably sharp.
Focus that’s farther than anticipated signifies that the sensor is simply too near the lens: the flange distance should be elevated by tightening the sensor screw mount in direction of the rear of the digicam; the directions are reversed for shut focus.


The cables for synchronizing the Leica’s mechanical shutter to the Pi’s digital shutter.
Each wires act as ends of a button enter to a GPIO pin: black to floor (e.g. the digicam’s steel physique) and pink to the flash sync socket’s heart pin.
Urgent the shutter button closes this circuit.

Temporal visualization of an publicity recorded by the digital shutter.
The closing of the shutter button each opens the mechanical shutter and closes the flash sync circuit.
The closing of the flash sync circuit sends a sign to the Pi to start an publicity with the digital shutter.

The mechanical shutter is coupled to the Pi’s digital shutter.
Urgent the shutter button closes the circuit between the flash sync socket heart pin and floor (e.g. any naked steel on the physique; I used the chilly shoe as a contact level).
The mechanical shutter acts as a button enter to one of many Pi’s GPIO pins and sends a software program sign to start an publicity with the digital shutter.
On account of software-induced lag between the opening of the mechanical shutter and triggering of the digital shutter, the mechanical shutter stays open in ‘Bulb’ mode whereas the digital shutter controls publicity.
The four-way directional pad on the LCD display module selects the shutter velocity in two-stop increments: 1/1000, 1/250, 1/60, and 1/15 clockwise from proper.

The system is powered by micro USB energy provide to the Pi.
I used an Anker 511 power bank with built-in wall plugs for ease of recharging.
As a result of the battery doesn’t must energy any motors as in a standard digital digicam, the battery score is impartial of shot rely and is sufficient to energy the system for a number of hours.

Software program

The software program is a refined evolution of the control framework that I wrote for Blossom, the robot that I developed during my PhD.
At its base, the framework is a communication wrapper between varied {hardware} and software program ‘devices:’ motors, MIDI musical devices, net servers, and, for this utility, buttons and cameras.
On this implementation, urgent buttons (i.e. the mechanical shutter button, the LCD module’s directional pad) sends occasion indicators to the digicam driver.
The MPi broadcasts a WiFi community for distant networking by way of ssh or VNC and wi-fi file switch by means of smb for near-instant picture evaluation on a laptop computer (i.e. throughout growth) or cellular gadget (i.e. throughout deployment).

I first used the MPi on my April 2023 journey to Japan.
I used the Voigtlander 12mm f5.6, which interprets to ~60mm with the digicam module’s crop issue.
A software program bug left the shutter speeds slower by a magnitude, e.g. what I assumed I had programmed as 1/1000 was truly 1/100.
Because of this, I needed to take most outside pictures at f16-22, which introduced out the imperfections and scratches on the sensor that accrued from creating the prototype.
Other than cleansing these artifacts – tantamount to digitally cleansing filth and scratches in movie scans – and publicity and colour correction, these photos are unedited.

As a result of elimination of the anti-aliasing filter, pictures underneath pure gentle render with an especially magenta tint.

Pictures underneath synthetic lighting (e.g. outlets, avenue lamps, subways) could also be corrected with white balancing.

Blended lighting circumstances can produce attention-grabbing renditions.

See Also

The next is half-baked pseudo-academic navel gazing.

Other than making for making’s sake, I needed to discover the vital design of a post-digital digicam.
Critical design ‘makes use of speculative design proposals to problem slim assumptions, preconceptions and givens concerning the function merchandise play in on a regular basis life.’
Post-digital is an aesthetic that spans rejection of the promised perfection of digital applied sciences (e.g. adverse valuation of ‘medical’ lens sharpness or ‘crystal-clear’ audio fidelity), the mixing of digital and analog mediums and affordances, the foregrounding of inventive processes over produced creations, and political wishes for technological company.

By designing a post-digital system that integrates a digital recording medium inside a very analog mechanical movie digicam, I needed to critique the unsustainability of each movie and digital photographic follow.

Qualitative comparability of analog, digital, and a proposed post-digital photographic follow alongside the axes of medium and gear sustainability.

Analog photography has experienced a recent revival.
Movie photographers discover enchantment within the course of (e.g. deliberation of every body and bodily dealing with of movie supplies in comparison with the straightforward immediacy of digital), product (e.g. filmic tonal and colour renditions which can be oft-simulated by digital programs), and nostalgia for physicality, unrememebered or not.

‘You’re taking pictures movie?! On this economic system?!’

The analog medium of movie is unsustainable, each individually and communally.
Concerning particular person unsustainability, movie costs for in style shares (e.g. Kodak’s Portra and Tri-X) have greater than doubled – in some circumstances, tripled – since I started utilizing movie in 2016.
Movie shares are additionally persistently at risk of discontinuation.

Concerning communal unsustainability, movie supplies and processing chemical compounds require particular dealing with and remedy practices.
Although literature on the remedy of photographic waste indicates little or no adverse environmental effects from processing chemicals, this assumes appropriate handling by institutions, i.e. legally regulated movie processing labs.
Although the Stockholm Water Authority attributed town’s halving of silver halide pollution to the closing of native movie growth labs, this dropoff preceded the current movie revival, which ushered the expansion of smaller native creating outlets or particular person amateurs who could not abide by the previous stringency of movie dealing with.
Nevertheless, analog gear is comparatively sustainable by advantage of maintainability.
Many analog cameras are no less than partially purposeful regardless of non-working electronics.
The Leica M2, M3, and M4 comprise no in-built electronics, and the M5 and M6 are operable even with out batteries for his or her built-in gentle meters.
The mechanical innards are serviceable – even by self-taught amateurs – given the supply or manufacturability of equal {hardware} (e.g. springs, levers).
Many used digicam outlets – particularly in Japan, the place it looks as if the brand new enhances the previous with out supplanting it, in contrast to within the West – carry preloved and completely purposeful analog cameras that deserve preservation by means of extended use.

Digital Leicas value greater than many preloved traditional cars.

Conversely, the digital medium of digital sensors is sustainable and repeatable, with sensors and shutters rated for a whole bunch of hundreds of actuations.
Nevertheless, within the long-term, digital gear is unsustainable as consumable industrial devices.
Due to the tight integration of advanced electromechanical programs, malfunctions of singular subsystems in digital cameras (e.g. broken sensors or defective shutters) lead to both expensive manufacturer-locked repairs or complete discard of the digicam.
The dependence on providers past particular person means each strips customers of technological company and provides to the worldwide toll of e-waste.

The Leica MPi combines the maintainability of the analog Leica M2 with the comfort of a digital recording medium.

The system is post-digital in not simply its obvious mixture of analog and digital components, but in addition in its promotion of company over its constituent applied sciences.
Just like the Right to Repair and Maker actions, this design philosophy appeals to a need to be ‘master of one’s own stuff.’

I introduced the Leica MPi, a post-digital digicam primarily based on the analog Leica M2 movie digicam outfitted with a Raspberry Pi-based digital sensor as a recording medium.
The MPi is usable as a standard digicam and its modifications are reversible to the unique base digicam.
I plan to proceed creating this venture with the purpose of open-sourcing the design for the collaborative preservation of analog cameras by means of (post-)digital applied sciences.

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